To do a follow-up adventure for Assassin's Creed will be nothing more than a challenging task as Assassin's Creed 2 was one of the finest games I have ever played for this decade. It has everything that any gamers could ask for ranging from beautiful vistas to the characters that you'll meet (save those kiddies Desmond meets). Assassin's Creed Brotherhood took on that challenge and it certainly lived up to its standards as it took all the strengths of AC2 (for which there are plenty) and add a few more features to set this game apart from its sister.
Brotherhood takes place in 1500 as a direct sequel to Assassin's Creed 2. I won't go into the back story as that would enter spoiler territory. However to those who hasn't played AC2, beware that the opening sequence for AC Brotherhood, there are massive spoilers that can practically sink a battleship plus a couple of destroyers. Nevertheless, being a direct sequel, the game took off very slowly, not in pace however you get to meet those modern day obnoxious kids again and thankfully that didn't last long. Also I got this odd feeling that coming from a super power Ezio (a.k.a. the end of AC2) to a total weakening at the start of AC Brotherhood, I guess that cannot be avoided.
The setting this time is in glorious Rome during the renaissance period. The developers boast that this is the largest map they have ever created as it does indeed covers Rome, its countryside (i.e. the Seven Hills of Rome) and its surrounding locals like Naples, Monteriggioni and Ferrara. In essence it is the largest map in any of the Assassin's Creed games however it’s not the largest game per se (as AC2 has two major cities and AC has four if not including Masyaf)). Also being a large map there are many opportunities to fast travel or hitch a horse.
To say there's nothing to do in Brotherhood is a total understatement as there are literally hundreds of quests / side quests to complete. Thankfully all of them have some sort of ties to the main storyline so they don't fill left out or simply put there to add content. Quests like assassination, thief / courtesan / brotherhood assignments, shop quests, guild challenges, war machines and many more. Also there are collectibles and treasures to find yet they don't unlock all at once.
The main reason for this is because the land is under Borgia rule so your main goal is to destroy its commanding tower plus their leader in each of the twelve districts. Once done, you can effectively rebuild Rome by buying shops / perform upgrades and so forth. Also there's a new feature where you can invest in shops to earn quick cash and as investments goes, the higher the risk, the higher the reward. Also earnings from investments are dictated by other players playing the game. So in effect, it's a multiplayer feature build in a signal player's game so the more players investing in a particular shop, the higher the rewards (or loss).
However being an open world game, you will get that ‘information overload’ sensation during the early goings however do not fret as my suggestion here is to play the main storyline up to sequence four then go off and rampage Rome at your leisure. My reason for this is because at sequence four, you unlock one of the best features of this game, training other assassins thus the theme of this game – Brotherhood. Yes you can grab up to twelve assassins and train them to become master assassins thus doing your dirty work. At first, I was pretty dubious about this feature as I prefer to be the lone assassin however do not under estimate the force of your thugs. Train them well as they will serve you well later on.
To train your thugs you need to send them off missions throughout Europe and if they succeed, they will earn experience points plus gold / other items of interest. All the missions have a success rating and of course the more assassins you send off for the same mission, the less experience points earned. Also if they happen to fail any quests, there's a good chance they will die thus never return. Out of my twelve thugs, not one died however they did take a little time earning their way to level ten (master assassin).
Why they are beneficial for you is for many reasons – they can act as diversions, they can dispose guards because you may feel lazy doing it yourself and so on. However another new feature has been added in Brotherhood that I totally love was the concept of getting 100% sync. What that means is that every quest has a preferred way or your way. If you achieve the preferred way, you get 100% sync and if not, then you only get 50%. Why this is important is mainly because getting 100% sync unlocks certain benefits / quests. And why is your Brotherhood important here is because there are missions that say, you are not allowed to get damaged at all and trust me, this is not that easy as it sounds therefore releasing the hounds (your brotherhood) can save you aggravation / time.
Other new features presented here are you get to ride your horse anywhere you go (yet riding your horse up / downstairs looks a little odd); performing combo attacks meaning that once you strike down a foe and if timed right, you can strike down another almost immediately until you get hit (my largest combo was sadly seven kills); fast travel (however this needs to be unlock); Desmond can leave the animus anytime and explore the present-day town of Monteriggioni thus accessing the virtual training modules to fine tune your skills and for the first time ever, multiplayer (dubbed as the Animus Project – more of that in another review).
Sadly there are a couple of bugs – the clipping ones are not too much of a concern as thankfully they cannot morph through walls however there's a quest where you have to fly one of Leonardo's machines (yes the very same one from AC2). The bug here is you cannot turn at all so what that means you cannot finish the quest. The saviour here is the v sync the game then all is good. It's a shame though however the resolution is an easy one regardless.
The musical scores are again composed by Jesper Kyd and boy he still got it. Beautiful tunes that certainly suit for all situations however some tunes have a darker, sinister tone – especially the Borgia theme score. The voice acting is still top quality and very convincing to say the least. Graphically the game is a beauty with meticulous details and every locales have its purpose (e.g. you don't get that random chair or a random building). And being a history buff, Ubisoft has done a decent attempt mixing fantasy with fiction with all of the famous buildings for Renaissance Rome.
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is what you come to expect from an AAA product. Granted it would be a daunting task to do a reasonable follow up to the ever-so-popular Assassin's Creed 2 however considering it's very slow and somewhat confusing start, stay with it as from sequence four onwards catapults this game into a newer dimension – not as much as from Assassins Creed 1 to 2 however it's a total blast to play. For a newcomer for the series, if you can handle the spoilers, this game is a wonderful entry point as it has a lot to offer. Overall I felt Brotherhood is a better game than AC2 however without AC2, there's no Brotherhood.