This episode was a hard one for me to score.
Graphically, AC:B continues to be visually beautiful with a wonderfully laid out Rome city and community. They do such a good job of making locations feel real both by the visuals but also by the way they spread people throughout the game. Simply fantastic the way they do this and I'm not sure many games get it as close to being perfect like the AC series.
Gameplay is one of the areas that I have on-again/off-again frustrations in AC. As the series got started I got really annoyed how you character might just randomly run up a wall or run and jump backwards off a wall hurling you into a less useful situation. I wouldn't call this buggy as much as just a fluke of the gameplay mechanics. It doesn't happen all the time but for some reason by the third game I've found myself less patient with this issue. On a couple of missions this issue genuinely effected the overall experience as you were high up and falling meant you had to retrace all the steps to get back up. In another instance right at the end I was annoyed when a jump in a logically straight direction, for whatever reason, just happened to jump 10-15 degrees farther to the right than expected resulting in my falling. Strangely, this actually happened to me more than once which broke up the flow of the last segment. Very strange and its the one thing I wish they could fix though I'm not sure they can. ???
As always, I'm a big story guy so I love a series that really puts some effort into the story. Openly, I was not impressed with the story of this one until late in the game. As others have concluded, this game feels like a tack on to the story just to prolong the series. It's being somewhat shorter than the other two also makes one think it could have been a DLC. I'm OK with it being standalone but it did certainly feel like a cop out. It starts out at where AC2 ended and then things go awry. Your job is to get things back on track. The way this storyline goes it almost feels like something that would actually happen close to the end of something like AC2. Yet, it becomes its own title and plays out for its roughly 12-15 hours. I'll let this pass for this round as long as it doesn't continue. Besides, I did quite enjoy the climax of this game and the way they played out the entire last segment. It's good to see more interaction with the modern world as the story becomes more developed. I absolutely love this series for much of this.
One thing that became quite noticeable for me happened during the Desmond scenes. First, I felt like I was playing Uncharted. This is partially due to the voice actor but also due to all the climbing, jumping around, and banter with your partners. Too, having just recently finished the newest Prince of Persia game, I also felt a lot of that built in too. I can't complain overall but it was weird just how much it felt like those other two titles. I would push to make sure this doesn't happen in the future to ensure the uniqueness that is AC.
A strong plus in this game is the wide variety of things you can do in the open world you're provided with. With this game I feel much more drawn to return to the game to do some of the various activities remaining. For example, the da Vinci tasks, the Borgia tower takeovers, and the other things out there genuinely do draw me back. That'a big plus for a strongly story based series. I do like the way they spur you on to upgrade parts of the city. This is one of those things that some might not like but it's a cool way to demonstrate the reality that you have to spend money to make money. Indeed, by the time you upgrade a handful of locations you start rolling in the cash and never have much worry about supplies. This is good and bad depending on your preferred gaming style. Some prefer a more RPG feel so maybe this annoys them as they'd like to focus on building the character more. For me, I am most vested in the story so spending a bunch of time doing things that slow down the experience wouldn't be enjoyable for me if it was done in this title. In the RPG games I play, certainly, I love it. Just not in AC.
When it comes to difficulty, other than what is mentioned above, the game is quite straightforward and actually not too difficult at all. In fact, the new ability to chain kills is very effective although it does make some of the bigger battles a bit easy. Honestly, the only genuinely "difficult" parts in this game were some of the missions where you had to go undetected. You could spend a lot of time working to get 100% synch especially in the latter portions of the game. In some missions it was bit annoying as you might get detected but have no idea who or how that even occurred. You might make a kill standing in a dark corner yet, some how, an unknown character sees you. That wouldn't necessarily be difficult as much as annoying but you get the point.
AC:B is a ultimately a worthy contender in the overall series. Some complain about the annual releases but I'm OK with this as long as they don't lose track of the core of what makes gamers love about this series. Keep it coming!