Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the third game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, is a conflicting game. Released in 2010 — only a year after Assassin’s Creed II — and acting as the second game in the Ezio Collection trilogy, I was hoping Brotherhood would be more than just a mere sequel that takes place in the same historical setting as its predecessor. In this case, my hopes were met with mixed feelings of joy and frustration as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood — while not very different from its predecessor — manages to come off as slightly lazy.
How Brotherhood is introduced is neat. After the cliché opening recap (“My name is Desmond Miles…”), Brotherhood tosses the player right into an opening free run and combat mission that picks up right where Assassin’s Creed II left off. There are no tutorials; the game just tells you what controls to press as you go along and it serves as an explosive (albeit less accessible) introduction sequence for learning the game’s basic mechanics and controls. The player is then prompted afterwards to eventually complete a few simple objectives, introducing the player to its mission content as well.
Where Brotherhood starts to lose me, though, is that after walking the player through what’s new and what’s not, and leaving them on their own, you can begin to see why Brotherhood is a comparably impassioned followup in a multitude of aspects. Again, the aspects are for the most part very much the same as II, but it’s how they’re designed and presented that irks me tenfold.
Let’s start off with what sucked with the last game that still sucks in this one — for instance, how the clunky free run controls are still a pain to work with. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ubisoft was somehow able to literally copy and paste the control mechanisms from the last game to this one because the controls still remain unrhythmic and frequently disruptive, barely accounting for natural flow even within its detailed map design.
The only time Ubisoft seems to care for smooth controls is in many of the side missions which essentially lay out a predetermined path for the player to follow. But, even these sequences are susceptible to feeling restricted because of their predetermined paths which are meant to be met with the player-intended movements — like the whole mission is already scripted. And while we’re on the topic of controls, controlling horses in this game is also a pain in the neck and are just as restrained and disruptive as the free run controls.
And last, in terms of what remains poor from the previous installment, is the bloated and constrained conclusion that Ubisoft is often guilty of. I find there to be no good reason for a climax of a game to last what feels like three hours alone for whatever “story” reason, but that’s mostly just an MP and not a YP.
What’s good here, as always, is the usual elements (which I will discuss in just a second), but even these elements left me with mixed feelings due to their oft-sabotaged design. One example is the economy system. I like the idea of collecting money and basically “investing” it to earn back more every 20 minutes in the future. It allows the player to interactively earn money at a fair pace.
However, I don’t like the idea of having to go to every individual location physically to make it so, especially when there are already plenty of collectibles laid across the map. It may not seem like a big deal because if you’re already attempting to fetch most of the mentioned side collectibles, then what’s a few more? The problem is that the maps are so intricately designed that going out of your way to renovate just one of these locations takes a tad of time, which all collectively create a pretty large time sink.
Even so, as usual with the Assassin’s Creed titles, I couldn’t resist going for nearly every side collectible and undertaking nearly every side mission. These act as freeform fun for an excuse to explore the elaborate map. Yet, the map design is another aspect that, while I mostly like, has its fair share of issues.
Ubisoft spiced up the architectural design (something they’re consistently great at) so much in this game that sometimes retrieving a single collectible takes up to five minutes. It seems like they wanted to make retrieving goodies a little more complicated so the player would often have to think about how they would approach collecting certain ones, but I found it too unnecessarily convoluted. It even seems like Ubisoft copied and pasted some of the map assets over from the last game, which honestly wouldn’t surprise me.
I like the addition of the Borgia towers — they prevent you from renovating in the district they helm from and stealthily assassinating the leader is the only way to rid of them. What I don’t like, though, is how Ubisoft once again limited the player from being able to explore the full extent of the map — forcing you to complete story missions before you’re allowed to explore there, and that’s something I’ve never liked when it comes to “open” world games.
And finally, the mission design — probably the most indecisive aspect for me. I’ll start on a good note and say that Brotherhood serves up a fair share of great missions that use the architectural design, stealth components, and combat elements to the fullest. There’s nothing more thrilling than sneaking your way up a sumptuous Renaissance cathedral so you can make your way past unsuspecting guards and take out your target. I believe this is also the first game to add bonus side objectives for each mission — something I’ve always enjoyed aiming for (even if they are a bit rusty in this particular game, some feel impossible).
Alas, for every creative mission design choice, there seems to be a shockingly dumb one to accompany it. Frankly, I’m afraid I wouldn’t even be able to describe these foolish choices through writing because they have to be experienced to be understood. But, if I could give a brief, loose summary: basically because Ubisoft likes to “script” their missions (have the enemies and routes placed in precise spots, etc.), the choices they sometimes make in relation to their design are either just lazy or straight lousy. Whether it’s because of how the A.I. behave, how the obstacles are presented, or because the idea simply doesn’t work, there are plenty of these poor decisions to be found during play.
I’m also all for experimental missions, but the few found in Brotherhood fall flat without question. Like in the mission where Ezio is disguised among enemy French guards with a delivery crate in hand and the player is supposed to “listen to the guards” to find out where to take the package — it just doesn’t work. There’s another mission where the player needs to take out a few guards before the allied army reaches them, but you’re not even allowed to wander too far from the army or you’ll be desynchronized — like the mission is contradicting itself, telling you to “go ahead” and take care of the guards but barely giving you any leeway to do so.
I usually give these Assassin’s Creed games the slip. They’re laborious to traverse through, but they’re so rich with historical content in the gameplay that they’re difficult to hate. Brotherhood is very much the same but it doesn’t expand itself much beyond II and contains way too many weird and flawed design choices that I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy most of it. I don’t know what happened to Ubisoft within a year — whether this game was rushed or what — but this felt lazily constructed and oftentimes poorly executed, failing to deliver on the same fronts as Assassin’s Creed II which acts as the more accessible title. And I’ll say it again—this is most likely an MP and not a YP.