The jump from Assassin’s Creed to Assassin’s Creed II was a big one. I tell people all the time that Ubisoft improved on the first Assassin’s Creed by 200%. In my opinion AC2 was the best game of 2009 by far, so I was very excited for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Brotherhood starts you off exactly where you leave Ezio; in the Vault after speaking with Minerva. The first hour or so of the game is really a refresher on the story and how to play. You start off with all of the weapons and armor from AC2, but that is stripped away from you early in the game. Shortly after that you will find yourself back in Roma; your goal being to take Borgia out once and for all.
There are some noticeable changes to game play. One of the first things I noticed is that free running feels a bit more fluid. As long as the camera is in the correct direction I think it’s easier to get around and pull off Ezio’s acrobatic feats. Roma appears to be “free running friendly” due to the many areas where you can hop up and start a free run without breaking stride. You can also seamlessly go from ground to rooftop by using lifts. Just run up to the lift; Ezio will grab on, ride to the top, and you can be on your way. Horses are now allowed in the city so you can move about the city streets faster. You can also jump off of a horse and go right into a free run. You can call your horse at any time or just steal someone else’s GTA style. Horses are great to have when you are in the open areas of southern Roma, but aren’t always ideal for the city. Sometimes it’s still faster to jump from rooftop to rooftop to reach your destination.
Combat hasn’t changed much, but there is a new feature that will enable you to take out large groups of enemies in no time. While you’re executing a kill, you can use your left control stick to target your next victim. When Ezio is finished killing the first target he will immediately kill the next target. You can chain this together as long as you don’t get hit and wipe out large groups of enemies in no time. This doesn’t work so well on some enemies such as heavily armored guards and guards with pole weapons. There are two ways you can deal with them. You can dodge their attack and then counter, or you can use the new kick feature to break their defense and wreck them. Fighting large groups of opponents in AC2 wasn’t that difficult to begin with, but now you can do it in much less time than before.
You have some new weapon choices, such as the crossbow (great for long range stealth kills), poison darts, and heavy weapons that you could only use temporarily in AC2 but can now carry permanently. There are also weapon combinations that work nicely together. When you use your sword, you will also be able to incorporate your gun into attacks. Sometimes Ezio will run an enemy through, put his hand up to the poor sucker’s chest and then blow him away. Not only is this cool, but it saves you the time of having to pull the sword out and you just move on to the next victim.
Memories are a bit more interesting now. There are varying levels of sync you can get on each memory depending on how you play it. When you start a memory, it will give you your objective and also specific parameters to meet if you want 100% sync. An example would be to infiltrate a specific area and go undetected, or get to a certain area of the memory before killing anyone. This forces the player in most cases to be a bit more cautious and more assassin-like in their gameplay as opposed to just blowing through the levels. Brotherhood has a truckload of memories to play through. Besides the main story memories, you also have side memories that you can do.
Some of these memories are reoccurring, like the Courtesans’ missions where you have to follow one of the girls and kill their benefactor. Others are unique, even though they are part of the same set of memories. A good example is the Leonardo memories, in which you must find and destroy the blueprints and prototypes of weapons he’s made for the Borgia. Each one starts the same, with you taking a map from a captain, but when you actually reach your destination and the mission really begins it’s different each time. You’ll do things like ride a carriage with a machine gun attached to infiltrate a naval base, then use the cannon prototype to destroy Borgia ships. Sequences are relatively short, but because there are so many side memories where the gameplay is unique each time you will find yourself spending a lot of time on them.
Assassin’s Tombs have been replaced by Lairs of Romulus. You meet the followers of Romulus early in the game; they howl and wear wolf skins (didn’t see a female there… wonder why). Anyway, some of the Lairs are just like Assassin’s Tombs in the aspect that you will need to figure how to reach your location by scaling walls, figuring out puzzles, and beating the clock on a few time trials. Some do not include any puzzle solving at all and you will need to fight your way through or track a specific target. Either way, when you get to the Shrine of Romulus in each lair there will be treasure and a key waiting for you. Collect the six keys and you will be able to unlock Romulus armor.
Apparently, there is more truth to “The Truth”. In this game there are ten clusters for you to find and solve the puzzles within to find out more truth. The puzzles are very familiar: matching pictures, circular puzzles, and decoding combinations. If you find yourself having trouble with a puzzle, Shaun will offer some advice after a few failures. Instead of 20 clusters, there are only 10 this time around. Getting to these clusters is a bit more difficult than AC2. Many of them you can’t climb to directly; you need to climb over them and drop down into them by catching yourself as you fall. Also, some of these clusters are in highly secured areas so sometimes they come with a fight.
In AC2 you could renovate the villa which would help you earn extra income. In Brotherhood you can renovate buildings all over Roma. You will be able to renovate things like stables, smithies, banks, tailor shops, art shops, and apothecaries. For every building you renovate you will increase your income which you can pick up at any of the banks you renovate. Also, the more shops you renovate, the more items that become available to you. For some items however, you will need to complete shop quests. Basically, you will need to collect certain materials before the shop owner will open specific items for you. You collect most of these materials by looting corpses. You can also renovate tunnel entrances. These allow you to move about the city instantly so they come in really handy when you are far away from your objective.
You can also renovate buildings for different factions. There are three factions: Mercenaries Guild, Courtesans Guild, and Thieves Guild. If you want to count the Assassin’s Guild that makes four but you don’t renovate buildings for them. Renovating their guild buildings will increase their presence in Roma. There are buildings all around Roma that you can choose which guild you want to renovate it for and they will appear more frequently in that area. You can also change the guild for that building later. This is great for when you need a specific guild’s help to finish a mission. Each guild has challenges that when completed count toward your guild level. Depending on your guild level you will have certain perks you can use, such as a discount for hiring each guild.
In order to renovate buildings, that area can no longer be under the influence of the Borgia. In order to free that area you have to burn down the Borgia tower in that district. Before burning down the tower, you will need to kill the Borgia Captain that is in charge of that tower. The difficulty of each tower is rated from one to five and is determined by how many guards are in the area and how difficult the captain is to fight. Getting to each Borgia Captain will present its own challenge. If you are detected before getting to the captain, most of the time he will flee and you will need to wait for the shift change to try again. You will want to move around stealthily and try to get the drop on the Captain. Once you burn down the tower, that district will no longer be under Borgia influence and vigilantes will appear in that part of town. Yes, vigilantes are back! They still serve the same function; they will assist you by holding guards back as they chase you. Yes, it’s still useful.