Tuesday, October 18, 2022

First Play Review - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood [2011]

Note: The version reviewed is Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - Digital Deluxe Edition

Rather than release an Assassin's Creed III with a new protagonist next, the success of Assassin's Creed II prompted Ubisoft to continue the story of Ezio Auditore in a new game to be released in 2011, only a year after the last instalment. In June 2022 Ubisoft announced that the ability to download and play the DLC for Brotherhood would cease on September 1st (this was changed to October 1st after Internet outcry). Having gone through ACII in July to prepare myself for Brotherhood, it was now early August so time was of the essence.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood continues the narrative of Assassin's Creed II pretty much the moment the previous game ended both for Desmond and Ezio and their respective plots continue. Desmond and his new crew are "on the run" and Ezio is on the trail of the Apple once again but this time his adventures are restricted to mainly one open-world location, Rome. Here Ezio seeks to thwart the plans of Cesare Borgia who has claimed the Apple for the Templars as well as seeking his own personal vengeance.

One should not believe that this game suffers from a single location as may have been perceived as a failing of Dragon Age II in the same year. While we did see one small part of it, Vatican at the end of ACII,  here the entire city of Rome is rendered and is, as one would expect, much larger than any of the previous game's locations and sustains the narrative for the vast majority of the game. With support for The Assassins somewhat scarce Ezio builds up Rome with his wealth in a similar manner which he did with Monteriggioni and wins the respect of the Mercenaries, Courtesans and The Thieves Guild which become more available to help him as he wrests control of each district of Rome from the Borgia and returns it to the people.

Ezio's home base is now a brotherhood safe house in the heart of Rome and it is from here, as "The Mentor" he starts to build a new army by training assassins. This is done through the addition of the "Brotherhood" system, allowing you to recruit and train NPC assassins by sending them on money and XP-gathering missions and also providing support to you in times of need. It's a very interesting addition to the game and despite it's benefits it provided a major distraction for me as I like to micro-manage any kind of minions when I get them. Also an improvement is the use of horses, both inside the main city walls and on the outskirts. They come when whistled for and you can make great use of mounted combat (below) as well as a convenient method of travel from practically any two points.

While some things change, others stay the same and Leonardo Da Vinci returns to send Ezio on a series of adventures outside of Rome which are welcome changes of scenery and provide him with some new gadgets including parachutes and a crossbow, the latter becoming one of my more personal favourite weapons in the game as a one-hit-one-kill near silent ranged weapon. Also the same is most of your missions which while vastly superior the the original game, are still pretty much the same as with ACII, but that's OK this is a continuation of before not a reinvention of the wheel.

Final Verdict: Although this is only the third Assassin's Creed title I believe at this stage Ubisoft already knew that this franchise was going to be a yearly milkable cash-cow as CoD is for Activision. While graphics did see an uplift, there wasn't too much technically changed for Brotherhood. Most systems including combat remained relatively intact and while the new additions such as the Brotherhood system and using a crossbow were most welcome, the narrative was a little weaker than ACII. There was times the game it felt like a major DLC for ACII, but perhaps just a really really long, unmissable and worthwhile one.

DLC: Originally Assassins Creed: Brotherhood featured two DLC packs The Copernicus Conspiracy and The Da Vinci Disappearance with several hours of additional story content. Purchases of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood: Digital Deluxe Edition have both DLC included. At time of writing the ability for the DLC pack to be downloaded will be removed from Ubisoft Connect on Oct 1st 2022.

Technicals: 35+ approximate hours playtime through Ubisoft Connect using a Nvidia 3070Ti @ 3440x1440 @ 175Hz with max settings on Windows 11. As with Assassin's Creed II, Cutscenes force 16:9 ratio with black bars, returning to 21:9 for gameplay. Win 11 HDR provides no notable enhancement. 

Bugs: (1) Two to three unexpected program quits over the course of 35+ hours. (2) There ware a number of event sequences that could not be completed due to the framerate being higher than anything at time of release. If the framerate is capped to 60FPS for these sequences, it runs perfectly. (3) Late in the game a sequence did not trigger, halting progress. The level was restarted and the event triggered correctly the second time through. (4) One of the DLC packs did not activate correctly, a file was made available by a user of the Ubisoft Tech Support forums to correct the issue.

The Assassins Creed: Brotherhood base game is available from the Ubisoft Store or Steam for €9.99 with significant sales occasionally. The Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Digital Deluxe Edition was not available for sale at time of publication. Reviewed copy purchased from The Ubisoft Store in 2019 for €5.44.

Series Timeline [PC]:
Assassin's Creed [2007]
Assassin's Creed II [2010]
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood [2011]
Assassin's Creed: Revelations [2011]
Assassin's Creed III [2012]
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag [2013]
- Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry [2014]
- Assassin's Creed III: Liberation HD [2014]
Assassin's Creed Unity [2014]
Assassin's Creed Rogue [2015]
Assassin's Creed Syndicate [2015]
Assassin's Creed Origins [2017]
Assassin's Creed Odyssey [2018]
- Assassin's Creed III Remastered [2019]
Assassin's Creed Valhalla [2020]
Assassin's Creed Mirage [2023]

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