Stabbed in the Back By My Best Intentions
Like a growing number of people out there, I was one of those who look down on the Assassin’s Creed franchise by sheer virtue of it having turned into a corporate cash cow, an annual sacrificial offering to the gods of capitalism and greed. With its churning out of sequels at a fixed pace, its reputation has fared no better in the eyes of many of us gamers than, say, the new Call of Dutys or Battlefields each year. (Of course I realize that this sentiment in no way reflects their ungodly sales numbers and revenue generated by a gamer base all too eager to greedily lap them up.)
And so, after playing AC I & II some years ago, I was content to leave well enough alone and move on to other games and experiences, returning to the world of Assassin’s Creed just long enough each year to wrinkle my nose in ire every time a new sequel was announced. At some point, I even purchased Brotherhood, but then neglected to do anything with it and just put it up on a shelf.
Principles, you know.
So what the hell am I doing, then, writing an article that clearly indicates that I have, in fact, turned my back on my own convictions and played the game after all?
Honestly, I’ve had a change of heart. I decided to give Brotherhood a go more out of an illogical desire to cut down on the number of unplayed and unfinished games in my backlog than any genuine desire to play it for its own sake. It was really more of a routine chore. Or so it started out.
But something strange happened as the narrative took shape around me and I slipped back into the familiar rhythm of running, climbing, crossing swords, and diving headfirst off towering structures: I was actually beginning to enjoy my time back with Ezio & Co.! Reluctant at first, I soon couldn’t wait to get back to the game after a day of mundane work, and would often find entire blocks of hours that should have been spent eating or cleaning had somehow slipped away unnoticed.
But why oh why did I feel so utterly sucked into this game? The gameplay is a polished and streamlined version of what we’ve seen in AC II, and to a lesser extent in AC I, true; critical story path missions are still interspersed with side quests available at any time, but instead of multiple cities the location has been consolidated to just one big one: Rome. The major pillars of the game are hold-overs from the previous iteration; new options like recruiting and managing fellow assassins do exist, but don’t purport to be the core of the game, either.
A few new additions to the gameplay formula notwithstanding, the reason why I couldn’t resist Brotherhood‘s siren song can be summed up in one simple accusation: the designers of the game have finally mastered how to capitalize on my propensity for addiction! There is simply more to do in this game than ever before, so much so that I often set the main quest aside in favor of following up on some optional content. There are the familiar treasures, flags, and feathers to ferret out (this time with maps showing their locations available for purchase, thank god!). Each faction – Mercenaries, Thieves, and Courtesans – has a separate base of operations, which doles out side quests throughout the game. Then there’s the Assassin’s Brotherhood itself, with Ezio at the head, that requires recruits to be….well, recruited. Those recruits must then be managed and sent on missions to level them up. Sadly, you don’t get to participate in these missions beyond the menu screen on which you assign them.
But the list of savory content doesn’t end there. In place of the previous game’s hidden shrines, Brotherhood tasks you with locating and traversing the hidden Temples of Romulus, which is basically the same concept, and awards you with an extra special, super-cool cape and dagger. This time around, shops also have their own item-based quests they send you on to unlock some of their wares, and Ezio can become the real estate mogul that’s always slumbered within him and purchase and renovate structures all over Rome. Other tasks to accomplish include eliminating Borgia captains and taking over their towers for your own use, eliminating Templar agents within the Animus, reliving flashbacks that tell of the tragic love between Ezio and Christina, seeking out and destroying Leonardo Da Vinci’s machines of war, and even leaving the Animus and exploring a present-day Monteriggioni as Desmond, which has its own hidden items carefully tucked away in dark corners.
And then, if all of that didn’t already provide enough of a distraction, there’s the game’s missions themselves, all of which can be beaten any way you choose, but offer a tantalizing bonus – the only way to get that coveted 100% completion – by meeting certain “Full Synchronization” requirements; of course, completed missions can be replayed at any time from the menu. Then – and only then – if you’ve had your fill of side content to wade through, you can choose to tackle a few main story missions and drive the plot forward bit by bit.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, for the first time in the series, the multiplayer mode. But then again, nah, I don’t play multiplayer anyway. So forget about it.
Every scoffing remark I’ve ever made about the Assassin’s Creed series is entirely warranted; there isn’t really a whole hell of a lot of innovation between installments, and some standalone titles feel more like Add-On content instead. And yet, here I now am, slathering at the mouth to grab up Revelations and continue my binge while the high from my fix is still fresh in my memory. Well done, Ubisoft! Your clever marketing ploy is succeeding with this former skeptic.
Final stats: game completion – 90%; time played – just over 22 hours. I briefly considered sticking with it for the 100%, but I missed out on one of the Monteriggioni items, and at game’s end that area is no longer available to explore, so at best I’ll only make it up to 99% completion. So I figured I’ll myself the time and following aggravation over 1 measly missing percent.