Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood: Hands-On Impressions

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Also check out our Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood: Multiplayer Hands-On Impressions.

The last entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise did just about everything right. It took the exceptional and fun mechanics of the first game, and it corrected a serious flaw by replacing the forced and repetitive missions with a better story and more unique objectives. The graphics were similar and the gameplay was nearly identical, but a few tweaks and an average game became a phenomenal sequel. In short, Ubisoft learned from their mistakes, and built on what worked. In Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, it looks like the developers did the same thing again by taking what works and adding some very cool new features.

We were given the chance to watch the sequel’s campaign in action (there is also a multiplayer component – more on that in another article) and learn a bit about the newest entry, and so far everything we saw looks awesome.

Without spoiling anything from ACII, Brotherhood picks up shortly after the last game ended. Ezio has returned to his villa, and receives a rude awakening when the Templars lay siege to his town. A short fight ensues as Ezio makes sure that the villagers get out safely, then a new enemy is introduced. A somewhat shocking murder occurs, and Ezio is wounded in the process. Rather than going off for a suicidal revenge against overwhelming odds, Ezio bides his time, moves to Rome, and begins to recruit new assassins. Skip forward a few years and Ezio is healed, and ready to begin seeking his revenge.

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In the game, the city of Rome is massive. Ubisoft reps claim that it is three times bigger than any city seen in the franchise yet. We were also told that there were other cities in the game, but they were keeping details quiet for the moment. What we do know though is that this game is not Assassin’s Creed 2.5, as some have wondered, but a full sequel with a plot that will take at least 10 hours to complete, and likely many, many hours more.

The idea of “brotherhood” comes from the young assassins that Ezio trains. As their master and teacher, Ezio can command the young killers through a mechanic called “BAM”, or brotherhood assisted moves. As Ezio, players can mark targets for others to kill through various ways. If a single guard is in your way, a call might bring in an assassin for a rooftop assassination. If there are several guards, multiple assassins might come in and synchronize an arrow attack to simultaneously to waste entire squads. You can even leave your students to fight while you pursue other targets.  We did not see the recruitment mechanic, but the students seem to be varied in size, shape, and gender.

An interesting aspect of the assassins is that they level up and learn skills, but only when you assign them to missions. To get them up to speed, you may need to send them on extremely risky jobs. The plus side is that you can train them up to be incredible weapons. The downside is that they might die, and you will have to recruit someone new and start over. You can also decide if you want a few assassins to be extremely powerful, or if you want all of your students to be somewhat well trained. Those that are perfectionists can spend hours upon hours training up numerous students then go and dominate Rome, but it will take dedication. There is a limit to the number of assassins Ezio can take under his wing too, but Ubisoft was tight-lipped on what that number is.

There are also a few new gameplay aspects including the ability to ride horses inside cities, which opens up new horse riding skills including assassinations from horses, and horse-to-horse assassinations.  There is also a new rope mechanic that allows players to walk up to certain ropes and cut then, propelling you up in the air like an elevator.  Ubisoft also promised new surprises, and more pieces from the last game, including a return of DaVinci’s flying machine.

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The fighting has also been overhauled.  In past games, the enemies would attack in order, and when you began a move, a counter for example, enemies could not hurt you.  Most fights quickly devolved into you hacking an opponent until they died, or patiently waiting for a counter to take out foes.  Neither were particularly fun after the twentieth time or so, and fighting soon became something to avoid more out of annoyance than anything else.  In Brotherhood, you are always at risk, and enemies will happily gang up on you.  To make up for it, Ezio can now attack with two hands.  The demo we saw had Ezio stab one attacker with a sword and simultaneously shoot another enemy with his wrist mounted pistol.  Ezio then disarmed an axe-wielding opponent and threw the axe at another for a kill.

Another improvement we were told of was the ability to chain attacks, allowing you to potentially wipe out several enemies in one fluid move.  The fighting was always a bit of a sore point in previous games, and the new tweaks seem to allow you a certain “wow” factor while fighting.  We’ll have to see how this plays out, but what we saw definitely had a few very cool moments that look to make the game even deeper.

The gameplay demo we saw had Ezio enter a church to take out a corrupt cardinal who was surrounded by four guards. After a quick call for reinforcements from Ezio, four shadows moved in through the rafters, and suddenly the guards were dead. Ezio then pulled out his crossbow-  a new weapon for the series – and the target was dead. As Ezio walked out of the church, a group of powerful Swiss Guards stood waiting for him. With the push of a button, a smoke bomb went off, and Ezio’s students attacked.

The game will also continue the story of Ezio’s descendent Desmond and pick up after the surprise ending of ACII, but unfortunately we weren’t able to see any of that yet.

From what we saw, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood will build off of everything that worked in its predecessor, while adding a new element of gameplay that could further expand the franchise. We’ll have to wait until November 16 to play it ourselves, but from what we saw, if you liked ACII, you will love Brotherhood.

Warning: This trailer may not be suitable for all ages.

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