• Review - Assassin's Creed Brotherhood PS4 Edition

    Gamer's Gazette Issue XXX (Written by Gen. Chris)

    ​Assassin's Creed Brotherhood PS4 Edition (2010)

    I thought my work was done. I was wrong. Once more, I must venture into the fray. By recruiting enemies of the state, we arm those who have been disarmed by the Borgia. The greed, the corruption, the tyranny my enemies have spread will burn to the ground. From the ashes of vengeance, a new Rome will rise.
    Desmond and the other modern day assassins are on the run after Abstergo discovered their hideout. Attempting to visit a memory set several years later in Ezio Auditore’s life, the Animus 2.0 instead forcefully makes Desmond relive another memory set in the middle of a large battle. During this memory, Ezio recalls a similar event previous in his life, again forcing the Animus to divert the memory farther back. After reliving this short memory, Desmond arrives at the town of Monteriggioni, an Italian town that had once belonged to the Auditore family. Setting up a new base of operations, the modern day team of Assassins work to uncover more information concerning Ezio’s life, as well the meaning of what Desmond had witnessed hours before as his ancestor reached the Vatican Vault.

    In the past, the game opens up in 1499, mere moments after the close of the previous game. Ezio is in Rome after attempting to assassinate Pope Alexander VI, true name Rodrigo Borgia. Ezio’s uncle finds him and leads him back to Monteriggioni. Ezio, content with all he has done, believes he can give up the Assassin way of life that had consumed over twenty years of his life. After reaching Monteriggioni, the army of the Borgia’s led by Rodrigo’s son Cesare arrives and assaults the town. Ezio, knowing he must resist the assault to allow time for the citizens to escape, leads the defense. The effort rewards Ezio with a gunshot wound, the loss of his Apple of Eden (as well as the majority of his equipment) and the death of his uncle Mario. After the battle, Ezio attempts to pursue the army, but falls from his horse, weakened by his injury. Ezio wakes up in a Rome in the grips of Borgia corruption and deterioration. Determined to restore Rome, Ezio once again sets out on a journey to rebuild a brotherhood and end Templar and Borgia influence.

    Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood sees the player (and Ezio) return to the Italian Renaissance not long after the conclusion to the previous game. Unlike the previous game, which allowed the player to visit a lot of new locations, Brotherhood is mostly set in Rome. However, Rome is breathtakingly HUGE, with an amazing amount of detail and eye candy available for the player. The map was the largest until the release of ACIII and that game’s frontier, but it is still a huge map containing a variety of notable landmarks (the Colosseum, the Pantheon, etc) which of course are climbable. The graphics have also been noticeably improved, making running around the city of Rome quite drool-worthy. On the PS4 remaster, the graphics look even better, though it is clear that the jump in graphics is not as obvious as that on the two versions of Assassin’s Creed II. Rome itself is quite large and has numerous districts to explore, and even includes a countryside with several small settlements and places to explore. My favorite part has to be climbing recognizable landmarks such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum, as well as numerous others. While I do love the size of the map I feel a lot of it is wasted on the countryside, leaving much of the city of Rome unused and unreachable. It is a shame, but luckily the city itself, again, is rendered beautifully, and incredibly fun to explore. In addition to the beauty of the map, I love the work that Ubisoft did on improving the animations and world in general, as I find the animations, especially the facial animation, to be far and away improved over AC II.

    The greatest addition to the game is of course referenced in its name: Brotherhood. This time around, Ezio is in dire need of help when liberating Rome from the oppression of the Borgias. He has his allies from the previous game (Machiavelli, da Vinci, etc), but what he really needs is assassins that are capable of helping him on a variety of tasks. In order to recruit them, however, Ezio must prove to the people that he can take the fight to the Borgias. Ezio (and the player) can accomplish this by killing Borgia captains and igniting the Borgia towers that said captains are in command of. Of course, each Borgia captain is surrounded by guards and the difficulty of each task varies. When Ezio accomplishes this, the Roman Brotherhood claims that particular area as their own, and Ezio is able to recruit assassins based on how many towers/areas are under control. By running around Rome and finding citizens in distress by Borgia men, Ezio can assist them by killing the guards and recruiting the grateful citizens towards the Assassin cause. These new assassins can be utilized by the player when on a difficult mission or even outside of missions when there are numerous guards that either need to be taken down silently while Ezio does other things or if Ezio is surrounded and in danger (arrow storm is a particular favorite, with the assassins firing crossbows from rooftops and quickly annihilating any guards in the area). Ezio can also send these assassins on missions out of Italy to help reduce Templar influence in other places, with the success of those missions granting experience to the assassins involved and granting Ezio money. As the assassins obtain more experience through battle and missions, they become stronger and more reliable in tough battles. Of course, the men and women Ezio recruits are not invulnerable, and if they die Ezio can replace them. I do find this to be a fantastic new feature to the game, as it further expands on Ezio’s influence as a leader during this time period in Italy. It also gives the player a cool new mechanic to play around with in the form of sending Assassin’s abroad to take down cities that have been taken over by the Templars.

    Eliminating Borgia influence in areas of Rome is also part of the changed economic system. Whereas in Assassin’s Creed II Ezio could renovate only the town of Monteriggioni, Ezio can now renovate shops and other structures that are no longer under control of the Borgias throughout Rome. After renovating these shops, Ezio receives an income boost to his personal finances, which he can collect from banks (which must also be renovated). Ezio can also purchase or renovate other structures such as the aqueduct system and even the Colosseum if they are no longer under Borgia control. The money gained from these ventures allow Ezio to make further purchases of either more property, weapons, armor, or other things. Compared to the Monteriggioni mechanic I do not feel this is as cool, but otherwise it is a solid addition to the game. It also gives the players a reason to explore Rome in-depth and makes me feel like I am actually helping the city escape the influence of the Borgia and the Templars.

    Other new additions to the game are some of the tools available to Ezio. One such tool that helps Ezio is the “climb leap” glove. In the previous game Ezio was able to learn the ability to climb leap, which allowed him to climb farther distances up walls, towers, etc. Following his injury at Monteriggioni and his relative aging between the two games, Ezio loses the ability to do this unaided. The climb leap glove, offered to Ezio by Leonardo, allows Ezio to once again do this. Another weapon that can be acquired from Leonardo is the poison darts. Like the hidden gun and the poison blade, poison darts is another upgrade to the hidden blade bracers, and is in fact a sort of combination of those tools. Firing a poison dart as a target will accomplish the same thing as poisoning them up close, just with the added benefit of a lesser chance of being discovered due to the range. Another tool, aiding in combat and assassinations, is the crossbow. Finally added to the franchise, the crossbow allows Ezio to perform stealth kills as well as aid in ranged combat. The crossbow, however, is quite an expensive weapon for Ezio to purchase, but is well worth it considering its stealthy nature. Finally, another new item that Ezio could acquire was the parachute designed by Leonardo, which allowed Ezio to jump from high places that did not have a haystack or cart nearby and survive. These of course are single use, and more could be purchased from a tailor. All of these are cool items that are fun to play around with, but ultimately unnecessary for completing the game which is slightly frustrating as it makes me wonder what the point was of including them.

    Much like the previous game, there are a variety of guards that have differing strengths and weaknesses that the player must consider when fighting them. Adding to that are several new enemies. The arquebusier is one of those that provides Ezio with an enemy that, while slower than crossbowmen, pack more firepower. Horsemen also occasionally appear that can be difficult to overcome until the player gets the hang of hurting their horse enough to cause the rider to fall, which Ezio could easily finish off. Ezio can also shoot them or counter by attacking while mounted as well. The Papal Guard is the ultimate new enemy, having all the good aspects of the other guards as well as being quick and powerful in combat. These new guards give Brotherhood a bit of freshness compared to its predecessor, as the combat would have been boring had Ezio been forced to fight the exact same types of guards as before.
    Notoriety functions much the same way as the previous game, and high notoriety pretty much always means inevitable combat. Combat is fairly similar to the previous game but with a couple changes. Consisting of basic attacks with a variety of weapons as well as the ability to counter and dodge, the combat has not changed much. One of the more noticeable changes is that the hidden gun can be paired with the sword slot and the throwing knives can be paired with the dagger slot, allowing you to use both weapons while in combat. You can also individually equip the gun and the throwing knives on their own, if you prefer. Also, Ezio can purchase a heavy sheath from tailors that will allow him to finally equip heavy weapons of his own, which can be useful in countering the stronger enemies. No longer does Ezio have to rely on temporarily using the heavy weapons of defeated foes only having to drop it later. Ezio can also throw weapons like spears now, enabling him to easily instant kill even the strongest of enemies which can help even out a fight before it even begins. The new ability of execution and chain kills are cool, however it does make the game a little too easy in some parts, especially if you are one-hitting people in full plate armor. Other than that combat is still solid and fun to play around with.

    The missions, I feel, were slightly improved over the predecessor, offering the player a greater variety of missions that both contributed to the main story as well as the side stories. From infiltrating the Pantheon to locate a key item to becoming an extra in a play set in the Colosseum, the missions take advantage of the Roman locations to breathe new life into the game and provide more variety than just simply killing Templars in Rome. However one frustration emerges; full synchronization. A new feature into the game, I cannot express enough how much I dislike full synchronization. The basics of it are that you must achieve certain objectives during each mission in order to have completed it the “right” way; the way Ezio truly completed it. So whether it’s explore the tomb in x amount of minutes, don’t get hit by enemies, or assassinate your target in a certain way, these side objectives offer additional challenges. However what I hate about it is that if you do not do the mission the “correct” way I feel like the game is telling you you failed, even if you do not. It does not affect the game in the long run unless you want to run a perfect game, but otherwise I do not understand the purpose of it rather than additional and useless challenges. Either way, it is harmless, but frustrating.

    Related to the main missions are the main story. While I do enjoy the story I personally find the villains and therefore much of the story to be a bit stale. The Borgias are a bit too power-hungry even for Templars, who are typically much more nuanced in their approach and ambitions. Even though it is more than just Rodrigo Borgia this time, his children in the form of Lucrezia and Cesare are not much better. And including a rather odd and out of place incestual romance between the two of them seemed unnecessary. However, more to the point, using the Borgia family I suppose was simply going to happen since the developers wanted to use Rome to continue Ezio’s story. I just wish that they had done more with his story in this one as it feels fairly weak in comparison to the previous game. Luckily, Desmond’s story is still quite good, as short as it was, as it further illuminates the fantastic back story involving the Assassin’s and Templars as well as the First Civilization overarching story. His quest for Ezio’s apple is exciting as well as tragic, and a great continuation from the previous game overall.

    The side missions, such as the previously mentioned assassination contracts and Borgia tower burnings, now include such things like guild challenges from the various guilds, shop quests, and memories involving Ezio’s love interest. Ezio can also infiltrate the various places known as the Lairs of Romulus scattered throughout the city and countryside that hold keys protected by the Followers of Romulus, a cult centered around the city’s founder. These keys are protected by a variety of puzzles and, once collected, allow Ezio to obtain the Armor of Brutus and the Dagger of Brutus. Similar to the armor of Altaïr from the previous game, the Armor of Brutus is unbreakable. Another fun set of side missions are the War Machine missions. Leonardo was forced to design various things that the Borgia could utilize in war. During these missions, Ezio infiltrates the location where the war machines are held, destroys the plans, and escapes with a prototype. Of course, these missions involves Borgia soldiers, who pursue the assassin in other vehicles (such as in the tank mission when other tanks fight Ezio) or on foot or horseback. Once Ezio eliminates these threats, Ezio destroys his prototype, effectively ending the possibility for the Borgia to produce more. All of these missions are fine, and further flesh out Ezio’s story and impact on the Renaissance.

    As this review is of the PS4 remaster included in the Ezio Trilogy, I should spend some time discussing the effects of the remaster. Overall I am happy this was included in the purchase of the other two games as otherwise I find it was mostly unchanged. While the differences between the PS3 and PS4 version of ACII were very clear, the differences in Brotherhood’s remaster is mostly unnoticeable. I suppose there was not much that could be done without going deep into the code to remaster much but it is a shame that it is not as obvious a difference. However I do approve of the addition of all the DLC content such as the Da Vinci Disappearance and others, so in the end it was not a terrible purchase. But if this had been a single-release, this would have been a great disappointment compared to the remaster of its predecessor.

    Overall, I feel the game is better than Assassin’s Creed II in some ways. The combat, economy, and missions have been revamped to give the player new challenges as well as more variety. Ezio and Desmond, I feel, have matured between the games. Ezio, while still the relative charmer and such as he was in the previous game, is much more serious given his age and the responsibility given to him to reclaim Rome and build the brotherhood. His war against the Borgias finally comes to a close by the end of the game. This was good, I felt, because it brought that arc to a close. Of course, Ezio’s journey is far from over as Desmond is forced to relive later memories due to the events that occur in the last few moments of this game. One of my few criticisms would have to be the complete power-hungry attitude of the Templars that has carried over from the previous game, becoming much more noticeable this time around. Another criticism has to be the implementation of “full completion” with full synchronization. Completing the optional objectives can be fun and challenging for some people, but at times it feels like the game is forcing you to play a particular way that limits creativity. However, the game does make up for this by allowing you to go back and replay missions, whether you have achieved full synch or not, and it will allow you the chance to attempt it again. Another small con would be the game’s length, where some of the missions (main missions, mind you) just feel like they were included to lengthen the game rather than improve the game. Without some of these missions the game would have been quite short compared to its predecessor. And compared to its predecessor, I find that the story is kind of weak, but nonetheless fun to follow and play out in the middle of Ezio's life.

    However, I feel the inclusion of the new gameplay aspects as well as the continuing arc of the story that transcends Ezio’s understanding more than makes up for the few cons of this game. The soundtrack, voice acting, and script remain superb, really helping with the atmosphere and story in ways that are difficult to explain. Building the Brotherhood and retaking Rome was definitely a fun ride for me, and is a must after completing Assassin’s Creed II.


    Note: I'm aware of the extreme length of this review. Can't help it
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Gigantus's Avatar
      Gigantus -
      Ah, but the length isn't just fan drooling so you are forgiven.

      I must say I do like the feature of improving stuff and thereby inviting more attention to detail of the truly magnificent surroundings. so far I have only played #4 (Black Sail) but I think I will give this one a shot as well. Sadly economy is missing there, but I get to go treasure hunting in the Caribbean Sea! Even under water.

      Truly a great review with a lot of attention to detail.
    1. TheDarkKnight's Avatar
      TheDarkKnight -
      Make sure you play AC II, then this, then Revelations. Try to do the DLC for each too because they are actually pretty important.
    1. Gigantus's Avatar
      Gigantus -
      Finished with 'Black Flag' (got rated 76% ) and having a blast now with 'Rogue'. Economy is back in that version and money is no problem - so far three maps with amazing details, especially the New York map.
    1. TheDarkKnight's Avatar
      TheDarkKnight -
      I LOVED Rogue. It was my favorite of the two that released in 2014.

      My favorite map is the River Valley. So large and so many things to explore.

      I just wish Rogue had been given the resources it needed to tell a proper story with a proper length
    1. Gigantus's Avatar
      Gigantus -
      The story is a bit weird: are the assassins the really bad guys this time and the templars are bad, too, but haven't got a role to play? I am only at 35% so still time to figure out what actually is going on. Kinda weird working with\for the British.
    1. TheDarkKnight's Avatar
      TheDarkKnight -
      At this point the Assassin's in America are not explicitly bad, but misguided. I feel like they are just trying to end the war by any means necessary at this point.

      I'm not sure where you are in the story so I can't tell you more for fear of spoilers.