Assassin's Creed Brotherhood 3-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* -
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Brotherhood stays very true to the formula of its predecessor, though with multiple, noticeable changes. Among these are the changes to the economy, the map, and the missions. The revisions to the missions are the easiest to describe, so we will start there.
Missions now have bonus objectives, such as completing them within a certain time limit, not killing anyone, and not being detected. In some cases, these are not too difficult to achieve, but in others you will be very glad that you can replay specific missions. That is assuming you want to have 100% completion. Personally, I am glad I am not quite that obsessive over games as some of those objectives will require extensive replays to optimize your actions.
One issue I do have with this system, outside of how difficult some of the objectives are, is that missions you do not complete the bonus objective for are labeled as only being 50% Synced with Ezio's actual memory. It just seems extreme to only be given half when all you did was take a wrong turn, causing you to take more time than the limit.
The map has seen several changes, but to be clear, I am speaking of both the mini-map and the world itself. The mini-map is no more simplistic than it was before, and removes the information of archways, so you cannot rely on it to know if you are turning into a dead end or not. I really liked that feature of the previous game.
The world has changed as now, except for special memories, you are only in Rome. If you visit another city it is purely to complete a mission, and then you return to Rome, which has a rather extensive sewer system underground. This system allows you to fast travel around the city, though you do have to first find and unlock the entrances.
Another change, which is definitely welcome, is how the collectibles work. Instead of requiring the purchase of a treasure map to appear on your map, you can just view the collectible in Eagle Vision. Feathers, flags, and treasure chests are all recorded on your map this way, so you can return to them later. Now, it is not exactly a viable alternative to the treasure maps, but it is definitely a useful revision.
One aspect of the map I do take some issue with is that icons, such as for treasures, will appear for areas you cannot access yet. Why unreachable points are allowed to appear on your map is beyond me, but it is something you may run into as you run around.
Like the previous games, revealing the map requires climbing up Viewpoints. Some of these, though, are Borgia towers. Now, you can climb to the top of them, avoiding the soldiers, but you can do something else as well. Something more awesome. Each tower has a captain nearby, who is responsible for guarding the tower. Kill the captain and when you climb the tower you will have the option to ignite it! This leads to a spectacular explosion that signals to the area that the repressive Borgia are no longer in control. Also it automatically reveals the map when you do this, which is useful.
Removing Borgia control allows you to upgrade shops in the area, which is the biggest change to the economy. By upgrading, and thereby opening the shops, you receive income from them, which is collected every twenty minutes. Once you open enough shops, the money really starts pouring in. You are also able to invest in landmarks and even repair some, such as the aqueducts. Those sewer entrances, by the way, have to be upgraded this way to become accessible. The Borgia towers also come under your control, and you can place within them one of three supporting factions: mercenaries, thieves, or prostitutes.
Eventually you will end up having more money than you know what to do with, but there has been a tweak to the system, so the money is not the only thing needed for upgrades. The shops nearest to your hideout offer Shop Quests, which are quests to collect certain items. Upon completion you will be able to unlock things, such as fast poison, armor, and weapons. These items can be find in chests, looted from bodies, and can be rewards for a type of mission I have not gotten to yet (but will soon). You also have the ability to invest directly in the different shops, which can reward you with even more money. By the way, your profit can be collected from any bank.
Another effect of destroying Borgia towers is unlocking missions to save citizens from Borgia soldiers. Once saved, these people offer you their allegiance, which means you can call on them in battle or send them to assassinate specific targets. You can also send them on missions in other cities and countries. If successful you will be rewarded with money, and occasionally the items you need for shop quests. The people you send are always rewarded with experience. As they level up, you are able to assign them better armor and weapons, making them more likely to succeed. Eventually they become so experienced that they achieve the rank of Assassin, and don the white robes. At this rank, they are the most lethal allies you have.
Oh, also when you have enough of these people, you are able to call for an arrow strike that kills every enemy on the screen. Very useful, but has a long cooldown, so use it wisely.
Ezio also has the ability to wield some new weapons in Brotherhood, including heavy weapons such as the bearded axe, and you can even purchase a crossbow. The latter is for ranged, silent kills. It is actually quite useful when you are trying to remain undetected, as you can pick off enemy archers positioned on roof tops. One issue with it though, is that it can only be aimed at locked-on targets. You cannot snipe with it and sometimes it is somewhat stupid, as walls you were not aware were blocking the shot will block the shot; happens when you are in a third-person view. Really though it is frustrating because locking onto the correct target is not a trivial task. You have to be in range, and hope that no other enemy is closer for this to work.
Two more negatives to discuss. Free-running is definitely better, but is still not perfect. Though I did not experience going in the completely wrong direction, like I did in the previous game, at times Ezio would still jump when I did not want him to. Really though, the most frustrating issue was the camera at times. It would zoom out and pan to certain points, which are supposed to help you see the area. The problem is that as it pans, the frame for your controls moves as well, so you may turn in the wrong direction, due to the uncontrolled camera movement. Also, the points the camera would move to would sometimes put the frame at an angle to the action. For a controller with a joystick, this may not be a problem, but on a keyboard with WASD, making sure you are lined up for a jump can be tricky when the frame alignment is off center. To put it simply, I am confident the camera killed me more times than any Borgia or Templar soldier. At least most of the time the camera is under your control.
Complex but not overwhelming, the gameplay experience of Brotherhood is very enjoyable. You still have the fun combat and assassinations of the series, but now you can exercise more control over the world, and in well-designed and implemented ways. It took me 16 hours and 28 minutes to complete the campaign missions, and some side missions, which total up to 48% completion, according to the game. Some of that completion is going to come from collectible gathering, but based on the number of missions I skipped, and the ability to replay missions, I would say that this could be a twenty hour game to do everything meaningful.