Ubisoft have worked wonders with this franchise. Building it up from very pretty, but ultimately dull beginnings into their flagship I.P. The main improvements over the last two games have been the increase in the quality and variety of the types of mission on offer.
The majority of the game involves exploring Rome and activating missions at marked mission start points however there are several other optional strands that really help to mix up the experience.
The Leonardo missions involve stealthy infiltration of an area to destroy the weapon plans, with the prize being able to use the prototype war machines in tank, aerial and naval combat.
The Brotherhood of Romulus missions usually involve Tomb Raider/Prince Of Persia style platforming until the treasure room is located, sometimes under time pressure. These sections benefit from really great checkpointing, with considerate short cuts revealing themselves as you progress through the environment. Completing the brotherhood missions grants a strong set of armour.
Areas of Rome fall under the jurisdiction of Borgia captains. You are unable to liberate or renovate these areas until these Captains have been eliminated. This entails some quite tense assassination missions involving infiltration and observation of routines and careful planning. Unfortunately, failure means the captain flees and does not return until dawn or dusk. With no means of fast forwarding time, that can mean a lengthy wait until a retry is possible. This can end up being very frustrating when you are focused on completing that task and not particularly interested in completing other sections of the game at that time.
The excellent story flits between present day Desmond and his fellow assassins and Ezio’s escapades in Rome and Florence. Some of the side quests explore his lost love and early relationships.
The controls are still a bit erratic. With Ezio still prone to leaping to his death off the top of a tower inadvertently.
The empire building mechanic returns with purchasing of shops and landmarks generating income which can be used to expand your property portfolio and so on. This income can be used to purchase new equipment and art for your house but little else.
The ‘Brotherhood’ in the title refers to the group of allies you can recruit after rescuing them from oppression by the guards. Once recruited you can call on them to perform spot assassinations, or as you level them up ranged arrow assaults. Levellling them up entails sending them on missions. Each mission has a probability of success which is increased with their level and the number of team mates allocated to the task. 100% success ensures they will all return safely. Efficient levelling comes down to careful risk management with full teams ensuring safety but diluting the experience reward on offer. This aspect isn’t particularly fun or interesting but does become strangely compelling. Eventually they progress to the rank of Assassin and you are rewarded with a cut scene ceremony.
‘The truth’ hidden building glyphs return in this game with the customary puzzle solving interludes that appeared in the last game, I found these significantly harder to locate in this game and gave up trying to locate them all.
There are virtual reality training exercises in which you can hone your combat skills. Progress in these leads to achievement points and there is also the ability to compete with your friends via score attack leaderboards. There is also a ‘fight club’ where you can practice your bare knuckle brawling.
Combat is greatly improved and trickier than in the last game. The block is much less useful in this game as enemies will attempt to attack from behind rendering your block less effective. Deciding where to fight can make a big difference to your success. Once you have killed a few people with sufficient style you can enter a killing street where you can continue to assassinate enemies with one hit kills which makes taking down some of the larger groups of enemies easier. You need to pick out your enemies carefully though to dispatch via that route as some can dodge your attacks and end your kill streak.
The city of Rome is huge. You can now call upon a horse at any time which makes getting around a bit easier. There is also a network of fast travel tunnels which were rather clunky and time consuming to use by the time you have watched the activation animation and waited for the inevitable loading pause.
Once again the OCD crowd are well catered for with a selection of collectathons including a limited number of feathers and a much greater quantity of flags.
The endgame was a little disappointing. Your efforts are eventually rewarded with an overpowered and depressingly basic weapon which is no fun at all to wield. After the customary boss fights, the story sets itself up well for the presumably final episode with a suitably shocking cliffhanger.
There is also an intriguing, original and well thought out multiplayer game. You are given the description of a target to assassinate in an area populated mainly by NPC’s. Someone will also be tasked with the job of assassinating you. Success involves blending in as much as possible with the normal behaviour of the NPC’s so as not to reveal your identity and make yourself visible to your enemy. I experimented with the tutorial a little and found that it was quite good and worked well, though I never took the final step and jumped into ranked matches. I suspect this might have been excellent fun if played informally in private matches with friends.
All in all, this was a game of great depth with an excellent atmosphere, visuals and production values in general. There was a wealth of quality content making it excellent value for money and well deserving of its commercial success and critical acclaim.