In the 19th century, Nietzsche said about the philosophy of the guild of Assassins: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” He might as well have meant it in the context of one of the most anticipated games of 2010, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
The latest edition to the popular Ubisoft franchise makes the previous titles seem like tutorials to the times of 14th century Rome. Sure, Assassin’s Creed II was a clever upgrade to the first edition — whose missions got repetitive — owing to its engaging gameplay set in Renaissance Italy; immersive sub-plots; and a lovely world thrown open to explore. This one keeps the package intact, with the addition of the Brotherhood clan, a multiplayer option and a story steeped in historical significance — and cultural iconography — while retaining its fictional foundations.
Story and gameplay
Desmond the bartender, your present day avatar and a descendant of the lead character Ezio, has received a cryptic message from Angel Minerva. The Animus (a space and time warping machine) that will transport you back into the boots of Ezio, is now in the sanctuary of a Templar hideout. Ezio is in the middle of a battle between the Templars and Assassins, and must retrieve the Apple of Eden.
The open-world gameplay is a pleasure. The game atmosphere is vast and with the parkour skills of Ezio, you can skim over dilapidated structures with the grace of a figure skater. As you complete missions, newer areas are unlocked, and you earn money and the ability to rebuild Rome. Essential to the story are Rome’s economy, its architecture and the group of assassins. Fight technique is the same, and while in the beginning you might use the stealth mode often; a few conflicts later, you’ll take guards head on. The clever contraption is the use of the Animus to take you back in time; the game doesn’t unravel new places unless you undertake missions chronologically.
If igniting enemy towers gets monotonous, there’re side missions — time-based, assassination, espionage and genocide. But Ezio still has to keep his hands off civilians. Often, the map is cluttered with symbols and there’re too many places to visit, all located far from the other. Weapons and armour are impressive and taking up quests unlock better ones.
With the Brotherhood open, you can hire assassins and send them to complete missions. Their expertise at combat increases with their level of success. But the addition, disappointingly, doesn’t bring much to the table.With regard to free roaming and the high levels of interactivity, Grand Theft Auto is comparable to Brotherhood. But Ezio is more focussed, morally bound and mission-driven than any of GTA’s lead characters. Or perhaps that’s just the doing of the period the game is set in.