Sunday, November 28, 2010

a better REVIEW - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.


Ubisoft Montreal (annually now, it seems) continues to improve its newest IP. Assassin's Creed II was a massive improvement on the original title, tightening design and structure - sharpening the point of their game until it gleamed. It's only now with Brotherhood - which is, essentially, Assassin's Creed 2.5 - that I understand how these games manage to be so special. So separate from all other attempts to approach the cloud-covered peak of Rockstar Games' open-world dominance.

Brotherhood is another step forward - a minor one, which addresses the series' greatest flaw and makes it fun - but a further refinement of Ubisoft Montreal's strengths, in contrast to most other devs. It's a great game, and it showcases once again how the Assassin's Creed franchise is gunning for Rockstar's crown by quite consciously doing everything Rockstar doesn't do.


The studio's strength is unquestionably its elegant, thrilling, beautiful platforming. Their combat systems were always a bore, art direction was hit-or-miss, but they continue to be one of the best studios in the world when it comes to running a little human around a three-dimensional space - in both design and presentation. When it comes right down to it - let's ignore presentation, plot and structure - Brotherhood is an absolute pleasure to play.

While running around its gorgeous Rome and the surrounding countryside, it's easy to lose sight of just how well this game plays. The developer will gently remind us of it during optional enclosed, linear sequences that really show off how challenging, attractive and responsive the gameplay really is, and it soon becomes clear that while in the sandbox, yes, you can just latch on to the side of that building and pull yourself up, arm-over arm, that's not the way you should do it.

You should zip up a wall and rebound off it to a foothold, dash fifteen feet across perfectly-spaced boards, swing around a corner on a hanging lantern, land on another little board and then wall-run up, latch on to a beam six feet from the roof and propel yourself up with one more mighty lunge. For most every destination in the game, you'll often find Ezio Auditore da Firenze is quite capable of giving the player exactly what they want - if they're only ambitious enough to ask.


While Ubisoft Montreal was ambitious enough to approach the golden goose of open-world gaming, they did it with remarkable restraint and wisdom. Their combat has always looked great, but it's always been the most frustrating, boring part of their games - a beautiful interruption to the pleasurable platforming - and they attempt to address this issue in Brotherhood.

Their solution was to discard all frustrating elements and make it very easy - too easy - but newly elementary, ultra-stylish combat serves the purpose of removing a black spot from the franchise, and returning the focus to their strengths; beautiful animation, platforming and world-building.

Almost every major aspect of Assassin's Creed is very much in contrast to other open world games.

Ezio hoofs it everywhere. Instead of packing fifty firearms, he bristles with blades. Instead of a stylish, world-class modern city, the franchise continues to take us to beautiful, romantic cities of the ancient world. Thanks to the considered, thoughtful designs of ACII and Brotherhood and its willful mandate to simply be so damned different, the series has successfully cemented itself as The Other Successful Sandbox franchise - a feat no other action game property has really managed.


Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is, in nearly all ways, a great game. It's another sweeping, beautiful, romantic adventure from a studio that specializes in such. Presentation, art direction, music and voice work are all above-par. The combat is no longer a frustration, but a bit on the easy side. The platforming?

The running around, finding collectibles, climbing insane towers? It's an absolute pleasure. The delicious setting just makes it all the more inviting to slip in for an hour or two, and lose yourself in the simple, wholesome joy of jumping from one platform to another, slightly higher platform.


THE GOOD
-great platforming
-very beautiful
-Ezio's charming
-a huge game
-
I bought the Colosseum
-the over-arching story of AC continues to baffle and inspire
-lots of little improvements over ACII
-very unique competitive multiplayer
-combat is no longer a hassle, and even more stylish

THE BAD
-combat's way too easy
-in fact, a lot of it is way too easy
-why can't my horse gallop in the countryside?
-it's AC 2.5


THE VERDICT
A beautiful, stylish, comfortable platformer, offering an absolute glut of content and very unique multiplayer. Highly recommended.


A review (that I'm not very pleased with) in which I go much more in-depth can be found here.

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