As soon as it was announced, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood instantly became one of the most anticipated titles of 2010, so I was rather excited when I found out I'd get to play through the game for a couple of hours over a month before the game's release.
Ever since I saw the ending to Assassin's Creed II, and thought exactly what Shaun Hastings shouted, I've been itching to find out what's next in store for Desmond and his fellow Assassins. And Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood promises to satisfy that curiosity as the game kicks off where Assassin's Creed II ends, inside the Vatican during 1499.
The first action Ezio gets to perform is climbing out of the deep chamber he finds himself in, and this is performed with the assistance of Eagle Vision. The climbing mechanics feel very similar to that of Assassin's Creed II, although they do feel slightly more fluid with regards to the animation. Then, with the assistance of Uncle Mario, Ezio has to fight his way out of the Vatican - apparently they weren't overly happy about being breached by a group of Assassins. Who'd have thought, right?
Combat is again, fairly similar to Assassin's Creed II, but there are some slight modifications to help it flow more seamlessly. A kick option is now available, which stuns enemies that are constantly parrying. This is perfect for getting the upper hand against enemies of higher quality, and of course, those who are heavily armoured. A new chain system has also been added, which means it's much easier to take down huge groups of enemies. It addresses the problem of previous games where it was often a case of cat and mouse. Now, it's just cat, you don't have to wait to try and counter all the time.
As expected from any game like this, the typical scenario ensues. You have everything at the start of the game, and it gets taken away. How it happens in Brotherhood is extremely well scripted - it doesn't feel forced at all. Perhaps that's because you've come to know Ezio and his family, but the transition from being a super assassin to being a slightly less super assassin works well. There are even some jokes in there about how Ezio isn't as young as he used to be.
Although some parts of Brotherhood feel similar to Assassin's Creed II, once you arrive in your new domain, Rome, the game starts to feel fresh again. The job this time around, aside from performing assassinations, is to decrease the influence of Borgia. This can be done by going through the main story, but there are elements that also come into play.
One of these is taking down strongholds, otherwise known as towers. There are twelve towers placed throughout the city and taking them down grants Ezio numerous rewards. The first is that shops can be restored by Ezio and the second is that Ezio can recruit people to join his cause - more on that later though.
Taking down a tower is, in theory, a simple matter. All you have to do is take down the captain and burn the tower. The only problem is that the captain is usually right in the middle of all his troops, and if he's spooked, he'll run inside a building. If this happens, he won't come out for a day. However, if you manage to take the captain down, all his troops will desert.
As Ezio progresses through his mission, he is able to recruit people to act as assassins on his behalf. You can recruit a maximum of 12 assassins (one per tower taken down) and they can be deployed in various ways. The first is to send them off on missions throughout Europe. Here, they will gain experience and when they level up they will gain stat points that can be assigned. The second, is when playing as Ezio. The assassins can be called to his assistance to join the fight, or to perform special attacks, like an arrow shower. It can instantly turn the tide in a battle.
There are various missions to undertake aside from the story missions, but even they've been improved upon. Secondary objectives must be performed to gain full synchronisation and these can be things like, killing a target using throwing knives. Aside from this, there are Leonardo missions, where you get to use his latest contraptions and missions which focus on Ezio before the start of Assassin's Creed II - these were put in purely as fan service.
I've always been a fan of the Desmond segments of the game, and Brotherhood looks like it will allow players a chance to see more of what's happening in the real world. And I was happy that Desmond is again using his newly found assassin skills. From what I saw, things should start to get very interesting too.
But that's where this is going to have to draw to a close, as Brotherhood is a game that really needs to be experienced first-hand. I have no doubt that Brotherhood will be a great addition to the franchise and I'm thoroughly looking forward to getting my hands on the full game when it ships in the middle of November on PS3 and Xbox 360.
If you can't wait until then, well you'll just have to keep reading this preview over and over again.