13 January 2011

I HAVE GAME REVIEWS


In the last two nights, I have successfully retrieved the Apple of Eden and vanquished the darkness that threatened Albion. Oh yes. I've been busy.

Let's start with Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (ACB). You begin in Monterrigioni after kicking Rodrigo Borgia's butt. The city has been fortified with CANNONS. Oh yes. Cannons. After a few brief scenes learning to use the cannons, telling everybody what happened at the Vatican, and getting it on with Caterina Sforza, Monterrigioni is attacked and Ezio is badly wounded. He tries to get to Rome, but collapses along the way.

And then, Ezio wakes in Rome, and that's where the fun really starts.

STORY

ACB follows the same structure found in ACII, except the action takes place entirely in Roma. Where you rebuilt Monterrigioni in ACII, you're now rebuilding a Borgia-destroyed Rome. You repair aqueducts, renovate empty buildings for your factions, and even get to purchase some of the city's historical structures (the Pantheon and Arch of Titus just to name a couple). You also renovate shops (doctor, art, blacksmith, and tailors) and complete quests for these shops to gain extra items, like the Vatican treasure map or a really big poison vial holder thingy. Technical term. Anyway, there's a LOT to do, and that fact makes ACB feel like a bigger game than it actually is.

Besides rebuilding Rome and doing your usual treasure/flag/feather hunting (the latter two show up on maps now, which is SO MUCH EASIER), you also get to train assassin recruits and build your brotherhood. Honestly, I spent hours just sending my peeps out on missions. You can also call them into battle with you (I lost two good assassins that way *sniff*) to help when you're overwhelmed with guards. And trust me, they are indispensable assets.

Outside of the Animus (really, there's not much need to go outside the Animus), Desmond continues interactions with Lucy, Shawn, and Becca inside the Crypt of the now-craptastic Monteriggioni villa. And Desmond has email. Sometimes the emails are pretty insignificant, but there are a few that give you insight to your companions and into some interesting relationships outside the villa walls that are meant to cast doubt on a couple of characters.

Seeing the stark contrast between "modern-day" Monterrigioni and Ezio's Monterrigioni is pretty striking (read: depressing) and it kinda makes you wonder about what we're doing to these amazing historical places by trying to modernize them. But that is neither here nor there. Desmond can get out into the town for 10 minute intervals (I never stayed out long enough to find out what happens when you're in town too long). He can also find some artifacts from the Auditore clan. They're pretty pointless except to get your achievement/trophy.

Back in the Animus, we get a more mature, stronger Ezio. But he's still pretty rash and somewhat unpredictable--a total opposite of ACI's Altair. We also get to play his memories of Cristina Vespucci (who had one scene in ACII), and through them we learn a LOT more about Ezio from times in between missions. They're definitely worth working through. Ezio becomes far more rounded in this one.

GAMEPLAY

If you've played ACII, then you're not going to experience much difference in feel. Ezio's controls are still a touch too sensitive at times (going up walls or jumping off rooftops when you didn't want to AT ALL), but Ubisoft has made some impressive additions to the overall play. Left bumper (on XBOX) calls your assassins. The buttons still do all their same things, but you get a better sense of control. Fighting is more fluid, and being able to kick guards to break their defense helps tremendously. And at the end of a successful combo, Ezio will sometimes use the wrist gun from Leonardo to finish the guards off. To activate that, press and hold X.

Ubisoft also added synchronization challenges for each memory AND the ability to replay a memory to gain 100% synchronization. Also (I'm not sure if this is new, but it's AWESOME) when you successfully kill a guard, you can highlight the next nearest guard and instantly kill them by pressing X. Uber helpful when you're surrounded by 6 or 7 guards.

They've also provided a crossbow. Much more powerful than knives and waaaay quieter than your gun, the crossbow allows you to take down rooftop guards before they even know you're there AND without alerting other guards. This will become your best friend after purchase. I didn't use my gun or my knives after that.

Because Roma is so FREAKING HUGE, you gain the ability to call a horse no matter where you are after you renovate the first stable. This is a FABULOUS addition to the game because Rome has a fairly large amount of countryside that you'll have to traverse for different missions. Or you'll have to chase a target who is on horseback. Or you'll need to get away from guards. Or...yeah. There's plenty of use for a good horse in Rome. Get the light-colored ones. They're fastest. The captains' horses are slowest.

SOUND

None of the Assassins Creed games have a fabulous soundtrack by any means. They've all been pretty minimalist, a few violins here and there, perhaps some choral work in major fights. What strikes me in ACB is when you're chasing someone or under a time limit, the music gets CREEPY. And it doesn't help. I think it gave me nightmares...

The voiceover work is great, though. They've retained the original cast from ACII (including Kristen Bell as Lucy and voiceover artist extraordinairre Fred Tatasciore) and added a few new voices that create a fabulous atmosphere. I was pleased that the sound quality was just as high in ACB as it was in the previous games, and probably even better.

OVERALL

Overall, ACB has SERIOUS replay value. I'm not kidding. Of course, I played ACI like 5 times in a row because I loved the story. I often wish that Ubisoft would find a way to combine the depth of Altair's story with the awesome of Ezio's world. Because while the mechanics in 15-16th century Rome are awesome (dual hidden blades, a gun, etc.), Altair's story of betrayal and redemption (not just revenge) stuck with me for years and is still one of my favorite storylines from any game, right below Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy X. However, the general fun of playing rakish Ezio Auditore and the advances in combat make ACII and ACB must-haves.

Friday, I'll get into Fable3. I know you're all super excited.

4 comments:

Chris Phillips said...

ever played fallout 3 or newvegas? those are my types of games.

lexcade said...

i haven't. i'm not great with shooter games. i have been playing dead to rights: retribution, though. i'm HORRIBLE at it and get frustrated pretty easily, but it's pretty fun!

Elaine AM Smith said...

If ever their was an advert that did a bang-up job it was the one for ASSASSIN'S CREED. I wanted to play it and I have never touched a handset in my life! I'm afraid it is another thing that requires hand-eye co-ordination. I'll settle for hysteria badminton - I play it so well.

lexcade said...

The AC games are sheer brilliance. Honestly. Granted the last two sacrificed a bit of story for super-awesome gameplay, the stories are still fantabulous and utilize the history of their respective times and political climes. It's really a wonderful story. I'm so excited for the next one in April.

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