Although it doesn’t have a number in the name, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood picks up exactly where its predecessor left off, and from many points of view you can consider it to be Assassin’s Creed 2.5. Thus, Ezio Auditore da Firenze returns triumphantly from the Vatican after the confrontation with Rodrigo Borgia, the beginning of the story being apparently calm, in which players can explore the villa of Monteriggioni and discover some of the new things that were introduced in Brotherhood (such as lifts or the ability to use cannons).
This peace and quiet is rapidly shattered however by the arrival of Cesare Borgia, Rodrigo’s son, who deems it fit to splash a bit of gasoline over the fire started by his invading army by killing one of your closest friends. So after he manages to save his family and send them to safety, Ezio decides it’s time to pay Cesare a visit in Rome to settle matters once and for all.
Arriving in the citadel of the seven hills though, you’ll discover that the largest city created in the Assassin’s Creed series (about 3 times the size of Florence) is basically under martial law, with the Borgias exerting their influence through 12 towers guarded by loyal captains. And despite Niccolò Machiavelli stern wish to act, the Assassins aren’t ready to face the Templars. Not yet. Which is why your first objective will be to reestablish the connections with the three known factions – mercenaries, thieves and courtesans – so that you’ll have the support needed to start liberating Rome.
To get rid of the Borgia influence in an area, you’ll have to burn down the tower which oversees it, an action that will also allow you to renovate nearby shop and access certain missions, not to mention the fact that there will be fewer guards in the area. In order to do this, you must first assassinate the captain protecting the tower, each one having its own habits. Some will prefer a well guarded perimeter so they can patrol, while others will just bunker themselves in basements or other dark corners of the building, with 5 or 6 guards near them at all times. Some will run the second they know you’re around, while others will stay and fight no matter the consequences.
Theoretically, this should be a nice bonus when it comes to variety, but I found these assassinations to be trivial, maybe because the fights are still incredibly easy. They are indeed more violent and spectacular compared to those in the predecessor, thanks to the moves and weapons used by Ezio (you can fluidly use the dagger and throwing knives, or the sword and hidden pistol, for instance), but the enemy AI is still pretty dumb. When there are many around you it’s possible that one of them will try to throw dirt in your face or grab you so the others can hit you more easily, but these flashes of intelligence are pretty rare, even though the producers did try to put more emphasis on aggressive moves.
Ironically, the introduction of the so-called kill streaks only underlines this issue further, because now you can kill a lot of enemies, one after another, without them having the chance to defend themselves (much like in Batman: Arkham Asylum). You’ll have to get used to the timing a bit, but once you’ve seen what needs to be done and when, killing 10-15 enemies or more in a row without being touched will be a piece of cake. And it’s quite funny, when you return from such a massacre, to be told in a very serious manner that you don’t have the strength yet to fight the Templars. Uhm, I just killed an entire garrison using a kitchen knife, are you kidding me?
The only situation where you have to be careful are the fights involving ranged attacks as well, especially those from an harquebus or crossbow, because too many consecutive hits tend to have a bad influence on your health. And yes, in Brotherhood we can finally use the crossbow that we saw in the very first Assassin’s Creed trailer, and which I consider to be far more effective than the pistol for ranged assassinations, especially since it’s silent. If no one sees you, you’re a ghost. In the “new toys” department we also have poison darts, a parachute given to us by Leonardo da Vinci after completing some special missions for him, plus a fast acting poison.