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    dkirschner's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (360)

    [October 21, 2012 09:56:30 AM]
    Completed! This is my favorite of the series so far. Best gameplay by a long shot. Story...good, but not as tight or interesting as AC2, which I will give best story. AC2 has this nice assassination grid where you map out the entire network of bad guys, killing one after another to reach the mysterious centerpiece of it all. This one was more like you know who the bad guy is from the beginning, and you have to liberate parts of the city and build an army to rise up against him. It was cool, but it didn't feel like much was happening or coming together until the very end. Also, this one has more of the weird sci-fi present-day stuff going on which is just confusing. Assassin's Creed doesn't *need* the pretext of sci-fi memory machines ancient races magic relics. It would be fine just starting with, "Hey, you're an assassin in 1500 Rome. Go." In AC2, it switch back and forth between past & present, but in this game the beginning is present, then the *entire* game save the very end is in the past. I completely forgot about the present except for this annoying tooltip that kept popping up saying "You can leave the Animus and explore Monterigioni!" Why would I want to leave the Animus and stop assassinating people? Why would I want to warp out of the cool historical memory land Rome and come back to Desmond in AD 2xxx and run around some building?

    The coolest part of the game by far was the Borgia towers/commanders. I went on in depth about this in the previous entry, and it didn't get any less cool every single time. There was a particularly memorable (and hard) one in this tunnel network under some ruins. You have to get past like 20 guards in tunnels *without alerting them* and then chase the commander through the tunnels without the guards blocking you, and kill him before he gets out. I felt like a freakin genius when I finally got him. Then another that stands out is one that you have to kill on horseback because the commander is on his horse giving a pep talk to some training soldiers. I tried to come at it from a couple directions, tried to snipe him, pull him off the horse, but he or the training soldiers kept spotting me and he'd gallop away. Finally I realized I needed a horse because then I could just ride alongside him and do a horse-to-horse assassination. So I admit I was cheap in going about it. I made it to an ideal spot behind a wall on the edge of a cliff and lost my notoriety. Then I just waited there until the guard shift change so the commander spawned right in front of me. Then I killed him.

    Another thing I like about AC:B is that it forces you to use more of your arsenal. In AC2 I used like no special weapons, only pokey sticks. In this game, I found the wonders of the crossbow. When enemies got more armored and the first crossbow shot only alerted them instead of killing them, I switched to poison darts, which are hands down my favorite weapon in the game. You shoot an enemy with the poison dart, and he takes about 25 seconds to die. He begins flailing around, swinging his weapon and injuring anyone around, before finally flopping on the ground, spasming a bit, and going rigid. The best thing about darts is they're one-shot kills, and no one sees or hears you do it (if you're hidden of course).

    Actually the level I learned to use ranged methods in was the Leonardo wings level. You unlock several Leonardo da Vinci missions where you have to recover his war machines from the Borgia, then destroy them. This one level to steal his flying wings was really challenging for me. It involved climbing around the giant courtyard of a castle, scaling the walls, and making it to the interior rooftops where the wings were. But there were guards all over the walls and they were constantly spotting me. You had to remain undetected in that memory. So I started toying with crossbows and poison darts to great effect, but it still took a ton of desynchronizations to complete. Speaking of Leonardo missions, they were cool in that you get to use the wings, drive a tank, row a boat that shoots cannonballs, and some other cool stuff, but you *never* get to use those items again! The tank is only for that one da Vinci mission. Same for the boat. And as for the wings, he gives you a crummy consolation prize, a parachute.

    One combat mechanic the game adds is executions, which are great. If you just mash X a lot, and you can kill that particular enemy with your weapon, you'll eventually execute him, and if you change target during an execution with Left Stick, and mash X immediately after, Ezio will leap to that target and do a one-shot kill. And you can chain these together, which is awesome. The fighting in this game is more basic than previous games, but I like it better because that means it's faster too. I ended up using this giant sword, which worked against all enemies except lance guys and the quick ones who leaped out of the way. Usually I'd just wade in and slice the hell out of everyone. If it was one of the armored lance guys, I'd kick him in the balls (yes, that's a move) to break his defense then slice the hell out of him. Sometimes I'd switch to barehanded and steal his weapon. The quick guys were more annoying. You just have to wait for them to attack and do a counter.

    I talked some about how much better the money/treasure system is, and it fleshes out quite well through the game. I actually got 100% completion for rebuilding Rome! I didn't quite finish all the faction missions, but I was close. So when you open treasure chests, you get items too. The items are used either to sell or to complete shop quests. If you complete shop quests, you unlock special items. Same thing with pickpockets and messengers. Every now and then one of these will pop up on your map. The pickpocket will actually run into you and steal money sometimes. You go kill them and you get your money back and an item. It turned out that I didn't really need any of the shop quest rewards, but they would have been handy nonetheless. But it's cool that, compared to the last game, finding treasure chests is actually working toward something. They also tier the treasure maps, and give you maps for Borgia flags and feathers (100% of feathers too! No reward except achievement though sadface). So again, compared to last game, I didn't have like 300 treasure chests staring at me on the map from the very beginning. Getting them in waves was nice.

    I also enjoyed the 100% synchronization challenges for every memory. You get 50% synchronization for completing the memory, but 100% for meeting special challenges! A lot of times it was "kill target using [weapon]" which gave me a reason to vary my strategies and try out different ways of assassinating. Others involved completing missions without being detected, which was good practice for stealthing and silent assassinations, or not swimming, or working within a time limit, etc. My favorite one that I remember was when I had to infiltrate this cultish pseudo-orgy party and assassinate a banker. The 100% challenge was "Assassinate the banker from a bench." Whoa. So I spent a while tracking him and learning his movement. I noticed there was a bench he always walked by, except there were patrolling guards right there too. So I had to sneak my way to the bench, sit down and wait on him to walk past me to get him. It was awesome.

    In AC:B, you actually build the brotherhood of assassins and eventually become its leader. You basically save people from Borgia attacks and then recruit them to join your cause. These people become your personal guard. They all start at level 1 with basic arms and armor. You can send them off on missions, which range from 1 star to 5 sparkly stars. They always have some % chance to complete the mission, and they get XP for doing it. You can have up to 5 assassins go on each mission, and they share XP accordingly. So you send a level 1 assassin on a 1-star mission, easy. As they level up, they can tackle harder ones. By the 5-star sparkly missions, an "assassin" level assassin (level 10) will have like a 20-25% chance to complete the mission, so they go out in teams of 4-5 to get a 100% chance. I guess they die if you're unlucky. I did send some out early on with like 80-something% chances to complete missions, but as they got leveled up, I realized I didn't want to find out if they'd die permanently, so I started only sending them at 100%. Anyway, so they go level up and whatnot. You can call them in battle and they come and assassinate guards for you and fight by your side a while. Very handy. They also bring back money and items for you. Also very handy.

    So overall, there were more things to do, more things to collect, and more challenges in AC:B. They were more worthwhile, integrated, and interesting than previous games, so they didn't feel as grindy, which was a big complaint of mine from AC2.

    After I beat the game, I finally checked out the online modes that I'd been dying to try since the game came out. I really like the basic free-for-all so far. It's very Assassin's Creed! I have this game called The Ship, which apparently no one else bought, where you are on a ship and you have to kill or be killed. You play online with other players (I think I played against a couple people one time, but like I said, I don't think anyone ever bought it and I usually couldn't find a match). It works like this: You get a target and you in turn are targeted by someone else. You have to find and kill your target before your hunter gets you. The Ship was fascinating because your character had to eat, sleep and pee! So your pee meter or whatever would fill up and then you'd *have* to go find a restroom to use. This made you vulnerable. I always liked walking in on people peeing and shooting them. Anyway, AC:B's multiplayer is similar, minus the bodily functions. There were 6-8 players in the matches. You get a target and have to try and find him/her. At the same time, you're marked by someone else and they're looking for you. This is complicated by the stealth mechanics. You can blend in with crowds, hide in haystacks, sit on benches, the usual. You can, on the other hand, sprint like a madman, climb and run across rooftops, and so on. It's tricky because you need to be inconspicuous both so your target doesn't see you coming *and* so you don't give your own position away to the assassin hunting you. It's brilliant. The radar is modified so that you get information about the direction and distance (but no exact location!) of your prey. I don't fully understand it yet, nor the point system. You get points for 'style' and amount of kills, as well as for evading assassins. I played a few matches and it was hectic and exciting. I will leave the log open because I plan on delving into multiplayer some more. I always wanted people to play The Ship with! I'll trade my bathroom breaks for a hidden blade.
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    [October 11, 2012 10:03:50 PM]
    Started playing Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood sometime during the last week. It picks up directly after AC:2 and goes through a wonderful introduction to the story that reminded me what was going on. Besides story, I felt AC:B did little to help a player in the beginning. I suppose it being the second game in a direct series, and the third of the franchise (for consoles at least), there is more of an assumption that the player has experience with AC games. I remember AC:2 had extensive hand-holding in the beginning.

    As a result, the game is challenging right from the get-go. This is partly due to the relative lack of tutorial, partly due to me not remembering the finesse of all the controls, partly due to me employing a rather gung-ho play style, partly due to a few new gameplay elements, and, I would argue, partly due to the fact that the game is more challenging than previous titles, period.

    The controls do require finesse, both in navigation and in fighting. Until I regained some of that through practice and dying, I was having a rough time. I had to re-learn what the enemies are like. By the last game, I was just free-running and doing whatever I wanted like a superman. That's much harder just starting out! And the guards don't take shit from me anymore. They seem quick to become suspicious. Once they are on to my antics, they are quick to knock me down if I'm climbing, to surround me if I'm running, to catch up with me if they are on horses, and so on. There are both more enemies and more deadly enemies. Right from the beginning there are the normal guards, armored guards, crossbow and pistol guards, and horse-riding guards. I routinely find myself being chased by 15 or so guards, and I am slowly getting better at losing them. Does this mean that Assassin's Creed is finally about actually being stealthy? That could be a good thing! That's what I'm trying now, and it's paying off.

    A major new gameplay element are Borgia towers and region control. In previous games, you just go complete assignments and you uncover buildings (blacksmith, artisan, tailor, etc.) on the map by climbing to viewpoints and synchronizing with the area they cover. This time, viewpoints will uncover buildings, but they will be 'locked' and in need of renovation. So if they are locked, that means there is a Borgia (the bad guys) tower in the area, and you have to kill the Borgia commander there and blow up the tower, which 'frees' the blacksmith, artisan, etc. allowing you to go pay money and renovate them, which gives you access to their functions. You can buy and repair armor and weapons at blacksmiths. Artisans sell paintings and treasure maps. They all have important roles. I *really* like this new element, as I see that I'm undermining the Borgia's influence in Rome and rallying the people to the Assassin's cause.

    The Borgia towers are also excellent for teaching me how to be smart, emphasizing stealth gameplay and the importance of planning my actions. I've burned down a handful of Borgia towers so far and learned that stealth is my friend. The commander is typically hard to get to or to get alone, and there are guards everywhere who will attack you on sight. If the guards see you, they might alert the commander, who will try to escape, which sucks because then you have to wait for a 'guard shift' before he will come back and you can try to assassinate him again. It's a time penalty for failure. I've pretty much felt like a genius every time I have killed a Borgia commander.

    The last Borgia tower, I first approached from the roof. I threw a couple rooftop guards to their deaths and then scouted for an area like a courtyard or something to drop down into and enter the walls. Didn't see one. So I climbed back down to the streets and I saw two entrances with 3 or 4 guards each. I thought maybe I could pick them off with my throwing knives but either they just don't work for the distance or I wasn't using them right, not sure. I tried my revolver and killed one guard, which alerted all the others at that doorway. They fanned out to look for an assassin, and I tried to slip in the door while they were gone. Didn't work. There were another 5 or so guards just inside the doorway, and other guards in the streets who saw me and yelled, and the commander fled. Hmm. I had just unlocked the courtesan faction (there are also thieves and mercenaries that I haven't unlocked yet). You can use the factions to distract guards and things. For example, courtesans will go flirt and lure guards away. But there weren't any courtesans near this Borgia tower. There was an empty faction house nearby, but I hadn't renovated it and didn't have the money to do so now. You can renovate empty faction houses so the courtesans, thieves, or mercenaries will set up there and become available in that location. Without faction help, I had to rely on myself. What to do? I couldn't move outside because the guards would see me. There was no entrance from the roof. Ah, I can blend into crowds so I won't be suspicious to guards! Ok, let's try to blend into a crowd and walk the perimeter of the Borgia tower to look for another ground entrance. Around the tower we went, and on the far side was a wall under an arch that I could climb up and into the tower. I scaled it and dropped down to the interior of the tower and surveyed. There was the commander pacing back and forth in the corner surrounded by 5 guards. Hmm. How to get to him without him escaping? I sneaked closer and closer, hiding behind pillars so the guards wouldn't see me. AC:B so far has very fair enemy alertness. They don't see you until they can physically see you. I'm currently playing Metro 2033 on PC and that game is the exact opposite, which is frustrating. Metro 2033 enemies have some sort of X-ray vision and enjoy shooting me when I'm behind cover, and appear to telepathically descend upon my position. So in AC:B, it makes sense then that at the point where I edged out from behind the pillar to see and target a guard, the guard spotted me. I quickly hid and he calmed down. Hmm. AC:B has a neat targeting system that I don't recall the others having. Left Trigger will cycle targets in range, and you'll attack that target. So I tried again to peek out and target the commander. I thought I would target him, then jump out from behind the pillar and assassinate him before any of the others could react. I imagined a beautiful lunge through the air like a football receiver diving over defenders into the endzone for a touchdown, but it wasn't like that at all. Again, one of the guards saw me as soon as I peeked. They broke formation and blocked me while the commander bolted. I went for it anyway, dashed out from behind the pillar and leaped into the air...and assassinated the wrong target. "The Borgia commander is fleeing!" I made a perfunctory apology to the dead guard, hit left trigger, which, during 'combat' mode, will put you back into 'run' mode so you can escape enemies or chase someone. I did that and sprinted through angry guards through the doorway and frantically looked for which direction the commander ran. I saw him off to my left shoving a woman carrying groceries out of the way. I extended my assassin's wrist blade and took off after him. After just a moment I was on him, blade in his back, Borgia influence in the area destroyed. The guards say the equivalent of "F**k this s**t" and run away, allowing me free climbing up the tower to ignite it, the burning tower a symbol to the citizens that their time to rise against the Borgia is now.

    Despite any criticisms I ever have against the AC games, the above example, glorious assassinations, is why I keep playing them. And this one so far as quite glorious assassinations indeed. There are other new things besides the Borgia towers. Notably, the economy is vastly improved. Last time, you could upgrade your uncle's country villa/hideout, which was cool because I love having cities/fortresses/whatever to upgrade. This time, you upgrade the entire city of Rome! I mentioned the shophouses and the faction houses already. As you renovate them, it counts toward total city renovation. Also as you renovate them, you generate more income, which you can regularly collect at banks, once you've renovated them. Renovations cost increasing amounts of money, and the more you renovate the more money you generate. You can also go looking for treasures. I had fun doing this in the last game, but I recall that in the end, treasure hunting was pointless because I had more money than I'd ever need. This time, there are less treasures, which is awesome. And since I generate cash from renovations anyway, there is less reason to methodically scour the map for treasures, which makes things less tedious. That is always good. But treasure chests now contain a sellable item in addition to money. These items you can collect to complete various shophouse quests, which give you access to new items. So it's a neat byproduct of collecting treasures and synergizes treasures with shophouses. They were quite disparate in the previous game, 'amount of money' being the only thing that really tied treasure hunting and upgrading shops together. Now collecting treasures helps complete additional quests, get useful items, renovate, and liberate the city. It's more meaningful.

    The game also added much-welcome fast travel options. There are underground tunnels that you can renovate which let you fast-travel across the map. You can also renovate stables and call a horse anywhere anytime! So if you are just running someplace, grab a horse and get there faster. It's very nice. There also appear to be more faction quests, and so far they are more interesting than the ones in the last game. This is welcome too. I remember one I played last night, this courtesan said she went to a party and some men poisoned her. She wanted me to follow her and beat up the men she identified. So you follow her, and all the while she's violently ill, zigzagging and coughing and puking in the street, which was kind of funny, and she'll stop and point at a man and say "Him! He poisoned me!" Then you beat him up, and she goes, "Wait, was it him?" And you follow her to the next guy. After you beat up a few, she goes "Well, I'm sure at least two of them were there!" Quite amusing. There are also additional challenges you can complete for the factions that are just time sinks like poison 10 guards, throw 15 guards into haystacks, and on and on. Those are the most completion-oriented 'tasks' it seems, and the ones I'll probably ignore, though I am curious what happens if I actually complete them. Then AC:B adds % synchronization to missions. If you want to get 100% synchronization, you have to meet this additional goal. One was "don't swim" for a mission on a ship. I was doing it until I got pushed into the water and failed. But if you score 100% synchronization, sometimes you unlock cheat codes and things. You can always go replay the missions and score better and use the codes or whatever. I think that's neat. If you really like the game, you've got different goals and options for replaying.

    One thing I really like about this one too is that, perhaps in an effort to squeeze out more games for one story (so cynical), the story focuses on the day-to-day lives of characters. I wouldn't be surprised if Ezio had to pee and I had to get him to the bathroom. I find this really interesting. I was surprised to unlock a "Caroline (or Christina?) Memory." What's that? Turns out you can relive past experiences from when Ezio tried to meet this girl in his past. Some kind of romantic sub-plot memory. I'm totally intrigued by this.

    Anyway, I am very happy with AC:B so far. It is ridiculous fun, and I can see spending a long time with it doing a lot of extras besides the main story. Also, the setting, wow. The last game I think was Florence, and I don't remember where the original AC was. I didn't recognize hardly any places in those games. But this one is Rome, and everyone recognizes the Coliseum and tons of other temples and old landmarks. These are all included and it's amazing. So beautifully realized, and so awesome the way they've integrated this fictional story into history.
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    dkirschner's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (360)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 9 October, 2012

    GameLog closed on: Monday 29 October, 2012

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Excellent so far. Picks up right where the last one left off. ------ Fantastic. Will keep this around for multiplayer.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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