Thursday, December 23, 2010

Assassin's Creed 2: Brotherhood

Having aced Assassin's Creed 2 and finally got the Platinum Trophy I started in on the sequel. Hmmm so how do they reconcile Ezio's big mansion, huge income and awesome array of weaponry and armour with starting a new game. Cannonballs - everything can be solved with cannonballs.

So having lost nearly all your possessions you somehow end up in Roma which is under the control of the Borgias (boo hiss) and it's up to you to fight the good fight through sound economic practice. Say what?

Yep in the first game you renovated the town you lived in; in this game you're renovating the entire city. Of course it's never that simple.

So initial differences - the mission structure. In AC2 you had about four initial 'you must do these missions' Fight the Pazzi, loot the Pazzi, visit a doctor, climb a tower. Then more missions opened up that you could chose from. You still had to do them all, but you didn't have to do them right now - you were free to wander around and get to know the place.

In AC2:B that freedom doesn't come for some time. There's a tiny hint at the very beginning once you reach the mansion when you can do a little exploring of the town, but then it's a case of missions flowing into each other with no option to decline them.

Once you're back in Roma you'd think it would ease up but no. Find a doctor that will heal your wounds and allow you to get about. Now climb this tower; now jump off into the haystack. Now overhear guards and follow them. Now kill guards; now kill leader; now go and see this guy; now...

You only seem to get a measure of freedom once the safe house is set-up and that's some way into the game because you get cut through with having to do missions as Desmond in the 'present' too and yep they're all do this, now this as well up to that point.

So have there been any improvements? Yes, oh yes. Nothing's changed in terms of your movements, other than due to your injury and cannonballs you've lost some abilities you might have got used to; but the mechanics have definitely improved.

Due to roaming only one city you can now use a horse within the confines of the walls, a quick tap of triangle will whistle for a horse; you can also renovate tunnel entrances that provide a quick route through.

This leads to the next point - renovation. Yes you can re-open art shops, tailors, blacksmiths and tunnel entrances; as well as banks (to pick up your income) and even do-up aqueducts and major landmarks if you've the florins. However you can only do so to areas that have been freed from the Borgia influence.

How to do that - simple. Just head to the tower that overlooks that part of town kill the captain of the guard and set fire to the place - sweet. Damn hard at times though. Head to the region and you'll be told roughly how difficult it is, sometimes it's because there's a lot of guards about, sometimes because the captain is close the escape door. If he gets spooked he runs and if he makes it you have to wait for the shift change before he comes out again.

Still some frustration with "area not available" because you've yet to unlock that section; and someone's decided that the Subject 16 messages will only show up using Eagle Vision which makes everything else go dark - and I've just jumped off a building again.

Despite that there are three things that are really good. Firstly the memory synchronisation for missions. Complete the mission fine; but do it in a specific way and you'll get 100% sync because that's the way Ezio did it.

Don't worry if you don't make it though as you can replay the memory to get it fully up to sync; likewise don't worry if you've achieved 100% and just want to go through again to pick up the collectables you had to by-pass. Once you've got that 100% you can't go down.

The second good thing. The subject 16 glyphs. In AC2 there was nothing more frustrating that having a database entry pop-up with an eye (meaning secret) and not being able to do anything about it at that moment, why? Because you've then got to relocate where that bloody building was. No find the entry in the database and you can now mark it on the map - yay!

And the final third good thing - virtual training in the Animus. This is what I've been talking about. Left the game alone for a bit, come back and jump into the training programme until you pick up the skills you've forgotten.

So not a vast improvement, but nevertheless an improvement. It may get even better as I continue.