With the next par of Ezio Auditore's adventures in the making, there was no way we would have missed a chance to see Assassin's Creed Brotherhood at the Ubisoft booth last week. A whole new part of the single player campaign was shown for the occasion and we're telling you everything inside.
The demo we saw in Cologne allowed us to see what the beautiful city of Rome looks like in the game, and though the engine at work is obviously still the same as Assassin's Creed 2 - which was itself running on an upgraded version of the first episode -, it is difficult to resist the sight of the Coliseum and to imagine that this time, it will be possible to get there. This new playground is also a lot bigger than ever before since Rome is actually three times the size of Florence. One can easily deduce that it will take a great amount of time to explore every corner of the Roman city and visit all its most famous monuments.
During the presentation, the developers insisted on the new guild system and on combat and we learned that Ezio's talk will consist in taking out 12 Borgia towers in order to weaken the power and influence of the clan. These towers will also act like viewpoints and give Ezio a better appreciation of his surroundings. Before attacking a tower, it is a lot safer to recruit some assassins first, as they will come in handy when Ezio needs a diversion or a little help. How does it work? Well, for example, while exploring the city, you will sometimes run into a rebel that is in trouble with the law and helping him will make him want to join your cause. Each assassin will be able to level up, so you can basically upgrade their skills, weapons, armors, equipment or even colors. To earn experience, they will have to be sent on special missions throughout Europe. It does not mean you will get to play such missions and visit new environments though, you play Ezio and they are under your orders. Thanks to a simple menu system, you can select a mission, see what is to gain and also the chances of success of each pair of assassins. Careful though, losing a man during a mission will mean losing him forever, no matter how experienced he has become.
When a team is sent on a mission, it is obviously unavailable for some time and Ezio has to call other men when he needs a hand. The bigger the guild, the higher the number of assassins you can use and it is symbolized by several bars on the top left corner of the screen - the number of bars depending on the number of teams you have. In the simple press of the L2 button, you call your men and ask them to eliminate one or several targets. Let's take an example: two guards are posted in front of a closed shop and you don't want to draw attention by starting a fight. You then order your men to take care of them, you see them appear on the rooftops and jump on the two guards leaving them no time to realize what happened. To get rid of a Borgia tower, you simply need to blow it up after climbing on top of it. It is also possible to take out the power leader of the tower, which will lower the influence of the Borgias in the area even more and get you some nice discount prices in the shops. Power leaders can either be cowardly, in which case you will have to chase them around until you are close enough to "hidden blade" him, or so brave that they will stop at nothing to defeat you.
Like I said in the beginning, combat was a big part of the demo we were shown, but without a hands-on, it is difficult to really see how improved it has been since the last game. There are of course a few new moves like when Ezio throws an axe on at a nearby enemy and specific tactics to use against certain adversaries, but it looks very similar to Assassin's Creed 2. The developers insisted on the importance of keeping the right pace to get a momentum and continue to attack effectively. Gadgets are also back and while we learned to fly with Da Vinci's hand-gliding machine in Assassin's Creed 2, here we will learn to fall. Ezio will indeed be equipped with a parachute created by the Italian inventor, something that will provide Ezio with an easy way to escape should there be no haystack in sight when jumping from higher grounds. Let's just hope that it will be more useful than Da Vinci's flying machine.
With a whole new system allowing you to handle a team of assassins and a city as mythical as Rome to visit, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood should not disappoint the fans of the franchise, even though we are all waiting for a true sequel to find out how the story is going to unfold. Ezio being such a charismatic character, it should not be too difficult to live a new adventure at the time of the Italian Renaissance. Not to mention the existence of a promising multiplayer mode. But until we can see more, and try it ourselves, we will only venture to say that this sequel plays it a bit safe and relies on most of the game mechanics of Assassin's Creed 2. However, given how great last year's episode was, there is no reason to be picky, is there?