Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that the Assassin’s Creed series by Ubisoft is one of my favorite game series. In recent years, I’ve also spent a great deal of time playing the Call of Duty games, especially the multiplayer component of those games. Well, in the past week, I’ve finished two of these games: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Call of Duty: Black Ops. First, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (lovingly nicknamed “Ass Creed: Bro”) is the most recent entry in the Assasin’s Creed series by Ubisoft. After development wrapped up on Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia Trilogy for the original Xbox, PS2, and GameCube, the developers began work on a new series based around many of the core mechanics, such as parkour, wall running, sword combat, horse riding, etc. This first game in the series would be set in two different time periods: slightly into the future in the year 2012, and during the Crusades, specifically in the Holy Lands including Jerusalem. Assassin’s Creed came out in 2007 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, and was the second game for the Xbox 360 I bought (after Halo 3).
The basic storyline of Assassin’s Creed is the stuff of my science fiction dreams. In the year 2012, humans have developed the technology to allow people to relive their ancestors memories in a virtual reality environment. A man named Desmond is being held by a company called Abstergo and forced to relive the memories of his ancestor, Altair, a member of an order of assassins living during the time of the Third Crusade and King Richard, about 1190 AD. Altair and his fellow assassins (who are nonchalantly mentioned at only one point to be Muslims, a point of information that has zero bearing on any aspect of the story) are fighting the Templars who are currently ruling the Holy Lands. Altair is tasked to hunt down nine targets, only to find out after killing them all that the leader of the Assassins is in fact a Templar agent in possession of a powerful piece of ancient technology called an Apple of Eden, which allows the owner to bend the will and memories of those around them. Meanwhile, in the future, Desmond finds out that Abstergo is run by the modern Templars and manages to escape with the help of an undercover operative of the modern Assassins.
Assassin’s Creed 2 picks up with Desmond now living with and working for a group of Assassins, voluntarily reliving the memories of another of his descendents, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who lives around 1476-1508 CE in Italy. Ezio, a contemporary and personal friend of Leonardo da Vinci, begins a vendetta against Papal forces (the connection to the Templars is not as explicit) after watching his family be unjustly murdered by the local authorities. Ezio is tasked with rekindling the ancient order of Assassins while at the same time reclaiming the legacy and equipment of the greatest Assassin who ever lived, Altair. This quest leads Ezio to discovering the Piece of Eden in the hands of the Pope, a corrupt member of the Templar order and the man who ordered the deaths of Ezio’s family prior to claiming the Papacy. After fighting the Pope in the Vatican, Ezio discovers that the Vatican is built on top of an ancient alien base or spaceship, and a hologram speaks both to him and to Desmond directly, which Ezio hears and doesn’t know who Desmond is. At this point, Desmond and the modern day Assassins discover that an ancient alien or human race preceeded ours on Earth, and that there are in fact 15 Pieces of Eden that the Templars want to use to control the world through a satellite system.
At the end of Assassin’s Creed 2, the Templars find Desmond’s hiding place and raid it. Through a bleeding effect, Desmond has acquired many of Altair’s and Ezio’s abilities, and manages to fight off many of the Templars before being forced to run. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood finds Desmond and allies holed up in Ezio’s old villa in Italy, and Desmond relives more of Ezio’s memories as he works in Rome. Brotherhood focuses on Ezio establishing a true Brotherhood of Assassin’s, spending great sections of the game training new recruits, continuing the friendship with Leonardo da Vinci, fighting the Templar forces and eventually expelling them from Rome. Along the way, though, we learn more and the mysterious Subject 13, Desmond’s predecessor at Abstergo who was being held and eventually lost his mind, and more about the mysterious aliens/humans who came before us. The game ends with Ezio defeating his enemies, and Desmond discovering an alien spaceship buried under Rome that possesses him and forces him to kill one of his Assassin allies, the same woman who broke him out of Abstergo in the first game. But, the voice of the aliens/humans assures Desmond that he just doesn’t understand yet, will one day understand, and that this is necessary in order to meet “her”.
The storyline in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a lot more personal to Ezio than pertaining to Desmond, and feels like the second part of Assassin’s Creed 2; it’s a nice coda to a character that everyone fell in love with, but doesn’t have that legendary feel that Altair did. Altair was built up into this mysterious legendary figure that was the ultimate Assassin who did so much. There are various memories that Desmond unlocks through his genetics that hint at even greater things Altair eventually did, and even a bit of scandal in Altairs apparent relationship and romance with a Templar woman. While the series of Assassin’s Creed is tied together by Desmond, at times it truly feels like Altair’s story. Ezio’s story in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood was a way of continuing Desmond’s storyline but at the same time provide a more complete and richer storytelling experience than what Altair had in the first game. We see Ezio fight after the death of his brothers and father, the eventual reunion with his mother and sister, Ezio reestablishing the villa his family has owned for generations, reestablishing the Brotherhood of the Assassins, meet important historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, and fight the Templars on their home turf of Rome.
Plus, we as Ezio are allowed to buy the freaking Colosseum, which is cool.
These games are great. While the first game felt more like your basic mercenary “kill the targets” missions, the later games had you buying property, actual representations of classic Renaissance period art, multiple weapons, discovering lost Tombs and Lairs of Romulus (the mythical co-founder of Rome), and discovering The Truth, evidence of Templar manipulation and involvement throughout history that also displays more about the mysterious aliens/humans. Brotherhood has you liberating and renovating all of Rome. And on top of that, you have thrilling sword fights, duals, parkour, and an entire city you can run along the rooftops in. Everything about the game is something I love.
The Prince of Persia Trilogy were my favorite games of the previous console generation. So far, nothing has delivered more enjoyment to me than the Assassin’s Creed series by the very same developers. The games are not flawless, but are far better than some very picky reviewers complain about. And in terms of storyline, they absolutely deliver. Flawlessly.
Long live Ubisoft.
Here’s The Truth video from Assassin’s Creed 2. It depicts Adam and Eve (escaping?) running out of (Eden?) somewhere with a Piece of Eden.
“Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.”