Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood

Yes, you read that right, ‘Brotherhood’. AC: Revelations is a way off yet, and my partner and I have only just picked up Brotherhood due to the high price (we caught a good sale on this occasion). I am watching BlueJay play through the beginning scenes as I write, and thought I’d make some comments about story and characterisation in the game (both the franchise as a whole and this installment).

(As a side note, I’ll apologise for the lack of content on this blog of late. Unlike most bloggers who drop off the internet for a time, I’m not returning to a backlog of news to write about. The things I follow haven’t been updating! However Anima: Tactics has had a couple of recent additions, Guild Wars 2 news may not be far off, and George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons is due for release this month. Things are looking up!)

AC: Brotherhood opens with Ezio coming home to the family villa at Monteriggioni, and making a large number of comments about how his bloody work is done and he is free to pursue a quiet life – essentially dooming himself, as if getting a sequel wasn’t enough. After some tutorial sequences the villa is attacked, the infamous Uncle Mario slain, and Ezio leaves as soon as his family are safe to hunt his enemies. Revenge is a good motivator, even if watching his kin cruelly killed did make this opening rather a lot like the last one. The attack on the city also does the job of undoing the last game’s work: the city walls are destroyed and its buildings are ruined, the people flee, and Ezio leaves with nothing but the clothes on his back and a single sword. Gone are our hard-earned armour and weapon collections: like Altair before him, Ezio is stripped back to level one.

We found this rather contrived, but it doesn’t help that we know how Assassin’s Creed games work by now, and they can be expected to follow a pattern. Ezio needed a motivation to get back out there, and this does it. It is, I think, a problem with sequels in general, where a story which was nicely closed off has to be forcibly re-opened again. I’m not denying that there were plenty of loose ends in ACII, but I expected them to be dealt with more in the fashion of the first game’s hints and suggestions: new information is dropped, our hero is confused, and hundreds of years later we encounter another assassin who joins the story at the next important stage. Ezio’s further adventures already feel like add-ons.

After the opening title sequence we rejoin Desmond and the merry band of assassins with whom he has fallen in (well, merry except for Shaun). This is where characterisation really struck me. BlueJay commented that Lucy reminded him of Buffy, and he’s exactly right (they even dress alike, though that’s just practical; I’ll have to check his suspicion that she was dungeon-crawling in high heels though!). I like Lucy as a “strong female character” because she is both physically strong and strong-willed, and the game doesn’t really make a thing of it. There’s nothing worse that a female character who’s so strong, we must constantly make a point of how strong she is, and how much everyone underestimates her! That just emphasises how women are not expected to be strong at all. Lucy kicks arse, is quick-witted and competant, and she is also feminine. She is not a Mary-Sue, she has flaws and a personality. This is good to see in any media – in video games, doubly so.

Lucy and Desmond flirt in this sequence together, a lot. They joke, keep up a friendly competition while they explore, and generally show a significant fondness for each other. The flirting comes from both parties, and although it is a lot more blatant here than in anything I can recall in the previous games, it has grown out of their developing relationship. Recently I have lamented the insertion of female characters into Hollywood movies because you have to have a love interest, something I really disagree with. Video games suffer the same tendency to have a token female love interest, but Assassin’s Creed has done a good job in setting up Lucy and Desmond. Their developing relationship is in the background of the main plot, something which happens despite what’s going on. It’s very human, and makes their friendly flirting in a quiet moment of safety much cuter.

Everything I’ve heard before playing the game suggests that AC:Brotherhood is little more than a vehicle for the multi-player mode. This title, and the upcoming Revelations, may add to Desmond’s story and flesh out Ezio’s life or the assassins’ history, but most of this feels like padding added later rather than vital story content. Personally, as much as I enjoyed ACII, I think we’ve had enough of Ezio – time to move on, with a fresh new character where the franchise pattern won’t feel so obviously rehashed. That doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy seeing the world I enjoy fleshed out, nor that it won’t fuel a tendency to see Templar conspiracies everywhere after playing one of these games 😛

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