With Assassin's Creed, the Crusade-era story of the assassin Altair's fight against the Templars wrapped up, the team at Ubisoft moved on to the tale of Renaissance-era nobleman Ezio Auditore with Assassin's Creed 2. It seemed that a trend had been set, with each new game following the main character Desmond as he walked in the virtual footsteps of a different ancestor.
So when Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was revealed to be following Ezio once again, it became unclear whether Brotherhood was a true sequel or a re-visiting. In a recent interview with PSM3, the game's Lead Designer has put the debate to rest explaining that Brotherhood is not only its own complete game, but a title that will change the series forever.
When PSM3 asked Ubisoft's Lead Game Designer Steve Masters whether he felt that the view of Brotherhood being nothing more than a glorified expansion and not a true sequel had been put to rest, Masters clarified that Brotherhood is not just a sequel, but an entirely new game:
"We have a very long campaign - it's almost the same as Assassin's Creed II. We have a fully-fledged multi-player game now, which is a brand new thing for the franchise. We have several new gameplays, you know, a much improved fight system where it's faster, more brutal, more offensive. The whole Rome upgrading system and the Assassin's Brotherhood are two very deep systems that you'll have a lot of fun with. So I think people who have been checking that out will realise that, yes, it is a full game in its own right."
The systems that Brotherhood will be instituting to deal with territory control and recruitment are certainly new to the series, and hearing that the campaign itself is almost as long as AC2's will come as a relief to some skeptics. On the other hand, the addition of new mechanics could potentially complicate a game that may already be intimidating to newcomers.
Mathieu Granjon, the Artistic Director explained that while the main character may have the same name, the story the game tells will be enjoyable to any fan, old or new:
"Newcomers to Assassin's Creed will feel at home with Brotherhood. Although it picks up immediately after AC2, a Previously On section at the beginning summarizes prior developments, and, since Brotherhood is an entirely new chapter in Ezio's life, there isn't a sense of missing past information. The experience will be slightly more layered for those who played AC2, but that's about it in terms of the difference. We've been playtesting with new players and veterans, both groups really like the story - neither feels lost."
The summary of AC2 must take place prior to the 30 minutes of gameplay video we've already had a look at, and may be enough to provide some backstory to the character. Brotherhood's story trailers have already made it obvious that the game will be taking on very new ideas, so there might not be much history required to follow.
Ubisoft has already revealed just how important Brotherhood is to them, and dedicated they are to seeing it reach its full potential. When the game was announced, the fan reaction may have been to assume that since the game looks the same as Assassin's Creed 2, it will simply be more of the same. In the mind of Steve Masters, that couldn't be farther from the truth:
"Yeah, I think people started off with an idea of, you know, "they're pushing this out fast!" But really, once they see it, once they play it and experience it, they understand that it's actually a really huge game, and the additions that we're making to the gameplay and to the storyline change things forever. It's going to be a huge experience that people are going to really enjoy."
Whether the looks we've had at the game have pleased or worried you will have a serious impact on whether that's good news or bad news. Speaking for myself, the Villa-upgrading system from Assassin's Creed 2 was an interesting addition that gave more depth to the story. I definitely am in favor of an action game like Assassin's Creed introducing strategy and upgrading, rather than a strategy game trying to add in combat or platforming. It will be exciting to see what Ubisoft has in store if they're clearly so positive it will succeed.
With every day passing, it seems the reasons to pick up Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood are growing in number. It's nice to hear that the developers are concerned with making the game both an expansion for fans and welcoming to newcomers. The multiplayer, which was heavily promoted during the game's initial announcement seems to have lost its thunder to the team's enthusiasm for the campaign.
It may be the slick French accents of the developers at Ubisoft, but Brotherhood really does seem to be shaping up to be a new era for the series, and given their past success the odds are in their favour.
Fans everywhere will be able to enter a new world of familiar faces when Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is released November 16th, 2010 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.