The Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Journal

Note: What follows is a fourteen-page journal I kept while playing through Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. This entire thing is filled with SOOOO MANY SPOILERS, so please read on at your own risk. Did I also mention it's fourteen pages long? Again, read at your own risk.

Play Session 001
October 18, 2011
Duration: ~30 minutes (total: 0:30)

Game opens with Desmond recapping the previous two games as though it were the season premiere of a drama that takes itself too seriously. I particularly loved how it ended with Desmond saying “My name is Desmond Miles, this is my story.” How cliché of an intro can you get?
Game actually picks up where the last game ended, in the basement of the pope’s house, right after Ezio/Desmond utters “What the fuck?” to no one in particular. After returning to ground level with Old Uncle Mario (no catchphrase this time, sadly), a run through the streets of the Vatican, which acts as a half-assed tutorial under fire. Here’s how you fight, here’s how you climb, etc. Most of it felt natural to me, but I’ve already played through the other two games and I remember how things are supposed to work. I don’t think a newcomer would take to the controls as quickly. Brilliantly, I desynchronized during a tutorial fight because some of my enemies had backed up to a point where the game didn’t want me to go. Good job, AI!
For no immediately apparent reason, the tutorial ends on top of a tower, with Ezio and Mario debating over what to do with the Piece of Eden ™. Then they jump down and the title appears in the sky. I’ll confess, kerning like that does send one into a mild state of panic.
Back at the villa in Monteriggioni, Ezio tells Mario what he saw on horseback, then gets shot at by one of Mario’s guards. I swear, I’m going to kill that intern one of these days. People in town welcome me back, even as I accidentally hit them with my impossible-to-steer horse. Ezio meets up with Claudia, his younger sister who spent almost all of the last game sitting at a desk doing accounting. Somehow, she’s still not put on that much weight. I go up to the villa only to find I’ve apparently locked myself out and I can’t find my keys. Apparently I really need to take care of those errands in town first. Listen, I just killed the freaking pope, and I rode back to town on a horse, can’t I lie down for a bit?

Play Session 002
October 19, 2011
Duration: ~1 hour (total: 1:30)

First of three missions was to help a lady carry a box of flower petals to the villa, because gosh darnit, that ten-pound box of petals weighs just as much as ten pounds of steel. This might’ve been a little tutorial bit, but I think part of the challenge was not stabbing her as she unknowingly insulted me to my face. Second mission was helping a guy catch a horse, which once again proves how impossible the horses are in this game, though I heard what might’ve been the first genuinely new bit of music during this mission, a nice little violin jig.
Third mission was finding the engineer who could fix the cannons on top of the city wall. Apparently I had to escort him back, lest he forget the way to follow a single corridor back to the cannons and that bloody intern who broke them. After he leaned over them for a few minutes, I was given the opportunity to test their aim by firing at some dummies. Odd, why this strange emphasis on cannons now? FORESHADOWING!
I go back to the villa to find that Catarina Sforza, as well as Machiavelli, who I still never would have imagined as the bad-ass philosopher he’s portrayed to be in this game. Then again, he has a hissy-fit and leaves, so so much for that. Afterwards, I go upstairs to what was previously my mother’s room in AC2 to get in a bathtub that was definitely not there in AC2. Catarina shows up, undresses, and we go from bathtub to bed for the game’s first sex scene pretty quickly.
We’re awakened in the morning by cannon fire, and unless the intern’s really screwed up this time, someone else is shooting through our window. Ezio leaps out of bed fully clothed, which I can’t help but feel means he either didn’t have sex with Catarina, or she’s just into cosplay. However, Ezio seems to have forgotten every element of his armor, so we’re suddenly back to moderately powerless (though still skilled), and starting to build up from scratch AGAIN. Good to see the cycle of this game absolutely never changes.
Out to the front gate on a horse that seems oddly programmed to take a winding path around town that just so happens(!) to pass by every falling building in town. Then, on top of the front gate, it’s time for the cannons to come into play! Or not, as they inevitably fail to stop the prevailing army and the soldiers flood the city. But I can’t help but wonder, what if there were actual free will in this scene, rather than the scripted “fight for a bit then fail” nonsense? What if I could have stopped the army dead in its tracks with my little cannon right then and there? Sure the game would be short, but I’d get some fantastic sex from Catarina for pretty much the rest of my life.
More fighting, more fighting, yada yada, and then I finally get to see Mario shot by some guy who I swear had the same facial structure as the whore hanging off his shoulder. He’s got the Piece of Eden ™, but that doesn’t matter, because I get shot by some guards and black out for a bit. It’s weird how just a few years earlier, the gun thing was a Da Vinci prototype, and now it’s all the rage. Darn you, Invention Submission Corporation! Then it’s more fighting, more fighting, back to the villa to save Claudia and usher the rest of the people out of town through a secret tunnel that would have been long blocked off in the first three quarters of AC2 (if the tunnel even existed then). Good thing they didn’t attack us until now, eh?
Back outside the Animus for the first time (yay metastory!), all of my real-world partners seem to have had a change of costume to look more futuristic (except the stuck-up Brit), and the truck stops, where else, outside the villa in Monteriggioni. Apparently, everything in this game took place in mainland Europe, whether we realized it or not, or else the Assassins have access to some crazy huge shipping containers. The insulting Brit asks why we can’t move forward in Ezio’s memory, only to discover (in some roundabout way) that to move forward, we have to progress through some other memories in Ezio’s mind. Which is to say, we need to play the game to unlock things later. I’ve gotta tell you, it’s so much fun sitting outside their conversations as the omniscient observer and picking apart every absolutely subtle nudge toward the fourth wall that they can make.

Session 003
October 19, 2011
Duration: ~1 hour (total: 2:30)

Bickered for a bit with the guys in the library of the villa, then jumped down over the wall to find the entrance to a cave to let us in. Interestingly, I think the same cave only led me to a treasure chest in AC2. Instead of jumping, whats-her-face climbed down a ladder and flirtingly complimented Desmond, which made me realize for the first time she looks exactly like Catarina. I really should have seen it coming sooner, but I’m pretty sure there’s some linage between those two.
The next bit was a bunch of climbing and jumping in the sewers underneath the villa, which leave me to wonder, how did the villagers from way back when use this as an escape route without dying? Whatsherface was no help at all. After probably 50 minutes of this session, I made it back to the library to open the door. Suddenly, the sanctuary where Ezio’s ancestor worshipped the ancestors before him was turned into a LAN party. It was cool to at least see modern Monteriggioni though. It looks good lit up at night.
Back in the Animus, scene opens with Ezio waking up in Rome, somehow. After a quick chat with his nurse, he embarks on the path toward the church. With one square of health. And a chapter entitled “A Wilderness of Tigers.” FORESHADOWING!

Session 004
October 20, 2011
Duration: ~30 minutes (total: 3:00)

Nothing significant of note here. Bizarre system for “claiming land” (kill a guard then burn a tower). Not sure how the whole economy thing works yet.

Session 005
October 21, 2011
Duration: ~30 minutes (total: 3:30)

Three observations:
1. Instead of clockwise towers like in AC2, all the towers here are counter-clockwise.
2. Horses, while still annoying, somehow make it acceptible for you to run people over.
3. It’s not uncommon to be asked to step outside the Animus to get a weekly schedule.

Session 006
October 22, 2011
Duration: ~1 hour (total: 4:30)

Weird how the first memory I embark on is to get attacked by wolfmen, then visit their headquarters a la the tomb missions of the past. Wasn’t I supposed to go straight to Machiavelli? Also, wasn’t this “find six things to unlock the armor” thing used in the last game in a more honest-with-itself form?

Session 007
October 23, 2011
Duration: 1 hour (5:30)

Ransacked a shrine, a lair, and another Borgia district. Also, I met Machiavelli’s twin. Why do they expect you to do so much with the whole banking and investing thing, but do so little to explain it?

Session 008
October 26, 2011
Duration: ~2.5 hours (8:00)

Did the first of three missions the game actually wanted me to do, in which I ultimately renovated a whorehouse. Sorry, brothel. I think the next two missions will probably be for thieves and fighters, because hey, why not carry over half of the things from the previous game in another form?
Spent the majority of the time spending money to renovate buildings, which will ultimately give me more money in the long-run, just like the broken financial system in the last game. I wonder if I will accidentally break the bank (ba-dum tish) and make the whole monetary thing worthless by renovating everything so quickly?
I do appreciate, though, that I’ve hit a comfortable point where I am allowed to run around pretty freely at this point, rather than the incredibly linear path I was on before. I’ll work my way over to those other two missions eventually, but first it’s time to mess around a bit.

Session 009
October 29, 2011
Duration: 3 hours (11:00)

I think one of the things that drives me up a wall the most while playing through this is that false sense of freedom you have in the game, and how quickly it yanks it away from you. On my way to the second of three missions today, I decided I would take a quick detour to jump into a lake to tackle an island Borgia tower. However, it wasn’t until I jumped off the cliff into the lake that it alerted me to the fact that the area was not yet available. I ended up having to desynch just to get out of that lake. As it turns out, the mission I was heading to was the mission to kill the Borgia guard and recapture that same tower. I know they’re not trying to punish people for being curious, but the system lacks some crucial safeguards to prevent situations like this. For example, expanding the border of the “forbidden” zone to the top edge of that cliff would have been greatly appreciated.
I think I claimed three Borgia towers today. Man, they’re a pain, especially when the target runs away every time. Also, I conquered another Romulus tomb. I don’t know how it’s even possible to clear those speedruns in less than eight minutes.

Session 010
October 30, 2011
Duration: 2 hours (13:00)

Ooh, Machiavelli is starting to become shady! Certainly this is foreshadowing?
Unfortunately, I’ve hit that point where “notoriety” is now a thing. I actually have to be accountable for my actions, which sucks because before I could get away with making Borgia tower kills without any concerns at all. Fortunately, I think I only have five Borgia kills left, so I at least knocked enough of them out of the way to cause less worry. But why is it that completing one mission activated the whole thing? Shouldn’t it have been addressed before everything, so that everything terrible I’ve already done could be retroactively terrible?
I have bought out an uncomfortable portion of the town. I think I’m up to 30% or something like that. Every time I clear a Borgia tower, the first thing I do is blow half my money on buying places. I think I’m up to over 6000 in income with every 20 minutes, not counting investments. On one hand, that’s a much lower amount than I would get in AC2, but it still feels like a lot more than necessary at this point.
It’s funny how I was starting to feel like I enjoyed the old, less-facial-haired Ezio, because I tackled the first Catarina memory, in which I am teenager Ezio (who I swear is more like Italian John Stamos than he was at the start of AC2). I beat up some guy hitting on some girl who SAYS she’s Christina, but I don’t know about that, and he says he’ll get my entire family in trouble. Certainly that’s not the start of the vengeance against the Auditore clan, is it? Ooh, so much inactive foreshadowing!

Session 011
October 31, 2011
Duration: 2 hours (15:00)

I think that was one of the most frustrating missions I’ve ever had to accomplish. I had to rescue Catarina from that ugly princess. Not only was the build-up to the rescue aggrevating (including one forced cutscene between the ugly princess and prince making out), but it was one of those days where the controls never seem to correspond to the logical directions you want to give them.
Probably the most annoying part of the whole thing was the constant “lady-handling” missions, between dragging the ugly princess to Catarina’s cell, then carrying Catarina out of the castle. Everytime I put the ugly one down, she would run away after I killed the guards, making it a constant game of two steps forward, two steps back. Catarina wasn’t as bad, but she had to be carried everywhere, as setting her down at the bottom of the steps to activate a switch at the top was forbidden for no apparent reason.
The adventure culminated in a battle of non-stop guards outside the castle, for which there was no specific warning that I had to stay within a tiny blue box, and couldn’t even advance back on the castle to take on the guards already coming for me. After that, I had to become anonymous again, in a city where there are guards literally on every corner and the map doesn’t alert you to them ahead of time like it did back in AC1 and 2. All in all, a very frustrating session.

Session 012
November 1, 2011
Duration: 1:30 (16:30)

First mission, straight off the bat, was to rescue two citizens from the guards attacking them. These citizens are now my allies, which I can send out to do missions for me. Funny that bit, because they’re a ton more useful than the citizens in AC1 that I would save, and they’d say they’d spread great news of my name, but nothing ever came of it. But what’s perhaps the most disturbing about this setup is the fact that the saving-a-random-citizen-in-the-streets game is hilariously carbon copied from AC1 to begin with. Four soldiers, beating one person with no definite life meter. And hilariously, they’re always the exact same male or female model, with a different voice tacked on, just like how AC1 led you to rescue the same four citizens over and over again with the same meaningless mission.
On a related but insignificant note, I’m not a fan of how every button on my controller now performs some action, and hitting the wrong one can screw up the game. Mind you, that’s pretty much how any video game works, but with me being new to this controller, and still adjusting to the difference between RT, RB, and RS, a mixup in commands is just a pain.
I really don’t like how notoriety works in this game. Every negative action creates notoriety, regardless of the actual event. For example, I killed one guard in my second attempt at the same freaking Borgia leader. The guard standing next to him saw this, and my notoriety instantly jumped up. Never mind the fact that I killed the second guard right after that, with no one else seeing the evidence of their two deaths. Notoriety is somehow telepathically communicated throughout the entire city, regardless of the circumstances that created them.
The horses in this game still suck.

Session 013
November 2, 2011
Duration: 2 hours (18:30)

This session was deliberately played without horses.
I’m starting to wonder if the use of these assassin’s guild members was a bad idea, gameplay-wise. First and foremost, the ability to call an assassin to your spot to make a kill is amazingly unrealistic in the context of what’s going on. Even if there really is someone following me around at all times, constantly hiding in the wings, they still seem to pop out of completely illogical places, such as places that I know have guards in them (that should have immediately attacked them), or even appearing out of solid walls to pounce on their prey. They’re occasionally helpful, such as when I made my third attempt to take down that Borgia leader underground today, but they also feel incredibly unrealistic in what they can do.
Beyond that, the assassin micromanagement game isn’t much fun at all. It’s like a shoddily-constructed RPG, where all you really need to do to succeed is to send enough people so that you have 100% odds, wait a few minutes, then do it again. To be quite honest, I’d love to get out of Rome and do some exploring outside the city once in a while, but I’m bound to stay here. Also, why were the pigeon coops for selecting and assigning missions introduced in the game three or four whole chapters before they could be used?

Session 014
November 3, 2011
Duration: 1.5 hours (20:00)

Wa-hey, it’s Leonardo! I was wondering where he went to. Unfortunately, I missed a bit of the dialogue and I didn’t realize I was only able to take one of his new weapons with me. Otherwise, I might’ve picked something else. But still, at least I got yet another icon unlocked on my map. I don’t know if that’s good or bad though. I’ve already got tons of things flooding the screen, stacked one on top of another. Add to that the fact that somehow, none of his new icons appear? Why bother? Or should you bother?
Spent most of this session dicking around renovating properties. It irritates me how I’m pretty sure this one synching tower up in the north, you have to have that special climb-jump maneuver to be able to access, which doesn’t make sense considering if the plotline picks up where AC2 left off, that should be a skill you’d remember... Oh well, I guess we want to sacrifice the continuity of the game to make the story more interesting! Gag.

Session 015
November 3, 2011
Duration: 2:45 (22:45)

Irritation commence: At the site of my next memory, there’s another Leonardo bench marking, where I bought a glove that let me make those climbing jumps I talked about in the last session. And after returning a short time later, I bought the third and final item. Great.
A large part of this session was a required mission in which I had to destroy one of Leonardo’s machines, a machine gun of sorts. I’ve got to confess, this was the first time I used a walkthrough, because trying to get by all the guards without being detected was near impossible. After the blueprints were destroyed, there was another annoying chase scene involving horses. The nice thing was, after a certain point, I didn’t have to steer the horses anymore, and I got to fire the machine gun. Unfortunately, the part where you play with the gun was a bit too long for my liking. It was neat for the first minute or so, but once it hit the three minute mark and you were shooting down the tenth wave of soldiers it just became redundant. The best part was, it was way too lenient as well. After one wave chased me for so long, any surviving members would fall on their own as though I had shot them, and the next wave would advance.
First random crash while playing, thankfully it was shortly after I hit a checkpoint.
I wish the game would warn you ahead of time if you’re putting your direction marker on the map in a place you’re not allowed to access yet. I keep wanting to return to the same two towers to expand the map, but those parts still haven’t been available yet.
All but one of my assassins are up to level 7. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Session 016
November 4, 2011
Duration: 1:30 (1:00:15)

Most of this session revolved guiding and following a senator around town, with the most irritating roadblocks possible. First, I had to find the senator and guide him to a “safe” place, three times in a row because the previous locations weren’t safe enough. After failing the full synch during the second leg, I found myself just charging through guards in frustration.
The next mission involved following the senator and some guards to the Pantheon, without being detected. This wasn’t that bad of a mission, if it weren’t for the fact that it showed how stupid the AI could be. On my first attempt, the party I was following ran into a group of mercenaries, stopping them in the streets for a fight. Except it wasn’t really a fight, it was one mercenary and one guard playing an eternal game of tug-on-the-sock. I ended up restarting the mission after about three minutes of watching the inanity. After finally reaching the Pantheon, I ended up resorting to the walkthrough again on a part where I had to assassinate the guard inside, through the hole in the roof. I blew through three crossbow bolts, six knives and one pistol bullet trying to figure out why I couldn’t assassinate him from the roof, or even point downward to do so. As it turns out, there were tiny handholds I was supposed to use to monkey-bar my way down to a safe level for an air assassination. As it turns out, it only wanted me to do it this way to set up the next mission.
Now wearing that guard’s clothes, I had to navigate my way to that castle with the ugly couple before, but this time guessing at the correct path by using the verbal clues given by the guards following me. I can honestly say that this was probably the most fun mission I’ve had to do so far, since it felt like a game ripped out of The Price is Right. I failed the full synch here again because I wasn’t fast enough, but I’d gladly go back and do this mission again in the future.
I stopped in the middle of the last mission, where you then had to use courtesans to follow the chest once more. The problem is, the courtesans never stick by you when you want them to, and the crowds can sometimes be impossible to blend into.

Session 017
November 4, 2011
Duration: 2:30 (1:02:45)

I think I stumbled upon a mission I wasn’t really supposed to get to yet, but I’m not sure. I noticed the white wisps around this lady, and it turns out she was the starting point of a mission, but there was no symbol on her on the map.
Later I encountered the entire French army (approx. 40 people). And that’s all I’m writing for now because I’m tired.

Sessions 018, 019, and 020
November 5, 2011
Duration: About six hours, split between three sessions (1:08:45)

My first mission was to kill 20 people of the French army (which is about half, if my last log is anything to go by). I snuck up on one small fort and killed two soldiers by distracting them with the nearby courtesans, then crossbowed the other seven, all without getting caught. On the way to the next fort, I stopped to manage my assassins. But seeing that the next fort I had in mind was a bit too hard to get to, I decided to try another one back in the opposite direction. But as I passed the last fort I had conquered, I realized that all of the guards were back in place, and all fair game for the taking! So after killing the same guards again with the exact same methods, I had 19 dead soldiers. Which... doesn’t make sense, but whatever. Found another quick one and that mission was over.
Then we stormed the French castle. I don’t have much to say about that mission. I’m now at the start of chapter seven, and I’ve been leary about continuing on, knowing how there are only nine chapters in this thing. The majority of these three sessions was spent clearing out Borgia towers on the east side of the map and renovating properties like mad. I claimed another Romulus lair, and it was one of those happy ones where it was all jumping and climbing, no fighting. Except for the parts where the most intuitive actions were declared ridiculous by the game, which happened a lot. Anyway, I’ve now got a quarter of the Borgia flags, all of the feathers, all viewpoints synched, all tunnels renovated, and all but one Borgia region cleared, which will probably account for the remaining stores I have to renovate.
Remember how I said the investing thing was a bit overwhelming to get into? Well, by now it’s ridiculously easy, and just barely on the safe side of embarrassing. With so many properties renovated, I can invest almost anywhere and make a few bucks in twenty minutes. However, I’ve noticed that the income you get for making all these renovations is way less than you would get in AC2, such as not having a bonus for clearing all the viewpoints or tunnels. I think they’ve finally gotten a handle on how to make the money system work without being overpowering, though I should add I’ve never really been pressed for money. The only huge money drains I see coming are renovating all of the major landmarks for 20k each, plus buying the more expensive weapons, all of which will become worthless once the Romulus treasure is unlocked. Also, didn’t extra pouches cost something like 1500 in AC2? Yeah, more like 5k-9k now. talk about inflation.
With one assassin slot to fill, I’ve got something like eight fully upgraded assassins, one level 9 and two level 5s. As it turns out, this might be where the bigger micromanagement failure in this game is. As I said before, all that’s really necessary is to make sure you have a 100% chance of succeeding in each mission, and there’s no way you could lose. Which I guess is an obvious statement, but I mean that beyond the probabilities, it’s way too easy to shoot ahead. One of those level 5s, if I remember right, I sorta cheated by shooting them straight from level 1 to 5 just by pairing them with a higher-leveled assassin that could have cleared the mission by himself anyway. With the shared experience points, the newbie shot up the ladder pretty quickly. Just think, what if that worked in real life? If I got an internship under Nathan Fillion, I’d at least be making a couple Comicon appearances by now.

Session 021
November 6, 2011
Duration: 2:00 (1:10:45)

Almost all of this session was devoted to capturing that final Borgia tower. It only took (considering tonight alone) three attempts, thirty crossbow bolts, two arrow storms, and a partridge in a pear tr—and a few dozen soldiers killed each time. Then, it was buying up everything in site, and I think I’ve got almost all of this district bought out, if not the entire city of Rome.

Session 022
November 9, 2011
Duration: :45 (1:11:30)

Did three Templar missions. Interesting to see that the gender roles are a bit more varied this time around, with one Templar agent being a girl, whose victim was a male. This is a major contrast to AC1 where the SHOCKING twist was that one of your targets was a girl, except you don’t know this until you’ve already killed them. were there any female targets in AC2? I can’t remember any.
I don’t know if this game has a strong pro- or anti-environmental stand, because it seems to love shoving trees in the way of the camera, which drives one to hate all things nature.

Session 023
November 10, 2011
Duration: 1:00 (1:12:30)

I finally started on the actual missions for memory sequence seven, and... wow, they’re going by rather quickly, aren’t they? This mission has once again reaffirmed my hatred for horses, trees, and incredibly thick AI. On the last point, when you see a fight going on, why do you LITERALLY stand in between the people fighting? Is there nothing in your meaningless brain that tells you to get out of the way by whatever means possible?

Session 024
November 11, 2011
Duration: 1:30 (1:14:00)

Today I saved Jesus from dying. Oh, and I caught the real traitor, proving Machiavelli’s innocence. Kinda weird how Il Volpe and him are immediately buddy-buddy even though I pretty much saved Machy from being stabbed by a margin of about ten seconds. And I was right, sequence seven did fly by uncomfortably fast. If I weren’t the sort of person who went nuts for side quests, I could probably have this game done within a couple of days, before Revelations comes out.

Session 025
November 12, 2011
Duration: 1:30 (1:15:30)

Started to attempt another Leonardo mission, but they’re driving me up a wall. I love how there’s apparently a huge difference between the guards being “alerted” and you being “detected”, and how the former isn’t explained well at all. I can apparently pick off guards for ten minutes as they all gather around the pile of corpses, but choose the wrong one and it’s game over? Get it sorted out, please.

Session 026
November 14, 2011
Duration: 1:00 (1:16:30)

In honor of the release of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, I started playing Multiplayer today. Well, for the most part, I only wanted to play Multiplayer here before the new game hit and rickety ol’ Brotherhood became obsolete. I’m surprised there were a good number of people playing, ranging from level 1-ers like myself up to level 50 veterans. I’ll check back in a few days and see how that’s changed though.
Multiplayer takes place back at Abstergo, with that guy I never really saw after the first game talking to a bunch of clones of no one in particular. Apparently the Animus is now being used as a training exercise for all these minions. I’d’ve been perfectly fine with having absolutely no plotline tied to the multiplayer portion of the game (especially considering it’s not related, though I can’t help but feel it’s spoiling something later on), so this was a bit ridiculous. Sure, whatever, just let me play.
I played Wanted mode, where eight people run around a map trying to kill each other with the most delicate of stealth while avoiding being killed themselves. In two words, it’s fantastic chaos. Maybe I’m a bit overwhelmed because I’m playing against veterans and newbies alike, but there was a ton going on at once and it took a while to figure out some things that were going on. The tutorial doesn’t explain things very well, beyond a different map/radar system and how things can effect your score. In the middle of playing I found myself being stunned by opponents I was pursuing. It was only after that that I got the pop-up explaining what the stun was. I found myself randomly shot and hit with throwing knives, only to later learn that by leveling up you can acquire slots for extra weapons and quirks. None of this information is given to you upfront.
Actually, before I forget, let me throw in something that just popped into my head. As a level 1 noob (level 2 by the time I ended, four matches later), I have nothing to my name aside from my basic weapon. The higher-leveled players have extra tools at their disposal, with the disadvantage that more pursuers could be following them at any time. In the back of my mind, I can’t help but feel that this still isn’t a balanced system, as the veteran has both knowledge and tools at their disposal, while I had none. Maybe I’ll see it differently as I reach higher ranks, but it’s hard to believe it’s balanced right now. On the other hand, I did snag first blood in one round by taking out an unfortunate high-ranking player, so make of that what you will.
One thing I really like about multiplayer is how the maps are set up like a game of Pac-Man, where if you are being pursued by a chaser (and IF the game somehow acknowledges this, I don’t know what triggers this or not... yet another thing not explained well upfront), you can either hide from your pursuer or enter a Chase Break (I don’t know why I just willingly capitalized that), which are small corridors in the middle of the map that close off behind you, effectively ending that chase (and giving points to the escaper). I think that’s a pretty cool feature to have, although I don’t know how effective it is in gameplay with the notification system still a bit mysterious to me.
Perhaps going back to my earlier interruption, there’s something really annoying about playing as a noob, and that’s mainly the losing bit. Every time you die, you’re “treated” to a slow-motion animation of your death, often overly-stylized, as though it’s supposed to lessen the impact of your efforts being thwarted. “Aw, shoot, I... Oh, impressive backflip! Well done, lad!” Or something like that. The truth of the matter is, once the kill is apparently initiated, there’s no backing out of it, no matter how long it actually takes to occur, once again rendering the stunning unutilizable for no apparent reason. It’s like you’re an instant ragdoll for your enemy’s entertainment. And when you suck at this, you see these animations A LOT. I’d honestly be more comfortable with a very quick death and a longer respawn wait if it means anything.
I don’t know if this is a complaint or just an observation, but I noticed (even way back in the installation ages) that the multiplayer mode is completely separate from the single-player mode, complete with a different HUD layout, different interface, and completely different feel to the actual gameplay itself. I don’t know if this was part of the reason for forcing the Abstergo intro cinematic (to justify the fact that it’s not the Animus 2.0 you’re used to), but it feels a bit too disconnected from the actual game. It doesn’t feel like Assassin’s Creed, it feels like Renaissance-themed Team Fortress 2 where everyone’s playing Spy. (I hate playing Spy, by the way.) That immersive magic is just gone, and I think that’s a major downside to this mode.
Still, multiplayer gets a thumbs up from me, for now. I kinda wish I had friends to play with and to talk to. That’d make it more fun, if the game were even slightly more personable, rather than seeing so many other silent people that the more I think about it, are probably all from Brazil.

Session 027
November 18, 2011
Duration: 1:15 (1:17:45)

Well, much to my surprise, the rest of that Leonardo mission went somewhat smoothly. Or at least, the on-ground parts of it. Turns out I was making things much harder by shooting every guard in site, when I only needed to shoot certain ones and hop right over the others. The rest was a rather easy romp through the fortress to reach the flying machine.
But then, the flying machine problems started. I’ll confess, I only barely passed the flying machine memories from AC2, so I really don’t have the “practice” I probably should have had going into this mission. But still, I’ll post this excuse: There’s a reason why so many of Leonardo’s inventions were considered impractical, until improved by later inventors. This flying machine is one of them. I spent so much time trying to figure out how to the fly the thing without nosediving into the ground right from the launch pad. Then, there was the fiddly part of aiming while flying, and then using the fires made by your shots to get more height and speed. This machine would be way impractical in the real world, no doubt about it. Why bother bringing it up in the game?
Oddly though, I came out of this session feeling kinda good. It felt satisfying finishing it, no matter how many tries it took.

Session 028
November 18, 2011
Duration: 2:00 (1:19:45)

All of the good feelings I had in the last session were dashed to bits in this session. I started off by clearing the rest of the broken aqueducts, unlocking that one Romulus lair in the east. But for no particular reason, I decided to start off by tackling a Templar lair nearby. This took up almost all of these two hours for no satisfactory reason whatsoever.
I’ve got to say, it started out like a very fun mission, with some interesting target/pulley puzzles. However, once those puzzles were done, it just became aggrevating. I reached one platform where a bunch of guards AND civilians tried to kill me. For some reason, I was compelled to try to meet the full synch requirement of not killing more than two civilians (why not say “don’t kill three,” when there are only three to kill?). But, at this point, I had to find a way to move a crane around by shooting targets I couldn’t find.
In my first attempt at this, I tried to kill the guards, but leave the civilians be. Instead, after assassinating the final guard, I took my fingers off the controls completely so that I wouldn’t kill the last civvy in an assassination. But it happened anyway. I watched as I killed the last guy, making all my efforts during the mission up to this point useless.
In my second attempt, I actually didn’t kill any of the men, but instead they killed themselves. Because they’re idiots. I decided to take a small shortcut to grab a treasure chest along the side of the platform,following a narrow pipe. And everyone tried following me and jumped off the platform to their deaths. Full synch failed, and I even fell off the treasure platform I was trying to get to. This knocked me down to half life, but this was a bit motivating. I decided that it would be a waste to restart the memory a third time, so I tried to kill myself so I would only go back to the checkpoint right before all the civilians were killed. However, this is when major problems started. With every precise jump I made, Ezio seemed to be getting very careless, and not following my commands, missing obvious platforms and jumping into the water. After probably twenty or thirty minutes of trying to kill myself by falling from a great height, something I’ve never had problems with before, I gave up and restarted a third time, but not before watching a walkthrough clip. I had had enough trouble figuring out a way to get to the upper platform to shoot the targets, so it was necessary.
It turns out there was a way to get past this stage without killing anyone, but it was incredibly obscured. There was a tiny swing way back behind where you start the non-fight sequence, which turns out is the only way to get to the first target. At this point I ask, why did we even bother with attempting to get the full synch, when it was actually the only way to solve the entire level?
After completing this target series, my only happy moment from this memory occurred: The Templar guard I was trying to kill said “Scheisse!” I laughed.
But next came another pet peeve of mine, and in great quantities. The following “chase” sequence (you know, one of the ones where the target goes so far then stops to wait for you... and hilariously, if you try to shoot the target, he steps behind an apparently impenetrable wooden plank) was filled with that annoying external camera that you can’t control, and it tries to show you certain angles that would be more easily interpreted if you could see them through your own normal scanning methods. So as you’re trying to line up one jump, the camera shifts on you, and you end up jumping off in the wrong direction because you had your joystick pointed one way when the camera moved another way. I think I died at least twice during this bit just because the camera moved and so did my jumping target.
Let me make one thing clear: I’m not just being bitter because I sucked at playing tonight. You can blame the man behind the controller all you want, but I will thoroughly redirect my blame back at the game for being absolutely stupid with the terrible controls I experienced tonight. Case in point: After finally escaping that nightmare memory, I went back to HQ for the final assassin ceremony. Afterwards, I exited out through the upper door where there’s a Leap of Faith point. I held that shoulder button and I pressed the jump button as I ran off the edge as I had done so many times before. And did I perform that perfect Leap of Faith dive, landing in the haystack below? Did I hear the screech of an eagle as I drifted down toward the earth? Did I perform the game’s signature move, one which originated back in AC1 as part of a very bizarre ritual of showing the fearlessness and devotion of the assassins to their leader in the face of the enemy?
Nope. I just jumped into the water.

Session 028
November 19, 2011
Duration: 1:45 (1:21:30)

I did a whole lotta things not relating to the story today. I cleared maybe ten Borgia flags today and swept out much of the east side of collectables. I did that one Romulus lair with the water. It seemed like the easiest lair so far, really, if you don’t count the fact that I have no idea why I failed the full synch (it said not to lose ten health squares... and I very much lost only three). Other than that, not much to report here today.

Session 029
November 19, 2011
Duration: 2:00 (1:23:30)

Oh my, what a night. I started out the night by doing a courtesan mission, in which I followed around a courtesan who claims she was poisoned, as she pointed out men to beat up, while hacking up a lung. At the end, she seems to be perfectly fine, and declares that at least two of the three guys I just beat up might have done it to her, and she prances away. ...What?
And since I was close enough to the next mission, I decided to go ahead with the first bit of Sequence 8, back at that same freaking castle where I locked up that ugly lady. After climbing around a bit, I find that Cesare has poisoned the Pope (seems typical of him), and then chokes the ugly lady (wait, she’s still alive? But we have this painting of her in the HQ...) to find out where the Piece of Eden is. Back where the entire game started, and I had my first tutorial fight in which I got scolded for chasing an enemy into the room where he was hiding from me. Ah, the memories. That was... wow, a whole month ago? Have I really spent a whole month on this game?
Anyway, the tricky bit about this memory was that you needed to reach that cathedral in four minutes or less, BUT you had to be anonymous when you got there, BUT despite being able to hide from old guards that have chased you, new ones inevitably pop up as soon as you take two steps undetected. So yeah, this was frustrating, especially the first time around when I didn’t even know I had to be anonymous until I got there. To top it off with confusion, the second time around, I managed to evade the guards by hiding in a crowd outside of the cathedral, but then without me doing anything, they instantly restarted the search for me and chased me into the cathedral, where they somehow lost track of me when I hid in a corner... I don’t get how that chase ended up the way it did. But I got it done, and rather stupidly, I didn’t get the full synch because I killed someone (no, someone did something stupid and killed themselves while chasing me, thanks).
After that, I did the final Romulus lair right outside the cathedral. The start and end of this mission, as Ezio pops down into the rabbit hole, were possibly the only sort of genuine comedic relief I’ve seen during the entire game, as two hobos commented on “that guy in white”.
The lair wasn’t anything to write home about, aside from the plot it somehow pulled out of nowhere (seriously, I had no idea there was supposed to be a plot attached to the Romulus followers this entire time). Sneak your way into the place, chase a target around by taking alternate routes while they cut off other paths, kill him in the end, yada yada. What made this lair memorable for me was at the end, where I think I suffered from some sort of graphical glitch. At the end, you make a leap of faith into a well, and you apparently find the treasure down there before climbing back to the surface. The problem is, after that dive, everything went “loading screen” white. The HUD was perfectly fine, but all I could really see was that white loading diamond. Realizing I could still play on, I ended up finding all of the treasures and the exits using the map, my (broken) eagle vision, and sound effects alone. I walked away from that mission feeling like a boss, if only for the glitch at the end and how I conquered it.
I started the next mission, in which I go back to that cathedral and find the Piece of Eden inside a golden pinecone, then wield it to turn the guards against each other for a limited time, at the cost of my health. But that’s where I quit.

Session 030
November 22, 2011
Duration: 2:00 (2:01:30)

I’m annoyed to say that I’m apparently now about five minutes from the end of this game. Wait, what? Weren’t we on the first or second memory of sequence eight in the last session of play? Yep. Turns out the ending snowballs out of your control, and without any sort of warning of when your last truly independent action is.
But let’s rewind a bit. When last we left our hero, he had control of the Piece of Eden and could wield it at the cost of his health, to make enemies attack each other. But you’re encouraged not to, because you can get full synch credits for not losing any health, never mind the fact that you’ll be shanked by a random guard while trying to escape. You know the ones, the little shrimps that run at twice the speed at everyone else and make one stab at you from behind, giving you about half a second to react. But anyway, escape the Vatican with the Apple, and Sequence 9 begins.
You’re immediately whisked to a cutscene where Ezio is told he needs to take out some of the Borgia guards. Your only weapon, for whatever reason, is the Apple, which you’re now encouraged to use. Once you reach the destination, you see a cutscene of Cesare trying to enlist soldiers, but then running away at the sight of danger. Well done, him. Then, you kill the soldiers by charging up the apple and letting its energy fly. The longer you charge, the larger the radius of influence, plus after a while a second charge appears that kills anyone within its radius. Then, while everyone attacks each other, you have to wait for your health to restore (after 20 or so seconds with your health depleted from the charge, it comes back almost all at once, which is appreciated), then you do the same thing again.
And that’s all swell and good, except you do this mission three times in a row, without the option to bow out of it and do something else, and you can’t stop and get your broken armor repaired anywhere. There’s almost no changes between these three missions, save for the location, and the fact that your allies are working with you on the third one. Then, in a random cutscene with Leonardo, who seems to have come out of nowhere, Ezio looks into the future using the Apple and suddenly realizes where Cesare is. It’s this cutscene, plus the slapdash job on the previous missions that really signal that the ending was rushed, with almost no thought put into it.
So now you’re in another random city, with a lot of fighting. And you fight your way from checkpoint to checkpoint, though thankfully, it’s not as strictly linear as the previous two games! Sort of. And then you effectively fight Cesare four times, with him losing a piece of his armor the first three times. Never mind that your hidden blade could pierce through all enemies armor every other time in the game, this has to be dragged out for as long as possible to make the ending feel more epic than it deserves to be. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed from previous games, it’s the stupid use of the “borders” of the fighting space, which don’t cover all the area that you and Cesare are allowed to cross into. It’s never far enough to get desynched, but you’d think the developers would move those forbidden zones one freaking meter back to prevent unnecessary conflicts.
If there’s one huge spoiler moment in what I’m writing, this is probably it: Even after all that, Ezio doesn’t kill Cesare. Not directly, at least. Instead, Ezio leaves his death “to fate”, by throwing him off the castle wall, meaning he’s probably going to show up in the next game, in much the same way the old pope from the last game showed up in Sequence 8. Then, for some reason, Ezio locks the Apple underneath the Colusseum.
Suddenly, Desmond emerges from the Animus and knows exactly where the Apple is, and they go to the Colusseum, somehow apparently undetected by all the Abstergo satellites. What follows is one more unnecessary Romulus lair mission through the ruins of the ruins of the ruins of the Colusseum, which (I have to admit, unsatisfyingly) leads to the Apple, in an underground chamber in an underground church in the ruins in the ruins in the ruins of the Colusseum.
So that’s where I am. I’m pretty sure I’ve got one more unnecessary obstacle course to finangle through to reach the Piece of Eden, then we’ll see what happens after that. Cutscene that sets up the need to buy yet another game in this series? Sure, probably. Well, let’s get this over with...

Session 031
November 22, 2011
Duration: 0:45 (2:02:15)

So I climbed over a bunch of stones and I stabbed Lucy. I give up.
At this point, I should announce some totals: According to my estimates, I’ve played 50 hours of this game, while Steam puts me at 42 hours. Okay, so I’ve overjudged some times. But the in-game clock says I’ve played for 22 hours. Have I really been playing this entire time at half-speed?
This is tentatively the last official posting in this journal, or the very least, definitely the last post in which I will add to the totals. If anything interesting comes along in going back and finishing off the sidequests, I might add them on here if I feel like it. Otherwise, I leave this fourteen-page manifesto for you. I hope you enjoyed it more than I did, because in the end, I’m not wholly sure this game was worth it.