The games of The Ezio Collection are much easier to digest if you consider them mere ports rather than the remasters they're advertised as being. I learned this with Assassin's Creed II last November, and it was just as evident when playing through Brotherhood.
True, the jump to 1080P is welcome, the absence of abundant screen-tearing very welcome, and there're some nice environmental effects that were missing from the last-gen versions, but that's about it. Visually, these are pretty much the games you remember them being. With atrocious pop-in — especially noticeable when on horseback — controls just as finicky as they were back in the day, and a host of other issues inherited from their original releases, they make for underwhelming remasters, but once you get past that, once you accept them for what they are, it's largely plain sailing.
Brotherhood was, in any case, always a better-looking game than its predecessor, and the same holds true here. Maybe it was because I had a better idea of what to expect, but I had nowhere near as much of a problem with its presentation as I did with Assassin's Creed II’s. As a result, I had a vastly better time.
With what remains the best selection of characters the series has to offer, (Ezio), an engaging story, (Ezio), a generous helping of some elements that made its predecessor great, (Ezio), a few new additions to the gameplay, (and Ezio), Brotherhood shines as an example of what an early AC game could be. There's even, free of the knowledge of the disappointment they'd bring in Assassin's Creed III, some promise in the game's modern-day sections — Shaun, of course, being a constant highlight.
A few hours in, just beginning to make my way around Rome, methodically collecting treasures, capturing flags and venturing into the secret lairs of the Followers of Romulus in search of the keys within — all the while serenaded by Jesper Kyd's wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack — I was home. Hooked, all over again.
I must've played each of Ezio's games — to 100% — about five times by now, and I'm still not bored of them. There's something about that core gameplay loop: gathering collectibles, investing in the economy early-on (and, in Brotherhood’s case, training recruits —
— to the rank of Assassin) that I find incredibly satisfying.
I'm addicted to clearing that map, checking things off the list. In introducing 'optional' (yeah, right…) mission requirements to achieve 100% sync, Brotherhood goes even further than its predecessors to draw in completionists — and occasionally drive us insane…
Of course, I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed everything. As my time with the game began to draw to a close, I became frustrated with the endless-feeling Guild Challenges and various Thief, Mercenary, Courtesan and Assassination Assignments that — despite adding to the story in their own ways — sometimes felt like pointless busywork.
And then, of course, there are the usual suspects: running up walls you never intended to, attacking someone other than your intended target, or getting stuck in inaccessible parts of the environment.
And it must be said: the resolution to the central narrative thrust of Brotherhood — the loss of the Apple of Eden — is shockingly underwhelming. When you finally get your hands on the Apple, mission constraints prevent you from unleashing its true potential — but even when those constraints are lifted, it remains more of a hindrance than a help. Requiring the loss of substantial amounts of health to use, the Apple robs Ezio of the ability to use any of his other tools, even the medicine that could restore him in much shorter order than occurs automatically.
But that's no problem… just put it away, right?
From the moment he obtains it, to the moment he leaves Rome in pursuit of Cesare, the Apple is stuck to Ezio's hand as though with glue. It can't be unequipped, dropped, or, as much as the player might want to towards the end, thrown into the depths of the Tiber.
These issues, though, form a minor part of the experience.
When I reinstalled The Ezio Collection and booted Ezio's second adventure, I thought it would take me a few weeks to get through — instead, I enjoyed this particular trip down a very literal memory lane so much that I burned through it, popping the Platinum Trophy four hours short of one. And that was playing casually; if I didn't have a few other things on my mind, I would've reached the end a good deal quicker.
Only Ezio's games have had this effect on me.
Other than an odd fascination with the disappointing Assassin's Creed III — which I've been meaning to write something about for years (and still hope to) — I have no real interest in revisiting any of the other titles, but I can quite happily return to the Mentor's adventures time and time again.
Wanting to go in as fresh as possible, I've been paying precious little attention to the upcoming Assassin's Creed Origins, but by far my biggest hope is that beneath Egypt's glaring sun, or in the cool depths of its tombs, I'll find some of the spirit of the Creed's first trilogy.
If not, though… no big deal. I'm not done with The Ezio Collection yet, and whether it takes me days, weeks, or even years to get there, I know I'll enjoy revisiting Revelations.
Until then, 'Vittoria agli Assassini!' I'll see you in Egypt.