Why did you feel that Ezio’s story needed to continue beyond the plot of Assassin’s Creed II? Why not move onto another character/period like you did from Altaïr to Ezio?
We love Ezio as much as our fans, and thanks to their response to ACII, we are honoured to share the story of the second part of Ezio’s life to our fans. Also, it enables us to delve deeper in the entire Assassin’s Creed universe, including Desmond’s story, and to approach new themes. For example, ACII’s story was the personal revenge story of Ezio while in Brotherhood, it’s about Ezio becoming a leader and how his actions affect the world. I believe fans are in for a treat as the story touches many new grounds and will showcase the grandiose battle between the Assassin and the Templars. I don’t believe the public should perceive Brotherhood as an expansion because of the sheer hugeness of the game. The main ‘path‘ in the single-player mode is as long as ACII, while full completion requires over 40 hours. Gameplay-wise, the new combat system is very fun yet challenging, so it’s really rewarding: the new mission types, varied gameplay with new secret locations and Leonardo’s war-machine missions, an economic system that applies to Rome and much more adds a lot of depth to the game. If you add in all the play time multiplayer provides, I believe Brotherhood should be considered a full game with a lot of content and a lot of replay value, thus I don’t believe it can be labeled as just an expansion.
How long has Brotherhood been in production? There were almost two years between Assassin’s Creed and the sequel? ACII was released just under a year ago.
From the onset, we knew Ezio’s story was bigger than only one title could tell. Thanks to the overwhelming positive feedback we received from our fans on ACII, we wanted to share the story of Ezio during the second part of his life. As for the development of the title, we view Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood as a title in development for more than two years. The multiplayer mode has been in development at Ubisoft Annecy studios for a few years now. Also, the core team started working on the project’s blueprint way before ACII’s release. While some elements of the development started just after ACII’s release, the team is very experienced with the engine and the technology behind the game thanks to ACII. Thus, we are able to create the immense world of Rome in less time while adding many new features, alongside improvements, as well as unique gameplay, new missions and a full and deep story and character. It didn’t "affect us”; we knew we could do it and deliver on all levels, and I think we succeeded and strongly believe this is the best Assassin’s Creed game yet.
What stand-out feature makes AC: Brotherhood more than just an expansion to ACII or simply an AC2.5?
There are tonnes of new or updated features in the game, but if I had to choose two, I would go with the Brotherhood and the Borgia Towers.
The Brotherhood is a new and very interesting feature. As Ezio progresses throughout the story, he chooses certain characters to join his brotherhood. As he recruits new novice assassin members, Ezio will be able to send them on assignments. As they perform assignments, the novice assassins will gain experience and will progress to become master assassins. These assignments will be given by Ezio using a unique animus interface. Ezio will be able to customise his assassins and give them specific weapons.
When they are not on assignments, Ezio will be able to call his assassins from anywhere and at any time to help him complete his mission. When activated, the brotherhood emerges and will help Ezio to kill guards. Depending on the weapon Ezio equipped them with, they will fight differently. If Ezio equips them with crossbows, they will shoot from a distance. If they have swords, they will fight in close combat, etc.
This is how we balance the system: as you collect Assassins, you gain ‘tokens’ that enable you to use them. The tokens become available after a cool-down time, so players won’t be able to spam them.
The other way we are going to balance it is the fact that Assassins can die. So players that use them in dangerous situations risk losing them if they are not careful or don’t assist them in the fight.
The Borgia Towers are a very cool new feature too that makes the city even more ‘alive‘. The city of Rome is under the influence of Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, and Ezio needs to claim ‘Borgia towers‘, which host the Holy Father’s infantry throughout the city to reduce the military presence and thus decrease His Holiness’ influence. This will help bring back Rome’s prosperity and free the population from the oppression of the Papal soldiers. Each Borgia tower brought down by Ezio frees a specific zone, enabling players to begin the rebuild process and allowing investments and upgrades to various buildings. These actions improve the area, which is reflected through the area’s mood and its inhabitants whose lives will improve.
In order to claim the Borgia towers, players must first infiltrate a militarised zone around the tower and then track and kill the tower leader. There are various approaches to get to the leader, and sometimes a stealthy approach is required while other times players will have to use all of Ezio’s combat skills. In order to destroy the tower, players are confronted with a climbing puzzle and then they must set the Borgia tower on fire, which is very spectacular!
Killing the Borgia leader and taking down the tower (Check out the commented Gamescom demo online) is completely optional in the game, while killing the main targets is mandatory in the main path. Of course, the story progresses through the assassination of main targets, while taking over Borgia towers will affect the Rome upgrade system and the wealth of the people in that area. Clearing Borgia towers can also be done strategically… For example, I might want to clear a Borgia tower before I jump into a main assassination mission in the same area to reduce the number of guards in this area. So, in the end, both of these mission types have different approaches but can be completed strategically and are strongly interrelated.
Are we likely to see further departures from the numeric series in the future?
Only the future will tell.
How does the game world compare in size to ACII?
In Brotherhood, like in history, Rome isn’t going through Renaissance like Venice and Florence because the Pope his holding all the wealth to him and his closed guard. He achieves his dominance of chaos and corruption through a militarised regime. Papal soldiers will arrest or kill anyone standing against the Pope.
Rome is three times the size of Venice and is composed of four huge, distinct districts – which affects heavily how you play in them. The wealth distribution heavily impacts the landscape of Rome as, for example, Vatican City is full of tall buildings and well known landmarks. Meanwhile, the Roman Ruins is a location full of rundown buildings and old Roman ruins and has a type of free-running that requires precision as jumps between ruins, such as columns, which is essential while less climbing is necessary. There’s also the countryside which, due to the Seven Hills of Rome, has nice elevation and is a perfect playground for horse chase and horse free-running sequences. Across Rome flows the Tiber where boats slowly sail, which adds interesting water gameplay.
Rome is mainly visited because of its history but also because of its impressive landmarks. Players will be able to visit and free-run in its most majestic landmarks: the Colliseum, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Panteon, the Arch of Constantine, the Capitole, St Peter’s Basilica, Trajan Markets and more. Also, players will visit secret locations that are like the Assassin’s Tombs of ACII, but they’re bigger, better and more diverse. However, the story takes Ezio to other locations such as Viana in Spain and other regions of Italia while tracking down and trying to destroy Leonardo’s war machines.
Brotherhood features a multiplayer mode for the first time in an Assassin’s Creed game. Can you tell us what the game types are?
We have announced for the Multiplayer BETA the Wanted Mode and the Alliance Mode. Wanted can be explained like this: at the beginning of each round, players are assigned a contract; a target they must assassinate. However, aside from the target’s appearance, they do not know who it is among many similar characters in the crowd. Players have a blue radar at their disposal (HUD), which reveals the approximate location of the target, enabling you to track down opponents like a bird of prey. When players are close, they must analyse the potential targets for visual cues or behaviour outside social norms (free-running, crowd pushing, etc) to identify who exactly is their target. If, unfortunately, a player kills an innocent they assumed was their prey, they lose their contract and reveal their true identity to everyone witnessing the scene. While a player tracks down his prey, he also is hunted by another player. If I had to explain ‘Wanted‘ with a simple image, it is like a big game of mouse and cat, where players are simultaneously the predator and the prey. Thus, players must be careful and use different techniques (such as blending in a crowd) so as not to be spotted by the assassin who is hunting them. It’s fun tracking down your target, but there's also the stress that comes from knowing someone is doing the same with you and never knowing whether success or failure comes first. Alliance is a team-based mode which relies on similar mechanics of ‘cat and mouse‘. Each team is composed of two players who team up against other teams of two players. Players can score points by performing good cooperative actions. Up to eight players can play against each other in each mode.
What are your plans for DLC?
Nothing has been announced yet in regards to DLC for Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.
At the end of Assassin’s Creed II, Ezio was a fully fledged assassin. Will Ezio still have all his abilities from ACII at the start of Brotherhood?
You do have his abilities, weapons and armour at the beginning of the game, but during the villa attack by Cesare Borgia, all of Ezio’s equipment gets destroyed. Also, Ezio gets shot by a gunman during the attack and loses some of his ability at the beginning of the game. Ezio will quickly get better and be able to get his old abilities back, and also learn new ones and obtain new equipment.
Will the game continue Desmond’s story outside of the Animus?
The setting in the present sequence of Assassin’s Creed is in Italy but it's never clearly mentioned in the previous games. At the beginning of the game, Desmond emerges from the Animus. Lucy and Rebecca explain that they are searching Desmond’s genetic memories for Ezio’s Piece of Eden. Minerva changed it somehow and they believe it is the key to finding the lost Temples she spoke of. The problem is that Ezio’s memories of where he left it are locked away and memories-within-memories are stopping them from accessing the location. This is when Desmond and friends arrive at the rundown and derelict Auditore Villa.
At the beginning of the game, Desmond arrives at Monteriggioni with Lucy, Shaun and Rebecca. They need to set up their hideout underground, beneath the villa Auditore, because the Templars are searching for the assassins and are analysing the environment using cell phone towers. Desmond and Lucy have to go through an underground tunnel to open an entrance to the underground Sanctuary…
Due to the secondary effects of being in the animus for a lengthy period of time, Desmond will see projections of Ezio and other past events and characters that happened in Monteriggioni. These visions might be useful after all…