You know how I feel about Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and you know how I feel about things that cost zero dollars, so it should come as no surprise that I’m fairly happy about Ubisoft’s decision to release at least two free multiplayer DLC packs. Though unimaginatively titled Animus 1.0 and Animus 2.0 updates, you can’t really complain when the price is right.
Right at zero.
What do these updates include? Animus 2.0 is rumored to contain some new maps and a new gameplay mode. Animus 1.0 boasts similar features, introducing Advanced Alliance mode (it’s Alliance, only the game gives you fewer hints) and two new maps based on Mont Saint Michel. At this point you should be emptying your bowels into your pants, because Mont Saint Michel is unarguably the most interesting place in France.* Why? Well, for one, Mont Saint Michel is a castle built on a mountain in a tidal pool that transforms it into an island fortress during high tide.
Helm’s Deep, eat your fucking heart out.
I had the privilege of visiting Mt. St. Michel in 2004 during my semester abroad in France. For those of you in college who are planning to graduate without spending a summer abroad, just drop out now. You aren’t going to experience anything worthwhile. No, drunken orgies don’t count.** Basically, by spending a semester abroad you’ll get to earn credits towards your major while doing less work, spending less money, and seeing unreal shit like castles that turn into islands. If that’s not a brochure that writes itself, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, if you hadn’t already guessed, Mont Saint Michel is the perfect setting for repeated rounds of stalking, espionage, and cold-blooded murder. The entire mountain is covered in spiraling streets and jagged intersections populated by unsuspecting prey. Around every corner there’s a staircase, cliff, or column that makes slitting the throats of your unfortunate victims endlessly enjoyable. It’s also a pretty cool place in-game.
In Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, you’ll find the map immediately disorienting due to its highly vertical nature. Skills like Throwing Knives and Hidden Gun are great for killing targets who are all-too-happy to jump around the church’s highest ledges, but don’t discount other skills; since it often takes a long time to find your contract in the city’s winding corridors, earning 600+ points on each kill with Poison is also a viable strategy. Or lure your own killer onto a rooftop, then stun him/her after a well-timed Mute, Smoke Bomb, or Charge. For extra kicks, push him off the nearest ledge. A la prochaîne, jackass!
Of course, the virtual castle/abbey/fortress/island is almost as beautiful as is the real-life engineering wonder. Set at both night and during the day, you’ll have an opportunity to glance out at the vast tidal bay that surrounds Mont Saint Michel between life-or-death struggles. The city is populated with French merchants. If you don’t speak French, feel lucky, as their inane babbling about “My wife thinks I’m crazy to offer prices this low!” gets old en quelques minutes. The actual island is a huge tourist destination still populated with merchants hawking everything from souvenirs to… okay, it’s mostly souvenirs.
But on the bright side, the odds of being stabbed to death by a 300 pound blacksmith are significantly lower at the modern day mountain.
When Mont Saint Michel was founded, the tides helped protect its inhabitants by cutting the town off from the mainland during the majority of the day. Even during low tide, there’s only a tiny landbridge connecting the island to the nearest neighbors, and even then the floodplain is a swampy mess that’s difficult to traverse. It’s no real wonder this place stayed so well preserved for so long. Of course, modern tourists must plan exactly when they’d like to arrive and depart, since miscalculation means you’re stranded for a few hours. Then again, there are far worse places to be stranded.
The main section of the abbey is gorgeous, towering over the rest of the island. Since so much of the surrounding area is tightly-packed, zig-zagging streets, you’ll only catch glimpses of its amazing facades, buttresses, and towers while making your way up. But once you’re reach the main plateau, it’s a sight to behold. The building is enormous and ancient, and is filled with wonderful gardens, plazas, mills, and bells that have rung since before the time of the Ezio de Auditore.
If you ever have an opportunity to visit Mont Saint Michel in real life, take it. If not, do yourself a favor and check it out in Assassin’s Creed. While it’s not quite the same experience, you can make up for the lack of real memories by slitting your victims’ throats and bashing open their unsuspecting sternums. Pourquoi pas?
*Excludes brothels and vineyards.
**Neither does the following syphilis. Besides, wouldn’t you rather catch a venereal disease from a smoking hot foreign lover?