Here is another one of my older reviews to help bridge the gap until I get enough of a review buffer to hold me over for a couple weeks. I will be aiming to get a new review up either on Wednesdays or over the Weekends.
Anyway, enjoy Assassin's Creed II!
Title: Assassin's Creed II
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: Action Adventure
Systems: 360, PS3, PC
So, here we are in the second installment of Ubisoft's three-part Assassin's Creed series of games. To start, the game takes place in a split between 15th Century Italy, and the world of today. It continues the story of Desmond Miles' journey through the memories of his ancestors via the Animus. As revealed in the first game, Desmond is a descendant of a long bloodline of accomplished assassins, and is a key part in the Templar's quest for world domination through the use of a number of little gold balls called “Pieces of Eden”. This story starts off where the first game left off, and gets into some action pretty quickly, as he ends up escaping a stronghold of the modern-day Templars, and finds some sanctuary within a secret hideout of the modern-day Brotherhood of Assassins; the organization that brought him up. The story then continues at a solid pace to the climax, and effectively sets the stage for the third installment of the series.
As in the previous installment of AC, this one has Desmond going through the footsteps of his ancestor Ezio Auditore di Firenze; a likable son of a rather prominent Italian banker. Through the game, the player sees the growth and history of this character, and his quest to get revenge for the great injustice that fell upon his family. Somewhat similar to Al-tair from the first game, Ezio begins rather undisciplined and headstrong, and throughout the game becomes more refined in his abilities and weapons. However, the similarities end there as ACII goes much more into the development of Ezio as a character. Unlike Al-tair, Ezio is more than just a hooded assassin, as he has a known family (who are a major plot point), and more contacts than just Assassin Guild contacts and Templars (for instance, Leonardo Da Vinci). Through the game, as stated before, Ezio, as well as Desmond, both grow in terms of overall character, and the end result is quite fantastic. So, in terms of character development, ACII goes quite beyond that of the first game.
Another main difference from the first game to the second is the overwhelming amount of metagame available. In the first one, the metagame was limited to a rather small number of mission types, and it got very repetitive. Assassin's Creed II basically took that little house and built upon it an entire city with a mansion for you to live (quite literally in a manner of speaking). The random assassination missions are still there, as well as the whole territory revealing via high eagle perches are still there. However, it adds to it an entire economy system, a city builder (upgrader), multiple weapon and armor types, and a multitude of additional mission types ranging from beat-ups, to courier missions, to tailing target missions, to your happy-go-lucky assassination missions. The city builder/upgrader is particularly interesting as the more one upgrades their home base's shops and scenery to increase the value of their “Villa”. The higher the value, the more money they can gain at regular intervals (through taxes, as Ezio is pretty much the lord of his Villa and town surrounding it). There is also an interesting twist to it if the player fails to pay attention to the income that they accumulate.
The gameplay has also been steadily improved from the previous game, as Ezio has a few more abilities than his earlier counterpart. While he still has the staple arsenal of the hidden blade, short sword, long sword, and throwing knives, over the course of the game he gains a few new abilities such as a double hidden blade (one for each hand), a poison blade (that results in a rather gruesomely funny scene when used properly), smoke bombs, and the coup de gras of a hidden pistol. In addition to that, with the addition of an economy and money, there is an aspect of upgrading equipment, armor repairs, painting collection (to increase the value of the Villa), and even tailoring where you can purchase upgrades to your item capacity (knives, poison does, and potions) or changing the color scheme of your outfit. Ezio's actual attacking abilities has been increased as well, in that he can perform various types of assassinations depending on the situation and items used. The other aspects that were added are improved combat mechanics when fighting enemies, with a few additional tactics that will need to be utilized, also depending on the situation, so those who breezed through the previous game by perfecting counter maneuvers will need to utilize more than just those techniques. The AI has also somewhat improved, as they wont always just attack you out of the blue (mainly since your outfit doesn't really stand out as much), and they won't just blindly attack you while you are sitting there in a parry stance. The developers also added a good number of additional hiding spots, and improved the stealth mechanics, so players can't just simply sit on a bench with a pile of corpses in front of them, with nobody detecting anything. Now, there are still a few elements that will annoy any player that have carried over form the first game, such as the futzy scenery that looks like a climbable ledge, and the fun leap-of-faith mechanics that can lead people to death more than once. But, overall, the programmers at Ubisoft took what worked in the first game, and greatly improved these elements.
Overall, the game is pretty good. For fans of the original game, Assassin's Creed II will not disappoint. It took many of the fun elements from the first game, expanded them, streamlined them, and polished them to a nice shine.
Now for some numbers!
Storyline: 9/10 – While a bit cliché, the storyline is told very well. It continues along the story of the original game, and effectively sets the stage for the next game. So, it is a transition storyline, through and through. However, while it does attempt to recap the events of the previous game, newcomers to the series would do themselves a very good favor of playing the first game first to obtain a few important plot details that the game just glances upon and assumes the player already knows for the second game.
Graphics: 9.5/10 – There is a little bit of lag when it comes to initial rendering (when entering new areas), but when it does it is absolutely beautiful. When Desmond actually enters the Animus and goes to a new part of the storyline, the areas will appear before you in an amazing display of graphical power. Kudos to the developers for adding this little tidbit in. The only negative
Controls & Gameplay Elements: 8.5/10 – For the most part, the controls work well when a player wants to perform the various actions of an assassin. However, there is still the issue of annoying contact issues. The camera can be a bit unruly at times, and thus lead to Ezio leaping off a building to his doom. Combined with the tricky controls and hit detection for buildings, this can lead to a lot of frustration. However! There are plenty of elements that the devs definitely improved on and a number of new elements have been added. The additional weapons and armor, the money system, the city upgrade, and the ability to swim were all fantastic additions to an already solid set of gameplay mechanics.
Sound & Music: 8.75/10 – The music actually fits the timeframe pretty well, and the voice acting is quite good. For any fans of the Uncharted series, the voice of Drake is also the voice of Desmond in this game, and none of the enjoyable sarcasm is lost between these characters. The accents in the game are, for the most part, accurate, though a few times the characters say words with an incorrect tense and/or accenting on certain syllables. But these little nitpicks are rather minute, and shouldn't adversely affect those playing through the game.
Replayability: 9/10 – With all the metagame and hidden elements and areas, it is pretty easy to miss certain parts and items through the first playthrough. So, it will keep even the most avid of item hunters active for quite some time. However, once everything IS found, the replayability will only matter about how much the player wants to just jump around a city stabbing and assassinating as many guards as they want.
Overall: 44.75/50 : 89.5/100 : B+/A-
Reccomendation: A definite buy for fans of the original game, and a very good rent for those who have never played the first game. However, being that it is a transition game, it's definitely a good idea to play the first game before this one. Aside from that, it is quite enjoyable, and sets a good stage for the epic conclusion.