With a new franchise in their stable, Ubisoft came back with Assassin’s Creed II to hopefully continue what they started but with more success. Keeping with the same mechanics and third-person perspective, but improving on the flaws of the first game lead to a game that is even more enjoyable than the first.
Just like in the first game, Assassin’s Creed II takes place in two different timelines: modern-day with Desmond Miles and crew, and the other with one of Desmond’s ancestors, Ezio. The game picks right up where the first one left off and even gives you a recap of the story so far in case you forgot. Once again Desmond will access the memories of Ezio through the use of the Animus. Ezio’s story takes place during a 30 year timespan from 1470 to 1500 in Renaissance Italy. Right from the get go Ezio is a much more likeable character than Altair was mainly because you get more a personality out of Ezio and you feel a connection with him rather than Altair.
The world in Assassin’s Creed II is much more vibrant and inhabited now than before as well. While the first one wasn’t exactly barren, it is noticeable how many more things are going on in the game world now. Cities are much larger and more detailed than before, lending more for you to do and climb. Just walking around and browsing the world you notice all the details of NPCs going about their daily lives and routines. It’s also fun seeing notable people from history — most famous being Leonardo DaVinci — show up in the story and famous locations/buildings. The story is quite the interesting one too and just like the first one, there is a kind of “What just happened?” effect when you finish the game.
This time around the game sheds some of its repetitive nature that the first game had. It can still become repetitive, but Ubitsoft have added some new features and mission types to help alleviate that repetitiveness. They way missions are structured make things a little more flowing for you to keep going or go do some side missions. Some of those include a old-school fight club, a flying machine made from the prominent Leonardo Da Vinci, a carriage chase, stealth missions, combat missions and chase missions.
If you played the first game, then you will feel right at home with the controls and mechanics for this one. The combat and running is about the same, but feels much better now and more fluid with the running and tighter with the combat. There’s even a new addition of being able to disarm enemies when you are just using your fists. There are even new assassination animations that include: extended air, pull over ledge/roof, yank into a hay bale and my favorite the double hidden blade assassination. Jumping across buildings and running through the city feels much more easier now, but there are some moments of frustration where you might accidently run up a wall when you didn’t want to or you fall off a rooftop instead of jumping like you wanted. Luckily though, that won’t happen too often to where it makes the game unenjoyable. There’s also the new addition of different weapon this time around ranging from axes, maces, spears, long swords and shorts swords. Of course you still have your trusty hidden blade, but you’ll also have the opportunity to upgrade to the double hidden blade!
Among weapons, there are also new enemy types this time around that include: Seekers, Brutes and Agiles. Seekers will search hay bales and hay carts for anyone that might be hiding in there, including you. Brutes who are huge and tough armor that will take some breaking down to defeat. Finally Agiles, who will chase you down. Adding these new enemy types freshens up the combat and not letting you just continually counter attacks. You’ll need to go on the offensive or use a different approach.
You do have some help if you find yourself in a sticky situation or scenario this time around and aren’t completely solo in your endeavors. Along with hiding in a small crowd of people to become “invisible” like before, you can now call upon three new groups of factions to lend a hand. Courtesans will offer up a distraction to guards, Thieves will provide as a disruption and lure guards away from their current post and Mercenaries will aid you in battle if you choose to use them.
A large new feature that has been added to Assassin’s Creed II is the inclusion of an economy. You’ll earn florins from doing missions, finding treasure chests, pickpocketing random people on the streets or even the enemies bodies you’ve left lying on the ground. Although the biggest chunk of your earnings will come from your uncle Mario’s villa, which you’ll have access to early on in the game. As you make your way through the game you will get the chances to upgrade the cities granting you more income. So it’s worth it spend a little money in order to get back more in the long run. This money gives you the opportunity to purchase new weapons and upgrades from blacksmiths and other vendors to enhance your armor and abilities. Even visiting doctors are important as that will be the only way for you to heal up now and buy medicine for when you’re not near a doctor.
Some of my favorite side missions were the Tomb “platformer” ones. Your goal in these to to find and retrieve an important artifact and if you find them all you’ll unlock a nice little surprise. These are nice puzzles that get you thinking on how you get your way around from your starting point to the end point. Some are standard point A to point B, while others you must complete in a specific time frame or even chase and stop an important target.
Graphically, Assassin’s Creed II is a nice step up from the original game. Environments are very detailed and populated with plenty of buildings and rooftops to climb around on. Unlocking a viewpoint and looking at the city in front of you can look gorgeous and vast. Some character models up close though can look a little rough around the edges, but overall look decent. With the first game becoming bland in the area you were in, AC II offers nice variety with the different cities and time periods you’ll be experiencing leaving you with plenty of architecture to soak in. Time to time though you will come across some texture pop in while some buildings in the background or people on the streets take some time to load in, but nothing that completely hinders your experience.
Your ears are in for a treat with this game as well just from the score alone. Jesper Kyd, the original composer for the first game, is back to work his magic for the sequel. The music fits wonderfully with the time period and knows just when to kick in during an action or chase sequence to get your heart racing knowing the urgency going on. The voice acting is also very well done this time around especially from Ezio and Leonardo Da Vinci. Even the random dialogue you’ll come across from roaming the streets shows the detail that went into the sound design for this game.
What Assassin’s Creed II manages to do is pull of what a sequel should be; providing the same charm of the first game, while improving on practically all aspects of the core game. You’ll spend hours upon hours losing yourself in the vast city and all the side missions to do. With a wonderful story and a weird ending Assassin’s Creed II will be a joyful experience to newcomers and fans of the original alike.
- Plenty of mission/side mission variety
- Finally a likeable character with Ezio
- A large and expansive world to explore and take in
- A couple gameplay and visual hiccups