* Awarded Best Follow-Up 2009
Assassin's Creed returns in its lost await sequel, Assassin's Creed II. Sliding back on the Animus Desmond finds himself in the ancestral shoes of Ezio, a man on a path of revenge in the mid-1940s. Expanding on the original formula and addressing a number of highlighted issues, Ubisoft Montreal has taken a queue Leonardo Da Vinci and drafted up their own piece of gaming art.
The first Assassin’s Creed was one of my favourite games of 2007. In that year we proclaimed Assassin’s Creed "Action Game of the Year" even with its main flaw, its repetitiveness. There is something about Ubisoft Montreal’s time-traveling Matrix like theme that is hauntingly good. The mystic duality in which you play a man in a machine who is controlling a bad-ass assassin with real world consequences is intriguing. Ubisoft has their thinking cap on with this one, and things couldn't get off better start as Assassin Creed's limitless possibilities almost writes itself.
Rethinking Assassin's Creed
In developing Assassin's Creed II Ubisoft re-examined their original property making all the adjustments the majority of the fans wanted. I have to use the word majority because not all of us disliked the originals' direction. Even with all its improvements and layers of gameplay lathered on Assassin's Creed II, I still miss the cold hearted calculations of our first hero, Altair. Assassin’s Creed II is vastly different than the original, and I know it might look like the same old Assassination simulator on the outside, but its not. Ubisoft has really put a lot of love into rethinking the formula to come up with our current edition of Assassin's Creed. However, those looking for the simple verdict that Assassin’s Creed II is better than the original, you will have to look somewhere else because both games are equally good with their own advantages, storyline intrigue and missteps.
My name is Ezio, Ezio Auditore
The first major change is the lead character. Ubisoft Montreal pulls away from the quiet anti-hero role of Altair by filling his shoes with Ezio Auditore. Ezio is a boisterous character who has strong family values and who isn't shy about wearing his emotions more on his sleeve. Ezio's tale falls into a similar structure as Altair when he dawns the Creed's assassination suit and heads in for revenge, but how he gets there is more interesting and emotionally supercharged. Without spoiling the plot, Assassin's Creed II has a deeper connection to the lead character and the plot which only gets more entangled as you progress in the game. Compared to Altair, Ezio feels more like a real person, with real motives, but he is lacking the mysterious coldness that Altair had.
The Real World?!
What remains the same in Assassin's Creed II are the sub-plots that goes along with the "real world" outside of the Animus. This picks up the drama with Lucy and a new gang of memory divers, along with your real world Templar association, the Abstergo. Desmond Miles is still alive, and you will continue the journey into his mind. Unlike the first game Assassin's gets right to business because they have already covered the basics like the process and the nature of the machine in the first game. It is possible to pick-up Assassin's Creed II without any prior knowledge of the series. However, like most coordinated sequels you would be missing out on the depth that playing the original provides. Since life outside of the Animus was covered more in the first game you won't be spending too much time in the "real world" which is a good thing, however you will still be left with more puzzling questions without answers, just like the first episode.
Da Vinci's Codex
I won't get into too much more about the plot because Assassin’s pacing is fairly quick, and it is fun to discover on your own. One thing you should know is that the setting has been fast forwarded 300 years landing in the mid 1400s during the renaissance era in Europe. Using the renaissance era freshens things up from the medieval standpoint of the first game by giving you a new time period and brand new architecture to climb all over.
In this adventure, you will also become allied with Leonardo Da Vinci! Leonardo a friend of the Auditore family helps Ezio during his travels and hooks him with some new gadgets to boot. This alliance is the perfect way to rationalize some of the cool new weapons you will get to use as Ezio. In your travels expect to see all the famous landmarks include Venice, Tuscany, Florence and more. All the cities are breathtakingly adapted into Assassin's with an outstanding amount of detail put into each cobblestone street. Like the first Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed II is even more beautiful and awe inspiring.
Going with the Flow
The second change in Assassin's Creed II was made in response to the repetitive nature of how you went about assassinating someone. In the first game assassinations were more mechanical-- do all the sub-parts, head in for the main target, get the kill, and then escape. Well, Assassin’s II still keeps the killing and escaping part, but its delivery is totally different. Assassin's Creed II has done away with all the mini-games/minor objectives you had to complete before you go in for the kill by placing the action on a linear pathway. This makes the game flow seem more natural, which fits right in with Ezio's storyline, but in its place you lose a sense of freedom and illusiveness that the first Assassin's had.
Even though the first Assassin's Creed was attacked because of all the minor objectives you had to do in each city before a kill, I missed the feeling of methodically hunting down my victims. Ezio simply heads in for the kill with the direction laid out for him were as Altair had to investigate a location, seek out information while looking for the perfect time to strike. Not being involved in a lot of leg work before I headed in for the final kill made the overall experience a little less gratifying. That's not to say that the assassinations are fun and entertaining because they are, they have just lost a little mojo, that's all.
Also removed from Assassin's is the feeling that you have a purpose in the town. Altair felt like part of the city as he helped the people in the town building up progressive feeling of accomplishment and community. In Ezio's case, he is more in his own space and even though the plot will make you help people, it doesn't have the same feeling of accomplishment. Like I mentioned above, Ezio is just cruising through the world and his path is being made for him by others, not by his hand. Sure he does the majority of the dirty work, but if I had to pick someone to watch my back it would be Altair.
I will Never Repeat, Repeat, Again
With the methodical path of assassination dissolved you will have many diverse situations that keep you stumbling through the games' story. Ezio’s assassination number is up with more killing than the previous game, and they way you go about each mission seemed to always be mixing up the formulas. This is a far cry from the original-- do the same thing in every city structure. One minute you could be looting crates for guard outfits and the next you could be climbing the rooftops looking for a target to assassinate. Ubisoft has even added some big missions to break up the normal action like the popular flying-machine mission and the downhill stagecoach chase. To all those who hated the repetitive nature of the first game, Assassin's Creed II will defiantly wet your whistle.
The Combat gets Classy
Combat is also more accepted in Assassin’s Creed II and a number of the assassinations can be done by walking straight through the front door with your sword unsheathed. Along with the combat being more accepted in missions, the combat mechanics have been improved. Assassin's II is deeper than the original with a lot more variety and techniques to use. The amount of weapon choices have been increased to include more than your standard sword. Along the new weapons three statistics have been attached to each weapon (damage, speed, deflect). In the middle of combat you probably won’t notice these stats comes into play, but they are running behind the scenes.
The animation kills for each weapon including counters has been expanded making it likely that you will switch up your weapon often just to see the new kills. Countering is still a major part of the fighting game. However, Ezio can also use new techniques like disarming an enemy weapon and using for himself. Ezio can also pick up dropped weapons, which is a nice addition. Disarming will be an important technique to use because some of the new weapon classes and enemies can be hard to take down by countering. When you see the pike soldiers, or heavy axe wielders coming your way, its time to go Bruce Lee and take them out the old school way. I really enjoy the combat in Assassin's Creed II and the additions really add to the experience. Like the last game sometimes it is fun to forget about sneaking in the shadows and jump right into a pile of bad guys and have it out.
Ezio, What's up your Sleeve?
On top of the straight ahead fighting Ezio has a few additional supplies, or tricks, he can use to help him in his quests like throwing knives, smoke bombs, health vials and more. Compared to Altair, Ezio is equipped and ready for anything, which brings me to another new part of Assassin’s Creed II, the inventory.
You can now check out your inventory and switch up the weapons and armour for your character. Both your armour and weapons fall into four spots that can be switched up at anytime and have different attributes attached to each piece. Armour starts you with leather and as it is purchased can be upgraded to helmschmied to metal and so on. The new armour spots include spaulders (shoulder), chest guard (body), vambraces (wrist), and greaves (feet). The attributes attached to your amour falls into the category of a health and resistance boost.
Aside from your armour you can change up his outfit for a cosmetic change. In towns you can have Tailors dye his closes so you are not always in Assassin White. The neatest things besides the alternative set of colours are new capes that become unlocked as you progress through the story. These capes that are draped over the shoulder of Ezio have properties attached to them that affect your notoriety and such in certain areas. While I am on the new stores like Tailors you also have Art Merchants, which offer up treasure maps and art, Caravan Travel (fast travel station), Banks, which hold some extra loot and Blacksmiths that sell weapons, armour, daggers, ammunition and even do repairs.