Assassin's Creed 2
Release Date: Nov 17, 2009
Pros: Visually stunning architecture to climb, voice acting is enjoyable, stealth kills are even more satisfying with two hidden blades, Blend system is a vast improvement over the first, slew of weapons and armor to purchase, variety of ways to approach a situation
Cons: Occasional platforming hangups, Combat sometimes too easy, Seemingly tacked on side missions, Slow start
The first Assassin's Creed dropped back in 2007 and left fans wanting more. With a cliffhanger ending and only symbols to go off of to figure out the rest, a sequel was basically carved in stone. Ubisoft promised a much better experience, including less repetitive gameplay and a more attuned combat system. Now that the game is released, it seems Ubisoft held true in their promise.
The story picks up right where the cliffhanger ending occurred. You are given a brief synopsis of the plot through a quick flashback, explaining about the war between the Templars and Assassins. You play the role of Desmond Miles, a bartender with a deeper past who has been kidnapped by Abstergo to help them in obtaining a map to "Pieces of Eden". Not fully sure of what powers these hold, all that is known is that they have a power that the Templars wish to acquire. The first game had you running through Desmond's ancestor Altair for the map to these pieces.
Right from the start Lucy, Animus operator and friend to Desmond, rushes into the room with blood on her shirt and assists Desmond in escaping. She reveals that while she has helped him escape, she hopes to train him to become an assassin using another of his ancestors, Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The bleeding effect the previous Animus had granted him Eagle Vision, and as such you will play through Ezio's first steps in becoming an assassin to gain his abilities in a few days time.
The two storylines are fantastic and intermingle at times much like the first. There are side missions to accomplish that further the story, and many dialogue options that could be missed that are worth checking out. Needless to say, both Desmond and Ezio's stories are incredibly enjoyable to follow as you invest interest in both stories.
The music to the game fits the time period for most of the moments. The soft and mellow background music is just one element, as minstrels approach with lutes to sing melodies and the hustle and bustle of crowd conversation help to draw you into feeling like you are in a crowded marketplace. Though the guitar chords come into play once a chase is on, it does fuel the chase as you attempt escape. The highlight of the games' sounds has to be the hidden blade kills, which prove to be satisfying each time.
Of particular mention, the voice acting is fantastic in this game. Kristen Bell returns to reprise her role as Lucy phenomenally, and is accompanied by a few newcomers. Ezio has a much better voice actor for his role than that of Altair, making the main character much more likable. As for the Italian century, the accents and dialects are spot on, just be sure to turn on subtitles for translations. It can be confusing trying to figure the names out to match them with faces as they are thrown at you left and right, but otherwise the accents aren't too distracting.
It's easy to see how incredible this games' environments are by simply standing on a high rooftop. Modeled to exact detail for the famous buildings, the recreation of a Renaissance Italy is incredible to behold. Tile roofs litter the town with sparkling waterways weaving through the alleys. The architecture is just so much more satisfying to climb on this time around. Decorative columns, facades, and gleaming domes are something to truly take time to look at before hopping off the find your target. Even the small interior segments of the game capture the art and structure of famous buildings like the Duomo Cathedral. It's seriously like going to Italy......and killing things while you are there.
The architecture is a high point, but the character models are another considerable note. Particularly Ezio looks much more intimidating than Altair, adorned with more detailed stitching, metallic luster, and a cape that follows his every move. Even the detail of NPCs proves impressive, with a large variety of century appropriate clothing of colorful dresses and royal attire that truly give the feeling of the Italian Renaissance. The enemies also provide a more intimidating look bolstering anything from large axes to bulky metallic armor. As the game has evolved, the look has followed suit and proven to be a high mark for this game.
A huge array of improvements have been added that fixed many of the issues the first installment possessed.
With new gameplay elements, comes an entirely renovated arsenal to choose how to attack your opponent. The more stealthy approach now has two hidden blades, the most satisfying weapon to get the jump on an opponent from the water, air, or ledge. A poison has become available to provide a distraction with a disoriented guard. Smoke bombs stun huge crowds and allow for an easy escape. The most impressive proves to be the hidden gun, a fun gadget to test on archers and distanced enemies. Of course, if you find yourself in combat you can hold your own as well. You can block, counter, and even steal the weapons of your enemies to use against them. These range from slow axes to swords to sweeping spears. Each kill is utterly satisfying, and when mastered can make you look like a true assassin.
There are few problems I have with this game. One is the occasional platforming fault. Sometimes I will try to make Ezio jump to the left or right and have him go in the complete opposite direction. This can be especially frustrating when running from the guards, as the camera position determines how the controls react. Another problem is simply how easy this game can be at times. I rarely found myself on a mission that I had to retry over and over and over again. I wish this game would present more of a challenge sometimes in combat, as your health skyrockets when purchasing the more expensive armor. The game is also incredibly slow getting started. It takes almost a good hour and a half of playing to get your robes and assassin's hidden blade, occurring after delivering numerous courier tasks. At a certain point, I wanted to just tell my father that I understand how to blend in now and would like to stop delivering letters.
The game improves upon the previous installment and adds new features that make it very easy to recommend. Despite the occasional stall in jumping and ease of combat, the game is a blast to play. After the slow beginning, the game takes off and holds your interest. With a slew of side missions and fairly length campaign, its needless to say that it has enough content to hold you over for a while. The best feature remains the ability to approach a situation however you please, and this is a game that opens that option further than the first.