The CaveChild and I have been playing Assassin’s Creed 2  almost non-stop since release day, and in my opinion, this is truly the best IP sequel title I have yet to play. Yes, it trumps Modern Warfare 2 in my game selection. We both appreciate the incredible amount of historical research and accuracy that went into Assassin’s Creed – right down to the speeches delivered by the heralds. I am probably one of the few people who actually pays attention to the entire ambience of a game’s environment and utterances of the NPCs. Mike covers much of the game play in the accompanying review video, but there are a few areas I wanted to touch on as well, so we decided to do a joint game review. He has completed the game, whereas I am about 80% complete on the storyline.
While there are small parts of Assassin’s Creed (both iterations) that are less than my favourite things to do in the game, they are inconsequential to the overall player experience. I have never been a fan of the race events, although I found the “collect the flag” races in AC1 easier than the gateway races in AC2, this is simply because the flags were easier for me to see on rooftops than the swirling white light effects used in AC2. I could make more use of Eagle Vision during these races, but that seems to add to my mild vertigo reactions to the speed and heights experienced in Assassin’s Creed 2. There have been a few times when I’ve experienced that “roller coaster feeling” throughout the game.
My favourite part of game play in Assassin’s Creed 1 were the missions and stealth tactics – and I was well pleased to see this not only continued but built upon in Assassin’s Creed 2. The new assassin abilities and weapons which have been given to Ezio added so much depth to his forays into a corrupt and dark Renaissance Italy, that I keep being disappointed when I run out of Assassin Contracts to fulfill for Lorenzo. For some reason, I find the combat skills in Assassin’s Creed 2 easier to use than when I played through Assassin’s Creed 1, but I’m not really sure why, considering that they are pretty well the same buttons. At times I do get frustrated with movement control, because it seems that Ezio is not wanting to do as he’s told, he’d rather move in a different direction or grab onto something I didn’t want him to, but all is overcome with perseverance – in my opinion it’s better to have to work at something and practice to get it right than for it to be too easy.
Speaking of practicing and levels of difficulty, the many puzzles in Assassin’s Creed 2 range from easy to OMG am I ever going to solve this one or beat the timer. It took a fair bit of work to earn those Assassin’s seals to gain Altair’s armour – but it was quite satisfying when I did it, and now Ezio gets to honour Altair by wearing his armour and brandishing his sword.
One of the new features in Assassin’s Creed 2 which I really like is ownership of the villa. I enjoyed restoring the town, collecting weaponry, artwork and armour. I only wish that there had been more to do with the villa and town, because I had all of the town’s upgrades completed by the time I had finished the Tuscany map. I also like the addition of the merchants – the doctor is a very welcome NPC and the ability to easily replenish my stocks of poison, medicine, throwing knives, bullets and smoke bombs. I really, really like the smoke bombs. I like being able to swim as well – and I think that the canals of Venice are now a little shallower due to all of the dead guards I’ve sent to their depths. Being able to dive into the water has also save me from countless guard attacks, and also that one time when I couldn’t see if there was a wagon of hay to leap into from the top of a church tower – so I dove into the water instead. Definitely like the non-drowning death improvement – now I just need to work on not falling to my desynchronization from great heights while climbing things.
Two of the challenges that I really had fun with were the wild carriage ride and flying on da Vinci’s wings. I only killed Leonardo once on the wild chase through the mountains, and really it’s not my fault that he leaned too far over and tipped the carriage over. My speed and cornering abilities had absolutely nothing to do with it. Flying was a challenge on a whole different level. It only took me a few attempts to get the hang of it and make it to the palace on time. Sort of.
Instead of collecting area or faction specific flags as in Assassin’s Creed 2, players now collect the six seals of the Assassin’s Tombs to gain Altair’s armour, the Codex Pages to gain knowledge and weapons in partnership with Leonardo da Vinci, and the feathers which Ezio’s younger brother Petruccio treasured. Ezio must also find glyph symbols hidden around the towns in order to find out more information about the mysterious Subject 16, and taken piece by piece the video clips really don’t make much sense – until you get the big picture. The puzzles attached to the glyphs and Subject 16 are incredibly imaginative, and some of them have taken a lot of hit and miss guessing to solve. No matter their difficulty, though – each one has something of historic value to teach, which I do appreciate.
Other changes in Assassin’s Creed 2 include lessening the amount of time spent “out of character” back in a lab talking with Lucy. Desmond may be the main character, but I will always like Altair and Ezio better. I also like the way the Animus 2.0 has evolved and how the lab staff now interact with Ezio/Desmond during his adventures – feeding him information and at times hints (sometimes totally obtuse hints that don’t seem to make sense even after the puzzle is solved) for help in solving puzzles. An interesting turn of events is the exposure of the Templar’s world domination plans and their attempts through time of eliminating the Assassins. A darker, possible side to the Templar story, to be sure.
As Mike mentions in his video, the environment design is stunning and Jesper Kyd’s music score completes the player’s immersion into Renaissance Italy. While I find the characters to at times be a bit blocky, for instance having overly large and square hands in some scenes, overall the artwork is exemplary, as is the attention to detail in both clothing and architecture.
As many of you already know, I am all about the storyline, missions and collecting things, and Assassin’s Creed 2 excels in all three of those areas. In my opinion, Assassin’s Creed 2 is an epic achievement on the part of Ubisoft Montreal’s core team and all of their support teams. We’re giving Assassin’s Creed 2 a 9.5 out of 10 on the Village Gamer scoresheet – and now we’ll sit back and enjoy the game while wondering what will be in store for Assassin’s Creed 3.