Assassin’s Creed 2, the sequel to the somewhat hit-and-miss Assassin’s Creed, is everything that the original wasn’t. If you were a particular fan of the original, then you will no doubt enjoy this game. However, AC2 has improved by so much that it should win gamers round who were disappointed with the original.
The story continues from where Assassin’s Creed left off, pretty much to the exact second, with your present day character, Desmond Miles, staring at the strange red patterns on the wall of his room. Without wanting to give too much away, after a brief stint of playing Desmond, you return to the Animus. This time round, instead of Altair from the Crusades era, you experience the life of Ezio Auditore, another of Desmond’s ancestors.
From the moment you step into the Animus, you’re thrown into Ezio’s world in Florence, where he picks fights with his enemies, runs across rooftops and meets the girls. These simple missions function as both a tutorial for the controls of the game (which are pretty much exactly the same as the original) and an introduction to the story. It succeeded in drawing the gamer into Ezio’s world and his character. As I am not a great fan of spoilers in these articles, I won’t give too much away story-wise, but rest assured you are soon thrown into the murdering world you expected.
Gameplay is quite different from the linear world of the original Assassin’s Creed. Missions are a lot less repetitive than they were, and they actually seem to serve a purpose, unlike its predecessor. One mission could have you helping cull the guards in a city to prepare for an assassination, and in another you could help a female citizen to safety with a gondola boat.
Combat is pretty much the same as the original, with the X button providing your main means of attack with weapons such as swords, daggers, hidden blades and spears. The combat features a timing system where the player can counter enemies attacks, also with the X button, and bring them down in a cinematic style, which depends on which weapon you have equipped and the position of the enemy. You can also disarm opponents to steal their weapons, or daze them by throwing sand in their face. Players can also dodge attacks using the A button, and grab enemies with the B button. The only gripe with this is that combat becomes relatively repetitive, and after a while outside of missions I found myself outrunning fights I found myself caught up in because I couldn’t be bothered to stay and fight.
Stealth gameplay provides a major focus of the game. If you perform too many crimes, a meter fills up which turns you from ‘Incognito’ to ‘Notorious’. From then on, any guard that spots you will chase and fight you. Fortunately you can lower your Notoriety in one of three ways. You can tear down Wanted Posters (which seem to appear in the weirdest places, such as on a ledge high above anyone’s eye level), Bribing Heralds (after which you can pickpocket them for your money back, though this may result in an increased notoriety again), and you can assassinate officials, which is probably the most rewarding choice.
There are also many side missions to divert from the main story, should you choose to do them. There are assassin tombs (which offer a gameplay experience not unlike the Prince of Persia games), races, contractual assassinations, beat ‘em up and courier missions. While some a more interesting than others, they all serve their purpose. Either for monetary gain (of which there is plenty to spend it on) or to expand the story.
There is also a fair amount of collecting in AC2. Players can collect parts of several armour sets, and colour them with dye, weapons can be bought from smiths, and codex pages act as upgrades to your health and weapons. There are also 100 feathers to be found, which will cause a sigh of relief to players of the original who found themselves collection hundreds of flags. There is also a system included where you can upgrade certain parts of a small town, such as reopening the mine and upgrading the shops. This allows the town to generate more income, which Ezio can collect every so often. Money generated also increases from the amount of side missions you accomplish.
A particular favourite is the introduction of “Glyphs”. These are small visual symbols that appear on various landmarks in the game, that task the user into solving either picture or logic puzzles in order to decode parts of a video that offers a fascinating insight into how the whole story began (I am purposefully trying to not give anything away, though after you have unlocked a few of the chunks of the video it isn’t too difficult to decipher it yourself). Some of these puzzle are easier than others, and some of them will have you sitting scratching your head for hours. Thankfully with the internet the way it is nowadays the solutions to these puzzles if you do not have to drive to do them yourself is only a few clicks away.
Graphically Assassin’s Creed 2 is amazing. Ubisoft retained their concept of synchronising viewpoints from high ledges in order to reveal the map, which seems like a showcase of the draw distance and beauty of the world on the developer’s part. Throughout the game you will visit various different towns or cities, including Florence, Venice and Tuscanni. Each area has its own unique charm and beauty, especially Venice’s rivers.
All in all Assassin’s Creed 2 is a mile above the original. While the combat remains relatively unchanged, it was the linearity of the original that caused problems for gamers and that has been improved and then some. Many side missions offer a refreshing step away from the story at times, and some even back the story up. One thing to note, however, is that because of the numerical sequence of the story from the Animus, the player can notice that some sequences are missing (Sequences 12 and 13). Though this does not take anything away from the story, it feels like either Ubisoft were rushed into releasing the game and thus could not finish all of it, or they aimed to purposefully leave some of the game out and release it as DLC. Their reasoning is open to discussion, but the sequences are due to be released soon as DLC. Aside from this minor problem, AC2 is a polished masterpiece that will hopefully lead to an equally amazing sequel.
+Less linear feel
+Amazing story and characters
+Less repetitive gameplay than the original
+Assassin Tombs offer an amazing exploration experience
-Combat remains relatively unchanged
-Parts of the game seem left out
Overall Score : 9.3/10