The original Assassin’s Creed was a game that was not without its merits, but had many faults. The combat, while interesting, was far too easy to exploit. The side quests, while many in numbers, were painfully repetitive and disappointingly necessary. While only two major faults, it did ruin the game for me in that those two major points took up a fairly large portion of the game. Assassin’s Creed 2 is the sequel to that first game developed and published by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
The first major change players might notice in the game is the character portrayal. The original game focused on Altair, a character who breathed, drank, and lived assassination. He was somewhat robotic and not very relate-able. AC2 focuses on a relative of both Altair and Desmond Miles, Ezio Auditore. He is an Italian noble who is thrust into a world of killing and revenge. The character is more human this time around, having grown up as normally as someone living during the Italian renaissance can grow up. You feel much more connected to this character because of his humanity and flaws than you could Altair.
The story revolving around Ezio isn’t entirely boring, but also not quite entertaining. There are a scant few plot twists involving Ezio, but in all none of them are particularly breathtaking. What is really entertaining is the continuing story from the first game. The legacy from Altair to Ezio to Desmond drives the most enthralling points of the game’s story. How Altair’s story effected Ezio’s and Desmond’s, how Ezio’s story effects Desmond’s, and how this all effects the modern day Assassins and their war with the Templars. There is a lot of meta-story with in the game, and ultimately it’s what makes the narrative entertaining. However the story ultimately falls on it’s face with the gigantic cliffhanger ending that only really entices anger.
What is perhaps the most interesting part of the game involving the narrative is the writing involved in the dialogue and the voice acting. Much of the game takes place in Italy and with it being in Italy there is a lot of Italian spoken, but there is still much English spoken so you aren’t entirely lost. What is perplexing is that the game does not choose to automatically set subtitles in the game as there are often long sentences or not commonly known Italian phrases through out the entire game. It does allow you to learn how to say a few profane words in Italian, but the game really should be set so you don’t need go into the settings to understand what’s going on.
The gameplay is really the crux of what makes this game though, and thankfully Ubisoft has made some vital changes to keep the series from being a repeat offender. Gone are the dreadfully boring side-quests, now replaced with a more story driven quest focus. There are a few side quests, such as racing, assassination jobs and what are called “beatdown” jobs but none of them are necessary or particularly boring. The changed emphasis on the quests makes the game a little more linear, but the collectibles scattered around the game, both focused on skill and equipment upgrades, as well as more meta-story focused items.
The combat is much of the same as it was in the last game, but the counterattack system has been changed so all of the fights aren’t so painfully easy. Counterattacking only works for select enemies in the game, and the weapons you have can change the effectiveness of your counterattacks. Dodging is actually extremely vital in combat part way through the game, unlike in the original game. A combination of counterattacking, dodging, and disarming is absolutely vital to understand if you are to defeat waves of enemies without dying to a small handful. Learning when to use these abilities usually comes down to trial and error, but turns into a great little chess battle.
What really sets Ezio apart from Altair isn’t just him being italian or more human but also his connections, namely his friend Leonardo De Vinci. Through out the course of the story you find items called “Codexes”. They’re vital to the game’s story, but also very useful for your arsenal, sometimes giving new items to your array such as a second hidden blade, a poisoned blade, or a hidden pistol. Most useful of these new items is the hidden blade and the expanded use of stealth kills with it, allowing you to takedown enemies two at a time, from above, below, or hidden. This change often makes for positioning, approach and tactic very vital, and also very entertaining. The variety of stealth kills from the first game to the second is much larger, and breaks up much of the monotony that the first game so painfully stewed in.
The broader inventory also comes in the form of new items you can buy from various vendors through out the game. More armor, more weapons to choose from, more of nearly everything. Changes from cosmetic to performance at every turn that makes you eager to see what comes next. Some more impressive swords, or daggers would be appreciated, but the game again manages to improve on the last game by giving you this variety in choosing one sword over a hammer, or a slower dagger for one that deflects better.
While much of the game has changed there are two things that haven’t really changed. The free running in the game is much the same as it was in the original game, which isn’t entirely a bad thing but slightly disappointing. The graphics also seem to be largely the same as they were two years ago when the first game came out. While not huge issues with the game, it would be nice to see both get an upgrade from the original game.
Assassin’s Creed 2 is an improvement on the game in every sense. While the first game was fraught with monotony the sequel is rich with variety. From the richer combat, to the larger collection of gadgets and weaponry, to the streamlined quest system there isn’t much in the game that the game has done wrong. The main story is a tad bland, but the overall story makes up for it in large, save for the painful cliffhanger ending. The graphics and free running have not changed, but neither were ever a huge issue. The game is slightly short, but with the collectibles and new changes this game deserves attention much more than the first did.