Assassins Creed II
Two years ago the first Assassin’s Creed saw the light of day. The game became a true hype that was mostly created by the game journalists which gave it many high scores. Unfortunately it was a disappointment for the average Joe Schmuck due mostly to the repetitive character of the missions and despite the innovative free-running system and a draw distance that would blow you away. Luckily Ubisoft now had the necessary time to think of new missions and create a sequel.
Assassin’s Creed 2 picks up where the first part ended. Desmond Miles is still held by Abstergo, a company with as board of directors the “Order of the Templars”. Luckily the enchanting lab assistant Lucy helps you escape and you manage to get back to the Assassins hideout. From here the Assassins hope to halt the Templars’ plans but for that the help of Desmond is necessary as he’s the only one with DNS connections to the original Assassins.
The story revolving around Desmonds predecessor Altair has completely been unraveled but too many pieces are missing to stop the Templars so the Assassins send Desmond back in time with their own Animus, this time to Firenze, Italy, as Ezio, a young playboy who doesn’t only put men but also women on his blade. A conspiracy results in his family injustly getting executed and as result he decide to avenge his family. During his quest it quickly becomes clear that his father lead a double life as Assassin.
The immersive story is good for easily fifteen hours of adventure, filled with intrigue, romance (read: visits to courtisanes, ed.) and tons of comedy you don’t immediately expect. During the story you’ll finish several main missions that are less repetitive than the first Assassin’s Creed. While one moment you’re having a nice chat with Leonardo Da Vinci about his latest invention, the next minute you’ll be planting a dagger in a politician’s throat. You never get the feeling that there’s any repetition present in the main missions.
The sidequests on the other hand do fall under that category but luckily they’re not obligatory. Next to that you can also obtain some other goals like the search for hundred feathers, several treasures and tombs of dead Assassins which get you a step closer to the authentique armor of Altair. Another innovation is the possibility to invest money in your home region. Here you can upgrade buildings so they become profitable again and will fill part of your treasure or give a nice discount on materials like medicins, weapons and clothing.
That technology doesn’t stand still is clear in the game. Ezio has more means at his disposal than his predecessor and also the art of sword fighting has evolved quite a lot. Our favorite 15th century playboy can now disarm opponents, evade better and throw people to the ground in several different ways. For the tougher enemies there’s plenty of aids available like smoke bombs, throwing sand in the eyes and an easy one hit kill in the back of your opponent. The only disadvantage that remains from the first game is the rather stupid AI of opponents. Often they’re just waiting for you to stab them or brutally slaughter them with a counter-attack.
The retarded opposition makes the entire game too easy. Throughout the campaign I have never had to restart a mission because I died or was a bit too slow. Where the difficulty degree does rise are the Glyphs you can find throughout the cities. These are secret messages that tell you a bit more about “Subject 16”, a predecessor of Desmond who managed to crack part of the Animus.
When you see such a symbol a minigame in the form of a puzzle starts. Although some are very easy, there are a couple of real brainbreakers present which would keep even Professor Layton occupied for a couple of hours. Luckily these can be skipped or saved for later so that they don’t hold up the pace.
Graphically the game has its heights, but often these are connected with some lows. The draw distance is a perfect example of this; you get a complete overview of Venice from the clock tower, but many objects near Ezio then suffer from pop-up textures. The clothing has been detailed perfectly, but many characters’ faces seem to be modeled onto the skull of a chimpansee.
Another annoying problem is the collision detection that’s all but perfect. Not only Ezio’s dagger disappears into the throat of your sworn arch enemy, but also half of his hand seems to melt with the character. A small sloppyness from the devs that doesn’t get noticed while playing but is a thorn in the eye during the cut-scenes. The stable framerate and fluid movement of Ezio, however, make these problems melt like snow from the sun.
The audio does its work as it should with good voice actors that make the characters vivid and manage to create an atmosphere, but also the soundtrack adds to this. If we really have to mention a downpoint then it’s the commentary of people or soldiers passing by when you’re doing some acrobacy. After a while they sound repetitive despite the bigger variety of voices compared to the original game. Finally you can also play the game entirely with Italian dialogue which makes you almost feel like you’re really in Firenze.
Assassin’s Creed II is actually what the first game should have been, but wasn’t probably due to a shortage in development time. This time you do get a game that’s completely finished in all aspects thanks to many varying missions, a pleasant and immersive story and an addiction factor that makes you keep thinking “Just one more mission and then I’ll go to bed”. Partners of gamers are warned: if you still want some quality time with your lover it’s best to severely limit his or her time allowed for this game!