Assassin’s Creed II

Posted on April 23, 2010

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How do you keep an innovative franchise fresh? Let a young, hot-blooded Italian assassin slash and sprint all over Renaissance Italy, that’s how.  Leaping the Assassin’s Creed story generations ahead of the original game, AC II brings new features, a new type of hero, blindsiding reveals, and deeper questions to this epic franchise. 

The gameplay is smooth, fun, and evolves enough throughout the story to stay fresh. The marionette-style controls and melee counter system returns and is as fun and engaging as ever. Matter of fact, the fighting is so enjoyable that it steals the show from the franchise’s hallmark mechanic: parkour rooftop hijinks.

Although there is no better way to explore Italy’s brilliant cities than pole-skipping over Venice’s canals and platforming dozens of world-famous basilicas, there are times where Ezio (AC II’s main character) doesn’t find the footholds and ledges needed for a perfect getaway. This is evermore apparent during escape scenarios and thief chases, which start as adrenaline-pumping fiascos and wind up being frustrating sequences that gets stuck in first gear. Also, Ezio tries to climb too many dead-end walls and poles. These things hamstring the parkour-style running sequencing in general, rather than accelerating it. The platforming feels as crisp as the first game, which isn’t a bad thing, but hasn’t reached its full potential yet.

Though the platforming could benefit from tweaking, the developers did a great job of making rewarding platforming experiences via the tomb-raiding sequences. Here, Ezio’s series of platforming escapades offer similar challenge and rewards reminiscent of Crackdown’s Agency Tower ascension.

Perhaps the biggest expansion is the addition of upgradable weapons and a SimCity-esque city-building platform. Here, players can take a break from base jumping and impaling city authority with fun and fruitful RPG elements allowing players to spruce up the rundown city of Monterrigioni, upgrade weapons and learn specialized moves for weaponry. Hopefully, these additions have an even bigger role in AC games down the road.

There are few franchise that have erupted as much skepticism and mixed emotion with a storyline as AC has. But, the sequel filled in many gaps via “The Truth” side quest and the main storyline. Where the game’s plot is a classic Shakespearean drama, the overarching story is a puzzle of biblical proportions, and AC II brings gamers much, much closer to the truth–which was a necessary step to keep fans and skeptics pleased with the franchise. And the reveals don’t disappoint.

If the original Assassin’s Creed was Ubisoft’s rough sketch, the second installment of this franchise certainly brings colors and shading to the canvas. The gameplay is smooth enough and the game’s design oozes polish. When you’re done chasing down Italy’s corrupt, taking a moment to breathe in Ubisoft’s amazing landscapes and bustling city life is an experience of itself. Don’t drink in the scenery too long though. There’s corruption afoot, and the world is relying on a snarky assassin to bring Italy to its knees.

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Posted in: Reviews