The lights are on
An early title for the PS3/X-Box 360 generation, the first Assassin's Creed was arguably a very rough start to a promising series that defined Ubisoft's move into the modern action genre. It's sequel of Assassin's Creed II easily fixed nearly every problem of its predecessor and delivers more. With a fantastic setting, a solid story, inventive gameplay, and wild conspiracies, AC II puts others to shame in the scale of its ambition and love for its rich history and made me all the more enthusiastic about the art-form that video-games have become.
Following the life of Altair in the Middle-East, Abstergo Industries's most famous subject, Desmond Miles, is freed by the shadowing Assassin agent Lucy Stillman and at last joins his allies within the Assassin Order. Thanks to his new friends and the new Animus 2.0., Desmond next relives the memories of ancestor, Ezio de Auditore of Renaissance Italy to unlock more clues to both his family's past and the Templar Order's globe-spanning plot.
Among Assassin's Creed II's many grand features is its remarkable ability to immerse you in its size and scope. Its backdrop of the Renaissance resonates with life, from its people, to its soaring expanse of towering landmarks. The Italian crowds feel alive and vibrant and the cities' cathedrals and shops are lovingly crafted with exquisite detail that reflect an unmatched amount of historic attention to Italian culture. The game's cutt-throat world of betrayal and conspiracy within its story only further envelops you in the game's life-like environment and makes it a place of suspense and intrigue that grows you closer to its characters.
What carries the is none other than its protagonist of Ezio de Auditore de Firenze. Initially a go-getting, young Casanova of reckless abandon, Ezio's is grounded as a character of ambition and pride as well as charm and wit. The tragic loss of his family to the Templars and his ensuing transformation into a disciplined, idealistic Assassin over the course of his life only better establishes him as a complex and sympathetic protagonist whose struggle with revenge is both captivating and endearing. It's only proper, then, that the game's Master Templar of Alexander Borgia is just as engaging and proves an equal match for Ezio in both skill and cunning. Ezio's interactions with the game's historical figures of Leonardo Da Vinci and Florentine banker Lorenzo Medici only heighten the believability of his story, making it feel closer to the real world than one might expect. The game's ultimate climax between Ezio and Borgia is all the more gripping to watch and ends with a shocking revelation about the series that will want fans coming back for more.
Meanwhile, Desmond's unraveling of the Templar's modern day plans will prove engaging their with strange and intriguing implications, even if at the expense of its dull character lead. Though Desmond's part of the plot won't warrant much attention in his snobbish, whiny personality, the mystery he uncovers is bizarre and fascinating. Its Da Vinci Code like twists and turns live up to any Dan Brown novel with while cautiously marking a line between the absurd or brilliant and will continue to captivate you long after your finished playing.
Assassins' Creed 2 also comes with fun and creative gameplay. A lethal arsenal of assassin weaponry are ready at your disposal, including daggers, swords, knives, smoke bombs, and even a primitive pistol that allow you a great deal of freedom in how you eliminate your target. Dramatic sword fights take up much of your open-air battles and despite some poor hit detection, they rarely feel tedious and prove immensely satisfying in their quick, decisive kills and deadly handy-work. You'll be using your fists almost as often in hand-to-hand beat-ups missions which don't feel quite as enjoyable but feel refreshing from their change of pace.
Stealth continues to work as another important core mechanic and requires you to explore more cunning routes to victory. Quietly knifing an enemy from the safety of a bustling crowd or grabbing a minion from the straw of a hay bale never gets old and the ease of accomplishing your task relies on this sense of planning. Tossing guards off their perches off rooftops is a blast and going the length of tidying up your crime scenes and hiding bodies adds to your sense of professionalism.
Assassin's Creed III boasts some greatly improved platforming elements that make your visit across Italy all the more enjoyable. Ezio acrobatic abilities will take him to the tallest church spires and and the farthest Venetian roof-tops with the greatest of ease. These come as even more convenient with the several Indiana Jones-like Assassin tombs you can explore and collect treasure from as sidequests. They reap great rewards and players will no doubt find them adding at least another 5-6 fun hours of exploration.
One major difference of II from its predecessor is its in-game economy system. With it, players can bulk up their weapons arsenal with tons of new equipment from local shops with the money they've looted from tombs and targets. True to the era, mercenaries, thieves, and courtesans are available for instant hire to use in the environment, either to distract guards or help Ezio to blend into a crowd. Sadly, none of these support AI are interactive and might not mean a lot outside of accomplishing a few mission objectives. More impressive is the feature of renovating the Auditore family villa. By upgrading its grounds with renovated shops, doctor's clinics, and banks, the estate will continuously boost your income with which to amass even more money to spend to your heart's desire.
Puzzles are also another addition of AC II's additions to the franchise formula. Throughout the course of the game, players will be able to collect and solve various "glyphs" hidden amidst Italy's cities in order to unlock interesting new story elements. They're a challenge for sure, but their encouragement to use your head always seemed fair and their rewards more than pay off if you're interested in their unlockable story tidbits.
The Assassin's Creed franchise has established Ubisoft's most promising new series in years and though its grand world seems to good to be true, it delivers nearly more than enough to make for a classic. Even without playing the first, newcomers should still feel free to jump into this important series entry. and being introduced to the franchise with it was a particular joy. I consider it one of the generation's best and while the series may have taken a downward turn, I hope that great things like II are still in store for it. The legacy of Assassin's Creed II deserves it.