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Introduction - Assassin's Creed II PC Review
Well, finally we can enjoy the adventure of Desmond/Altair/Eccio on our trusted platform as well. Having gathered praise from console gamers as an improvement from the previous game, Assassin's Creed II finally stands in front of us, PC gamers, awaiting for judgement. Being one of the first Ubisoft games to sport the new DRM, it caused a bit of controversy, but this is not my focus in this review - I will explore the game itself, instead. I liked the first AC, although it had it's shortcomings, but overall left an impression of a quality entertainment with an interesting storyline. What have the creators done to build and expand on the first game's success?
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Assasin's Creed 2 is running on Ubisoft's Anvil engine, which has been the tech behind Prince of Persia series and the first Creed, as well as Shaun White Snowboarding. Well, for me it carries a visual resemblance to Unreal engine series, but maybe it's because they both feature the popular blur and other post-effects as well as similar overall gamma. Anyways, the engine flexes it's muscles and puts up an impressive picture. A specific part I quite enjoyed in the graphics department was the love to details. Eccio's armor is an intricate piece of work which can get damaged, the clothes get visibly wet when you crawl out of the water, blood covers your outfit - such nuances are welcome as a breath of fresh air. Day and night cycles change quite naturally, and the environment really makes you feel like you are present in a 15th century Italy. The picture is even more pleasant if you count in nice, natural shadows.To summarize, the graphical aspect of the game is quite enjoyable.
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The sound continues to give a nice impression about Assassin's Creed 2. Calm and unobtrusive melodies accompany you through the game, switching to more aggressive rock themes or dramatic pieces when you engage in combat or run as fast as you can to capture somebody or to avoid being captured yourself. Clash of weapons, the sound of steel biting into someone's flesh, as well as more peaceful nose like random chatter of the people around you or occasional herald that announces your (mis)deeds to a larger audience - everything feels natural and well placed. Assasin's Creed II continues to please.
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And now we have come to the most important part of this review - the game itself. As I mentioned before, the feeling that you are present in a living, breathing city, is almost perfect. It gets ruined just a bit by the fact that everyone has a short memory and forgets your rampages quite soon. Did I mention rampages? Well, what can come as a surprise to someone who hasn't played the previous installment in the series, although titled Assassin's Creed, the game does not enforce the stealth and dagger gameplay that seems obvious from the "assassin" part. Yes, some missions require you to kill unseen or sneak, but usually nothing forbids you to run around like a machine of destruction, slaying guards on your every step. This is partially because the fighting system itself is quite simple and not very challenging, especially in the later parts of game. That is offset by the choreographic beauty of your moves, especially executions - if you enjoy such things, the game is truly a threat to your eyes. It is not meant for the faint of heart or the younger audience, that's for sure.
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The game itself has you basically running around and executing the Templars, villain organisation bent on world domination and other set of your usual megalomaniac ambitions. That is made interesting by wrapping this simple pattern around a quite interesting plot, as well as letting you feel like an extremely talented parkour enthusiast - gravity has almost no power over Eccio, except when you fall from a tower, and execution of acrobatic tricks is your bread and butter. Although a bit marred by the control system that is not completely intuitive and sometimes makes you a bit angry when the character jumps in the wrong direction or otherwise disagrees with your careful, I mean chaotic commands.
What's new is the addition of the castle management, popular nowadays, and similar to Neverwinter Nights 2 equivalent. You spend money to upgrade your villa, which in turn increases your income and lets you buy more paintings and build new income generating enterprises that earn you more mone, et cetera... While being a money sink in the earlier parts of the game, it has no importance later, when you have gazillions of florins and can afford every piece of armor and weaponry you desire. Ah, and you are also able to spend the cash on dyeing your clothing according to set color schemes that differ from city to city.
The game world is quite huge and takes a lot of time to explore. You'll visit Venice, Florence and other marvels of 15th century Italy. What sets Assassin's Creed apart from it's cousin Prince of Persia is the open sandbox style environment. When not on a mission, you are able to spend your time as you see fit, be it shopping, fighting or simply sightseeing. The game suffers from the classical flaws of sandbox titles - the side missions can get quite repetitive, and sometimes you simply get tired of searching for the hidden objects and bonuses. Nothing prevents you from picking up the main storyline at any moment you see fit, though.
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In the form of Assassin's Creed II we have a quality entertainment. While not perfect, it can be a good way to spend your free time, while improving your knowledge about historical buildings and events or simply rampaging around like a meteor of destruction and reveling in your power, at least in virtual form. I certainly recommend this game to lovers of the sandbox genre as well as fans of the previous Assassin's Creed - the sequel is certainly an improvement upon the first one. Some things could be better, but overall Ubisoft manages to keep up the good job.