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Continuing a “Legacy"
In 2007, Assassin’s Creed was launched to much fanfare and rejoicing amongst fans as a “true next-gen" game, allowing for a real open-world environment with assassinations littered throughout the Crusades. By all indications, it should’ve been a killer app for every system it managed to be released on, and while sales were good, the complaints poured in. The game was broken in a series of ways, most prominently the fact that the side missions were utterly forgettable and annoying and the fact that the main storyline was comprised of 9 assassinations that felt completely identical except for maybe one or two. Fans of the game waited to see what Ubisoft’s next move would be, and they responded in kind by announcing a sequel at this year’s E3, and now that the game’s out, does it right all the wrongs of the previous iteration?
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Assassin’s Creed 2 is nothing short of a masterpiece, fixing every conceivable issue of the first game while wrapping itself in the utterly irresistible package of the Italian Renaissance spanning a time period of 10 years in the late 1400s. The setting is a huge part of what makes the game an instant draw, the settings are beautifully rendered, and while I’ve never personally been to Florence or Venice, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the game lovingly matches every nook and cranny of those two cities. The landscapes are more than just pretty filler though, climbing through the rooftops of Florence feels like the closest we’re going to get so far to actually playing in a “history simulator", reminiscent of the holodeck on Star Trek, but much more enjoyable.
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The main storyline is interesting and intriguing, especially if you (like me) enjoy Ezio as the protagonist. Ezio’s life is a complicated mess, and Ubisoft does everything possible to make sure that if you put the game down even for a few hours, you’re never confused about the story and what you’ve done so far. While the ending of the game was as confusing as an episode of “Lost", it was still enjoyable and left me wanting much more from the game that’s already considerably long. Less emphasis is placed on Desmond this time, but that’s because the Italian story is so tightly crafted that I didn’t really care what was happening in the world outside the Animus and Ezio.
Before I give away too much, the game gives you assassination side missions like they’re going out of style. They advance side stories in an elegant and interesting way, but their focus on action means you’ll always be coming back for more. The most enjoyable missions though were those that involved Ezio getting in touch with the past of his ancestors and receiving a prize for hunting down the tombs of Assassins of an age long past. These missions were absolutely amazing, and I won’t spoil what they are or what their end-goal is, but rest assured, there were points in the game I was more interested in doing these side missions than continuing the main story.
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Controls and Free-Running
My one minor gripe with the game, and I emphasize minor is that the controls can occasionally get in the way of your objectives, particularly in one of the later missions that involves a new gameplay mechanic. Sometimes while free-running, Ezio isn’t too intelligent about what ledge to grab or where to land, but that’s like saying that the frame holding the Mona Lisa has a minor dent in it. The game is still completely solid controls-wise when it comes to barreling through the rooftops, or even climbing up a building, but that only makes these minor control hiccups all the more prominent.
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As you might’ve guessed with my inFAMOUS review, I particularly loved that game. It combined so many amazing aspects that I had already awarded it Game of the Year for 2009 in the back of my head, but Assassin’s Creed II was a welcome surprise. It gave inFAMOUS a good run for its money, but both will stand the test of time as classics of this generation, like God of War and Resident Evil 4 for the last generation. Simply put, if you enjoy playing games, this is one that belongs on your shelf.