#894 Assassin’s Creed II

Posted: 21st December 2012 by Mulholland in Games
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203rd played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

The way we find out about games can really vary depending on the person and the game itself. It may be a magazine, a billboard poster or a meme depicting a gang of chicks attacking a dinosaur. For me a number of big games were discovered sitting at the foot of my mate’s bed during my time at university. These included Fallout 3, Civilization IV, The Witcher and the original Assassin’s Creed.

In a more unusual move in the history of this list they have decided to only include the sequel rather than the original game… is this a good move on the part of the list-makers?

Our Thoughts

Actually yes… we were surprised too.

Well I was since I own a copy of the original game for the Xbox 360 (bought it from Argos don’t cha know) and I was not too impressed with it. I found the gameplay rather repetitive and the mechanics slightly off base. Also I took real umbrage with the main idea of the game’s central machinery… well improvements in two out of three isn’t too bad.

So the basic story is this: Templars are trying to control the world and their big enemies are the assassins (aka you). In order to gather artefacts that can control the minds of the population the Templars have kidnapped you and are using the memories of your ancestors stored within your DNA (seriously Ubisoft!?) to find them. Not just that, the in-game interface shows you exactly which bits of DNA contains which bits of memory. Yeah. Really.

In this incarnation of the game you take the role of a young Florentine named Ezio Auditore who [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER] okay so if you want to know more about the game you can go on Wikipedia as it really is not our place to spoil… but that is not the realm of this blog. Needless to say, unlike the premise that memories can be stored genetically, the storyline of this game is complex and well written… and has been stepped up since the original.

Whist the setting in the original game looked good it never felt ‘rich’ to me. Desert cities are beautiful but they truly pale in comparison to the wonders of Renaissance Italy depicted in this game. Games tend to take a gamble when they try to successful bring a real city to life. Prototype was never able to capture the vibrant nature of New York, likewise The Getaway‘s London lacked warmth. Assassin’s Creed II, however, really brings to life the worlds of 15th century Florence and Venice… something I can attest to having visited both of these amazing cities… not in the past mind you.

This sort of carries over to the characters too. The models themselves are a bit wooden – the faces not as realistic and fancy as we’ve seen in some contemporary games, which bothered me in particular, with at times quite hollow eyes. The characterization, however, is more wonderful – in-depth, making you get a good feel of them early on (in part based on good voice acting) and connect with them – in a good or bad way, as can be found by our early discussions over the likeability of Ezio as a character.

The main ways that this game has improved on is the controls and the variety in the gameplay. The climbing controls now feel more intuitive, although there are many times I forgot to press B after falling from a great height. Then again, in inFamous and Prototype you never lose health for this due to your superhuman status… here you are very very human.

Like those games Assassin’s Creed II has really stepped it up in terms of open-world exploring where, apart from the constraints of ‘memory’, the hunting for collectables and other such lovely things are a real joy. Even something as mundane as courier missions and treasure hunting feel less monotonous.

In general the world feels quite expansive. While constrained to just a single city (and just a part of it at times) there’s a multitude of items to collect, but also shops to go to fill what you’ve got. Doctors and outfits are the more basic things you can buy, but then there’s also treasure maps to aid your exploration and paintings to… ehmm, I’m sure they’ll have a point somewhere.

One nice thing about the whole experience is that it isn’t just you exploring Florence. If you ignore the ridiculous concept that allows you to do so, the game actually quite nicely ties the present day (or really near future) with the past most of the game plays in. Aside from the bits actually playing in the current day, setting the scene, your companions living in the now have a presence in the world. They constantly provide you with information – filling the database with this is a seperate task – but they also give commentary and guidance. With some different characters, this adds some welcome perspective and fun to the whole ordeal. It’s part of what teaches you about the history of the people and area – why you’re here, what you’re doing, and where these characters end up in the future, which makes the whole world a bit more real.

While the plot is obviously not real, these historical details, the very real world, and the way people live in it, make it seem like it could be, and with so many historical characters in it, it’s one thing that almost could be possible. Unlikely, but close enough. Just as amazing a thought and experience.

Final Thoughts

A fully living world, in which you have to sneak through, performing your tasks, doing your assassinations, and staying anonymous. Or, if you have a less bloodthirsty day, collect eagle feathers and lookout points and more quietly figure out what’s going on and find out more about Florence, its history and the people that have lived and may have lived in it.

As a game, it takes a bit of time to get used to the controls and move around – something that can always be a bit difficult – but this is relatively minor. Overall it’s a fun game and a great experience – one that can lead you to lose a few hours of your life, as happened to Peter. More than once.

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