Assassin's Creed II
Review by Al0ne72
"Don't be distracted by its tiny and few flaws, it is an awesome game"
You play as an Assassin named Ezio Auditore within many different cities of Italy in the 15th century. Your character is outfitted with a very unique and very cool combination of clothing and colors to create an awesome appearance. Ezio is a very athletic parkour master who's also good with the ladies, and his overall behavior is satisfying to the player controlling him as far as behavior. I felt a good balance of agreement and doubt in his story, often wondering if he was making the right decisions, or if he was acting properly to the situation. The game does not take place at a set time, the story has the time advancing throughout the years, starting with 1476 when his journey begins. Now, there's a side-story to all of this, it's the reason for the main story. You also play a character named Desmond Miles, who has been kidnapped by "Abstergo Industries", a corporation run by the Templars (your enemies) in order to find something within Desmond's memories. They use a device called the "Animus" that allows Desmond to relive memories of his ancestor Ezio Auditore, and in Assassin's Creed II your journey will begin by breaking out of Abstergo with the help of a traitor to the company, named Lucy. You then retreat to a hideout, where you are plugged into an Animus belonging to your new acquaintances, to find what Abstergo was looking for.
The best part of Assassin's Creed, is the environment. The world. The graphics for both your character, and your city, are outstanding. If you were to go back in time to 1476 and take a picture of any landmark that still exists in Italy today, and compare it to the in-game building or tower, you would not see the difference. Not only do they do a phenomenal job at scaling real landmarks, but you also have the ability to interact with these landmarks as well. I couldn't tell you how ecstatic I was to climb buildings like the Torre Grossa tower in Tuscany, or scaling the side of the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) in Florence. There's so many familiar landmarks, and Ubisoft does their best to give you a sensational story, while incorporating historical accuracy not just through events, but landmarks as well. This game is the most possibilities within any open-world sandbox type game you will ever come across.
As an assassin, your character is very skilled with parkour, just about anything and everything is able to be mounted in a way. After playing this game, I no longer look at a clock tower and see time, now I look at a clock tower and wonder how long it would take to get to the top of it. You will quickly notice that your character performs more actions than you do, as far as controls. The tutorial system is very simple and basic, easy to learn, and easy to get the hang of. They don't smother you with things to learn, you discover more and more as you go along, at such a decent pace. The possibilities is so vast, all of them pertaining to the concept of stealth and combat, and your objective at hand. You can blend into crowds, pickpocket, sit with people on benches to avoid attention, hide in certain places like wells, haystacks, behind ledges, walls, rooftops, you can even hire different groups of citizens to help aid you. Hire courtesans to distract guards, hire thieves to make give chase and keep them busy, or hire mercenaries to fight them. As a skilled parkour assassin, he can also swim, which is helpful in different cities of Italy, such as Venice. You can also use canoes to get around in the water, as well as ride horses with different abilities available on those horses, such as walking, galloping, using your sword, or simply getting from one place to another in a much shorter time. Again, you can do ALL of this, while looking totally awesome in your assassin's outfit, with such incredible detail, wonderful graphics, and realistic environment.
The story puts all meaning behind everything you do in the game. Missions do not get repetitive, even if you skip/ignore the lore behind them. Your character, Ezio, plays a character with a great concept of understanding, which makes for a pleasant journey as you take on your role as an assassin and get revenge on your enemies. I don't normally do reviews on stories, but I always like to recognize when a story takes me for a ride, rather than experiencing a story with a lot of vulnerability. With the story of Assassin's Creed 2, I often felt suspicious of other characters, interested in the behavior of those of the 15th century, and curious to what happens next.
As I've mentioned before, the graphics are amazing. Assassin's Creed is known for its detail, you can see every layer of cloth, every little engraving on every piece of armor or structure, as well as the shadows they create. Best of all, even objects that move, have such detail, and there are a fair amount of animations that it doesn't ever appear as if they're making the same motion over and over again for different actions. The scenery is beautiful, I have seen better in other games, but they definitely exceed expectations in this category.
Sound, many realistic sounds, for each weapon, they didn't use artificial sounds for things, they didn't "wing it" as I've seen in many other games. In other games, I notice they use taps or bumps to make impact sounds like punching or gunshots, but in Assassin's Creed II they use a vast array of sound effects for every different action. Everything from weapon sheathing, to stepping on the rooftops of Italian buildings, to the sound of a displeased crowd when you make a public assassination. Even after completing my 3rd 100% completion in the game, I'm still discovering new dialogs within the different citizens. Some of it is actually quite amusing.
The combat is what keeps me coming back to this game, the character motions when he makes a kill is pure awesome. You can even disarm and steal your opponent's weapons, and immediately impale/slash them with it. One example of a very impressive combat move, is when an enemy comes in to attack you, if you are holding a spear, your counter-attack command will cause Ezio to have his spear break in half, and use those two pieces to impale the target, it's quite awesome. There's a good number of different moves based on each weapon, and there is a very good selection of weapons too, each one doing something different. You've got your standard melee weapons, sword, knife, and then your ranged weapons, throwing knives, pistol attachment, your classic hidden blades which gains a poison attachment later on, and your accessories such as the smoke bombs, medicine, and the ability to toss some coins to cause a commotion in the crowd.
As I said in the title, the flaws for this game are so minor, they barely matter. Once you get comfortable with the game, you start to catch on about what is considered annoying and irritating. There were a few things that bothered me about this game that I think the developers could have worked on to make it better.
The biggest problem I had with this game, was the system of detection. In Assassin's Creed II you are given missions to complete, some of them pertain to the main story, some are optional, and within these missions, you occasionally have to remain undetected throughout the entire mission. This is very fun, it maintains the stealth aspect of being an assassin, however, I often found myself irritated at guards who randomly turned around to spot me at just the right time, or guards who 'detect' me as they die, even if they are the only guard within hundreds of yards that die a split second after getting killed by your character. The mission would be over, and you would have to start all over again. The only way to eliminate an enemy without being detected, is through your hidden blade. Any other means, and there's a great chance you will be detected, your pistol attachment causes loud noise, throwing knives are weak and will rarely 1-shot your targets, and shoving someone off the ledge will also cause detection, even if they never see you. The system of detection wasn't entirely flawed, it was actually pretty nice, but on missions that require no detection, I found myself very 'sensitive' to detection, too sensitive to the point where, even though I was doing very well, I never felt like I was a step ahead of my enemies.
Throwing knives are a great weapon in Assassin's Creed, but unfortunately in this game, they are very weak. They are introduced as ranged weapons that are effective at taking out the archers on the rooftops that are out of reach. When they are first introduced, they will kill targets in one hit. However, shortly after advancing in the game, you'll require more to take down your targets, making them less effective than they were once portrayed. Hitting an enemy causes detection, and sometimes a mission failure, even if the 2nd knife is already on its way to kill the target, before they even get a chance to regain balance. Also, with all consoles, it seems as though the ability to throw multiple knives is a bit flawed. To throw multiple knives, you must pay to learn the move, and then practice it by holding down the button you would normally press to throw them. However, when I do this in gameplay, it doesn't work as well as the training had demonstrated.
At a certain point in the game, far from the end, money will become useless. There will come a point where you have everything money is good for, and your income will increase, and you will continue to unlock things that increase your income. Throughout the game, there was a fair balance of income and spending... then it just stopped. Not a major flaw, but I would have liked to see some kind of infinite purpose for my accumulating currency, rather than letting it build up into the 6-digits.
Looting is a feature where you can search a fallen target's pockets for useful supplies. While there's always a chance of finding useful ammunition (throwing knives, poison, smoke bombs, etc) you'll find yourself looting 3 to 7 florins the majority of the time. This gets quite annoying, even when looting the body of a wealthy target, there will still only be single digit coin. The problem with this, is that there's always a chance to find something useful, but a small one. Enough of a chance to waste your time trying, because you don't want to have to buy those throwing knives or smoke bombs, it's just enough chance to keep holding down that Empty Hand button after a kill.
These are only small imperfections, rather than flaws. All of this can be easily overlooked by the big picture of what this game is. The reason most gamers tend to get distracted by the imperfections of this game, is because of how comfortable you get with this game, in such a short amount of time. There's a good balance of what this game teaches you, and what you find out on your own. This exists because there's no particular "style" of playing this game, most of the actions performed at automatic, for example, when you counter attack someone, it's the same combination of buttons for every counterattack, but your character will perform a different attack based on his weapon, current stance, angle, archetype, timing of the counter, and much more, but all you control, is the timing. This happens for a lot, you press so little buttons, your character acts more than you do, and because of this, players often expect things to be done for them. That's what I mean by getting comfortable too quickly. Players tend to forget the scale of epicness this game has introduced to gaming, they rate this game based on how frustrated it makes them rather than the overall quality of it. I give this game a 9/10 because there was no need to outweigh the goods and bads, because what we had was a good game with some tiny imperfections, there was nothing to weigh down the incredible aspects of this game.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/21/12
Game Release: Assassin's Creed II (US, 11/17/09)
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