Review by Unbridled9
"A superior game to the original in every way!"
Introduction - Assassin's Creed II is the second console game in the Assassin's Creed series of games. The first game, though being a unique and groundbreaking game in it's own right, was rife with problems concerning it's linearity as well as issues with the combat system. When Assassin's Creed II was announced, there was concern over if these problems would be addressed and how well. I am pleased to report that they have been handled with incredible skill!
The game focuses around the story of Ezio Auditore, an italian man during the renaissance whom is thrust into the life of being an assassin and his quest to stop the Templars within Italy. There isn't much that can be said without hitting spoilers from the game. However, what I will say is that this game is a true gem that is what the first game should have been like.
Gameplay - Assassin's Creed II is incredibly fun. There is no other way to put it. At any one moment, there is almost anyways something to do that is typically rather fun. Much of the tedium present in the first game has been addressed or outright removed, though there are still some issues. Within the first Assassin's Creed, there was little to do besides the main mission with almost no side-questing or other events around. This meant that the game became repetitive very quickly and dull. Thankfully, almost all of this has been removed. At any one moment, there is almost guaranteed to be something to do. From hunting down the treasure chests that litter the city to finding glyphs containing difficult to decipher messages and clues, dealing with the complex and interesting assassin's tombs, fiddling around with a small city you gain control of, chasing thieves, or completing one of many side missions. Almost all of them have been well designed, and it shows as each mission is interesting and worth taking the time out to complete. I reached a point when playing where I forgot about the main story simply because I was having so much fun with the sidemissions.
Combat as well has received an overhaul. In the first game, combat basically consisted of waiting for your opponent to attack so you could counter. It made combat easy, dull, and highly repetitive. This has been redesigned and balanced very well. No longer are enemies perfectly vulnerable to the game-breaking power of the counter, but now they usually need to be weakened or are capable of blocking it. Additionally, their weapon selection has expanded to include axes and lances, and they use both with devastating efficiency in combat. Lances are impossible to counter (or at least, I have yet to perform it) while axes are outright brutal and can easily break through your guard. This isn't to mention that the range of enemy types has expanded from just basic guards and captains to include several different types, each with their own unique traits and methods of attack.
Now for the ugly. The game has some problems with it's control. While it is typically silky-smooth, with no problems at all as you leap from rooftop to rooftop, there will come moments when Ezio simply will not do what you want him to do. He may leap in the opposite direction of what you desired, or miss a jump he should have easily made, suddenly make a move in a direction you did not desire, or simply choose not to work. I remember one race I lost because Ezio decided to suddenly fling himself off a bridge and not only deviate wildly from the course, but missed a wooden beam which would have allowed for recovery. Then, when I tried to get back on track, he refused to make a simple grab up to a handhold until the race was well lost.
Secondly, while the new enemy types are welcome as is the rise in difficulty, with it comes some enemies who are simply too cheap. Sometimes a guard will be almost dead, yet parries all your attacks, blocks every counter, breaks your grab, and whenever you dodge and counter he will somehow block it as well. Additionally, some enemies disarm, and this is NOT a fun, or even good point of the battle as it sends you scrambling for your sword and trying to pick it up while being wailed on and, if you can't find it before it vanishes, sends you back to your city to re-arm yourself.
Overall: 9/10 Great gameplay and interesting sidequests as well as challenging combat but marred by some control issues and sometimes cheap enemies.
Story - The story in this game is simply wonderful. Not only does it lovingly complex and detailed, with few plotholes if any, but it takes huge advantage of the fact that it takes place over several years. You will watch Ezio grow from a happy-go-lucky child to being a hardened assassin, and it will never feel hamfisted or forceful. Everything flows together wonderfully and there will never be a moment where the story is dull. It's filled with many wonderful twists, so much so that I can't delve into it in this review for fear of spoilers.
My only complaint about the story is in one thing. The downloadable content. Do you want to know the full story? You need to buy it. Otherwise, there will be a huge gap come a certain point in the game. I really wish I could say more, but it would be spoiling the story for you.
Overall: 9/10. A wonderful story beautifully woven that shows character growth both physically and emotionally and is rife with twists.
Graphics/Sound - In my mind, a good graphic is something that is unobtrusive, not overly complicated, fitting, and enhances the world about it (the world may suck, but that's a bit different). And I am pleased to report that Assassin's Creed II scores wonderfully high in this department! The graphics are outright splendid. Everything is wonderfully detailed and enhances the world perfectly. Gone are the days of unremarkable and uninteresting streets packed with buildings that you forget about as soon as you pass by them. Every building feels unique and detailed and the cities feel very alive as you walk through them. It's almost art as you look upon the rich and vibrant world. Almost...
As for sound, the game is once again outstanding. All the voices are wonderful and incredibly well done and the game is very well scripted. All the voicework is clear and well defined and you will never feel like you missed a line as a character muddles on. Other sounds are done wonderfully as well. From the street chatter being tossed about to the gentle scraping of Ezio's boots as he climbs walls, every sound fits perfectly and is masterfully done.
Overall: 10/10. It's a wonder. There's no other way to put it. While there are better games visually and sound-wise, they are few and far between at best.
Play Time/Replayability -
The game clocks in at about 20-30 hours if you desire to complete everything with the aid of a guidebook and can easily expand if you opt to go without. There is only one point in the game that feels like it could even potentially be filler, and even that is, more or less, well handled. The game has no real replayablity sadly, and this dampens the fun a bit as no one is going to play through several hours just to redo one of the more incredibly fun missions or tombs. If a player were to focus on just the story though, they would be capable of completing the game in about 10-15 hours or so, which is also a downside.
Overall: 9/10. Not overly long or short, nor does it try to add in filler to artificially lengthen itself.
Final Recommendation - Buy. This is a incredible game well worth owning that will stand out in your collection for being as fun as it is. Despite it's problems, the only reason you may dislike this game is if you have a specific hate for it. Otherwise, it's vastly superior to most other games in every way possible.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/19/10
Game Release: Assassin's Creed II (US, 11/17/09)
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