Review by Marter
"Do not fear the darkness, but welcome its embrace"
An improvement is typically something that one looks for in a sequel, and if improvement is what you are looking for in Assassin's Creed II, then you will not be disappointed. Assassin's Creed II takes every part of Assassin's Creed, and ramps it up a notch. In fact, there is no area that the sequel regressed in, and progression is seen every time you turn the corner. With that being said there are still flaws, or annoyances as they truly turn out to be.
The graphics in Assassin's Creed were no laughing matter. The game looked really good, back in 2007, and is still fairly impressive today. As I said in the opening, everything has been improved in the sequel, and graphics are no exception. Assassin's Creed II features graphics that very rarely remind you that you are in a game world. They really draw you in, and with everything so life-like, you sometimes forget that you are actually sitting on your couch, watching a television set. There is certainly no problem with draw distance when it comes to Assassin's Creed II, because as far as you can see, there is detail, and you never have the problem where buildings will only appear when you get close to them. You will see them coming from a long distance away, just like you would see them from your own eyeball. The animations are also really well done as the characters all move in a realistic manner.
The only real issue I can think of when it comes to graphics, is that after you are done murdering someone, their blood always finds a way to get onto you outfit. This in itself is not an issue; the problem comes when you walk away from the spot you were standing in, only to find out that your blood-stained clothes have come clean. That's really only a small issue, and probably is only there to keep you from actually having to use the dye system in the game to get you clothes white. One other thing I feel the need to mention iss the incredible details that are presented to you when Ezio finishes his swim. The one word I can use to describe them; breathtaking.
The real meat of Assassin's Creed II is the much improved gameplay. No longer are you forced to save dozens of citizens, or pickpocket numerous enemies in order to plan you assassinations. This time around, you get to go straight from mission to mission, almost eliminating the repetition of the first game completely. Not once while I played Assassin's Creed II did I have any feelings of monotony. Okay, one feeling when I had to go treasure hunting for some feathers (do flags ring a bell?).
There have been a few additions to combat, as you now have an actual inventory system, allowing for a multitude of weapons, many of which will have to be unlocked. In combat, you can also disarm your enemies, and use their weapons against them, which is quite a bit of fun, as right after you disarm them; you are allowed to perform an attack that will instantly kill them. There are different classes of enemy in Assassin's Creed II; Normal Guards, Agile Guards and Heavily Armed Guards. Agile guards will follow you onto rooftops, while guards with heavy armor will be more difficult to kill, and often feature better weapons that you cannot counter with your normal weapons and are forced to disarm. During combat, you will still be relying on Counter-Kills, however in Assassin's Creed II, enemies have a health meter above their heads, allowing you to judge when to wait for a counter, and when to lunge forward with your sword. Gone are the days of instantly regenerating health, as in order to restore health, you must either visit a doctor and fully restore you synchronization bar, or buy medicine that you can use during your missions. Your hidden blades can now be used in combat for more than just Instant-Kills, and are actually quite useful in combat, as they strike much faster than any of your other weapons.
Assassin's Creed II also features a monetary system that really doesn't feel tacked on. At an early point in the game, Ezio comes in to contact with a family member that allows you to invest in the family Villa. Investing in the Villa increases its value as a tourist destination, and gives you a larger return every 20 minutes. After fully investing in the Villa, there really is no more use for the money though, as you'll have enough to fill a swimming pool. You are able to buy additional weapons and armor that are stored in your Villa house, and can be equipped for bonuses for combat. You can also buy paintings, medicine, or clothing dyes, but all of these are so cheap that they might as well be free.
The platforming and free running section of the game are only about average I'm afraid, but only due to how incredibly sensitive the controls are. Misjudge your angle a miniscule amount while jumping from building to building, and you'll fall helplessly to your doom. I would guess around 90% of the deaths in Assassin's Creed II are due to misguided attempts to hop from rooftop to rooftop, as opposed to the copious amounts of armed guards you'll be dicing your way through. Climbing the buildings has been improved though, because if you find a way to get straight up, you will be able to climb much faster, with actual momentum as opposed to stopping at every ledge you encounter. The Assassin Tomb's are also quite a lot of fun, and are almost entirely platforming based. There are few jumps that will be missed in these tombs, and the only frustrating part are the timed events, where you have to get from Point A to Point B before the lever resets, or you'll have to do it all over again.
A disappointment in this area relates to the games cut scenes, where for some reason, Ubisoft decided it would be a good idea for there to be Quick Time Events whenever you least expect it. This doesn't actually impact the gameplay or story, but it allows you to miss a short bit of dialogue or script from the characters. The only other small problem with the gameplay is the game does freeze up a few times. I had it freeze at the title screen when I first booted it up, and probably had it freeze 6 more times through my 18 hour first playthrough.
The game begins with a small recap from the first game, but it is really essential to either play Assassin's Creed, or read the story on the internet to get a true feeling of Assassin's Creed II. The characters are all likable at worst and very likable at best. Without spoiling much, you jump into another Animus, to take control of another one of Desmond's ancestors. This time, you take control of Ezio Auditore, who actually has a personality, unlike the emotional brick wall Altair was. You actually feel for the characters in this game, and they are depicted in a way that missing even one Quick Time Event and seeing their disappointed face, makes you feel bad inside. The main reason to go into the Animus this time around is to force the bleeding effect upon Desmond, where he will actually gain the skills of an assassin by living out another one's life.
The voice acting in Assassin's Creed II is top notch. The characters have believable dialogue, and their lines all make sense. Their accents are all believable and really fit their characters. The other sounds of the game fit, but nothing is really memorable. They do the job, but could have been much more exciting.
For a single player action game, Assassin's Creed II should be considered a really long game. I spent 18 hours on my first playthrough, just to get to the conclusion of the story. You can then expect to spend at least three or four more hours playing after the story is complete. The first Assassin's Creed was also a long game, but many felt it quite repetitive. Assassin's Creed II does not feature repetitiveness, at least not to a noticeable extent. The game flows from start to finish really well, and adds in a nice variety of missions to keep you busy for many hours.
There really isn't much reason to replay this game, unless you miss the game's one missable achievement, as every other one can be achieved after the conclusion of the main story or if you really enjoyed it, in another playthough. The latter will probably be the case, as Assassin's Creed II is a really fun game. After the main story is finished, you can finish upgrading your Villa, purchase everything there is to buy, find all of the glyphs, go through all of the Assassin's Tombs and collect feathers. The feathers are actually quite a bit easier to collect than flags were in Assassin's Creed, as there are only 100 of them, and the game breaks up which city they are in, as well as how many are in each district. Glyphs are actually quite tough to solve without a guide as they are collections of puzzles that will unlock part of a video said to reveal "The Truth". Only after unlocking all 20 pieces can you view the full video, as before that you only get to see second clips of it.
Pros and Cons
+ Huge, richly detailed environment
+ Improved combat system
+ Fun and challenging puzzles
+ Compelling Story
- Freezing throughout my playthrough
- Money being rather useless
- Very touchy controls
I would recommend this game as a purchase to those that would playthrough it more than once, or those who couldn't beat it in a single rent, as it is definitely not a game you would want to leave unfinished. Even without a lot of replay value, just playing through for fun is a good idea.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/11/10, Updated 03/29/10
Game Release: Assassin's Creed II (Master Assassin's Edition) (US, 11/17/09)
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