Review by AsKo25
Assassin's Creed II is a fantastic reminder of why we play video games.
Someone once told me that the highest praise you can give anything is to say that it made you feel like you were young again. This is back when everything was amazing and you wanted to experience things over and over again because it didn't stop being incredible. When you stop thinking about what's going on during your day, or during your life, and all your attention is focused on this one unfolding story. Video games, when played at a young age, can have a profound impact on young kids, as they are controlling the events that are unfolding; the story that plays out is a direct result of their actions, and this is what gives hope to us.
Of course, nowadays we have to take everything at face value, and understand that we're just moving a digital avatar around with a romanticized television remote, and we're just passing the time between work or school or other commitments. Achieving that sense of childlike whimsy is not something that is created easily, and when it is created, it is something truly special.
This is exactly how I feel about Assassin's Creed II.
Now, I enjoyed the first game quite a bit. It took a little breaking in, but the historic setting, unpredictable plot, and addictive gameplay made quite a distinct mark on 2007's game releases. However, the game has problems with repetition; not only in the way the missions are structured, but because the three main cities in the game were indistinctive. Adding to this, the ending was, for lack of a better word, terrible. Audiences were divided on whether they would be interested in the sequel, as many were worried it would make all the same mistakes as its predecessor, or perhaps introduce new bothers to plague its game world.
Luckily, Assassin's Creed II does neither of these things. Not only does it render all the problems with the first game obsolete, it overcompensates for them. While the first game had every mission start in the same place, play out the same way, and end in the same form, ACII does away with that and takes a few notes from Grand Theft Auto 4, letting you pick and choose which missions you want to do. No more arbitrary evidence gathering; all of the side missions are completely optional.
What I meant by overcompensating, is that the game is so jam-packed full of content that two people could play the game in completely different ways. For example, one of the things you can do in the game is renovate Monteggiori, a small town where your uncle's villa is situated. If you do this, the value of the property will increase and you'll get money collected in a chest. You don't have to do this, as there are several other ways of making money, but it's an option. There's also six secret temples that are all distinctive, and each yielding a relic that will unlock part of the door to the chamber containing the best armour in the game. Oh yeah, did I mention that you can buy weapons and armour now? It goes into your personal collection in the villa, which also adds to the property value.
See what I mean? And that's not even half of the stuff that's in this game.
Back on the point of distinctiveness, there are five areas in this game, and unlike the first one, you can actually tell them apart just by looking at the areas. Tuscany is mainly farmland, Romanga is swampy, Florence is a dense urban area, and Venice has canals and water throughout. It all looks beautiful; it's one of the reasons that Assassin's Creed II has this affect on me.
The way the story is told, and the way the game plays, it all brought me back to being a kid, playing The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time for the first time. Once this game clicked, all I could think about was what was gonna happen next, and I had to keep playing, finishing the temples and fighting the ultimate evil. It wasn't like the games were similar in any way (though, riding horseback through Tuscany evoked memories of Hyrule Field), it was simply that connection I had with Ezio that I once made with Link back when I was young. I felt like I was experiencing something truly epic.
The end of the game, much like the first, brought many questions to the table, and it makes me wonder how exactly they're going to conclude this truly original story that they've set up. I don't think anybody will be able to predict what comes next.
At the end of it all, I believe Assassin's Creed II is one of the best games ever made, not only for its vast improvements upon its predecessor, but with its incredibly large scope of things to discover, and the connection you feel with the main character. You know as much about what's going on as Desmond does, always. In this way, it engrosses you in its mysteries, and puts you in that position of whimsy that was once felt when young; when nothing was known, and everything was waiting to be discovered.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Assassin's Creed II (US, 11/17/09)
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