in Review

Kill Pope

Assassin’s Creed 2

I remember the first Assassin’s Creed very well. It came out shortly after Bryce moved out and I reconfigured the room to be awesome for one person. I remember really enjoying the freedom of the gameplay, the grace of Altair as he scaled buildings and chased targets. I loved the story, the combat and especially the thrill of the hunt. However, the game got really repetitive. In the end, I did stay long enough to beat it, but Assassin’s Creed was then promptly sent away to its masters at GameFly, since I knew I would never play it again.

Since then, I have occasionally longed to revisit the Middle East through Altair’s eyes through Desmond’s eyes, even considering purchasing the title a few times, but I never relented in my original resolve. So it was with eager anticipation that I returned to the franchise about two years later with its sequel. While I can certainly understand the complaints people have with the original, Assassin’s Creed 2 is an undeniably great game.

Once again Desmond is forced into reliving an ancestor’s life. This time it’s Ezio, a young man living during the Italian Renaissance. His nice life takes a turn when some serious shit goes down, and it’s up to him to get vengeance from those that wronged him. Ezio is a better character with a better story. Altair was bad ass, sure, but Ezio is a lot more relatable and interesting. The story is overall a lot better too, with the sections outside of the Animus fewer and more compelling along with Ezio’s decade long quest for revenge being quite good.

The controls are really intuitive and allow you to do some really cool stuff a lot of the time. Scaling buildings is faster and easier, combat is more streamlined, generally everything works. There are times when the auto targeting will fail you and you’ll end up jumping in the wrong direction, but everything mostly works great. There’s a lot more to do. Aside from the story missions, which have a greater variety than just assassinating dudes, there are tons of side quests. You are platforming missions, assassination contracts, races, treasure to collect, people to beat up, glyphs to find, it’s a lot of fun. Assassin’s Creed 2 has all the variety people wished the original had and then some. After probably more than 20 hours of gameplay, I still can’t wait to get back in there.

One huge new feature to the game is economics. You have this villa, in the beginning it’s pretty run-down. But you can go to an architect and upgrade it, which creates an income for you. There are other ways to upgrade too, like findings statues, paintings, and these feathers that your mom wants. You use that money to buy stuff like medicine, new weapons and armor. It is surprisingly compelling, I thought for sure it would be a huge pain in the ass but quickly turned toward grinding out extra money just so I could get the next piece of armor or upgrade the brothel. You can also use money as part of your assassinating by hiring courtesans, mercenaries or thieves to distract people or even just throw money on the ground.

The recreation of Renaissance Italy is something to behold. You spend most of your time in Florence and Venice, and it’s really great. You’ve never played in places like these before, and apparently the historical accuracy is quite high. Unlike the first game, it is fun to run on the street level. There’s so much life here and I’m sure historians, especially art history majors, would really get a kick out of it.

In the first game, you could blend in the the occasional group of passing monks. In Assassin’s Creed 2, you can blend in with any group you want. That’s the difference. That’s why this game is so much of an improvement. Yes, there are some technical bugs that are a little annoying, but this is still one of the best games I’ve played this year.

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