Friday, March 18, 2011

Assassin's Creed II: A Brief Review

The second installment of the Assassin's Creed series was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, published by Ubisoft, and released November 17th 2009. By dropping the other two development companies that worked on the first game Ubisoft made a game that was leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor.

Assassin's Creed II begins with a whole new story, beautiful graphics, more intriguing characters, and a far superior plot. It is still a sequel in the truest sense of the word, but Altair is no longer present in the game, except in a series of flashbacks. You continue to play as Desmond Miles, however the sluggishness of the first game is absent from the second entry.

Ubisoft Montreal did a fantastic job of picking up the plot and running with it. They removed the sluggishness of the first one by making the jump between Animus sessions and the modern world less frequent and when in the modern world there are two new characters to learn about all the while learning about the fight between the Assassin's and the Templars.

Ezio was a far more interesting character with a more interesting life than Altair. This is probably helped by the fact that you play Ezio basically from birth, through some of his adventures as a lady-wooing teenager, through his family's murder and clear through his inducement into the Assassin order.

The turn that Ubisoft Montreal took with the pieces of Eden was fantastic. I love the blend of sci-fi and historical context. The puzzles left as clues by the previous test subject are challenging but the video unlocked it well worth it to find and solve all of them.

Assassin's Creed II also introduces two new characters, Rebbecca and Shaun, two of the remaining Assassin's you end up training with. Rebbecca is an engineer, who created and improved the Animus based on Abstergo's design, and Shaun is the data analyst for the entire Assassin Brotherhood. Both characters come across as genuine and believable. And both make you want to learn more about them through the optional dialogue, it had me hooked. Lucy is still there and is still an extremely likable character, possibly even more so now that she isn't an Abstergo employee and is more herself, as an Assassin.

This is compounded by a great cast of characters inside the Animus world also; ranging from Leonardo Da Vinci, to Machiavelli. These characters are all fantastically done and their personalities transfer really well into video game characters. Over the course of the game you see Ezio's and Desmond's relationships with these people grow and mature, more Ezio than Desmond, but that's to be expected when 90% of the game is played through the eyes of Ezio.

However, even with all the praise the game is still flawed. There's a few extremely awkward camera angles and the controls still aren't as fluid as they should be for a game with parkour as a central feature. Combat is still sickingly easy, possibly even easier than in the first. Although the submissions in this game are vastly improved and no longer a real necessity, the ones that are there aren't too varied but they removed the least fun one from the game entirely.

The game does exactly what a sequel should do, fix the problems of the previous game, improve on the general game, and expand the story. The game is enjoyable while playing, but it really is the story that'll keep you coming back for more. Overall the game is worth a purchase with the price tag being right around $20.

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