Warning. This article will contain plot spoilers for Assassin’s Creed II
Assassin’s Creed was a successful game. So yeah, obviously it warranted a sequel. This probably came to a relief to fans and the developers alike, as the first game was simply there to show us the door but only let us peek through the keyhole, they needed to continue to series in order to get their carefully laid plans out and about.
Assassin’s Creed 2 worked to continue the main story from Desmond Miles’ point of view while also giving us a new primary character to play as in a brand new period of history, a character that has gone on to become something of the face of the series.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze is the hero of the second series of Assassin’s Creed games, set in the late 15th century during the Italian Renaissance. Ezio is a young, Italian man that some may consider a bit of a stereotype. He is hot headed, cocky and a womaniser, but in spite of all these characteristics, he is a very likable character. As devoid of personality Altaïr was, Ezio is simply brimming with it. Also, while much of Altaïr’s life remained a mystery to gamers, Ezio’s entire life is chronicled throughout the games he appears in from his birth to his old age.
Ezio’s story is also very different from Altaïr’s in that he wasn’t born into the brotherhood of Assassins, but was rather forced into it by events he had no control over. Ezio starts the game as a young man of privilege, spending his time picking fights and making midnight calls to many a young ladies’ bedroom. His life is thrown into the secret war between the Assassins and the Templars though when his father and brothers are taken by the government and executed for being ‘traitors’.
Unable to save them, Ezio is forced to flee with his mother and sister. Full of rage and a thirst for revenge Ezio is desperate for take vengeance against the Templars and readily joins his uncle and trains to become an assassin. He cuts quite the different presence than the quietly arrogant Altaïr who seems to lack a personality throughout his entire tenure as a player character pre-ACII.
This is all jumping the gun though, Desmond is our real hero here, and thankfully, in Assassin’s Creed II he finally gets something more to do than be snarky and lie on a table. But not much more. The game kicks off almost immidietly after the end of the first game with Desmond and the Assassin mole, Lucy Stillman, staging a daring escape from the Abstergo facility.
Now that Desmond has escaped from the Templars, he is free to go about his business and never have to go into the animus again right? Wrong, Desmond finds himself drafted to the cause and must re-enter the Animus to brush up his skills. Because Desmond is apparently out of shape and not very good in a fight, so there is nothing like a few weeks of lying in chair to fix that situation.
Actually, there is a side effect that people suffer from prolonged use of the Animus called the ‘bleeding effect’, this side effect causes the user to start to retain skills and abilities from the person they are inhabiting, thus living through Ezio’s entire life, Desmond learns how to use his climbing and fighting abilities as Ezio does. However, Desmond also starts to suffer episodes of travelling back into his ancestors memories while not connected to the Animus.
Speaking of climbing and fighting, everything that was go good about the first game makes a welcome return as the open world elements of the game are built on and give players a whole new set of vibrant cities to play in at the same time. On top of this, all the repetativeness of the old game is gone, the game taking on a more dynamic storytelling style rather than having you retrace your steps each and every time you want to start a mission.
Everything in this game in regards to the game’s story is designed to avoid repetition at all whenever possible, and when there are repetitive tasks, they’re completely optional and completed at the leisure of the player throughout the entire game.
Most of the controls of movement and combat are built on the framework layed down by the first game and streamlined, the counter is still overpowered, but some enemies are much harder to counter while others can’t be at all. The biggest innovation for number 2 comes in the ability for Ezio to use his hidden blades from almost any vantage point. Whether hanging above or blow his target, or waiting in a hiding spot there are number of ways players can dispach their foes, some more subtle than others.
The second hidden blade isn’t the only addition to Ezio’s arsenal though, his hidden blade also contains a small poison delivering needle and a gun. In fact, the player has access to quite a number more weapons for Ezio to use. Unlike Altaïr, who would use the same few blades gifted to him by his master throughout the entire game, Ezio has to procure his own weapons. This is done by visiting the various blacksmiths around Italy, Ezio must steadily buy weapons and armour that becomes more available as the game goes on.
The armour upgrades change Ezio’s appearance throughout the entire game and extend his ‘life’ bar. While I thought it was clever in the previous game to have a synchronisation bar instead of traditional life bar, these armour upgrades stretch that little style choice to it’s very limit of believability. Better armour =/= Desmond and Ezio’s synch. I don’t know.
The player’s access to weapons isn’t just restricted to swords and knifes though this time as players can chose to use spears and hammers instead of the traditional load out. They can even steal weapons from attacking enemies and have their own weapons knocked from their hand by some of the more vicious enemies, forcing them to either have to scramble for a replacement or just give up on the weapon completely until they can find their way back to their base in Monteriggioni.
Speaking of the walled comune, it plays a major role in one of the new gameplay additions that persists throughout the renaissance era is Ezio’s ability to play landlord to all of Italy. Money is a major element of Assassin’s Creed II, being needed to restock potions and ammo as well as for buying weapon upgrades. After Saving up enough money, Ezio can pay an architect to build and upgrade stores within the township, allowing for easier access to supplies.
However, in the long run, the only goal un upgrading the area is to make more income from it, which is then reinvested straight back into the place. While it is a nice addition, there isn’t really any tangible end goal in doing it. It’s just a means to have way more money than you need by the games end so you can buy all the upgrades up.
From a gameplay and feature perspective though, Assassin’s Creed II is a magnitude greater than it’s predecessor, giving players so much more to do aside from the story missions. From a purely technical standpoint, Assassin’s Creed II is phenomenal game. It looks amazing, the duel old world/technological style returns and there really aren’t any real criticisms that can be levied against it with any vigour.
The only thing to tie off is the game’s revelation of the series overlying story arc. While the first Assassin’s Creed did little more than establish a age old war between two factions and a cryptic warning about the end of the world, Assassin’s Creed II finally lets players see what the hell is going on.
Throughout the game, players will find a number of strangle marksing on the side of buildings, not something that would have been on them at the time. These lights are pieces of a message left behind by Desmonds’s mysterious Animus using predecessor, ‘Subject 16’. Once all of these piece have been found the player is shown a clip called ‘the truth’. This clip shows a man and a woman fleeing something through a futuristic, utopian looking city. They are holding the ‘Apple of Eden’ and seem to eventually be caught.
At the finale of the game, an older Ezio has killed his way through many enemies with the goal of vengeance still in mind. In the years it has taken him, however, his desire for revenge as diminished and he ultimately allows the man responsible to live, knowing his death won’t bring them back. It is at this point that things take a sharp turn into what the hell town, Ezio entires a vault with two of the supernatural pieces of eden and encounters a holographic form of a woman calling herself Minerva.
Minerva confirms the vision left by Subject 16 in that her ‘race’ and humans once lived side by side in an ancient, but advanced, society. However, the two peoples warred against one another which almost resulted in their mutual destruction. The humans were left to their own devices, with only a few relics left behind to piece together what they once were. Minerva then speaks directly to Desmond, through Ezio, giving him a final message that he is the last hope.
This leaves Ezio, to say the least, feeling pretty left out to events, as this time he was the conduit to events rather than Desmond. However, his story is far from over. It is at this point that Desmond is once again yanked from the Animus upon being discovered by the Abstergo muscle that have found out where they are hiding. Desmond then fights off the goons and shows he has retained every one of Ezio’s abilities and easily escapes.
Assassin’s Creed II changed so much from the first game that it was almost unrecognisable. There were so many improvements and changes in nearly every aspect of the game. If the first game was testing the water, this one very much is bombing in at the deep end. The change to a non linear storytelling mode, as well as the addition of a variety of different features make it seem like every little thing that was criticised in the first game has been looked at and improved in some way.
Not only did this sequel give us a lovable badboy as our new hero, it revealed to us the true depth of the universe in which Assassin’s Creed takes place. The game also showed us how very real the threat of the end was and how little time Desmond and the Assassins had to do something about it.
Assassin’s Creed II was the perfect sequel, in my opinion it is damn near a perfect game, being probably the best title released in 2010 by a length. There was something in this game to scratch nearly every time of gaming itch people could find themselves with. It also left us with and ending that had people desperate to see Assassin’s Creed III and if the game could make the jump in quality that was seen between the first and second.
Ubisoft had other plans though it seems as we were given a couple more games starring Ezio Auditore before we got to find out where the next era of games were going to be set, I’ll be back next week to talk about all of the other games set in the renaissance era.
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