Keeping up the horrific trend of reviewing games I can't see in our archives, I've decided to review a game I finally played and completed today.
Assassins Creed 2 is the follow up to the original Assassin's Creed
(clues in the title) and follows the adventures of Desmond Miles, the descendant of some very important assassins from certain periods of time. Gone is our emotional connection to the wooden Altair, and in this round we're introduced to Ezio, an Italian spoilt brat who lives a Disney-esque lifestyle involving women, fighting and a lot of parkour.
We're introduced to Ezio in the form of his birth, and mastering which button's which we're forced to press a series of buttons to ensure his baby kicks and punches work. The whole thing lasts a minute so there's no boring sequences just yet. You quantum leap back into Desmond the future man and so begins the second part of this trilogy.
(We already know there's a trilogy because it was declared when the first game came out. And why not? Trilogy's are brilliant, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Assassins Creed, Fable, Too Human
, well okay Too Human was intended to be a trilogy but I guess the developers were reaching for the higher stars, if you know what I mean)
First things first, when talking about a sequel you're not comparing it as a game per-say, but instead as how it factors as an improvement from its predecessor. So, what's changed? For starters the map's aren't just clones of one another. Acre stood out as being different, but I honestly couldn't tell the difference between Damascus and Jerusalem in the first one. Now, we've got Florence, Venice, Forli and a Fort-Mansion place. They're nice to look at when on top of the buildings synchronising, but once you get back on the ground cracks start to develop.
Beggars are back, and they've evolved into prancing, singing musicians. The twitchy goons on the street that used to push and punch you have gone, replaced by twitchy, ignorant guards. In the first game guards chased you if you so much as looked at the funny, well in the sequel they become your worst enemy if you so much as nudge a civilian or cross their path in an alleyway. You know that old saying that it takes a bigger man to walk away from a fight, well not in Ass Creed 2's case. Guard's push you, shout abuse at you, and if you run away they chase and beat you anyway. You can't win.
There's shops now, only four different kinds but it's a start. You go to Blacksmiths if you want to repair or buy armour and weapons, Doctors if you want medicine/healing potion, Art shops for...Art for your Mansion (I'll get to that in a minute) and a Tailors for pouches to store more goodies and to dye your robes. Dying your robes feels pointless and redundant, you just make yourself look a different colour, and since you're padding yourself up with armour it doesn't really make any difference what colour your robes are.
How do you pay for these things from the shops then? Well, pretty much anything can be turned into a paying job. Assassinations pay the most, but what really brings in the cash is your mansion. Buy artwork and renovate your neighbourhood and people will come to visit from a far. You have to go empty your treasure chest full of cash every time it gets full, but it's hardly taxing from all the free time you have messing about the maps.
There are still things to collect in the game, but rather than being three hundred flags, it's all been reduced to stuff you get given anyway, stuff you have to scan, and stuff all located in one area. Most of the collectibles are located on your map anyway, and 'finding' them just feels like a redundant task. You have to scan these strange red holograms located around the game, called 'glyphs', and there's only twenty, and finding them is like playing a 3D Where's Wally
, all it takes is a little look here, there, everywhere.
The Viewpoint thing's are back, but thankfully they're all in the cities rather than the countryside like the first game, and there's less to climb now so you don't have to spend countless hours climbing every single one of them.
You also get a 'notoriety' system where the more hassle you start, the more chance you are of being pointed out by passing guards. So throughout the game your GPS is covered in icons for Wanted Posters, Town Callers to bribe and Police Officer's the kill. Annoying but an acceptable pass considering once your notoriety goes down to 0% they vanish off the GPS.
Combat's something new; you have a wider selection of weapons from swords to axes to maces, and if you're not happy with your weapons you can always pinch the enemies spears and daggers, and when you're done you can hand it back to them, via their stomachs. Ezio gets two 'Hidden Blades' rather than one, and throws them into combat, turning him into a Wolverine
-like fighting figure. The Hidden Blades appear to be the only effecting weapon when facing a gang of enemies, purely because they're quick and every counter is guaranteed a kill. There are a few more accessories and gadgets to help you when fighting like smoke bombs and poison-tipped blades, but they seem a bit redundant when your dual-hidden blades are the boss of all weapons in your arsenal. At one point you unlock a gun, but it's not as glamorous as it seems. You spend so much time holding and preparing to fire the gun at enemies it would have been quicker to just leave them and hope the AI kills them.
You can't say much about the combat in the sequel, considering it's very much the same as the first aside from a few 'counter-move' upgrades. There aren't any Templars scattered across the maps to kill any more which is a shame, instead your faces with two different types of generic soldiers, and one big 'brute' soldier, but they're as easy to get rid of as a spider.
The story's very obscure, and at one point I was wondering I was playing Assassin's Creed 2 and not just a ye-olde Grand Theft Auto. For the first hour I spent playing the game I was left to escort missions, delivering packages and beating up cheating boyfriends, and when I wasn't doing that I was meeting so many characters that didn't mean anything, it really felt like a backwards Grand Theft Auto. The story is quite simple; Ezio's dad and brothers are convicted of treason (even though they didn't betray anyone) and are executed. Ezio vows revenge on the men responsible for killing his dad and brothers and soon uncovers a conspiracy hidden within the realms of Italy; it concerns the Templar's, a lot of politicians, some priests and a fat man called Maestro, whose name would be a lot more dignified had it not been the same name as a credit card.
The conspiracy has connections to killing numerous 'good' politicians, and through strange interludes where you learn about your assassination targets, they're all portrayed as ludicrous sociopathic thugs. In the first game, your nine targets had a cause, something to believe in, and it was quite admirable and peaceful. These guys are just greedy, selfish, bolshie thugs who enjoy watching people get murdered, and it's strangely more realistic. I liked it (the realistic villains, not their back stories). Like the first game, the story is partly centred around Pieces of Eden and mystical nonsense relating back to Adam and Eve. I can't go into much detail but I can confirm it's getting much more complicated.
Meanwhile in the present Desmond and his girlfriend have escaped the shady business and teamed up with two cringe-awful people; one quirky and too nice and looks like she should be a DJ for a bad nightclub, while the other's really snobbish, hateful and just generally rude. He carries that personality of a character who might as well have I am a Traitor tattooed on his forehead. Anyway, Desmond and his new best friends have their own time-travelling machine and use Desmond to play through Italy as Ezio. It also turns out through Ezio's memories, Desmond can learn Assassin skills like he's from The Matrix, I guess Altair's looking more and more stupid right now.
All in all Assassins Creed 2 is definitely an improvement from the first one, there's none of that repetitive enemy as a climax thing like the first one, and to be honest there is more to do when you're not doing the major quests, but my heart still longs for Altair, and playing as the cocky, smooth and silly-faced Ezio annoyed me a little bit. I warmed to Altair, and now they steal him from us and replace him with a street-scoundrel who's too good with the ladies. Anyway, all in all if I was giving it a score it would be an 8.