Game Review: Assassin’s Creed II

This continues my ongoing review of the Assassin’s Creed science fiction/alternate history game series.

Remember all my complaints about Assassin’s Creed?

There’s a reason Assassin’s Creed II, set in Italy during the Renaissance, is considered by many to be the best of the series. Released in 2009, it continues the frame story of Desmond Miles from right where Assassin’s Creed left off (in a very ugly fashion, I might add, that would have angered me had I not had Assassin’s Creed II queued up and ready to go). The character of Altaïr is gone, though, to be replaced by the much more dynamic Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

Ezio’s a bit of a womanizing happy-go-lucky guy until his father and brothers have their necks stretched following a treason conviction based on trumped-up evidence. Donning the robes of an Assassin, Ezio spends Assassin’s Creed II pursuing his revenge.

Ezio also takes up the leadership role for the Auditore family after his father’s demise, and a minigame involves restoring the family’s estate. While that sort of world-building makes its first appearance here, it certainly won’t be the last time in the series.

Assassin’s Creed II takes the series from alternate history to very alternate history. I don’t recall another game that involves a fight with the pope over an artifact from a pre-human civilization that can be used to control the minds of other people. Seriously. And, as with Assassin’s Creed, the game ends on a nasty cliffhanger that’s downright irritating. (Seriously, closure, people. Closure.) However, part of that cliffhanger is information tying the frame story far more closely to the main story, which was desperately needed given the player time spent on the frame.

The game plays better than Assassin’s Creed. Combat is a bit more dynamic and adds some new weapons to the mix. Ezio is actually an interesting character, and his conflicts with his family and his desire for revenge seem far more organic than Altaïr’s flat performance. Large jumps in time are a bit jarring, but this is a far superior game to Assassin’s Creed.

The Assassin’s toolset expands a bit. First, and most importantly, Ezio can actually swim. Add to that dual hidden blades (instead of the single in the first game), poison, and a gun, and there’s a lot more ways to end a target’s life than in the original game. There’s also the addition of a notoriety system; actions now have longer-term consequences.

There’s also more world interactions than before. Ezio takes to the air in Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying machine, drives a wagon with a team of horses, and rows a gondola, along with the familiar horseback sequences in the “world” between the game’s major cities.

AC2 is improved in virtually every way over the original Assassin’s Creed. It’s definitely a worthy successor.

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