Assassin’s Creed II – Review

Following up on the success of the original title, Ubisoft has released Assassin’s Creed II and, quite frankly, it is what all sequels should aspire to. The original Assassin’s Creed was very divisive with some people loving it and others complaining about the repetitiveness. While I was on the side that really enjoyed the original title, Assassin’s Creed II is better in every way. Ubisoft listened to all of the complaints that people had about Altair’s adventure and took them to heart. Speaking of Altair, if you haven’t played the original title I would go through that before playing Assassin’s Creed II. It’s not a necessity, however, you will understand and enjoy the story in Assassin’s Creed II more if you know what took place in Assassin’s Creed. The mission structure has been completely overhauled and you have even more to do this time around then you did in the original. You visit four main cities throughout Italy going to Florence, Venice, Tuscany and Forli. You also go to some smaller towns and in this title you own a villa that you will be responsible for bringing back to life, so to speak.

One of the new things in this title is that, unlike in the first game, you now have an economy to work with. When you first arrive at the town where your villa is located it is pretty much a ghost town. There aren’t many residents there and a bunch of the businesses are boarded up. Once you get to a certain part in the game you will be able to work with an architect to try and restore the town to its former glory. The town’s renovation is directly tied to your income in the game. There is a treasure chest inside your villa that will periodically fill with the income you have earned. As you renovate more of the town and the town’s value increases, your income will go up as well. You will then will be able to go to a blacksmith to repair your armor and upgrade your weapons, to an art merchant to buy paintings and treasure maps and more. You also have a doctor that you will need to visit from time to time to restore your health as well as pick up any medicines and/or poisons that you might need. In the original title your life would constantly regenerate, however, it is not always the case here. The way it works in Assassin’s Creed II is that if you lose half a bar of life then that bar will regenerate until it is full again, however, if that bar becomes completely empty then it will not regenerate and you will have to go see the doctor. It’s an interesting idea and makes you think a bit more before you jump into a big fight if your health is dwindling.

Assassin's Creed II

The controls for Assassin’s Creed II are the same as the original title. I was immediately able to pick it up and start doing things before the tutorial even told me that I could do them. The climbing is also easier in this game as well. The climbing wasn’t hard to do in the original title, however, this time around the animation is a lot smoother and it just looks better overall. Additionally, in this title, you can also swim! If you have a group of guards that are chasing you simply jump into a river and they won’t be able to follow you. You can also assassinate people from the water before they even know what hit them. The story for the game flows a lot smoother than it did in the first title and is one of the big things that Ubisoft has changed. Now instead of having to do a finite number of investigations before you can go assassinate someone you can do it however you want. You can advance the main story any time you want to or you can go and do any of the many side quests that are in this game. These quests range from delivering a letter for someone, racing through a city, beating someone up or assassinating someone and more. Outside of the main assassinations that you perform for the main story there are also assassination contracts that you can fulfill. These contracts are delivered by pigeon so you have to find a bird coop to launch these particular missions. They are really easy to find though as you can simply select them on your map and it will tell you the direction to go just like in the first Assassin’s Creed. The map in this title will help you out a lot as you are going through your adventure. It has almost everything listed on it which can make things a lot easier for you. You can go to an art merchant and buy treasure maps for the area that you are in and after doing so each treasure chest will show up on your map so that you can track them down, if you choose to do so.

One of the main complaints a lot of people had about the original title was how repetitive the missions were. That issue has been addressed this time around with a whole new set of missions. The missions can vary greatly from tailing someone so that they will lead you to their leader, infiltrating a church, stopping the assassination of a prominent Italian figure and more. You also have Assassin Tombs to go through where you will find various seals from your ancestors. Once you collect all of the seals then you take them back to your villa and you unlock a special reward. All of the Assassin’s Tombs are really well done and they add a puzzle element to the game giving you yet another gameplay mechanic within this title. You will have to find someway to get through the tomb so that you can find the seal at the end and a lot of times that will involve jumping and climbing over obstacles and taking out any guards that might cross your path. It’s a nice breath of fresh air in the game and another mission type that differentiates itself from the others.

The notoriety system is back with this title and along with everything else it has received an upgrade. Now when you engage in combat with the guards, if you choose to run away, there will be this circle on your mini map that you will have to get out of before the guards stop looking for you. It is the same mechanic as when you are trying to escape the police in Grand Theft Auto IV and it works beautifully here as well. Just because you escape the guards doesn’t mean your notoriety level goes down however. The higher your notoriety the more chance that guards will attack you when they see you. To decrease it you can either kill an official, bribe a herald or take down wanted posters that are posted throughout the city. You don’t have to take down every single poster though and this is where the map can help you out a lot. Simply focus on the ones closer to you and you will be back to being anonymous in no time. You also still have some of the same hiding places from the original title, however, you have new ones as well. It is now easier than ever to blend into the crowd. Now, instead of having to find a group of scholars, you can simply find a group of people and walk with them as if you were part of their group. Additionally, you can hire thieves to fight the guards and distract them while you make your getaway. There were certain areas that I wanted to get access to, however, I didn’t want to fight way my through. In this type of situation you can hire courtesans to distract the guards and allow me to slip by without being seen. You can hire up to four courtesans at one time and they will distract the guards automatically if you happen to be walking by some on patrol or you can lock on to a guard and instruct them to specifically distract him.

There is quite a bit more that can be talked about but I don’t want to spoil anything else. Assassin’s Creed II is a phenomenal title and a shining example of how to properly produce a sequel. It improves on every aspect of the original offering a lot more variety and a deeper story. You can even go into a database and read about some of the people you have encountered, read the various letters you have collected, look at videos so you can learn “the truth” and much more. It is an epic title that should keep you busy for a while, especially if you are a completionist that likes to do everything in a game. It has a nice open world feel to it while at the same time nudging you towards the story so you are never wondering what to do next. If you enjoyed the first title you should love this one. If you weren’t a big fan of the original Assassin’s Creed I urge you to give this one a try. Chances are that your complaints have been fixed and you will find a great title here. You can tell that Ubisoft put an incredible amount of work into this title and the development team should be proud of what they accomplished.

Score 9.5/10

Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network

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