Assassin’s Creed II is a Perfect Sequel

Assassin’s Creed was a huge hit for some, a massive fail for others. While I found great pleasure in roaming the countryside on horseback, picking fights with anyone who so much as looked in my direction. Others found it mundane and the sheer lack of variation in mission objectives tedious. Combat was also an acquired taste, as it’s slower and more methodical than simply running and gunning. There are no frag grenades to toss here. You’re taking dudes down one-by-one in hand-to-hand combat. Where Altair (the protagonist in the original game) fell flat, Ezio makes a bounding leap. In short, Assassin’s Creed II is a bigger and better game on every front.

Assassin's Creed II

The story picks up where the first game left off. A short cut-scene rolls and before you know it, you’re right back in the Animus. This time, assuming the role of a new hero – Ezio Auditore. In an effort to evolve Ezio and really put you in his shoes, you play a lengthy opening sequence that starts with Ezio’s birth. After a good hour and a half, something awful happens and Ezio is suddenly dawning his father’s assassin’s gear. He’s fuelled by rage and a thirst for vengeance, and starts to learn the ropes as an assassin from the guidance of his peers. Before too long, you acquire all the tools and skills needed to start kicking some ass. And kick some ass Ezio does!

Ahhh, That’s Better!

Assassin’s Creed II immediately feels different in regard to the way mission structure is handled. In the original game, the main goal was to assassinate a number of targets. Before you could take someone out, you had to perform a handful of small missions, which included pick-pocketing, eavesdropping, and that sort of thing. These tasks were repeated for each target, hence the common complaint of it being too repetitious. Ezio sort of makes things up as he goes. There is a main target in his sights, but he has to work his way up to him, and over the years his does just that. Ezio is not an assassin from the get-go. He’s a man on a mission to avenge his family’s honour. And along the way, gets pulled in different directions in order to help people for the greater good. Variations of the main mission types from the first game can still be found in Assassin’s Creed II. But they serve as side missions which will net you some extra coin and help to better learn the landscapes.

Get Comfortable, You’ll Be Here a While

After a couple good sessions with Assassin’s Creed II, my wife asked how I was liking it. As I was explaining all of the new elements that have been thrown into the mix, she stated, “It sounds a lot like Fable II.” That actually hadn’t crossed my mind, but she was right. Assassin’s Creed II brings many of the main gameplay mechanics that comprise Fable II. With currency being a factor now, the doors really opened as to what else Ezio could do with his time. Things like purchasing weapons, armor, medicine, poison, upgrades for your Uncle’s villa, paintings for your residence, and so on. There really is a lot to Assassin’s Creed II, but it never seems overwhelming. I finished my first play-through at 90% completion, and didn’t spend a whole lot of time micro-managing or other doing side quests that would take me off course. It’s all very manageable, and it’s all very fun.

Assassin's Creed II

One of my favourite new additions to the game, is the assassins’ tombs. Along the way, you find a great tomb that is missing 6 seals which allow you to unlock the ultimate prize. The seals belonged to assassins, and are now buried with them in tombs scattered through-out the various cities. Each tomb contains a different type of lengthy challenge. Some taking upwards of 45 minutes to complete. My favourites were platforming puzzles that were crazy challenging and extremely rewarding.

Tedious Traveling Be Gone!

Getting around is much easier and quicker in Assassin’s Creed II. There are many quick travel points in each city, which will get you to another city in an instant, for a small price. One of the big differences is Ezio’s presence in the cities, and how he handles himself. When you commit illegal acts, you become more notorious and guards will pay more attention to you. You can diminish your notoriety by ripping down wanted posters, silencing town criers, and assassinating meddling politicians. Ezio can also make himself scarce much easier than Altair could. There are far more civilians roaming the streets this time around, and Ezio can duck into a group and become one of them at any given time. You simply have to walk with them, and the guards won’t notice you.

Friends in Low Places

Assassin's Creed II

Ezio is not alone. He has a number of people he can call on when in need of some assistance. Courtesans (AKA, whores) and thieves are great at distracting guards, while mercenaries will go to battle for you. There’s also the option to throw change, which causes quite a commotion and attracts the attention of civilians and guards alike. I quite enjoyed having the option to avoid confrontation if I didn’t feel like high-tailing it out of a situation. Simply point some whores in the direction of the guards and sneak by. But then again, the double hidden blades are awfully fun!

Assassin's Creed II

Massive

This game is huge, and it will likely take 15-20 hours to get through the story, depending on how many of the side quests you do. Once you’re done, there’s always the side quests to go back to, and a few different types of collectibles to go after. Treasure maps can be purchased to help pin-point collectible locations, and of course viewpoints are your best way of finding objectives. Having completed the game, I still have dozens upon dozen of items in every city that I could easily sink another 10-15 hours into.

Assassin’s Creed II makes its predecessor look like a tech demo. It’s bigger and better in every way, and is in the running for one of my favourite games of the year, without a doubt.

Rating: 5/5

Assassin's Creed II

20 Responses to “Assassin’s Creed II is a Perfect Sequel”

  1. I'm playing through ACII at the moment (well, not right now, I'm working — and reading your blog :p), and whilst I'm enjoying it and agree it's a definite improvement over the original, I don't seem to have fallen in love with it like everyone else. I'm not sure why. It's picked up since the slow start, and I'm having tremendous fun leaping through the air and knifing unsuspecting victims, but it hasn't been as addictive for me as the original. Odd, as it is an improvement of the original in every way. Maybe I should have listened to myself and played Lego Indie before starting this, maybe I'm just in the mood for something else.

    • Odd, indeed! I was damn near furious with the long winded intro scene, but totally hooked after that.

      It could very well be a timing thing. I've had that happen before, where you really feel like playing a certain type of game, and nothing else really satisfies. That happens almost every time I think of Mass Effect, so I try not to. 😛

  2. Great review Matt, you've obviously caught the reading reviews at work crew!

    This is on my Christmas list and I am really looking forward to it. It's good to hear that there are lots of improvements, this should tide me over nicely until Mass Effect 2.

    • Yup, first thing in the morning is prime publishing time! I actually wrote this the night before, but had it scheduled for the morning.

      Mass Effect 2! Gah, I can't wait!

  3. I've yet to finish AS2 but Ubisoft have clearly listened to the critiques of AS1. I loved the first but like you the second gives so much more and those tombs are just brilliant, Prince of Persia Sands of Time esq genius. Definitely the main highlight for me so far.

    If only I could hurry up and finish it… I've yet to start modern warfare 2!

    • It's definitely obvious that Ubisoft paid attention to all of the criticisms the first game received, and really made good on it. Was reminded of Prince of Persia several times, with more of an emphasis on exploration and platforming this time around.

  4. I love this game, it has taken me away from COD MW2 and has hooked me in.

    I did try the first game but found it slightly clunky and got bored quickly. I thought I would give number 2 a go and I am so glad I did it is absolutely fantastic and I am loving the assasin action.

    I too have enjoyed getting the tombs they remind me of parts of Batman Arkham Asylum.

    Anyway great review Matt look forward to your take on MW2 and forza !

  5. Though I don't have much time on it, I'm definitely liking the vibe of AC2 over the original. My wife likes to watch me play this game. She points out things I may miss such as the feathers.

    • The feathers. I've only got like 20 at the moment, and 2 of the 3 achievements I have left are to do with them. I have a feeling I'll be sitting down with a map for a few hours over the holidays to track them down. At least there are only 100 of them!

    • Hopefully you can rent for longer than a few days. Or you're able to sink many hours into it in a sitting. There's a lot to do, and you really can't rush through it.

  6. I'd been planning to rent this one (I finished the first one on a rental and really enjoyed it but didn't feel the need to play it any more after that first time through), but you're starting to change my mind. Maybe I'll put it back on my Christmas wishlist….

    • If anything, it will take you a lot longer to get through it than AC1. Replay value isn't huge, but since the achievements are all within reach, you'll probably want to spend the extra time to go after them.

  7. ACII is the first game I picked up in a really long time, so I had pretty high expectations. Mass Effect 2 and this were bascially the only games I've been looking forward to. For the first couple of hours I was a little worried it was going to be too similar to the original, but the further I got the more impressed I was. I loved having the villa especially. The length was great, too. I'll be collecting everything in this one for sure, the fact that it actually seems do-able without getting tedious, not like ACI, is a great incentive.

  8. Great review, I think it's also one of those games were you can play it for a while and then drop for a bit playing a different game, later going back to it. At least thats what I'm doing playing Gears of war 2.

  9. Great review, the game is indeed a good sequel. I must say that I still find the game repetitive and boring not because of the gameplay but the way you control the assassin. The game lacks interactivity you just hold a button to do various things in the game, it feels like going on a rail and when the player makes a mistake it often feels like it is the games fault.

    This game would probably be a 10/10 for me if you actually had to press the jump button when you want to jump. It's a bit like Mario Bros 2d but instead of running and jumping, you press the button to run the whole time and the game automatically fixes the jumping for you. And what kind of Assassin doesn't crouch down when he tries to move around stealthy? You walk around rooftops in the middle of the night, looking exactly like you do when you're wandering about on the streets. It's pretty ridiculous.

    In my opinion they should have a low-profile mode (LT), normal profile (no button pressed) and a high-profile mode (holding RT) or something like that so that you actually can pull of the stealthy moves when needed. I think it's a major problem with the game, I don't feel "stealthy", and wearing a white robe doesn't help, mainly since all the NPCs in the game wears darker colors. It might look good and all, but even a guy with serious eye-problems would see a white character running around the rooftops in the moonlight. But yeah you can change your robe-color, but it's just aesthetics and doesn't provide with something practical, which is just useless actually.

    I just wish the would implant some Splinter Cell, Tenchu, Metal Gear Solid feeling in there, I can't feel it. To me it's just an action game, with a stealthy package, sometimes it feels more like Mass Murderer Creed than Assassins Creed. They really should amp up the difficulty as well, I mean the boss battles were a joke, especially the last one. Embarrassing stuff really.

    In the end I feel like it's a good game, not a great game.