Assassin’s Creed II review

alex9234’s Sunday Review

“I did not choose this path. It was chosen for me. At first, I thought vengeance would be easy. For thirty years I’ve lived in the shadows, visited death upon those who deserved it, and vanished like the wind. I don’t know who started this conspiracy, but I know who will end it. My name is Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Like my father before me, I am an Assassin.”

Welcome to another episode of Sunday Review, and today we’re doing something completely different. Just recently I got into a certain game franchise that used to be great, but went down the toilet once the 3rd entry came out. This is a franchise that VGEditorials regular ShadyKnights is a big fan of as well. And out of all the games in the franchise, I decided to pick this one. This is the entry that put the Assassin’s Creed series on the map, and is the entry that is considered to be the best game in the series by some. The game I’m talking about is Assassin’s Creed II, which came out on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2009.

The Plot

Assassin’s Creed II continues the story about the power struggle between two secret societies – the Assassins and the Knights Templar, as well as their indirect relation to an ancient human-like species that existed before humanity. The Assassins fight for peace with free will, while the Templars fight for peace through control.

Assassin’s Creed II takes place a few hours after the events of the first game in 2012, and once again follows the story of Desmond Miles, a test subject for Abstergo Industries, the world’s largest pharmaceutical conglomerate which is a front for the Knights Templar. While he is about to perform another session in the Animus (a device that is capable of translating the genetic memories of his ancestors into a simulated reality), he is rescued by undercover Assassin posing as an Absergo scientist, Lucy Stillman, and is taken to the Assassins safe house. There, Desmond meets Lucy’s team, which consists of historian and analyst Shawn Hastings and technician Rebecca Crane. The team has created their own version of the Animus, which they use to train Desmond as an Assassin through the so-called “Bleeding Effect”. While in the Animus, Desmond is assigned to relive the memories of his ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian Assassin who lived during the days of Renaissance Italy.

Ezio, who is 17 at the beginning, lived a life of luxury along the members of the Florentine noble class, unaware of his Assassin heritage as a member of the House of Auditore. However, his life of luxury comes to a tragic end when he discovers that his family had been set up by a close friend of his father’s in a political coup d’etat. Ezio’s father’s last wishes lead Ezio to a secret room in the family home that has a chest containing the weapons and clothes of an Assassin. However, Ezio is unable to save his father, as he and Ezio’s two brothers are falsely convicted of treason and executed. Ezio, along with his mother and sister, are forced to evacuate Florence and head to the family’s villa in Monteriggioni, where Ezio’s uncle Mario Auditore resides. Mario tells Ezio that both he and his father were part of an ancient secret society known as the Assassins, and then Mario trains Ezio in the ways of the Assassin, and Ezio gains special stealth and combat techniques. With Ezio’s new abilities, he goes on a quest to take revenge on the people who were responsible for his father’s death, which include politicians, bankers, merchants, and clergymen.

On his quest to avenge his father’s death, he is taken to many famous cities across Italy, including Florence, San Gimignano, Venice, and eventually Rome, and he also makes plenty of allies along the way, like famous philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli and even the legendary inventor Leonardo da Vinci, who provides Ezio with new equipment based on information stored on the Codex pages left behind by the famous assassin Altair Ibn La’Ahad, which Ezio collects throughout his journey. In Venice, Ezio discovers the identity of the Templar grandmaster who is called the “Spaniard” – Rodrigo Borgia, also famously known as Pope Alexander VI. Borgia has been planning to take control over Italy for the Templar Order by unifying the most influential families in the country behind his leadership. While disguised as a soldier, he manages to confront Borgia while helping him transport the Apple of Eden, which is one of the Pieces of Eden, to Rome. Armed with the papal staff – another Piece of Eden – Borgia reveals to Ezio his intention to unlock “The Vault”, which is a chamber that is said to contain a power greater than anything else the world has ever known. Borgia manages to escape from Ezio, but Ezio gets his hands on the Apple, and returns to the villa, where Mario has Ezio formally inducted as a new member of the Assassins, and then Ezio goes to Rome to take down Borgia. Will Ezio be successful in avenging his father’s death?

The Gameplay

ACII’s gameplay is similar to that of it’s predecessor’s, but with notable improvements. There have been notable improvements to the combat system, as you can now disarm enemies. More hiding methods have been added as well – You now have the ability to swim, which means you can also dive underwater to break an enemy’s line of sight. The blending mechanic from the first game has also been improved, as Ezio can now hide among any group of individuals roaming the streets, instead of certain individual groups. New assassination methods have been introduced as well, as Ezio can ambush enemies while hiding in haystacks or bushes, or pulling enemies off of building to fall to their deaths. In order to avoid guards or escape from enemies, Ezio can use smoke bombs, as well as hire thieves, mercenaries, etc. to help him cover his tracks and avoid contact with guards. Eagle Vision has also been improved upon to allow for 3rd-person view, and you can use it while moving so you can easily track down your targets during missions.

Like in the first game, your health bar is measured by synchronization, and even though small wounds can heal over time, heavy wounds must be treated by a doctor, or with medicine that you can buy from them. Another thing brought back from the first game is the ability to climb buildings, as well as perform Leaps of Faith into haystacks and other carts of soft materials. The ability to leap while climbing has been added as well, and you have the ability to reach higher positions that were previously unavailable to you. To update the map of any town, you climb out certain buildings like towers which have wooden ledges called “Viewpoints”, where Ezio can gaze upon the city, and your map will be updated, revealing certain pathways that you didn’t know existed. A new feature added is the notoriety meter, which appears in the upper left part of the screen next to the health bar. Depending on Ezio’s behavior or how you handle certain missions, Ezio will be recognized by more citizens of any city, most notably guards. While the meter is empty, you won’t have to worry about guards chasing after you. If the meter is filled even slightly, you risk being pursued by guards. You can lower your wanted level by tearing down wanted posters that are posted in various areas of a town, or by bribing city heralds.

New to this game are the additions of Assassin Tombs, which are located in various landmarks in the towns Ezio visits throughout the game. When you successfully search the building for an Assassin tomb, you are rewarded with one of the six seals, and when you collect all six seals, you get to unlock a certain room located in the basement of Mario’s villa where you can get Altair’s armor, which is the best armor in the game. Pictured above is gameplay footage from the Venice Assassin tomb mission, which takes place in St. Mark’s Basilica.

Also new to ACII are the addition of shops, where you can buy equipment for Ezio. There are shops that sell weapons and armor, there are also tailors, where you can purchase various outfits for Ezio, and you can also purchase medicine, as well as poison, from the street-side doctors that are located all over the towns you visit throughout the game. You get money from defeating enemies, completing missions, upgrading Monteriggioni, as well as chests that are hidden all over the towns that you visit in the game.

You can also get new weapons and upgrades by giving the codex pages you obtain throughout the game to Leonardo da Vinci at his workshop.

Mario’s villa in Monteriggioni acts as Ezio’s safehouse throughout the game, and another way to make yourself a lot of money in this game is by upgrading and enhancing various buildings across the city, which creates income for Ezio at 20 minute intervals. When you upgrade shops, you get discounts on things you purchase, and your income is also affected by the purchase of armor sets, weapon sets, paintings, etc.

The Characters

Desmond Miles – Age: 25 – Desmond is the main character of Assassin’s Creed II. He is a member of the Assassin Order, and is the descendant of numerous families that swore allegiance to the Assassins, such as Aquilus, Altair Ibn La’Ahad, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Edward Kenway, and Connor Kenway. He grew up in a secret Assassin complex in South Dakota located near the Black Hills, with his father William Miles. At the age of 16, Desmond escaped the complex and went into hiding in New York City, where he eventually got a job as a bartender at the Bad Weather nightclub in Brooklyn. In 2012, he was captured by Abstergo to relive the memories of Altair in the Animus, but with the help of Lucy Stillman, he was able to escape and works with the remaining Assassins to take down Abstergo.

Lucy Stillman – Age: 24 – Lucy is a member of the Assassin Order, and she worked as a genetic memory researcher for Abstergo Industries while working as an undercover Templar. During her time at Abstergo, she leaked information on the company’s recent activities to the Assassins. She helped Desmond escape Abstergo when they were about to first dive into the memories of Ezio, and at the hideout, she introduced him to Shawn and Rebecca, as they helped Ezio dive into the memories of Ezio to locate the missing Pieces of Eden.

Ezio Auditore da Firenze – Age: 17/27 at end of game – Ezio is the main Assassin of ACII. He is a member of the House of Auditore, a family allied with the Assassin Order. At the age of 17, he was living the life of luxury until it came to a tragic end when a close friend of his father’s betrayed Ezio’s family, more specifically Ezio’s father, as well as his two brothers, who were wrongfully convicted of treason and executed. Though he manages to save his mother and sister. With the help of his uncle Mario, Ezio is trained in the ways of an Assassin and he vows to avenge his father’s death.

Mario Auditore – Age: 42/54 at end of game – Mario is the leader of the Italian Brotherhood of Assassins, the ruler of Monteriggioni, as well as Ezio’s uncle. He used to work with his brother and Ezio’s father, Giovanni Auditore da Firenze, also an Assassin, to gather Altair’s lost codex pages as well as defending Monteriggioni to prevent Templar invasions. He helped train Ezio in the ways of an Assassin, and he aids him in his quest to take down Rodrigo Borgia. And as you can see, when you first meet Mario, you will notice a certain easter egg – a shout out to the actual Mario, you know.

Leonardo da Vinci – Age: 24/36 at end of game – Leonardo da Vinci (Yes, THAT Leonardo da Vinci), is an architect, painter, anatomist, sculptor, mathematicial, and engineer who lived during the days of Renaissance Italy. He is overwhelmingly considered to be one of the greatest minds in history. However, in Assassin’s Creed II, he is a close friend of the Auditore family, and during the events of the game, becomes good friends with Ezio. He helps Ezio on his journey by deciphering Altair’s codex pages for him, and as a result, Leonardo always presents Ezio with new weapons and upgrades whenever Ezio hands him a newly discovered Codex page.

My Thoughts

I have played multiple games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, such as this one, Revelations, ACIII and Black Flag, and out of all the ones I’ve played, this is the one I enjoyed most. Like the impressive jump from Mega Man 1 to Mega Man 2, Assassin’s Creed II was a HUGE step up from the first Assassin’s Creed, and it shows. The gameplay is fun and addictive, there are a ton of missions to do, the combat is also challenging, but fair and easy to get used to, the open world is huge, and the towns are also enormous too. Every structure in this game is finely detailed and beautiful. The weapon and armor choices are great, and it’s very easy to make tons of money. The characters are all very memorable, especially Ezio and Leonardo, and the soundtrack is pretty impressive. The story is also very well done, and a wonderful ride from start to finish. However, there are some…minor flaws. Enemies can sometimes be very cheap, and it’s easy to fall off ledges and buildings as you climb or parkour your way through towns, which can severely deplete your health, and in some cases, death. But should you check this out? Absolutely. Assassin’s Creed II is the best game in the Assassin’s Creed series, and none have come close to matching the greatness of this one.

My score: 9.25/10


Published by alex9234

A skeptical game writer who doesn't believe the gaming press.

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