Assassin's Creed 2

The original Assassin's Creed was a prototype. This is clear after finishing Assassin's Creed 2, which is better in every respect, whether it's improving features from the first game or rolling them up in a carpet and throwing them off a bridge. I've never been so happy to be free of monologues by boring old men and galloping across endless plains before finally getting back to doing something marginally interesting.

Rather than drop 4000 words about how much I've enjoyed Ubisoft's latest, let's get right to the meat of it: Are you the sort of person who should buy Assassin's Creed 2? Let's explore a few perspectives.

Assassin’s Creed Was Awesome

Off you go, then. There’s even more to do and explore than the original and every element has been improved. Even if you only do half of what’s available, you can easily sink 20 hours into the game without breaking a sweat and you'll have a great time doing it.

Assassin’s Creed Was Two Hours of Fun Wrapped in Ten Hours of Monotony

It sure was! I outlined some of my issues with Assassin’s Creed by way of some fake patch notes I’d made hoping they would “fix” the game. The good news is that most of the issues I had were either addressed directly or completely removed.

Gone are the long, trudging treks from the fortress to the overland map where there’s nothing to do but collects flags and try to avoid spooking enemy soldiers. After finishing a story mission, you are always placed in the vicinity of the next plot point, assuming you want to get straight to it. Unlike the original, where the “side missions” were stale busywork at best, the extra activities are both fun and relevant to the overall story. They’re also better at adding context to the world you're exploring, giving you some interesting (and optional) facts about some major landmarks and their place in history.

A good example of this would be the hidden glyphs that some landmarks have on their walls. When you approach one, you'll enter a puzzle section that can be anything from spotting commonalities between famous paintings to solving alphanumeric riddles. The payoff is more insight into the greater conspiracy that informs the whole story.

Same goes for things like codex pages, which were written by someone players of the first game are familiar with. Even the “collect 100 flags!” pointlessness has been tweaked. There are still 100 of a certain item to collect throughout the world, but it’s optional and there is some story payoff to finding them all.

A small word of advice for the sufferers of OCD: Don’t feel pressured to hit every vantage point and collect every treasure chest right away. Let some of that stuff happen when you’re in the area anyways, you’ll be surprised at how much ground you need to cover during the course of the story.

The Modern Day Stuff Was Stupid and Boring

It had its moments, but I tend to agree. Thankfully, you’ll spend a lot less time in jeans talking to boring people who don't want to tell you anything. The moments you do spend out of the animus are short and worthwhile.

I Came For The Stabbing, I Ran Away From The Races

It's no secret that one of the most egregious faults of the original game was having to slog through junk like pick pocket missions and following random NPCs to unlock the next assassination target. While these elements still exist in the game, they're usually small aspects of an overall mission that's in progress. You may follow someone for a while so you can see who they meet with before you stab them in the neck, but you'll never have to do it to a random NPC for no good reason. The side missions remain if you choose to pursue them for a bit of extra cash, though. Assassination side missions in particular are worth doing since they can often result in rooftop chases as you try to overtake a target who is just as nimble and ready to climb as you are.

One of my favorite side missions is completely random. Rather than find the glowing start point on the map, you may incidentally spot an enemy courier running by. If you give chase, he'll climb buildings and do whatever he can to escape. If you catch him, you get a nice little bit of money. If you don't, no big deal, just carry on with your day. Going from strolling down the street to tackling a passing target is delightful if you can get the timing right.

Have Human Beings Learned How To Swim Yet?
They sure have. They can dive underwater to avoid enemies too.

I Couldn’t Stand The First Game And I Hate Open Worlds

Assassin’s Creed 2 is not going to transcend anyone’s dislike of the open world genre. However, if anyone says “It’s like Grand Theft: History!” to you like that’s some kind of selling point, feel free to laugh and tell them they’re intellectually lazy. This is NOT Grand Theft Horse & Carriage. This is a game about subtlety, exploration and bursts of frantic action.

Even if you’re simply apathetic about the genre, it’s possible the story and the detailed rendering of 15th century Italy will carry you through. I dare say that I learned quite a bit about the major historical figures of the time and some of the landmarks that continue to draw thousands of tourists every year.

The plot itself goes well beyond the scope of the first game, both in content and delivery. No longer will you prowl back and forth like a caged tiger while an old bearded man delivers five minutes of raw, unadulterated exposition. The post-assassination chats are mercifully brief and the cutscenes keep it snappy. The greater depth in the story is available for anyone who wants to read codex entries and uncover some greater truths, but that stuff is all optional when it comes to actually finishing the game. I’d recommend pursuing it, though. Some of it is pretty wild.

I Will Never Play This Game

Yeah, well I’ll never play your stupid face!

Final Thoughts For Skimmers

Assassin's Creed 2 has transformed the rough sculpture of the original into Michelangelo's David. It's a rare game that equally supports the story-driven player and the lover of open worlds to explore. No matter how you decide to play, you'll be glad you did.

I give it 9.7 metacritics out of 10.

Comments

I couldn't agree more.

I was a big fan of the first one. Much like you, I looked past the faults and repetitive gameplay elements and saw a really enjoyable core game. For the sequel, they did a really good job fixing those faults, so that you don't just have an enjoyable core game, but an excellent all-around experience.

Though I can't believe you'd give it 9.7 metacritics out of 10, it's clearly a 9.8 game, and if you'd pull your head out of your arse you'd see that.

Assasin's Creed 2 has transformed the rough sculpture of the original into Michelangelo's David.

You should be shot for that. Ugh.

I am getting close to the end of the game, and while you are correct that the game is an improvement over the 1st one, it is in no way equal to the comparison you make. In between the 1st and 2nd Assassin's creed we have seen two games that have done both of the major elements of this game better. Mirror's edge had way better free running, and the latest Batman had better fighting.

So while AC2 is good and worth a rental. I can't help but feel like the game mechanics are a step backward. Oh and for those people (like me) who are a little OCD when it comes to side quests and collectibles, I feel like they are still overdoing it and all for the sake of making the game feel bigger than it really is. They could cut the side stuff by half, at least, and it would be much better.

"I give it 9.7 metacritics out of 10."

them fighting words!

Nice write up, Certis; thanks! I have a question that might constitute a spoiler for the first game that I hope you can weigh in on:

Spoiler:
My major dissatisfaction with the first game was not the side quests, but rather the fact that, after a certain point in the the game, it was clearly not intended for you to have the option of being stealth-oriented. It always irked me that, despite the fact that Altair worked with a sect that valued subtlety, the player had to carve up several dozen soldiers and templars during the course of the last few assassinations--regardless of how much "planning" went into them.

How does AC2 (heh, I'll always think Asheron's Call 2 when I see that ) address this concern, if it all?

DrSugardaddy wrote:
How does AC2 (heh, I'll always think Asheron's Call 2 when I see that ) address this concern, if it all?

thats where I've seen AC2 before, I keep staring at that abbreviation and wondering

Mirror's edge had way better free running

I won't argue with you more about this, since moving your opinion is like trying to lift a mountain, but a first person, linear parcour game is not a fair comparison to a 3rd person exploration game like this. Assassin's Creed 2 would be boring and frustrating if I needed that many button presses and precision to climb a single building. Ungh.

The Batman combat is something I enjoyed a great deal, but for different reasons. I think Assassin's Creed 2 makes it a little less about timing button presses and puts a little more emphasis on positioning. It's less automated, which at times is more satisfying when you circle around a dude and stab him in the back.

You should be shot for that. Ugh.

Just between you and me, I slipped that in there just to piss you off. :nicekiss:

DrSugardaddy wrote:
Nice write up, Certis; thanks! I have a question that might constitute a spoiler for the first game that I hope you can weigh in on:
Spoiler:
My major dissatisfaction with the first game was not the side quests, but rather the fact that, after a certain point in the the game, it was clearly not intended for you to have the option of being stealth-oriented. It always irked me that, despite the fact that Altair worked with a sect that valued subtlety, the player had to carve up several dozen soldiers and templars during the course of the last few assassinations--regardless of how much "planning" went into them.

How does AC2 (heh, I'll always think Asheron's Call 2 when I see that ) address this concern, if it all?


Spoiler:
There are some instances where you'll be forced to fight a good amount of enemies, but the lead-up to the final encounter has some of the most enjoyable, stealthy level design in the game.

DrSugardaddy wrote:
Nice write up, Certis; thanks! I have a question that might constitute a spoiler for the first game that I hope you can weigh in on:
Spoiler:
My major dissatisfaction with the first game was not the side quests, but rather the fact that, after a certain point in the the game, it was clearly not intended for you to have the option of being stealth-oriented. It always irked me that, despite the fact that Altair worked with a sect that valued subtlety, the player had to carve up several dozen soldiers and templars during the course of the last few assassinations--regardless of how much "planning" went into them.

How does AC2 (heh, I'll always think Asheron's Call 2 when I see that ) address this concern, if it all?

Having played about 10 hours of AC2 (all in one sitting, mind you), I will answer your question from my limited experience.

Spoiler:
One of my assassination missions was effectively have you and a group of soldiers storm a villa, but most of the others have allowed for either stealthy, subtle solutions or "guns-blazing" solutions. And even with the "storm the villa" mission, I snuck into the villa and with a little more patience and better timing, I could have pulled off the assassination before alerting any guards (though I didn't have a good escape plan). Every assassination mission has had opportunities to stealth effectively.

Some of the other side missions have nice stealth portions as well. I don't know that you could do them without killing the guards at all, but I've enjoyed a couple side quests where I killed a dozen guards without any of them knowing I was there.

One of the other issues with the original was needing to hide every time you were spotted. In AC2, if you're running across the rooftops and an archer sees you, stabbing him in the face stop ends the encounter. Also you can complete side objectives to reduce your notoriety, making guards less suspicious of you, allowing you to walk the streets freely without getting into fights every 20 seconds.

Thanks, guys. It sounds like I need to pick this one up and move it to the top of the pile!

I totally, 100%, wholeheartedly agree with you Certis. The more I played the game, the more the improvements became more obvious to me. As for those who say that game X had better Y, I submit to you that Assassin's Creed is a really complete experience, with varied set pieces and *gasp* emergent gameplay.

Also, the final boss had me laughing like a nutjob for about 20 minutes.

Spoiler:
You know, where you fight the pope.

I wasn't a huge fan of the first Assassin's Creed (I never finished it, in fact), but Assassin's Creed 2 truly lived up to all its hype. And to me, that's pretty great.

It drives me a little crazy that the PC version of this won't be out for months. That's where I played the first one (AC1 looked goddamn gorgeous on the PC, and ran like a dream), and that's where I want to play this one, but the wait is going to kill me knowing how great it is.

I'm seriously tempted to restart my Gamefly subscription just to get my hands on it for a bit on the 360 while I wait.

Look, damn it. I CANNOT know this until after the wedding. Frelling thing is burning a hole in my desk and I'm not made of boiled stone.

(but I really do want to know this, and thank you for it. )

I can't wait figure out how much of my Latin classes and general over-education will help me against the language. What did you think about that? Others have been griping about the amount of Italian in the dialogue. On the other hand, this is an unrepentant dork I used to work with who likes to critique other people's Sindarin intonation, so, well, uh, you know.

I just beat it a bit ago, got 1000/1000 epeen points, did absolutely every single thing there was to do and sunk a good 35ish hours into it.

I want more.

Blotto The Clown wrote:
DrSugardaddy wrote:
How does AC2 (heh, I'll always think Asheron's Call 2 when I see that ) address this concern, if it all?

thats where I've seen AC2 before, I keep staring at that abbreviation and wondering

WRONG! Armored Core 2!

I bought this on the PS3 since people were raving about it so much. I haven't had much chance to play it yet - as everyone will agree, the last month or so has been nuts when it comes to quality games being released. I haven't played the first one yet, but conveniently my housemate has it both on PS3 and PC. Which is the better version to play? I'd imagine that the controls are better on the PS3, but the graphics better on the PC, but I'm worried that the controls on the PC might be awful.

I did play AC2 for about twenty minutes or so and my first impression: HOLY sh*t IT'S NATE! It's really distracting to have his voice coming from Desmond's ugly mug, after hearing it from Uncharted's 'generically handsome' (as Zero Punctuation puts it) character. I fear that Uncharted has forever spoiled me on realistic looking and sounding character interactions. A lot of the interplay between Lucy and Desmond just felt kinda wooden, though the voice acting wasn't bad.

I'm really on the fence with this one.

The world in #1 was really cool (not the futuristic IKEA meets Deus Ex setting mind you) but I remember wishing that it had more to offer. Think Thief in that world and you'll get what I was hoping for. I want to kill people with out getting noticed! With poison! And/or fire! Or knocking them unconscious, filling their pockets with stone and pushing them into the canals of Venice. All while my friendly monkey named Hitchcock entertains the guards. In #1 I felt more like a skinny, clothed version of Conan the Barbarian rather than a sneaky shadow of death. Plus, I didn't know that medieval middle-east enforced speed limits on horses.

I guess what I'm ranting about is: If they have introduced other ways of killing people, or at least the targets for the main missons, then I'll probably get it. Otherwise... probably not.

Ravenlock wrote:
It drives me a little crazy that the PC version of this won't be out for months. That's where I played the first one (AC1 looked goddamn gorgeous on the PC, and ran like a dream), and that's where I want to play this one, but the wait is going to kill me knowing how great it is.

I'm seriously tempted to restart my Gamefly subscription just to get my hands on it for a bit on the 360 while I wait.

Seconded.
My only consolation is that they may have time to add some new content or tweak the hell out of it before we hardcore PC folks get our grubby mitts on it.

Ravenlock wrote:
It drives me a little crazy that the PC version of this won't be out for months. That's where I played the first one (AC1 looked goddamn gorgeous on the PC, and ran like a dream), and that's where I want to play this one, but the wait is going to kill me knowing how great it is..
I was wondering where the hell it was on Steam....

Damn you Ubisoft, DAMN YOU!

Ravenlock wrote:
It drives me a little crazy that the PC version of this won't be out for months. That's where I played the first one (AC1 looked goddamn gorgeous on the PC, and ran like a dream), and that's where I want to play this one, but the wait is going to kill me knowing how great it is.

I'm seriously tempted to restart my Gamefly subscription just to get my hands on it for a bit on the 360 while I wait.

On the one hand yes, but on the other hand that window is a chance to make a dent in the four games I'm currently playing (or if I'm being honest - Dragon Age then the three other games I was playing before that) and maybe some of the nine games I've bought on steam and haven't even downloaded yet...

WipEout wrote:
Blotto The Clown wrote:
DrSugardaddy wrote:
How does AC2 (heh, I'll always think Asheron's Call 2 when I see that ) address this concern, if it all?

thats where I've seen AC2 before, I keep staring at that abbreviation and wondering

WRONG! Armored Core 2! :P

Haha, here I was thinking I was the only one who saw that.

Certis wrote:
The Batman combat is something I enjoyed a great deal

Speaking of which, a friend made this blog post, which I greatly enjoyed:

[X] Family murdered in front of him
[X] Dedicates self to life of revenge because of the murder
[X] Dresses in costume to obscure face
[X] Climbs to highest building and perches on edge to watch over the city
[X] Uses fear and notoriety to advantage
[X] Swoops down from above to take out thugs
[X] Gigantic mansion with secret passage leading to lair underneath it
[X] Elder caretaker of mansion acts as a guide and mentor, knows his secret identity
[X] Friends with genius inventor who builds gadgets for him
[X] Throwing weapons kept on a belt
[X] Master of hand-to-hand combat
[X] Wealthy playboy at higher echelon of society
[X] Master detective capable of tracking down clues normal people can't see

Yep, Ezio from Assassin's Creed 2 is totally Batman.

momgamer wrote:
Others have been griping about the amount of Italian in the dialogue.

This should be in the manual or tutorial or something: If you turn on the subtitles, you get translations. It adds a little flavor but you aren't missing any content if you don't.

Rallick wrote:
I did play AC2 for about twenty minutes or so and my first impression: HOLY sh*t IT'S NATE! It's really distracting to have his voice coming from Desmond's ugly mug, after hearing it from Uncharted's 'generically handsome' (as Zero Punctuation puts it) character. I fear that Uncharted has forever spoiled me on realistic looking and sounding character interactions. A lot of the interplay between Lucy and Desmond just felt kinda wooden, though the voice acting wasn't bad.

Between the voice acting and the similar-but-different controls and climbing mechanics, it was very disorienting to switch between Uncharted 2 and AC2 as I was finishing the former up!

As a sideline, there is one thing I feel like AC2 does worse than the original: WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO LUCY'S LIPS? Did she get punched in the mouth? Bad collagen injection?

I know Kristen Bell is a good actor (we adore her in our household) and it's a little disappointing that she doesn't especially shine in this. That's why I would knock .2 metacritics off the otherwise near-perfect score. (P.S. - love Certis's snarky nod towards the industry need to assign a numeric score to games)

Oh yeah, and:

Have Human Beings Learned How To Swim Yet?
They sure have. They can dive underwater to avoid enemies too.

The manual has a tongue-in-cheek joke about this. I forget the exact wording, something like: "The Animus 2.0 software supports swimming."

Great write up. I was warned away from the first AC, but this sounds like it's worth picking up. I'm in no rush to play another new game right now, and will probably wait for it to come out on PC, but thanks for putting this on my radar.

Certis wrote:
However, if anyone says “It’s like Grand Theft: History!” to you like that’s some kind of selling point, feel free to laugh and tell them they’re intellectually lazy. This is NOT Grand Theft Horse & Carriage.

What if when I said that, I meant it's a massive world you are given free-reign within, filled with plenty of things to do? Huh? Huh? Jerk.

Yes this game came out of nowhere and really surprised me. Never played the original so not sure how it compares.

Tom Chick's review is great and really encapsulates how I feel about the game.

http://www.crispygamer.com/gamereviews/2009-11-20/assassins-creed-ii-xbox-360.aspx

Yeah, well I’ll never play your stupid face!

But my stupid face is compelling.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Yeah, well I’ll never play your stupid face!

But my stupid face is compelling.
But is it visceral?

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Yeah, well I’ll never play your stupid face!

But my stupid face is compelling.

Your face is compelling me to throw rocks at it.

Certis wrote:
Thankfully, you’ll spend a lot less time in jeans talking to Kristen Bell who doesn't really do anything interesting.

Seriously. You get an achievement just for talking to her constantly. That's not an achievement; that's a polite lunch date.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Yeah, well I’ll never play your stupid face!

But my stupid face is compelling.

Ew, you've got play all over your face now.