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.