The shortcomings of the first Assassin’s Creed are well-known and well-publicized. It was too repetitive; the free-running was too awkward sometimes; and there was way too much pointless backtracking and traveling. Much to everyone’s delight, Assassin’s Creed 2 takes everything that was wrong with the first, fixes them, and then improves on everything it did right.
The story of Assassin’s Creed 2 begins pretty much immediately after the end of the first, waking up in your room with all the glowing symbols and writing etched on the wall of your room. After this you’ll soon escape from Abstergo with the help of an old friend. Upon escaping, you’ll quickly be sent back into the animus to live through the life of another ancestor of yours, Ezio de Auditore.
The introduction to Assassin’s Creed 2 is longer than the intro to the first, but it is much more intriguing and enjoyable. It also gets you more interested in the story because of how you live Ezio’s life alongside him. If you’ve never played the first Assassin’s Creed, there is also a short cinematic that walks you through the story of the first so that you aren’t completely lost when you start playing. This is a nice feature that I wish more sequels employed.
Pretty much every mechanic from the first has been improved, from hiding to free-running to assassinations; everything is much more fluid and realistic-feeling. Obviously none of it is really possible, but it looks more natural, as if it really was possible. While there is still lots of backtracking and traveling to do in Assassin’s Creed 2, there is much less of it than there was in the first, which is a huge relief. Some new mechanics are the addition of looting of bodies and the pick-pocketing of just about anyone you want. After a fight, you can loot the bodies for florins, and when walking around the cities you can pick pocket anyone you want to for more florins. What do you need florins for, you ask? Well, you no longer rejuvenate health simply by being anonymous so you have to buy medicine to heal yourself, but you can also buy maps to treasures, improve your equipment, and even buy art to display in your home. Careful with the pick pocketing though, doing it too much or too conspicuously and you’ll be targeted by guards who will make life difficult for you.
The graphics and the setting are gorgeous; Ubisoft did an amazing job of reproducing Renaissance Italy and making it feel like you are actually there. The sound design is high quality as well, with the ambient sounds contributing to the feel of Italy almost as much as the graphics.
The controls are the same as the first game, which is great because they were really intuitive and responsive to begin with. All the intangibles of a well-made game are present as well. The entire feel of the game is that it was a labor of love, an attempt to not just overcome all the shortfalls of the first game, but to wipe them from the memory of anyone who has played the series.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this might just be the most improved sequel of all time because if it isn’t, it definitely ranks up there with the best sequels we’ve ever played.
Plays like: Assassin’s Creed meets GTA
Pros: Controls are same; Combat is enjoyable; Graphics are spectacular; Sound design is great; Story draws you in; Open world Renaissance Italy
Cons: Combat can be too easy