Assassin’s Creed II: Review

I’m currently playing through Assassin’s Creed III which arrived as a very well thought out present from Santa. It’s not  a bad game, but it has got me thinking about the highs and lows of the series so far. I posted my review of the first Assassin’s Creed a few weeks ago and had some nice feedback, so I thought I’d share my review for the sequel. As with the first review, this was originally written for Dooyoo.co.uk in 2010, and I’d like to say my writing has improved a little since then. My opinions haven’t changed however, so here they are.

Assassin's Creed IIAssassin’s Creed II

If I were running my own little award ceremony for video games, Assassin’s Creed II would have to be a strong contender in the “Most satisfying creative development in a sequel” category… it would also probably be the only contender.

In my review of the first game I praised it highly for being an original, interesting game that had a strong sense of being developed by invested and enthusiastic developers. While it had flaws aplenty, it never felt lazy or cheap and it earnt a lot of respect from me on that basis. Assassin’s Creed II continues down that path excellently while really taking time to correct some of the flaws of the first game. The final product is a game with great characters, an entertaining story and unique, addictive gameplay. Because of this it is easily one of 2009’s best titles.

The games framing narrative takes place in a future where protagonist, Desmond, is using a device known as an animus to relive the memories of his ancestors. While the first game placed you in control of 12th century assassin Altair, the latest outing sees you controlling renaissance Italian, Ezio. Part of the noble Auditore family, Ezio moves from one iconic city to another, fighting against a sinister conspiracy. The Knight’s Templars return as adversaries though the story is significantly more exciting this time around.

Ezio Diving Assassin's Creed IIImmediately Assassin’s Creed II benefits from a more interesting setting. The game will take you through cities such as Florence, Venice and Rome and its free climbing gameplay allows you to scale reproductions of some of the most fascinating and beautiful buildings in the world. Coupled with some truly beautiful graphics, the game is almost as inspiring as the cities themselves and it is a joy to look at and a joy to play through. In this world is a collections of characters ripped straight from the memoirs of Casanova as well as real life figures such as Leonardo DaVinci and the infamous DePazzi. The renaissance is not a common setting for a video game but it works excellently and it is one more way in which this game works to define its genre.

Exploring this world is made a little easier this time around with quick travel spots letting you jump back to previous cities, though you can always take a long journey by horse if you’re patient. Smaller towns and settlements are scattered all around and exploring every region would take a long time. Townspeople, thieves, courtesans and messengers populate every city, everyone has their jobs to do and they’ll get on with their lives while you do your thing. It’s wonderful to feel like you’re exploring a living, breathing world and the game accomplishes this moreso than any other.

As before the main thrust of your goals involves hunting down targets for assassination. This time around there is more variety to your missions and more flexibility in accomplishing them. It’s nice to see a game in which failure to complete a mission a certain way will not force you to try again, most of time you need only achieve the ultimate goal. On top of this there are a variety of messenger missions, side quests and collectables. The repetitiveness of the first game is gone and forgotten.

Assassin’s Creed II is my favourite game of the year, I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in action games.