Does the Creed live on?
When I bought the original Assassins Creed it was spontaneous. After playing the game for a mere three tenths’ of an hour or so I realised that this was probably one of the best historic sandbox style games currently on the market in terms of development (it could also be the only one on the market.). The graphics were stunning, from the character design to the game world.
So for me when I picked up my copy of Assassins Creed 2, I couldn’t really see how they were going to make a sizeable improvement on an already immense game. Well how partially sighted could I have been. AC2 is a complete upgrade on the first one in almost every way possible, it is a truly brilliant game, though it does have its flaws.
The cities/areas are diverse and wonderfully detailed in a lot of ways, from the red tiles of Florence to the canals of Venice it is clear that no expense was spared in the creation of Ezio’s world. Naturally you get a few recycled devices like the now multi coloured hay carts which give you something to look at on the way down. The same old wooden scaffolds adorn the city in order for you to ascend buildings quicker (I assume that’s what they are for as I have never seen builders working on them, although you rarely do…). The cities are bustling with life, and on the whole the world is more colourful than it is in AC1, although this you would expect considering that the first one was set in the 12th century. Now instead of the peasant harassers you get musicians serenading you with joyous song, making you feel all the more guilty for threatening them, but you can always throw money at them. You also have a few more allies amongst the people including groups of thieves, courtesans (prostitutes), and mercenaries that can be hired for a modest fee.
On the whole the cities are varied, big, and interesting with plenty to do from assassination contracts to free running races to test your abilities. My only gripe is there aren’t enough of these extra activities. You only tend to get a couple of races and beat-up events per city, whereas you get a lot of assassin contracts to complete as well as all the collections, a few more things to do in the cities would have been nice. The game world as a whole is very involving and interesting to look at, interact with, and to jump around, because lets face it, that is what Assassins Creed is; a free running game with added killing, none the worse for it though.
Ezio is outgoing and brash in a lot of ways, and you really feel you get to know Ezio more than you ever knew Altair.
This is the first time we have seen an element of economics in AC, and in my opinion it was a very good but very under-developed idea. Although it is cool to be able to pay for and collect all sorts of different things from paintings, to armour and weapons, it did leave me feeling a bit under whelmed considering you are able to generate revenue from doing up your uncles old villa. You’d think a steady stream of cash would be a nice touch, but I managed to have the villa 100% renovated in next to no time and given the fact that that your income goes up almost exponentially you are never short of cash. I have amassed so much money that it makes it almost superfluous to have an income at all, another thing that adds to this is the fact that any feather, item, painting, codex page you collect adds value to your villa, and thus adds to your income. So as soon as you unlock some new stuff you just go out and buy it, I never even look at how much money I have because I know it’s a hell of a lot. I think if things were more expensive and/or the money was harder to obtain then it would be a good aspect to the game, as it would be a challenge to ‘earn’ you new armour or a sword you’ve got your eye on but as it is? I’m afraid it’s just too easy.
The combat in the game is as expected . All is very pleasing to the eye as you watch a guard slide down a spear shaft which Ezio has just thrust onto his torso, but although it is pleasing to watch there are two main failings in the combat system;
Number 1: They have recycled a lot of the old moves. Ezio exists some 200 years after Altair, you would think that the combat might have evolved a little and it has in some ways but not in others. Ezio is very adept at fighting with fists and even disarming enemies to use their sword against them, this being a nice and satisfying touch. The hidden blades (of which there are now two) are a weapon in their own right and can perform some gruesome counters, and you also have other options. When you grab an enemy you can now throw them, kill them, or beat them up. You also have the use of a wrist mounted pistol later on, poison, and smoke bombs. Other than that though, the main sword and knife moves and counters are pretty much the same, satisfying though they are, a little more variety wouldn’t have gone a miss.
Number 2: A complaint of mine from the first AC has lived on, its just too easy to win fights. It would have been nice for the enemies to increase in difficulty as you progressed through the game. So far, the most I’ve had to deal with are about 9 or 10 enemies at once and half of those ran away in the first 10 seconds which is irritating and the remaining goons were not exactly a challenge to despatch. They also could have designed better enemy A.I because in combat they tend to just stand around waiting for you to attack which can get a little boring as the regular soldiers who are always hot on the offence and first to attack are also the first to run away whilst the elite soldiers who are better trained and armoured stand around like idiots. It’s a shame because I thought that the addition of new guard types would make the combat more challenging. You do have a good selection of weapons to buy, but again they haven’t thought it through that well because they all pretty much handle and do the same things even though they have different attributes; I still found that a well timed counter did the trick almost every time no matter what I was wielding.
The storyline is very involving and very well written from a historical point of view and given its release from the constraints of the first Creed, where Altair was enigmatic, pious, and largely unknown to us as a character. Ezio is an open book from the beginning, starting off with him completely un-hidden with his face in full view. Ezio is outgoing and brash in a lot of ways, and you really feel you get to know Ezio more than you ever knew Altair.
This instalment of AC starts off quite literally where you leave the first one, a seamless transition as far as storyline is concerned which was important to keep the continuity intact. I was very happy to be back in the animus and to find something new about Altair. You do spend very little time outside of the animus which although is good because you don’t get ordered around, its also bad in that you never get a sense of what is unfolding in the real world. They have also made this AC more puzzle orientated which I really enjo
yed considering Leonardo De Vinci is one of Ezio’s close associates. Some of the puzzles are nigh impossible to decipher, but you do get a real sense of achievement when you crack them.
In conclusion this game is visually stunning and very enjoyable to play, I would highly recommend purchasing this and the original Assassin’s Creed if you haven’t already played it.
The big question is; does it live up to the hype that surrounded its release? I would say 95%, yes. But a few of the problems that existed in the first game remain; it’s still way too easy, and the combat is very much the same. The rest of it however is as good as you’d expect.
The Bad: Same old combat, poorly designed economics system, still too easy.