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Monday, March 1, 2010

Arriverderci Ezio: Assassin's Creed II Finished

Well, I finished Assassin's Creed II over the weekend. I wasn't planning on finishing it up so quickly but I got into the groove. I played the full game finishing Sequences 1 through 14 on a single playthrough. I would have liked to have gotten the standard 30 gamerpoints for each The Battle of Forli and The Bonfire of the Vanities but it's all good. The two DLC packs fit into the story rather seamlessly. In fact, I wouldn't have known they were not part of the original game had I not paid for the DLC separately.

Unlike many of the games I've played recently, I went out of my way to earn the full 1000 achievement points for Assassin's Creed II. I really enjoyed the characters and the backdrop of Renaissance Italy. The game was so good that hunting for the hidden feathers, 100 in all, was not so much a chore as it was straight-up fun.

I'll sum up my time with Assassin's Creed II with a couple lists.

Pros:

  1. Assassin's Creed II's graphics are phenomenal. The architectural detailing is the real standout in this game. However, character models are sufficiently detailed and nice. You'll definitely spot differences between the main characters in the game and the general citizenry of AC2's varied regions and cities.  I didn't notice the difference all too often since I spent the bulk of my time running through various Italian cities and locales at top speed.

  2. There are a large number of NPC characters on the screen at any time. Most amazing is that I never noticed two characters who looked the same. I'm sure that there are a number of duplicates scattered throughout the various maps in the game. But the illusion of living in a bustling city was never broken by groups of identical character models.

  3. The sights and sounds of the game are amazing. I felt like I was in Renaissance Italy as I stabbed my way through corrupt merchants, corrupt officials, corrupt religious figures, and other corrupt bad guys looking to get stabbed.

  4. The variety of missions was pretty impressive given that most missions had to end with Ezio killing someone. I didn't finish all the races and side-missions in the game but I did pull of an incredible number of assassination contracts. After twenty or thirty of those suckers, I was still amazed at the substantial gameplay differences from mission to mission.

  5. The feeling of power I had as I controlled Ezio was amazing. The game wasn't too easy nor was it too hard: it just felt right. Ezio is a powerful assassin towards the end of Assassin's Creed II and it shows. I was able to take on waves of guards without breaking a sweat. I never got sick of slapping guards across the face and stabbing them in the back to finish them off. And the addition of the second wrist-blade and double assassinations was pure brilliance on the part of the developers. Just awesome!

  6. AC2's story is pretty gripping. The way everything ties up in the end is pretty cool. I had jokingly guessed the final boss fight of the game when speaking to my wife. I'd thought of a funny "what-if" situation. Little did I know that I'd be right! But I will say that the ending to the game is both satisfying, confusing, and left me wanting a whole lot more!

  7. I really enjoyed the fact that it was possible to get the full 1000 achievement points in the game without having to "grind". Unlike the first Assassin's Creed, I was not required to complete every last thing in the game to get full marks. Refreshing!

  8. Assassin's Creed II is a well-made game, polished and perfected...for the most part (read below). There are very few games that have been released with production standards quite as high. And it's a rare thing for games to play as well as they look and sound. I was blown away!


Cons:

  1. The Battle of Forli (Sequence 12) and The Bonfire of the Vanities (Sequence 13) both had minor technical issues. Some graphical slowdowns when panning across the crowds in certain cutscenes. I also had the audio cut out in twice during cut-scenes in Sequence 13 which was a little bothersome to say the least.

  2. Some of the free running in the AC2 can be a little finicky. It was not uncommon to have Ezio get stuck on a lightpost as I tried to shake pursuers after a successful assassination.

  3. The Race side-missions can be a little trial-and-error. This is more of a personal thing, I guess. I just didn't like running the gauntlet, trying to spot my next checkpoint without falling or getting knocked off pace by ambitious guards.
  4. There are times when the targetting and other time-sensitive movements can be hindered by the presence of obstacles, including innocent NPCs, on screen. There is one assassination that I can recall that had me accidentally murder three innocent bystanders who happened to be standing within a few feet of Ezio and his ultimate target.

  5. The Battle of Forli accentuates one of Assassin's Creed II's weak spots: targeting enemies during large scale combat. Escort missions always, always suck. If you don't agree, give any of the early Wing Commander games a try. But throw in large scale melee combat and some overzealous and under-armoured NPCs and you have the recipe for disaster. I was still able to get through most missions without a lot of difficulty. Assassin's Creed II will keep you on your toes and punish you if you're not careful.

Honestly, the cons I listed deal mainly with my mission preferences. I was very happy with the variety of gameplay elements in Assassin's Creed II. Thankfully, most of the repetitive stuff was either brief (e.g. synchronizing viewpoints, finding feathers, and locating Codex pages) or entirely optional (e.g. beat-up missions, races, and assassination contracts).

I have a quick note concerning the two DLC packs available for Assassin's Creed II. If you have yet to play the game or if you plan on starting a second or third playthrough, I would recommend buying both The Battle of Forli and The Bonfire of the Vanities DLC packs. I can't imagine having jumped straight from Sequence 11 to Sequence 14 without these pieces of the story present. However, I will say that none of the DLC is worth getting if you've already finished Assassin's Creed II and you only plan on playing these two sequences on their own. Neither of the new sequences offer much in terms of stand-alone gameplay. Mind you, some of Sequence 13's assassination missions are challenging and rewarding to pull off successfully. And given the price of the DLC, I guess you can't go wrong.  But let me just confirm that the three hidden Templar Lairs are NOT worth buying. They add little to the story and offer no substantial in-game rewards either;  the Palazzo de Medici wasn't too though.

Bottom line? Assassin's Creed II is a must-by game for anyone who likes video games, fans of the Davinci Code, anyone who likes open-world, sandbox games, and gamers who like to get revenge against enemies by stabbing them in the neck with hidden wrist blades.

With Assassin's Creed II in the books, I'll be tackling Lego Batman starting tonight. It'll be a nice change of pace to go from stabbing guards in the next to busting up Lego henchmen and super-villains in Lego Gotham.

2 comments:

Games said...

Do you think Assassin's Creed 3 is the last of the series ?

Klopzi said...

@Games -

I think it all depends if they're able to tell the story they want to tell. As long as the series keeps selling, I'd be surprised if they stop wtih one more game.

However, I think AC3 may be the last game with Desmond. Then again, if AC3 sells like gangbusters, I'm not sure if Ubisoft will be willing to play with the formula at all.

I guess we'll see.