Assassin's Creed II Review
Assassin's Creed II is an open-world action game where the player primarily takes the role of a young assassin called Ezio. Its a sequel to the hit 2007 game and builds upon the popular and innovative aspects of the original correcting many of its flaws while offering its own additions that together make it a brilliant game which is a must-buy for fans of action and open-world games.
The game starts with a quick summary of the major events that happened to Desmond Miles, the hero of the overarching plot in the modern world, that allows newcomers a glimpse at the overarching story that will lead us to Renaissance Italy, and the charming young protagonist Ezio Auditore da Firenze. You take the role of Desmond Miles to escape Abstergo Industries with the help of your ally Lucy Stillman. The game starts very slow and the fist-to-fist combat situation in the beginning feels clumsy. That's not to say that the game has a bad start, but it certainly ramps up the action quickly afterwards and the initial sequence pales in comparison.
The game takes a new approach towards the typical revenge plot seen in many games, movies and books, puts it in the context of a war between Templars and Assassin Orders in the medieval ages and relates it to the war in modern era in an overarching plot to bring one of the most unique and fresh stories in fiction. This combined with the great blend of well-developed characters, beautiful character animations, excellent voice acting and great plot development makes Ezio's story in his first outing the best one I've yet experienced in a game and one of the best in all of fiction. The game ends on a cliffhanger though so you'll be inclined to get Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood as well, whose review will be ready soon, but for now all I can say is its a great game as well.
Ezio has a range of weapons and movement abilities, making him a deadly foe for his enemies, the Templars. Players are introduced to Ezio at the moment of his birth as part of a clever lesson to teach you the basic movements. It then jumps to his youth as a womanizer, street fighter and the son of a banker. He is not entirely likable in the beginning, but as the story unfolds and Ezio takes the role of an assassin he becomes much more likable. Major supporting characters teach him more advanced movement and combat skills to hone his skills as a deadly assassin. The series trademark wall climbing and rooftop to rooftop jump skills gives it a unique identity to differentiate itself from the plethora of action games.
The range of weapons however feel similar in actual use other than the hidden blade. Combat is rather one-note and clunky, and button-mashing is the easiest way to get out of most perilous situations. The game offers more diversity in combat techniques, but single button attack, dodge and counter skills are all that is required to beat the game other than in two missions where you practice other combat moves.
Movement is also rather needlessly complicated, with the simple act of running requiring three buttons on a keyboard or use of analog stick, a shoulder button and D-pad on a controller. Climbing walls and buildings also require two button input or else it becomes a slow and tedious process. However, once you get used to the controls, the gameplay flows well.
The cities of Florence and Venice are beautifully crafted and capture the feeling of being in Renaissance Italy very well, as do the towns of Tuscany and Forli and the mountains. The atmosphere is fantastic, and Venice and Tuscany's countryside provide eye-candy with their marvelous looks. The design is excellently synced with Ezio's movement abilities providing various methods of exploration on foot and multiple ways of cruising through the streets. You can take a straightforward approach and run through the streets or you can climb a wall and jump from rooftop to rooftop or you can even take advantage of the balconies and overhangings to get where you want to. Occasional frustrations can be their due to the complex mechanics but that can be easily overlooked in such an ambitious game.
The game also features stealth mechanics and they are definitely a lot better than its combat. Ezio can hide in haystacks, hide through dense crowds and underwater. Its a very refreshing take on the stealth genre from the Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell games and in many ways feels more realistic while also opening up many gameplay possibilities. As for the missions they are generally quite varied though some are repetitive, but in a 30-hour long story mode repetition is inevitable.
Graphics are easily some of the best for a game released in 2009. Its really easy to see the shortcomings of this game by modern graphical standards but its unique painting-like look means it has aged well and its visually pleasing. The open-world itself is ambitious with two large and densely populated cities, towns and countryside and complex architecture. There are loading times in-between the major regions but they are short and unintrusive.
There is little to criticise about in this game other than combat, as once you get used to the movement it all goes in a flow. Great plot and characters which keep your interest till the end, a fantastic and unique setting which makes you want to get lost in its world, a charming protagonist with whom you can sympathise and feel his emotions, incredible stealth mechanics and great background music make this a wonderful experience that should not be missed.
+ Great plot and characters
+ Unique and beautiful setting with a great sense of atmosphere
+ Cities are crafted excellently and sync well with Ezio's movements
+ Visually pleasing graphics
+ Charming protagonist
+ Great background music
+ Pacing is excellent
+ Incredible stealth mechanics
+ Lots of content
- Poor combat
- Complicated movement controls
Score: 9/10 (Amazing)
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