2009 Reviews

Assassin's Creed II

  • Review Date: 2014-01
  • Release Date: 2009-11
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • Rating: 7.5

I was pretty harsh on the original Assassin's Creed. After Halo (the original) I thought of it as easily being the second most overrated franchise on the PC. Halo may have sorted it's issues in sequels - I wouldn't know since it's Xbox exclusive, but I can say that Assassin's Creed II has come a long way since it's predecessor. ASII feels like what ASI should have been, without all the small issues.

I'll go through a list of what ruined the first game:

1. Lack of checkpoints. ASII corrects this with proper checkpoints during missions. There were only a few times where I had to repeat a fair bit and sit through the same cutscene again (no skipping on cutscenes!).
2. Where ASI was quite buggy, I experienced very few in ASII - only 2-3 crashes to the desktop.
3. My issues with the sound were almost fixed this time. The voices are still a little bit quiet compared to everything else, but with subs on it was no big deal, at least I could actually hear them this time.
4. The repetitive scripts are gone. No more hearing the same line from crowds over and over again.
5. Combat is much better. This time I was actually able to pull off counters and control my character properly. It's still not perfect, especially the targetting system where it locks on an enemy, that's just a bloody mess. But in ASI, I felt like I was button mashing. Perhaps it was partly my fault that I couldn't do the combos and counters properly, but more likely it was the games' fault for either not teaching them properly or making them too hard to remember/achieve.
6. Stealth kills work much better, from pulling someone off a ledge to jumping down upon them to double-kills, it's actually enjoyable this time!
7. Running away and hiding actually works. The first game I'd constantly be running across rooftops which an army of men after me, who never seem to get tired or lose me. When they do catch you it's like an endless line of them coming from everywhere. But in ASII, you only need to run a few rooftops to lose them, which saves a lot of frustration and pointless running around. It may be unrealistic, but who wants to spend 15 minutes running flat out just because you bumped a civilians box onto the fucking ground.

That's the keyword here, frustration. ASI suffered from too many little problems which made it a frustrating game. ASII fixes all of that. In the end it becomes a much easier game as well. You don't even need to spend much of the game in combat, as you can get around steathily or losing your enemies. ASII is a game where you need patience. Perhaps I wasn't patient enough for the first game.

The one exception was the two DLC's, released later. They made these a bit more difficult, the first ends with you chasing someone down and having to go up against far too many enemies to be fair. But the second DLC becomes an almighty chore and test of your nerves, especially the missions where you cannot be seen by an enemy. Some of them were rinse-and-repeat until you get it right, and just proves that it's a very fine line between making a fun game, and making a frustrating game. While the two DLC's seem an important part of the storyline, I can see why they were initially left out of the full game. The second DLC was definitely the worst part of the game.

ASII is still not without it's problems. The controls are still iffy, especially having to hold down two keys and a movement key just to run. You'll be running a lot, because the character is just too slow otherwise.

I was also quite pissed off to find, going into the last sequence (in other words a chapter, there are 14 in total) that I was supposed to have collected codex's throughout the game and now I have to go back through the entire game getting them all. It would have been nice if that was made a bit clearer.

The story, in a way, started again from ASI as you play a new character (memory) on a path of revenge for his families murder. It takes over 20 years, not that you'd know it as the game seems to just take a week or two with the only difference between the main character grows a beard. It is a good story with lots of characters, but a large portion of the game (at least half) is spent making new allies and assassinating random high figures. I didn't really get what this had to do with the overall plot, it just felt like one assassination mission after another. ASII can get a bit repetitive in it's gameplay, almost making the game too long with the DLC's included. But I'm not sure how you'd correct this is future games. Then at the end of the game (spoiler alert) you decide to let the antagonist go (for the second time) instead of finally getting your revenge. This is after 20 years of murdering innocent people to get your own way, SUDDENLY you have a conscience at the very time you shouldn't.

What I haven't talked about is the graphics. They're still fantastic, but actually not that different to ASI. Only a slightly more modern setting and some more distinctive areas. The sea and canals really helped to break up the monotony of random brick buildings scattered for miles. So ASII really takes off once you leave Florence. It's still all very nice looking, but other games do have better graphics in 2009. Where ASII stands out is being able to render so much at once. The best moments of the game are when you're really high up and can literally see for miles. Compared to other sandbox games of 2009, ASII is a step above the majority, certainly the console-focused ones.

Overall, Ubisoft have really polished the Assassin's Creed franchise and created a game worth buying, which the same could not be said about the first game. With even better visuals, many of the nuances fixed and overall just an easier, less frustrating game, ASII is finally starting to live up to some of the hype. I actually look forward to seeing how the story continues (though I get the feeling it's going to drag on over a lot of games at this rate). It's not really my style of gameplay, but I at least enjoyed ASII this time out.

Assassin's Creed II