Assassin’s Creed II Review

Assassin’s Creed II will devour your free time. I felt it was important to get that out there first because it’s something you need to know. If that makes you pause to wonder if you should buy it, the answer is “absolutely, without a doubt, let no one stand in your way out the door to the local game store, yes”. But you’re still here, so I’m supposing that to mean you want to know why you should go buy it. Fair enough.

The sequel to 2007’s Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft Montreal has crafted a beautifully polished, perfectly controlled work of art in Assassin’s Creed II. You play as Desmond Miles, a kidnapped bartender who happens to have blood ties with some of the best assassins in history – Altair Ibn La-Ahad of 1191’s 3rd Crusade fame, and Ezio Auditore de Firenze, a young noble from Florence during the Renaissance Era.

For the uninitiated, Assassins have several keen abilities at their disposal to do away with the bad guys of history. They can run up walls and scale tall buildings, use hidden blades to dispose of their prey, as well as a wide variety of other weapons (throwing knives, swords, daggers, etc), leap from amazing heights to land softly in stacks of hay, and all the while looking very cool in their overly-stylish hoodies.

They also serve to put an end to the Templar Knights, who have been seeking the powerful Pieces of Eden to wrought destruction to the world and bring upon a new world order. But as one of the new characters of Assassin’s Creed II puts it, that’s not to say that Assassins are therefore goodie-two-shoes themselves. They can be corrupted – as we saw in the first game – and they can be outsmarted and overrun. Hence, as history has shown, there are few left, and why Desmond Miles (aka, you) is so important to the future of the world – which, as the Templars believe, is doomed come December 21, 2012. (If you don’t believe the prophecies, go see Roland Emerich’s new disaster flick, aptly titled 2012, to see what’s in store if the Templars win).

Now that you’re in the know, here are some of the new additions. Besides new clothes, settings and characters, perhaps the major new implementation is that of a monetary system. And, as money is well known for, it will get you anywhere you want to go. You can spend it to permanently add weapons to your disposal, you can spend it on new armor, you can buy friends, pay off heralds who have bad things to say about you, upgrade your Villa, or toss it to the masses to create panic and distract guards. You can also entrust it to a bank to earn interest, if you so like. *Edit: As it turns out, your sister Claudia is lying to you about this one. You can’t actually put your money in the bank – though it would be cool if you could! Instead, its much more fun to buy up weapons and dye the color of your cloak.

Combat, too, has seen a massive upgrade. Not only do you get a super cool second blade – ideal for killing two enemies at once while leaping from a rooftop – you also get some new moves. You’re still going to focus on getting counter kills, but you can now disarm your opponents (using the same countering skill – you just have to be weaponless at the time), and dodging attacks is greatly improved making for more seamless battles.

Scaling buildings and free running have seen improvements as well, thanks in no small part to last year’s other sword-swinging, action game, the remake of Price of Persia. Like Prince, Ezio is able to scale just about anything in his path with ease and makes you feel like you could set down the controller and scale your own roof in a simple jump or two. Sadly, Elika isn’t around to save you when you accidently leap where no hay stack is waiting.

Even without a handy, magical princess always at your side, you’ll still have lots of friends to call on. As opposed to the very stand-offish Altair, Ezio (having grown up with three other siblings) is good at making new friends. Blending in with crowds to avoid the suspicions of nearby guards is as simple as finding a group of people (usually four or more heading in the same direction) and falling in step with them. But if that’s not enough, you can hire thieves and courtesans to create distractions, monks to act as moving cover in whichever direction you want to go, or mercenaries to help you fight your battles.

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  1. Good call on that the bank. I admit to not having tried it before I wrote the review and only took Ezio’s sister’s word for it when she said I could take it to the bank. My bad! Seems silly, though, that you can upgrade the bank in town, and yet you can’t put your money in it… I suppose it’s only there because you do some work for the different banking clans.

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