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Assassin's Creed II (PlayStation 3) artwork

Assassin's Creed II (PlayStation 3) review

"Thereís a lot of lore in the Assassinís Creed series, but most of it was only generally alluded to in the first game. Assassinís Creed II feels a lot like a remix of the first title, in that regard, only the story has evolved into something more than the curiosity that it was previously. The battle between the assassins and the Templars is explored more thoroughly and the principle characters are for the most part a great deal more compelling."

Ezio Auditore Da Firenze never had a perfect life, but by 15th-century Italy standards, he did quite well. His father was on good terms with bankers and politicians, his brothers and sister were happy within their roles in society, and Ezio had the admiration of a variety of beautiful women around FlorenceÖ with certain benefits that left their fathers rather outraged. Chastity mattered a lot back then.

In Assassinís Creed II, you donít technically play as Ezio even though the game tells his story. You instead play as Desmond, a modern-day assassin who is only just discovering his birthright. He is a distant descendant of Ezioís, and he sometimes sits in a fancy chair (dubbed ďthe animusĒ) that allows him to live the memories of his ancestors (in this case, Ezio). Desmond digs through those buried memories not for the sake of his own amusement, but because he is a reluctant soldier engaged in a war against the Templars that for all anyone knows has been waged since the dawn of human civilization.

Assassin's Creed II asset

Assassinís Creed II begins precisely where the first game ended, with Desmond staring at a wall. Events unfold quickly for the next few minutes, and before Desmond knows it he has been spirited to a new location where friendlier hosts look after his wellbeing. Those new allies encourage him to continue his adventures in the animus, where they hope he can find intel that will allow them to strike a blow against the Templars. Grateful for their assistance, Desmond is eager to help. As the player who is control of Desmond, then, you will spend the bulk of the game navigating the streets of ancient Italy, plugged into a program where death isnít possible but a lack of synchronization is mortality enough.

Thereís a lot of lore in the Assassinís Creed series, but most of it was only generally alluded to in the first game. Assassinís Creed II feels a lot like a remix of the first title, in that regard, only the story has evolved into something more than the curiosity that it was previously. The battle between the assassins and the Templars is explored more thoroughly and the principle characters are for the most part a great deal more compelling. Ezio begins as a spoiled but generally likeable young man, and over the course of the game he gains maturity and perspective that make him the most sympathetic character the franchise has yet seen.

While the improved and expanded storyline is reason enough to play through this second chapter of the Assassinís Creed saga, it perhaps wouldnít amount to much if it rested entirely on the same repetitive play mechanics that left gamers discouraged the first time around. The developers clearly learned from their mistakes, though, and the sophomore effort takes everything that worked in the first game to the next level while making only a few small tweaks. As it turns out, thatís all the series really needed.

Assassin's Creed II asset

In Assassinís Creed II, youíll still climb to the top of towering buildings to tag viewpoints that allow you to see a greater portion of the city (and you can still dive into waiting piles of hay far below). Such antics will still draw commentary from the peasants, and youíll hear the town criers blabbing about stuff--sometimes you--as you assassinate meddlesome guards or raid treasure chests or search for collectible goodies. Such familiar objectives are fine, though, because this time the experience expands upon them.

Glyphs are one new idea, and a particularly neat one. There are a variety of impressive buildings located throughout each of the multiple cities you explore, and some of them have strange markings that were placed there by one of Desmondís predecessors. When you examine those markings, youíll be able to solve puzzles to access a small snippet of an encrypted video. There are twenty pieces in total, hidden all over Florence and Venice and surrounding environs. If you piece them together, youíll discover ďThe Truth.Ē Itís a nice little side challenge--completely optional--that explores some of the lore without shoving it in your face. The puzzles can be genuinely perplexing, but you always have sufficient information to solve them, even if it sometimes seems that you donít.

The six hidden tombs that you might find and explore are another nice touch if youíre growing bored with the primary campaign, though they sometimes prove rather frustrating. Most of the gameís least enjoyable moments play out in those tombs (rendering them optional and allowing you to more thoroughly enjoy the primary content), since youíll often need to make daring leaps to narrow ledges and itís all too easy to jump off to the side and take a fall. That by itself isnít so bad, but some of the more difficult challenges also implement a time limit. A stray leap to the side at an inopportune moment can prove especially irritating, which is disappointing because otherwise the tombs lend the game a satisfying air of mystery (and the reward when you secure each tombís treasure is quite cool).

Assassin's Creed II asset

Currency also plays an expanded role in Assassinís Creed II. You can use money to hire courtesans and thieves that will distract or perhaps even battle guards so that you can more easily reach targets in one piece. If thatís too much effort, you can also toss coins on the ground and doing so will often cause peasants to mob the area, thus giving you freedom to keep moving. Your wealth also allows you to buy armor and weapons--more than youíll ever need, actually--and you can invest in paintings to decorate an estate that you discover around a quarter of the way through the game. That estate then generates revenue every 20 minutes, and the amount of cash you gain grows as you make upgrades. Those light simulation elements are quite satisfying, as far as they go, much like amassing a real estate fortune was in Fable II.

Most of the other ways in which Assassinís Creed II improves over its predecessor are less obvious than the ones referenced above. You can find assassination targets for extra income, for example, or you can race thieves along the rooftops or pick fights with wayward husbands. The story missions themselves also include additional variety, and in general you also have better reasons to complete them. Youíll perhaps find a (thankfully brief) stealth mission in one case, then in the next you might have to trail someone who knows something important until he feels secure enough to reveal his secret.

Assassinís Creed II is a beautiful game, but so was the first Assassinís Creed. Much of the praise that a person might heap on this sequel applied to its predecessor, when you come right down to it, and yet the execution this time around has undeniably improved and the scope has expanded. The first game showed tremendous promise. It was the start of an exciting new IP with promise, but thatís as far as it went. Assassinís Creed II is the game that uncompromisingly turns promise into reality, and you can currently obtain it quite cheaply. See that you do.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (September 07, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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If you enjoyed this Assassin's Creed II review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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zippdementia posted September 08, 2012:

You may have finally convinced me to pick up Assassin's Creed II, Jason. I really wasn't interested after playing and beating the first game, which was one of the major disappointments of the PS3 for me. I became less interested as I saw the games branch out into side-sequels and side-prequels and side-quests on the PSP and finally became overwhelmed by the amount of games and potential story I'd have to catch up on if I wanted to take the series seriously.

I still am not interested in doing all of that, or in ever playing the first one again, but I think you sold me on giving the whole thing another shot and jumping into number II.
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Genj posted September 08, 2012:

The first Assassin's Creed felt like a beta for second game. Really II & Brotherhood are the only ones you need to play. Brotherhood only adds one big plot twist near the end, but it had several new gameplay features that made it feel like a legit sequel rather than a rehash. Revelations on the other hand is pretty skippable.
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Roto13 posted September 08, 2012:

I think Revelations is more interesting than Brotherhood if only because Istanbul is more interesting than Rome (which I kind of hated) and the Altair stuff is cool. It has a great ending, for both Altair and Ezio.

AC I, II, Brotherhood, and Revelations (and soon III) are the "must play" ones. The spinoffs for PSP and DS and stuff are unnecessary.

ACI isn't that bad, but it's probably hard to go back to after playing II.
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zippdementia posted September 08, 2012:

I would argue, looking back, that ACI is actually a pretty bad game, if only for the opening "cut scene" to each stage that is totally unskippable and consists of an old man talking for ten minutes.
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bbbmoney posted September 08, 2012:

Aye I've never heard someone say AC1 is a must play, lol. Game was a total mess.

I had a lot of fun with ACII, though. My interest tapered off at some point in the middle and I never went back to it, but it was a good time. It was just the side stuff got a little too repetitive for me, and something about AC's combat has always bothered me. It looks fantastic but you can literally counter attack the entire city guard, which begs the question -- why am I running?
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honestgamer posted September 08, 2012:

Thanks for reading, and for the discussion. I'm working through Brotherhood right now and I do plan to follow it up with Revelations if I don't get distracted along the way, so you'll probably see more reviews from me soon. I'm so totally going to be ready to cover III when it comes out. It looks amazing.
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Roto13 posted September 08, 2012:

AC1 is "must play" for anyone who wants to play the Assassin's Creed series and experience the story. It's not exactly one of those games that everyone in the world needs to experience at some point.

It's not some terrible game, though. Play an actual bad game some time and then get back to me. Maybe Sonic '06.
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bbbmoney posted September 08, 2012:

Luckily youtube exists =]
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Suskie posted September 08, 2012:

I replayed AC1 once after playing the more recent ones and it is indeed a bad game. It's got plenty of wonderful ideas (which, it needs to be restated, its sequels properly expanded on), but it operates with a complete disregard for pacing, structure, depth, and variety. I respect it for laying the groundwork for what became, I believe, one of this generation's best new franchises, but then the fact that its sequels got it right only makes AC1 look all the more dated.

I did enjoy AC1's story significantly more the second time around, though, now that I knew where it was going.
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SamildanachEmrys posted September 10, 2012:

Hmm, I might have to go and play this. I wasn't planning to after playing AC1, which I enjoyed for the first few hours but eventually drifted away from because it got so repetitive. It sounds like AC2 might have alleviated that somewhat.
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EmP posted September 11, 2012:

I said AC1 was awful before it became the trendy thing to say!

I've always been open to trying out ACII, provided I see it at the right price and my backlog isn't ungodly. Alas, neither of these things have yet to happen.

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