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Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection (PlayStation 4) artwork

Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection (PlayStation 4) review

"Experience a lifetime of revenge and mayhem back when that sort of thing was considered noble!"

Even if its three games aren't exactly perfect, it's still easy for a person to get sucked into Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection and have a great time for many hours. Consisting of Assassin's Creed 2 and its sequels, Brotherhood and Revelations, it's as good a place as any to jump into the series if, like me, you're doing so via PlayStation Plus, which eschewed the original game for reasons unknown to a mere mortal such as myself.

While a person could say the main character of this trilogy is Desmond Miles, a modern-day Assassin-in-training who happens to have famed members of that order as ancestors, as he seeks to learn from those guys in order to help the cause against the evil Templars and their plans to control the world, his scenes tend to be little more than a framing device. You'll control Desmond for a few minutes and then he'll enter a computer simulation known as the Animus and relive the exploits of Ezio Auditore.

Assassin's Creed 2 starts out as Ezio's origin story. Initially a carefree youth in Florence, Italy, things go horribly wrong for him when a family friend performs a betrayal, leading to his father and two brothers being executed and him becoming a fugitive from justice. Fortunately, his father was a notable Assassin whose connections offered protection to Ezio, his mother and sister, while also introducing him to the age-old conflict between Assassins and Templars.

From there, he starts picking off the people directly responsible for the deaths of his family members and discovers that is only the beginning of a massive conspiracy that goes all the way up to the current pope, leading him from Florence to Tuscany, Venice and Rome as he leaves a trail of bodies in his wake.

His confrontation with Rodrigo Borgia, the pope in question, is the end of Ezio's story in that game. Brotherhood opens exactly where AC 2 ends. Borgia is defeated, but still alive, as Ezio escapes from Rome with the mystic doodad he was trying to obtain before his adversary. The celebration is cut short, though, as Borgia's son, Cesare, launches a surprise attack upon the family villa, killing one of Ezio's most stalwart allies and seriously wounding him.

Upon recovering, Ezio has another quest for vengeance on his hands. This time, instead of moving from one city to the next, nearly all of his work takes place in Rome and its surrounding countryside, with occasional visits to other locations as parts of optional quests. With the Borgia family controlling most of the area, he'll also have to work to dispel their influence by taking over their guard towers, while also purchasing businesses to improve the local economy. Oh, and since the Assassin's guild has seen better days, he'll be in charge of recruiting potential members and training them.

Revelations is much the same, but with the action moved from Italy to Constantinople. Ezio now is looking for the library of original Assassin's Creed protagonist, Altair. New city, old problems, though, as the Templars are endeavoring to place that city under their control. After playing Brotherhood, you'll know the drill. Take over towers, buy businesses, recruit and train assassins and kill Templars.

While the Desmond scenes tend to walk the line between world-building and filler, it's a lot of fun to control Ezio throughout his adventures. I mean, I could complain that Revelations feels a bit unnecessary with how his main story arc is contained in the first two games, with this one essentially just tacking on a new adventure in a new city with a new supporting cast to replace all the people who'd previously been established as his family and allies. However, I do have to admit it does have a few nice additions to the formula, such as a handful of missions that show what happened to Altair after the events of his game.

These three games all can be considered sandboxes. You'll be in one crowded city or another, alternating between plot quests and optional ones. Ezio is a pretty versatile character. He regularly partakes in agile free-running, allowing him to quickly climb to the tops of buildings or other structures, while also nimbly leaping from one narrow ledge to the next. In combat, he can use a variety of weapons, with none so useful as his Hidden Blade. That retractable knife is perfect for taking out guards and other adversaries. Just walk up to them, hit a button and watch Ezio put that thing right in someone's throat.

Missions often require some degree of stealth, as you might expect considering you're playing the role of a dude who exists to find the weaknesses of his victims and exploit them in order to end their lives . During some quests, being discovered will result in Desmond being desynchronized from the Animus also known as you being sent back to the previous checkpoint while, starting with Brotherhood, you'll be given optional objectives to be fully in sync with Ezio, such as avoiding damage or finishing a quest quickly.

Fortunately, Ezio's agility and tools make him equal to these tasks. Along with the building-climbing and tool-using, he also has the special vision that's common to seemingly every action hero in gaming today. Click a button and you'll be able to see secrets and pick out your quarry in a crowd. In Revelations, it even extends to detailing the patrol routes being taken by guards.

Overall, I loved the vibe of these three games. I got to explore large and vibrant cities. There were assortments of brain-teasing puzzles through the first two games that can be completed to unearth in-universe conspiracy theories. There are a variety of objectives, ranging from rebuilding cities to hunting throughout those locales for various treasures. All three games have a number of places essentially serving as challenging obstacle courses necessary to complete in order to get one artifact or another. If there's one thing I know, it's that playing through The Ezio Collection makes me want to continue on with this series.

Despite that praise, these games aren't perfect. As said before, Revelations does have that "made to make more money" feel to it, where the game might be good, but it continues Ezio's story after its natural conclusion had already happened. That game also has optional Desmond missions and DLC that were nowhere near as much fun as the actual games. In those, you'll be playing in a first-person mode going through sparsely-decorated locations inside the Animus to create and manipulate blocks to get through courses that feel like they go on for an eternity due to the utter tedium involved.

Ezio's agility can work against the player, as well. When you're pressing the proper buttons to free-run, things can get a bit too responsive. It's easy to be sprinting to evade guards and suddenly find yourself grabbing onto part of a building in order to climb it. Did you want to do this? Probably not, but you got too close to the place while holding the right (wrong?) buttons, so that's what the game assumed. Oftentimes, fighting just felt like this chaotic thing where I pounded the attack button while occasionally kicking an enemy to break his guard or grabbing a nimble one so that my attacks could actually land.

If I didn't really enjoy a game's vibe, I'd refer to stuff along those lines as damning flaws. Here, they were just annoyances I was willing to overlook as I progressed farther into Ezio's adventures. The three games making up The Ezio Collection aren't perfect and, in fact, play somewhat awkwardly at times but I still was able to easily get dragged into their worlds to the degree that I tore through them, loved the experience and still want to experience more. All things considered, that's a pretty awesome feat!

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 08, 2023)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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honestgamer posted March 09, 2023:

This was a tightly written, excellent review of a compilation. I found a few spots to fix:

"will result in Desmond be desynchronized" < 'being'
"going through sparsely-decoration locations" < 'sparsely-deorated'
"kicking a guard to break his guard" < just struck me as funny repetition

When I was in the middle of my own Assassin's Creed binge, I played through the original releases of the games in this collection and then continued on to Assassin's Creed III, which I finished. I haven't played any of them since, despite purchasing them. I love the series, but I burned myself out a bit and III ends on a bit of a sour note, I thought.

I need to get back to the series. Judging by my own gaming activities, compared to yours, I suspect you'll beat me to that!
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overdrive posted March 10, 2023:

Thanks for the catches and the kind words. Yeah, it probably won't be super long before I get back into AC with 3 and so on, but I do want a bit of time to recharge the batteries. I could tell with Revelations that, while I liked the game, I was getting a bit burnt out after going from 2 to Brotherhood to it back-to-back-to-back with no break between them. Figured that if I quickly went to 3, I'd be in a very nit-picking mood. But overall, I found these games to be really fun and, if the series in general is along their level of quality (I know a few of the ones between 4 and the more RPG-ish ones starting with Origins got comparatively mediocre review scores, but from what I gleaned, a lot of that had more to do with things like the hero was more boring than Ezio (at least Unity) and/or the game being really derivative of others in the series. Which means that I'd like them, but probably wouldn't want to play them in quick succession because that could get tiresome.

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