Assassin’s Creed 2 – Review


ac2

Where to begin?  If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed (the original) before and even enjoyed it a tad bit, you’ll love the sequel.

Overview

The sequel (Assassin’s Creed 2 – AC2), begins at the conclusion of the original (story wise) as Desmond (the character you portray in the future) is helped to escape imprisonment.  This leads to him eventually re-entering the Animus, a machine which reads a person’s DNA and allows the person to re-live the life of one of their ancestors.

Desmond finds himself as Ezio, son of a banker in Florence, Italy during the Italian renaissance.  In a similar fashion to the original, Ezio (and, by extension, Desmond) wades into various plotlines in Florence and in other cities.  In AC2, there is less time spent as Desmond – the majority of the time is spent in the Animus.  This is fine, as most of the action takes place as Ezio.

I do not wish to give away the salient plot lines, I’ll rather focus on game play and some tactics I found useful. 

The first thing to mention is that, alike the original, Ezio does not start out with a full range of skills.  He is taught new skills and given new weapons as he progresses through the game.  By sequence 6 you should have the majority of skills, although you don’t really unlock the full arsenal until the second last sequence.

Tactics 101

Money – Florins (f) are the principal form of currency in the game.  I’d strongly advise looting treasure chests as soon as you start the game.  The faster you can upgrade the Villa’s shops and resources the more money you make.  Money was not a problem for me after sequence 4, simply by expanding the Villa ASAP.  I completed the Villa by the end of sequence 4.  You can purchase treasure maps from Art Stores.

Eagles – I’ve always found it beneficial to always synchronise with each Eagle (lookout) in each city ASAP.  Being able to see the merchants and other interesting items helps speed up each sequence.

Note: In the later stages of the game (in Venice) you may come across towers which appear un-climbable.  This means you need to continue following the story, to obtain a new skill which will allow you to climb higher.

Powder – This is a great way to disable a large group of guards.  While they are paralysed, you can dispatch up to three guards with the double short blade.

Swap weapons – Swapping weapons when you are facing a difficult guard or enemy can be a good way to throw the opponent off balance.

In Venice – Swim.  Having been to Venice (in real life) I can’t say I’d recommend this outside of the video game, but jumping into the canals is a great way to escape and can even be a faster way to get between regions somewhat quickly,

Throwing Knives – Always keep stock, these are handy (and relatively cheap) ways to dispatch guards quickly.  You can even use them in melee attacks if you have enough distance.  In later stages, you may need to throw two knives as the guards get tougher.

Know your assassination techniques – There are a couple (from the air, from hanging position) and they all play a very important role.

Vary your tactics – Sometimes, fighting is fun, but not always the best approach.  To gain pages of the codex, I found it cheaper and more convenient to use Courtesans or Thieves to lure the guards away from the entrance.

Looting the dead – It sounds vulgar, but in the latter stages of the game this is a great way to replenish your supplies of throwing knives, medicine and powder.  Essential in the last stage, as you will not have an opportunity to purchase more of these.

Search for the Seals – I was able to obtain all six seals by sequence 6, and it unlocks the armour of Altair which requires no maintenance (no repairs).  It is by far the best armour in the game, and also looks the coolest.  This is the armour worn by the figure accompanying the Black Edition.

Note: The catacombs of the six seals are the hardest part of the game.  You can achieve all of them without finishing the story mode, don;t be discouraged!  However, I would recommend getting very familiar with free running and climbing techniques, as the tombs require your complete attention.  I found the earlier tombs to be pretty hard, the later ones proved challenging due to the timed runs (having to reach a point within a specific window of time).

Game Play

Free Run – The problems we faced in Assassin’s Creed (1) seem to have been addressed in the sequel.  Although it is still (frustratingly) possible to command Ezio to death dive off a tall building, free run is much more responsive, and Ezio seems to attach himself to the proper windows, ladders etc unlike in the original. 

There are some improvements which also may take some time to get used to.  You must master these improvements to have any hope of completing all six tombs.

Locking On – The “locking on” to enemies is still a bit of a nightmare, especially when using throwing knives, so make sure you have a lock on the right enemy before attacking.  I love the double blade, the assassination skills are greatly enhanced, especially being able to assassinate from a haystack (when hidden).

Visuals

Comparison Game vs. Actual

ac2-stmarks   actual-stmarks-resized
In-Game Shot from Assassin’s Creed 2 in St Mark’s Square, Venice vs.. Actual shot of St Mark’s Square (Taken by me)

Like the first version, AC2 has stunningly rich visual textures and a virtual world of exploration opportunities.  The first time Ezio stepped into St Mark’s square, I instantly recognised it.  Full marks for display, the attention to detail is amazing.  Many historical venues are rendered in the game, and they all look spectacular.

The cut sc
enes work well within the game and do not distract from the overall mood and feel.  The one exception being when viewing glyphs.  It immediately cuts away from the game and into puzzle solving mode which can be a bit of a change of pace, especially when you are in the middle of a mission.

Side Missions/Collectables

There are the usual collectables (in order to reach 100%) mainly feathers, weapons, glyphs and art work.  The codex pages need to be acquired in order to complete the game, so they don’t really count as side missions.  The assassin tombs are technically optional, although wholly recommended.

Art work can easily be bought once you have bought all the other weapons and improvements for the villa.  I’d save most of the side missions for after you have completed story mode, so it gives you something to do while you go back and locate all the feathers.

Conclusion

Recommended highly as a strong game in it’s own right.  Far superior to the original, I foresee another in the series being developed and wonder how they could possibly innovate further?


About Rob Sanders

IT Professional and TOGAF 9 certified architect with nearly two decades of industry experience, 18 years in commercial software development and 11 years in IT consulting. Check out the "About Rob" page for more information.

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