Review: Assassin’s Creed 2 (PC)
Tags: AC2, assassin's creed, Assassin's Creed II, assassins creed 2, Stupid DRM, ubisoft
The first Assassin’s Creed was a very interesting game: historical setting, third-person parkour action, and a plot that couldn’t have been sillier if it had been written by Dan Brown. I really liked it, despite it’s numerous flaws, with the excitement that comes with free-running around on the rooftops of medieval Middle Eastern cities, plunging giant spikes into the necks of various evil Templars outweighing the far-too-frequent dull, tedious and boring ‘Desmond’ storyline (and unskippable cutscenes) and the repeated dull, tedious and boring missions. Thankfully, AC 2 retains the best parts of the first game and has a good go at fixing the problems. Hit the jump for more.
No review of Assassin’s Creed 2 for PC would be complete without a big ol’ moan about the quite frankly absurd DRM, which is only right, because it’s a right pain. If you want to play the game, you have to be connected to the internet at all times. No exceptions. I live in a village, which, while not quite in the sticks, is certainly stick-ish. So, when my internet goes down, admittedly only occasionally, I can’t play it. This happened twice to me while I was playing. The games just stops and brings up a message saying “Your internet has been disconnected.” and won’t let you continue until it’s reconnected, which in this situation was completely beyond my control. Why are you penalising people who payed for your game? Had I pirated it, I could have simply played, without the nonsense. If the pirates make it easier for your consumers to play, you really shouldn’t be surprised when people pirate your game.
Right, now that’s over, let’s talk about the actual game. The plot still follows Desmond ‘Charisma Vacuum’ Miles, a man whose DNA somehow contains the memories of his ancestors (we’re leaving any pretense at being scientific at the door here, folks). You wake up in your room at Abstergo Industries, the modern-day Templars. The (now weirdly frog-faced) woman from the first game turns up and tells you to do stuff, and you head off to the Assassin’s base, where you meet Danny Wallace. No, it’s actually Danny Wallace. Anyway, Danny and his friend have got their own version of the Animus (the remember-your-ancestors machine from the first one) which is better for some reason, and in order to give you the Assassin skills quickly, you need to be your 15th century Italian ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Thankfully, the game divests with most of the ‘future’ stuff, for an emphasis on Ezio’s story of revenge, murder, and silly Italian accents.
Thankfully, the new setting is ideal for the runny-jumpy-stabby gameplay making a return from the first Assassin’s Creed – leaping from rooftop to rooftop in Florence is as exhilarating as it was in Jerusalem. The free-running returns pretty much unchanged, with the new protagonist as adept as Altair as scaling buildings and hopping around the beautifully realised cities which Ubisoft have done such a great job of crafting. The cities feel authentic, with each (Florence, Venice and Rome primarily, but incuding smaller towns and your family villa) having a distinct architectural feel. Fortunately, once you’ve travelled to a city on horseback, you can fast travel for a few florins from then on. The primary missions have much greater variety in the sequel, and while ultimately they may just be variations on ‘go to this city and kill this guy’, interesting twists are introduced: for example, I’ve got to kill a priest; thing is, he’s ensconced at the top of the tallest tower in the city. This means I have to take out his surrounding guards and work my way all the way to the top. This is just one example of many. The secondary missions, sadly, don’t fare as well, with there being about five or six repeated ad nauseum. One fantastic addition is the Prince of Persia-like crypt levels, which you’ve got to make your way through to get various seals which eventually unlock the ultra-cool Armour of Altair.
The combat is similar, but several changes have been made: you can no longer take down every enemy with a counter-attack, some require timing and precision to take down, which is a welcome relief. You’re also able to buy various kinds of weapons and armour, along with paintings and upgrades to your family’s villa-town… thing, which earns you money over time, and the more you invest, the more you get out. While the assassination stuff is still the same, you’re given a lot more tools with which to do the job, including double assassin’s blades, a wrist-mounted pistol, and my favourite, the poison blade. Say you want to get to something, but there are guards in the way. One of them has a polearm, so you stab him with the poison blade. He doesn’t notice, but after a few seconds, he starts to flail around, lashing out at anyone nearby in an attempt to kill his poisoner. His fellow guards get in the way, they get stabbed. I throw a few handfuls of coins on the ground, and the city’s beggars run over, and they to are enveloped in the developing scrum, and in the confusion, you sneak by. Or you could climb over the surrounding rooftops, and be faced with the problem of fighting your way out. For many missions, the fun is in the choice of method as much as it is in (pardon the pun) the execution.
Overall, then, what’s the verdict? Pretty darn amazing, all told. Despite my problems with the DRM and the flimsy story, the protagonist is likeable enough to carry you through, and you do end up caring about some of the characters (albeit few). The gameplay is amazing improved on almost all counts over the previous game, and while some of the missions may lack variety, they’re certainly engaging enough to make you want to keep playing (a problem if your internet cuts out, but otherwise…). I would have no trouble recommending this to anybody who was alienated by the faults of the first game, or, indeed, almost anyone at all.
Assassin’s Creed 2 gets 4.5/5 Aeropausonauts.
Available from Gamersgate!