Yesterday, everyone was all atwitter over Assassin’s Creed: Unity–though not really over Assassin’s Creed: Rogue–mostly due to Ubisoft’s strange limitations on its review embargoes, as well as the resounding conclusion that the newest stabby-stab title for new consoles in the age-ol’ franchise from a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs is nothing more than mediocre. Naturally, I got the itch to run around rooftops and pierce jerks with hidden blades, so I finally loaded up Assassin’s Creed II for the first time, which Xbox gave out for free many moons ago. Please remember that I played the original Assassin’s Creed and then followed it up with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, so I’m jumping to the middle chapter mega-late, but that’s all right.
What is Assassin’s Creed II all about? Well, the outside-the-Animus narrative is set in the 21st century and follows Desmond Miles after he escapes Abstergo Industries and relives the genetic memories of his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The main narrative takes place at the height of the Italian Renaissance during the 15th and early 16th century. Ezio, a young, charming fellow very much in love with the ladies, is on a vengeance quest against those responsible for betraying his family. That’s all I know so far, having completed everything in sequence 1 and now just running around the map in search of treasure boxes and feathers (when I hear them twinkling).
The game came out in 2009, and it still looks really good, just not in cutscenes. Moving around the world still feels mightily impressive, with a good number of people roaming the streets below, though it is more fun to leap around on the rooftops. However, cutscenes show a lot of dead-eye stares and flat expressions, but it’s not a deal-breaker. I remember Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood fixing a lot of gameplay problems I had with the original title, and I suspect those changes actually started here. Looks like the side missions mostly consist of beating up faithless husbands/boyfriends, racing thieves across rooftops, and killing targets for money, and then there’s the collectibles: hundreds of treasure chests, eagle feathers, semi-mystical glyphs, and statuettes hidden throughout the world. The fact that some of these collectibles appear on the mini-map (after you buy a treasure map) is truly all I needed.
There’s still some open-world jank and lousy platforming to wrangle with, but that’s kind of the same ol’ baggage every Assassin’s Creed carries with it, and the good generally outweighs the bad. However, I do not like trying to climb a building only to accidentally cause Ezio to leap from a window off to the street below and his synchronization death. It’s happened a few times. The combat is not as refined or fluid as Brotherhood‘s was, but still enjoyable to counter a soldier’s sword swipe and knee them in the gut. I’m still early into the adventure, so I don’t have any other fun combat tools at my disposal, but hopefully Leonardo da Vinci can help freshen up the fights.
People are all up in arms over Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s “Press X to pay respects” prompt, but maybe many have forgotten how, early on here, you press buttons to make baby Ezio move his limbs. I’ve also run into a few strange QTE-like moments in Assassin’s Creed II that leave me feeling very uninspired. Every now and then, during a cutscene, there’s a button prompt to do something, like show off your newly acquired hidden blade, but these button prompts are on the screen for less than a second. Generally, I put the controller down during a cutscene, not expecting to be asked to remain involved, and so I’ve missed every single one of these moments. Even when I suspected one might be incoming, I still missed it, being too slow and distracted by my kitty cat. I don’t know, they are strange additions.
I wonder if Assassin’s Creed II will sustain my open-world, rooftop-running itch for a while or if I’ll need to acquire another title down the line. If so, I think everyone likes Black Flag the most currently. Until then, may no one see you stab someone in the neck.