Tag Archives: Assassin’s Creed II

The rest is up to me, Assassin’s Creed II

gd assassins creed 2 final thoughts

It’s a little weird to be completing Assassin’s Creed II in 2015 when there are now a bajillion more entries in the series, some of which are universally praised and others, such as Assassin’s Creed III, are pretty much loathed. My storied history for this series created by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs has been playing Assassin’s Creed, then skipping right to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and now finally go back to see Assassin’s Creed II‘s lengthy credits roll. I’ve been dabbling at the game piecemeal over the last few months, but was driven to see it off my “still playing” list since getting wind of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag being a freebie for Xbox 360 users at the end of this month. Frustratingly, that means I’ll be skipping two more games in the “as released by Ubisoft” timeline, but neither of them sound highly recommended.

Anyways, Assassin’s Creed II–it’s pretty good. It’s definitely better than the original Assassin’s Creed game, though I fuzzily remember very little from that original outing save for frustrating climbing, annoying collectibles, and repetitive missions. Hey, wait. Some of that junk is still here in this one. Hmm, I guess it is the other elements that make the game stand a few rooftops higher, such as more nuanced and engaging combat, better climbing mechanics, and building up your home base with shops, paintings, and loot to earn some sweet coin. Plus, the locations you visit are more interesting to explore, and stabbing dudes from on a horse is never boring though I still prefer smoke bombing and making a hasty exit.

I won’t really go into too much story stuff, as the story in the Assassin’s Creed series–both in and outside the Animus–has never really interested me. I’m more into the exploring and climbing of buildings and running from rooftop to rooftop, with the occasional cool-looking assassination. Naturally, I did all the tombs as fast as I could, as the platforming puzzles, while frustrating and unclear in spots, are really the most enjoyable aspect to me. I will always hate tailing missions and chase missions, which thankfully only made up a small portion of the game. I prefer going from point A to point B and stabbing a dude in the neck, and I’m sorry if that concerns you. At least now I understand why it felt like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood picked up immediately after the conclusion of the previous game–that’s because it did.

Alas, come the end, I only found…42 of 100 feathers. I will not be going back to find the remainder of the flags. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood spoiled me with its ability to purchase maps of flag locations–though I still never went out and grabbed them all–but here you have only your ears and eyes to guide you on your collecting path. They tinkle and sparkle, but that’s not enough. No thanks. That means I will also miss out on the Auditore cape, which is unlocked for finding all the feathers. One last task for me to handle before deleting the game from my Xbox 360’s hard-drive is finding the remainder of the hidden symbols on select buildings, and I suspect I might grab a feather or two along the way, but not enough to finish the side quest.

Lastly, I do enjoy end credits sequences where you, the player, are still involved in some way. One standout favorite is shooting asteroids with developers’ faces and names on them in Vanquish to add to your final score tally. While not as cool as that, the end credits sequence in Assassin’s Creed II has you running around as Desmond outside the Animus as he and others try to escape the modern-day Templars. It’s more of the same from the main gameplay, but it is fun to see the names of the game’s creators scroll by as you punch, counter, and run from danger.

Well, I’ll be back to my assassinating ways very soon once Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag becomes free for Gold users at the end of April. Until then, the rest is up to me.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #26 – Assassin’s Creed II

2015 gd games completed assassins creed 2

Desmond, Ezio
Caught in political plot
Stab stab climb jump stab

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Turns out, with videogames, you can go home again

assassin's creed 2 back to acre gd

I’m not one hundred percent sure who the “they” is, but they often say you can’t go home again. It’s a phrase I think about a lot, with plans to eventually draw a short little comic involving children, forest monsters, and cranky parents about the notion. At 31, with my life going through unexpectedly grand changes and my head occasionally thinking the worst of worst thoughts (a taste), all I truly desire is to go home. For comfort, for repose. My home now, meaning the one where I eat and sleep and sigh and take pictures of my cats, is characteristically cold and full of empty rooms. No, the home I’m talking about is the one I grew up in, the red-bricked, two-story structure that sat square in the middle of a T-cross section in a small, neighborly town. From my bedroom window there, I saw all kinds of traffic: vehicle, foot, animal, love.

The idea of returning somewhere can be both physical and mental. I physically want to go back into that house and sit on my childhood bedroom’s floor, my back against the wall just under the windowsill, the same way I’d sit for hours either on the phone with my high school girlfriend or killing time by playing the guitar and scribbling down mopey song lyrics. This is something my body is calling out for, a hunger pain. I also mentally want that time back, that feeling of safeness and irresponsibility, even if I rarely acted on it, and those voices, the sounds from below. It can’t really be replicated, at least not when it is constructed entirely around emotions and personal experiences, but going back, if I’m to believe A Separate Peace, can be healing.

Turns out, videogames occasionally make a good effort at bringing the player back “home.” I was recently taken aback by this, and the feeling it gave has been stuck in me, just under my skin, for a couple months now, itching to be scratched. I thought I’d write a bit about it, as well as some other games that have attempted to bring things full circle over the years.

Let it be said, and let it be said in red lettering, there be major spoilers ahead for the majority of the listed games. Read at your own risk.

Assassin’s Creed II

Let’s start with the game that gave me this blog post topic to begin with. Again, I’m coming to Assassin’s Creed II late, having only played the bread parts to this meat sandwich of stabbiness. Anyways, after completing some assassination missions and then training in a current day warehouse with Lucy, something goes wonky, and you find yourself back in Acre, the setting for the first game in Ubisoft’s now long-winded series. Not only have you returned to where it all started, you also are in control of Altair, not Ezio. Your mission is to follow a figure running away from you, and that includes climbing up a tall tower and seeing the city for all it is.

I had a moment of hesitation, believing this to be a dream sequence, the sort that you watch unfold, but take no part in. Eventually, I strode ahead, and it was business as usual, but tingling surfaced as I jogged past people from another game, another time period. I wouldn’t say I recognized anyone or any building in particular, but the feeling remained nonetheless–I’ve been here before. Strangely, if I had popped in the game disc for Assassin’s Creed, I might not have felt the same way, and I guess that says something about sleight of hand, of transportation.

Borderlands 2

The ramshackle town of Fyrestone in the original Borderlands is where it all started for your choice of vault hunter. You return there in Borderlands 2 to find it a changed place. Handsome Jack, everyone’s favorite man to hate, has turned Fyrestone into a slag-soaked junkyard since Hyperion moved into the area. At his orders, the town was renamed to Jackville and preserved to mock the original Vault Hunters, although robots were also sent in to kill any remaining inhabitants. The layout remains very much the same, but it’s darker, drearier, and, most importantly, more dangerous.

You don’t approach Fyrestone the same way you did in the first game, only realizing where you are once you are in the main area where you used to shop for shields and new guns and turn in missions on the job board. It certainly took me by surprise, but I didn’t have much time to stand around in awe as angry robots began to occupy my attention.

Suikoden II

Oops, I already wrote about this moment.

BioShock Infinite

It’s a short, but powerful moment. At the very end of BioShock Infinite, Booker finds himself in Rapture, the underwater utopia-gone-to-Hell from the original game in the series. Having recently replayed the game over the Christmas holidays, the moment did not feel as impactful as it first did, but when you don’t know it’s coming, it packs a doozy. There’s not much to explore or see while in Rapture a second time–it is, after all, just another doorway, and the game is over at this point, so no more combat to be had–but after spending a solid number of hours in the clouds, knowing you are deep underwater, in an oh-so-similar world once more is a thrill.

Chrono Cross

Okay. I’m stretching it here with Chrono Cross, considering it all happens within the same game, but visiting the same location in different, alternate timelines still does give off a nostalgic tingle. Like, it’s both the same and changed, a feeling of being out of place somewhere deeply familiar. There’s Home World, and there’s Another World. I love it. Plus, just before you go off to fight the Time Devourer, you do stumble across the Ghost Children, which are the ghosts of Crono, Marle, and Lucca from Chrono Trigger, so it’s a blast from the past, though a bit somber.

Got any other examples of returning to locations from previous games? If so, shout ’em out in the comments below. These were all I could think of and have actually experienced thus far, but there’s gotta be more. I can’t be the only one that wants to go home again.

Doing the assassin thing during the Italian Renaissance

Assassin's Creed 2 early impressions

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.