Assassin’s Creed 2

November 20, 2009

Want a quick review? AWESOME GAME. BUY IT!

Still here? Ok, good. This game is absolutely golden. I’m having such a good time with it. I love me a good story driven action/adventure game. And treasure hunting too, as I’m sure I already mentioned in a previous post. If you enjoyed the free running of the first game as well as games like Wet, Mirror’s edge, and Prince of Persia; then Assassin’s Creed 2 will definitely scratch that itch. And scratch it good! And with the addition of DUAL hidden blades you can now climb to the rooftops, sneak up on two unsuspecting archers, and bury a blade up to the hilt into the neck of each one of them. And then watch as their limp, bleeding bodies flop and fall to the ground, to the shock and dismay of the unsuspecting villagers below. I should mention that, because I’m a nut, I’ve been playing this game the past couple days with a hoodie pulled up over my head to help pull myself into the game world. When I get into a good story I like to get as deep into it as possible. 🙂

In Assassin’s Creed 2 you reprise your role as Desmond, using the Animus to experience the memories of a different ancestor which are locked in your DNA. Namely, a 17 year old guy name Ezio Auditore Da Firenze. The time period is mid to late 1400’s, during the great Italian Renaissance. Ezio seeks vengeance for the murders of his father and two brothers, one of which was MAYBE 10 years old at the time. Let me tell ya, watching a 10 y/o swing from the gallows with his father and older brother was a bit disturbing, even for me.

The architecture in this game is simply amazing, and while I’m no expert on the topic, seems accurate to the time period. The game points out the most elaborate/historically important buildings as you approach them, and offers you some colorful details about the building’s past. There are many cultural and historical references to study and enjoy. There are also many classical paintings to view and learn about, paintings I remember from the Art History class I took a few years back. So next time someone says videogames don’t teach you anything, you can point to this game, and tell them to shut up.

There’s even a brief nod to the Mario Bros. early on in the game. I won’t go into detail about it, cause I don’t want to spoil the moment for you. Is it cheesy? Perhaps. Is it disruptive to the otherwise well maintained time bubble of the story? Mildly I suppose, but it lasts maybe 2 seconds, and I thought it was funny. I enjoy it when games make “in-joke” nods to our gaming history. If anything, it simply shows that the industry we know and love is growing up and coming into it’s own. The movie industry does this kind of thing all the time, and you don’t hear complaints when they do it.

A quick caution to you gamers out there with kids: There are some conversations in this game which use language inappropriate for children. Words I have NEVER heard used in any game before it. There’s no beating around the bush here, and I honestly wonder how the ESRB let this slip by them. I don’t mind the language personally, it’s nothing I don’t hear online on a daily basis anyway. I’m just amazed the ESRB didn’t red flag it. Even WITH their M(17+) rating. I mean, have YOU ever heard the word “vagina” used in conversation while playing the story mode of a game before? Most of the other bad language is spoken in Italian, but if you turn on the captions from the options menu it will translate everything for you at the bottom of the screen. So if your kids don’t speak Italian, and are too young to read quickly, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Being from New York I find the cussing to be funny and completely understandable in context to the story, but you may feel differently.

The enemy AI is more advanced in this game than it was in it’s predecessor to be sure. The enemies will now search hay stacks for you, plunging their blades or spears in to check if you’re in there. Of course, you now have the ability to reach out from the hay bails while hiding in them, slit the throat of a nearby guard, and pull his dead body into the hay to hide it; so there’s no reason to be too worried. And if you piss them off they WILL chase you up onto the rooftops, so keep that in mind before to rush into a fight with 4-5 guards.

If you’d rather, there are a variety of things you can do now to avoid a fight entirely. You could throw money to the ground near a crowd of people. They’ll scatter excitedly to pick up the coins, and the guards will focus on them instead of you. You could leave a dead body in the street somewhere to distract guards from what you’re doing elsewhere. Just don’t be near the dead body when they find it or they’ll rightly assume you were the one who killed the guy. You can sneak up behind one guard on patrol and poison him. It takes a little bit to take effect, giving you time to sneak away, but when it DOES the guy will go nuts before he dies which will distract the guards.You could run right up to a group of guards and throw a smoke bomb. This will blind, choke, and confuse them; allowing you to cut them all up quick before they have time to realize what’s going on.

You can also hire 3 different groups of 4-5 people to help you out. Each group has it’s own set of skills and will follow you around after you hire them, until you focus on a guard and tell the group to attack/harass him.

(1) There are the Thieves, who will run up and harass the guards, then run away. The guards will run after them, leaving behind whatever area they were guarding. The thieves are also the only group who can follow you up onto the rooftops, but they aren’t as good at free running as you are and are prone to falling off rooftops and dying. You’ve been warned.

(2) Then there’s the Mercenari, or Mercenaries. Hire them and you can order them to go and fight a group of guards. They’ll start a fight and it’ll continue till either they or the guards are all dead, giving you time to sneak past and get whatever you were after.

(3) Last but not least, there’s my personal favorite, the Courtesans (aka Prostitutes). Their groups are versatile and multi-purpose. No pun intended. 😉 First, they can help you stay anonymous while following you around if you simply want to walk down a street full of guards without being detected. Stay in the middle of their little group and no one will even know you’re there. However, if a group of guards does get close to you, one or two of the courtesans will break off from your group and personally distract those guards with a dance or the like. So keep an eye on your crew so you’re not surprised when they’re all gone and you have to search for a new group to hire. Secondly, they carry daggers and they’ll fight along side you if they have to, but they’re not very good at it. So don’t expect them to last long against a group of the better equipt guards. And the final thing they can do for you is a big group distraction. Point them at a group of guards and press the “Distract” button and the girls will work their magic. The guards in question will walk a little ways away from your target to hoot, holler, and make cat calls and rude gestures at the courtesans; completely ignoring you so that you can sneak past.

It may just be the way that I’m playing the game, completing all side quests and finding all hidden treasure chests, etc before moving on to the next city, but this game feels a lot bigger than Assassin’s Creed 1. I’m a completion-ist to be sure, but still. The cities are huge, and incredibly detailed. Venice in particular is simply MASSIVE. Speaking of Venice, I gave myself a row boat tour of the city last night for the hell of it. I figured this was as close as I’d ever get to seeing the real thing, so I should see it the way it was meant to be seen. 🙂

I’m about halfway through the game right now, and I believe my save file says I’ve logged around 32 hours. So even WITHOUT a multi-player experience Assassin’s Creed 2 is well worth your money.

The other aspect of the game that’s worth mentioning are the puzzles. The save file that is being used to help you access your ancestor’s memories have been hacked by a mysterious character known only as “Subject 16”. He was another person that the evil Abstergo corp. had put through the Animus experiments. In the machine for days at a time without food or water, the man lost his mind. He started seeing ancestor memories without being connected to the Animus, and went crazy as a result, losing the ability to tell what was real and what wasn’t. How someone like that has the ability to hack Abstergo’s operating system and insert files into your memories is beyond me, but I enjoy the puzzles anyway.

The puzzles include basic ciphers, picture puzzles, word associations, and hunting through images for hidden content. I’ve even found a few hidden ciphers in some of the pictures, and while they weren’t necessary to solve the puzzles, they added an extra glimpse into the story and it’s interpretation of some major historical figures and events. Besides, I enjoyed decoding the secret messages, made me feel like a secret agent.

I give Assassin’s Creed 2 a 9 out of 10. If they would fix the glitch that keeps causing ghost objective markers to linger on my HUD’s map I would gladly change my score to a 10 out of 10. It’s a small glitch, and the only one I’ve found, but when you’re doing a mission and there are 3-4 ghost assassination target icons on the HUD map that don’t really exist it’s really damn frustrating.

~Penguin out.

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2 Responses to “Assassin’s Creed 2”

  1. Heather said

    Awesome review! Now I wanna play! Looks like something to throw onto the ol’ Christmas list 🙂

  2. Penguin said

    Assassin’s Creed 2 Update (11/25/09)

    I’ve beaten it. Last night, (11/24/09) though it looks like I won’t have internet again for a few weeks, so by the time anyone sees this post it’ll be a bit dated. I saw online a couple weeks ago that someone was wondering if you could go back and complete side quests after beating the game. The answer is yes. I also noticed that if you select “DNA” from the options menu, and scroll to the end you can get a break down of how many feathers you have found in each area out of how many remain. And while that’s not as useful as a map of all feather locations (please dear god someone make a map of all feather locations) it sure is a step in the right direction.

    I don’t want to spoil anything, but they did a great job setting up the ending of the game for the continuation of the story in the next one. I’m stoked. It looks to me like the 3rd game will also be the FINAL game in the series. Unless they were to do something like have us play the 4th game from the perspective of the mysterious “Subject 16” that they introduced to us through the bizarre puzzles hidden in glyphs painted on important buildings throughout AC2.

    As far as those puzzles are concerned, I’ve found all but one of them. The building I can’t seem to find first appeared to me shortly after entering Venice. I must have skipped over it because I was involved in a mission or something, but NOW I can’t find it for the life of me. Just as frustrating is the fact that I can’t seem to crack the last two puzzles that I WAS able to find. I was able to find a page online that describes how to crack each of the puzzles here: http://mycheats.1up.com/view/section/3170852/28004/assassin_s_creed_2/xbox_360

    But this knowledge does me no good since I don’t currently have access to the internet. Pisses me off to think that I’m going to have to wait several weeks in order to solve this mystery and see what those video segments are all about. I’m sure I’ll survive somehow. After all, isn’t that why man created cheap beer?

    ~Penguin out.

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