Assassin’s Creed 2

What makes a trilogy truly succesful? Some might say it’s the story, the production value, and the actors. While these may indeed help out, I believe that it all comes down to the ability to hold an audiences attention for three installments.

A lot of the responsibility for accomplishing this task falls onto the middle installment, which must answer questions from the first one, expand/improve the subject matter, rejuvenate the audience’s interest, and get people pumped for the finale.

The Assassin’s Creed trilogy is a very good example of these qualities and it astounds with its many improvements.

There is no doubt that the original Assassin’s Creed was fun, but it was lacking in several areas. The sequel takes everything that was wrong with the first one and fixes it.

Assassin’s Creed 2 picks up directly where the first game ends and never looks back. After a quick little explanation of the first game through cut scene, you are off and running as bartender Desmond Miles desperately tries to escape his confinement from the sadistic Templars. After a quick fight sequence you escape the facility and are brought to the nearby Assassin’s Hideout. Within 10 minutes of starting the game, you jump right back into the animus, the futuristic machine that lets you relive your ancestor’s memories through your DNA.

This time around you are taking control of upstart Ezio Auditore, a young noble from Florence enjoying the good life. The game then gives you a tutorial of basic things like fighting and climbing cleverly disguised as routines from Ezio’s everyday life. Before you know it, your family is double crossed and put in jail. In your final conversation with your father, he instructs Ezio to go back to his house and check the back room for a chest.

Once you locate the chest, you don the new and improved assassin’s robe and get to work. Your quest is one of vengeance: to find and kill the ones behind your family’s execution.  You soon learn that the trail of deception and treason runs much deeper than a couple of nobles in Florence. Sadly, the overall story line isn’t quite as interesting as this inner story. The whole reason for going through Ezio’s life is so that Desmond can be trained in the way of the assassins similar to the way Neo was trained in “The Matrix”

The story however, is not why most people play these sorts of games. Their level of enjoyment is based largely on game play. The game play has improved drastically from the first one. Gone are the awful eavesdropping and pick pocketing missions as well as the extreme aversion to water. There is a slew of new weapons including the coveted double hidden blades and, my favorite, the poison tipped hidden blade, which sends whomever you infect into a berserk rage until eventually killing them. Most of these weapon upgrades are given to you by your good friend and all around eccentric Leonardo DaVinci.

There are still buildings to climb and synchronizing to be done, but it is all made so much simpler and more fun due to Ezio. He can climb faster and smoother than Altiar ever could and frankly, Ezio is by far a cooler protagonist than his overly serious predecessor, Ezio will crack a joke given half the chance and is quite the charmer. He even takes off his hood once in awhile!

If I had one complaint in the game, it’s that they make it really hard to get anything accomplished. Every time I was making my way to a mission, I repeatedly got sidetracked by the sheer amount of stuff there is to do in the game. At every turn there is something else to do and you actually feel compelled to do them, unlike the first game.

Another improvement is the economy system. Everything costs money: weapons, armor, repair, health potions (your health doesn’t regenerate this time around), and even paintings. The paintings are displayed in your Villa, which you end up traveling to a lot. When you first go to your villa and settle in, it’s a dilapidated excuse for a small town, but after you sink a few Florins into the villa, you will see it blossom before your eyes. It proves that you must indeed spend money to make money for the more you invest in your villa, the more income it generates that ends up in your pocket. Also, if you upgrade the shops you can get very nice discounts and even the occasional weapon that is only purchasable in the villa.

Making money is actually quite easy. You get a fair sized amount after completion of missions and there are chests filled with money scattered across every city. The locations of these chests can be purchased for a nominal fee and to top it off, with the simple push of a button, you can pickpocket anyone on the street.

Probably the best upgrade from AC1 is that AC2 has so many ways in which you can accomplish a mission. They said there was more than one way to assassinate people in the first game, but there really wasn’t. In this game, it becomes obvious quickly that it lives up to what the first did not. You can of course simply assassinate someone, you can even assassinate someone from the air (which has been made insanely easy compared to the first game), but now you can do things like hiring mercenaries to attack anyone you choose and hire thieves to distract guards from a specific area.

Assassin’s Creed 2 does very few things wrong. If you liked the first game, then you’ll love this sequel. If you didn’t care for the first game, you’ll be singing a different tune after playing its follow-up. And if you just like stabbing people in the head without them knowing you were there, boy do I have the game for you.