Saturday, December 25, 2010

Video Game Review - Assassin's Creed 2

Well it's about time. Ok so, recap time CHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILDREN! (Oh wait, wrong game.) Back in august I did a 3 part series about the original Assassin's Creed, and the major problems with it, ending with my review, where I said despite the games BLATANT problems, I still enjoyed it.

Now last month, during NaNoWriMo I finally finished Assassin's Creed 2. So did I love it? Hate it? Was I completely neutral towards it?

Well... There are a few main points I want to address here, Assassin's Creed 2 as a game, Assassin's Creed 2 as a sequel, and the ending. Now, obviously, the ending portion will be extremely spoiler filled, so I suggest you skip that if you haven't played it yet and perhaps come a read that portion of the review later. Don't worry, I'll mark exactly where that section begins and ends.

Assassin's Creed 2 as a game

Let me start by saying that at first glance Assassin's Creed 2 seems to be much better game than Assassin's Creed. This shows me a series that really learned from it's fault in the first game, simply gameplay wise, and really did improve upon them. For example, the voice acting selection was much broader, and less annoying. You still hear repeated lines, but the commonfolk aren't ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT YOU. Also, you can run all you want now, and people won't instantly know you're an Assassin.

There are now, instead of beggar women, minstrels who run near you and start singing until you give them coin. The only difference is this time the game ACTUALLY HAS A MONETARY SYSTEM.

The game also has a new system where you can get many kinds of weapons and armor. Unfortunately this ended up being a very shoddy and confusing "stat" system, which I never fully understood. It only irritated me. Either way, getting the best armor in the game is easy to get, and available very early on, so it doesn't really matter.

There's also, as I said, a monetary system, which allows you to upgrade your home town to make it bigger and better, and then get more money to... Well... Invest in your town! Aside from achievements and getting rid of annoying minstrels, it's pretty useless.

The combat system also got BETTER between AC and AC2. That is a relative term, however, and by no means is the combat in AC2 good. It's still tedious and frustrating, just... Less so.

Still, this is a STEALTH game, is it not?! So what's the SNEAKING like?!

...Very, very optional. And that's not a good thing.

You see, I would have liked some middle ground. In the last game, if someone sneezed three blocks away from you, every guard in the city would instantly descend upon you. It was a great example of fake difficulty.

In this one though, it's almost impossible to get caught! You see, there's a system in place where guards will basically not even look at you, unless you are "infamous". How do you gain infamy? By doing things like stealing, killing... That sort of thing. But here's the thing. You know what irritates me? In AC2 there is a way to pickpocket random NPCs walking down the street. And you know what? No matter what happens, whether you get caught or not, you gain infamy. That bugs me. The whole system is a mess. It's just... A mess.

Speaking of messes, let's talk about the story shall we? So, in case you forgot, the main character of the Assassin's Creed series is Desmond, a bartender from New York who is a descendant of a long line of Assassins, who was kidnapped and put into a machine to relive "genetic memories" to find out where a secret object was. Now, as I said, the last game didn't have an ending. Oh sure, they'd love you to believe what they gave you was a "cliffhanger" ending, but it wasn't. This was not a cliffhanger at all. This game picks up immediately from the non-ending of AC, and leads to the secret lair of the Assassin's, who are teaching Desmond to be the ultimate Assassin, using a new version of the Animus, the machine which lets you relieve genetic memories, which increases the "bleeding effect" and lets Desmond learn from what he's reliving.

Basically it's a ton of technobabble, but it's mildly coherent esq, so I'll let it slide.

Assassin's Creed 2 as a Sequel

I suppose this is spoilery... So uh... Tune out the next paragraph or so, if you don't want a spoiler. Are they gone? Ok. YOU ARE NOT AN ASSASSIN. THIS ISN'T ASSASSIN'S CREED, THIS IS RENAISSANCE BATMAN WHO KILLS PEOPLE CREED. Seriously, at no point in this game is there a real "Assassination". In the first game it was called Assassin's Creed because you were an ASSASSIN! You didn't just kill people, you hunted them. You watched their routine. You found weak points in their defense. And then? Then you stalked them. Then you followed your prey, until finally they made a mistake. And only then, would you strike. Or, you could just kill them, but that made thing much harder, and less fun. Ezio, the main character of this game, DOESN'T EVEN BECOME AN ASSASSIN UNTIL THE LAST HOUR OF THE GAME!

This is a problem, as one of my favorite bits in the first game was the assassinations. There aren't really assassinations in this one, since you AREN'T AN ASSASSIN. It just frustrates me.

You see, while this game is better, technically speaking, than Assassin's Creed was. The problem is that it's TOO radically different. You see, they pitched out a lot of systems, in favor of better ones. You no longer hold X to walk slowly and blend in, you just walk around in groups. This works a lot better. You can run instead of walk, and not get caught instantly. This works a lot better. There's fast travel. This works a lot better. The combat, while still quite broken, functions differently. This works a lot better.

The problem? There's so many changes, that at times it just feels like you're not playing Assassin's Creed. You see, I liked Assassin's Creed. And I wanted this game to be a sequel to that. And it... Aside from a story perspective, really wasn't. Mind you, the game it was is a lot better than Assassin's Creed... But in a way I still missed a lot of what made the first game fun, even though the first Assassin's Creed was... Well... Fundamentally broken.

Now, speaking as a sequel, story wise this game improved IMMENSELY upon the first. The character of Ezio is SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING than Blandy McGee- Sorry, Altair. The voice acting is better, the characters are more interesting and... Well, in general the game is just a LOT BETTER!

And of course, there's the ending.

Assassin's Creed 2's Ending

*Major spoilers for Assassin's Creed 2 begin here. I will mark where they end.*

WOW. WOW. JUST WOW. I finished this game over a month ago and I still can't get over the ending. Heck, I've started Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and I STILL can't get over the ending.

So, first let's talk about the ending, the final level, from a gameplay perspective.

First of all let me just say one thing. Whoever decided it was REQUIRED to collect all the Codex pages hidden throughout the ENTIRE FREAKING GAME in order to finish should be SHOT. This is the exact same GARBAGE that angered Wind Waker players. I DON'T CARE. OK? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS UBISOFT? I DO NOT WANT TO COLLECT ALL THE DANG CODEX PAGES. YOU ARE PADDING YOUR GAME OUT BY MAYBE ANOTHER HOUR, BUT IT IS A HORRIBLE HOUR OF BOREDOM AND SPITE.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the last level shall we? The last level, the Vatican, is brilliant. Why is it brilliant? Because it asks you to use all of the skills you should have developed by this point in the game in order to complete it. There is an area where you can simply fight through hordes of enemies. But then, there is an area where you HAVE to use stealth. And it's awesome.

The last boss though, is pretty lame. It's basically fisticuffs with an overweight Italian man (Who just so happens to be the Pope. SPOILER ALERT!) who happens to have a magical staff. That he... Doesn't really use.

But the last boss fight is more than made up for by the absolutely awesome ending sequence. As you open the vault door, you enter into something, unsure of what you'll find. So what do you find? A message. Ezio opens the vault, and walks in, to find an ancient HOLOGRAM of the "goddess" Minerva (actually a member of "those who came before" the species that lived on Earth before mankind.) who has left a message. As she speaks, you notice that she's not looking at Ezio. She's looking at the screen. She's looking at you. Finally Ezio asks a question. He asks what she's talking about. She then looks at him angrily and says, "I wasn't talking to you! Silence!"

As she looks at the screen, explaining to you that the Earth, humanity, everything, is in terrible danger, danger that wiped out those who came before, and will wipe out humanity now. And then she says, "The rest is up to you... Desmond."

Fade to black.

Cue Desmond saying "What the ****?!"

Seriously, one of the biggest mindfreaks I've ever seen in a game. Absolutely jawdroppingly fantastic cliffhanger ending.

*Spoilers end here*

Buy this game if:
You like crazy conspiracy stories, filled with nonsensical, but nonetheless fun, technobabble. If you like seeing a historically accurate reconstruction of famous cities in Italy, all against a fantastic backdrop. Oh yeah, and there's a point where you get to hug Leonardo Da Vinci. So that's awesome too.

Don't buy this game if:
Clunky combat turns you off from purchasing things. The fact that the Stealth aspects of the game being very optional will irritate you. You're expecting a direct sequel to Assassin's Creed.

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