Assassin's Creed II PS3 Review
Assassin's Creed II PS3 Review
Now that I've finished the game, here's my full opinion on Assassin's Creed II, from gameplay to storyline and replay-ability. No hype, no cliché accounts, and most importantly, NO SPOILERS! ...just a pure review from gamer to gamer!
Have You Ever Played the First Assassin's Creed Game?
My Background With Assassin's Creed
An AC Newbie
Assassin's Creed II was one of the first games I got for the PS3, and I bought due to a friend's recommendation. I never played the original game of the series, as I was told to skip right ahead to part II, being that the first was inferior and "over hyped."
Basically, I jumped into this series knowing nothing about the plot of the first Assassin's Creed: the Templars, their company - Abstergo, Desmond, the Animus and everything else were introduced to me at the spur of the moment, and I wound up having to do some background research on the internet to learn more about them.
In all, the game took me about three months of on-and-off gaming to fully complete to 100%. Don't worry, though - no spoilers will be seen anywhere in this review!
Starting Off In Assassin's Creed II
The game starts you off right where the previous game ended, in the "real world." This entire aspect really made me think of the Matrix, and as the game progresses, that whole concept is revisited due to the "Animus" device. While the game doesn't have a lot of sequences in the real world, the beginning of the game isn't the only time where you'll have interactivity in it.
Your character is Desmond, who revisits the path of yet another ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, through usage of the Animus. If you have no idea what all of this means (as I did not when I first played the game), picture your real-world character laying down in a device that puts him into a rendering of the life of his ancient ancestors.
In this simulated world, Desmond is able to re-trace his ancestor's steps and reveal the true locations of mystical "pieces of Eden" of which the Templars are seeking.
In your very first experience in the Animus, the game starts off during 15th century Renaissance Italy as Desmond's relative Ezio: a young daredevil, womanizer and family man. After a visually stunning render of 15th century Florence arises, you're placed right in the throws of what will be a big street brawl. The plot begins.
Assassin's Creed II Gameplay
Starting From Nothing
The noble with empty pockets
You'll spend a lot amount of time in the beginning of the game as a complete weakling, armed only with your fists (and more importantly, your feet which help you run away...something you'll be doing a lot of during this time), you'll find yourself avoiding the enemy Pazzi family as they look for you. By using hay-filled carts, you can hide from them, then sprint to the next unseen location.
After awhile, you'll wonder how much longer it will be until you get your first weapon...and when you finally do, boy, does the whole "feel" of the game change. You'll truly appreciate every weapon you attain throughout your quest, as they don't come easy. Also, money is a virtue and you'll appreciate every little bit you find. I thought this was a great way to handle the game (or any game for that matter), as opposed to having the ability to find or acquire weapons as if they were trinkets.
I did see Assassin's Creed II as somewhat of a faux "rags to riches" story, which is the kind of gameplay we typically see in other popular open-world game series, such as Grand Theft Auto. This means that you'll treasure every Florin (unit of money) you collect in the beginning, and the first time your pal Leonardo DaVinci helps construct your father's wrist blade, you'll be overjoyed at how the tide will start changing.
I wasn't kidding when I said that you start from the VERY beginning...
...because climbing > walking!
Assassin's Creed games appear to have a theme where your main character, as well as other people, exhibit some kind of inhuman parkour mastery. Because of it, you're able to tirelessly scale almost any building facade like a spider, using anything that has even the slightest "grip" to it - window sills, missing bricks, iron decorations, etc.
Climbing is the general focus of the game, it's equally as much of a means of getting around as walking. Beware, though - your enemies are just as good at it as you are.
Scale practically any wall in the game, as long as it has a grippable facade
If you're of ethnic Italian heritage, you'll have to do yourself the favor of owning Assassin's Creed II. The game is spoken in a mix of both Italian and English, and you'll appreciate many of the sayings (especially curses) frequently blurted out by the characters. The tradition, lifestyle and culture of Renaissance Italy is beautifully re-created, from the streets of Firenze to the magic of Carnevale in Venezia.
While you're playing a game of a fictional plot, you're actually learning a LOT about Italian history. Not everything is fiction - the land you're exploring is true-to-life, as are the accounts of the many people, monuments and buildings that you can enter. Each one has its own narrated history lesson.
In-Game Footage Looks Like Art In Motion
The cities in Assassin's Creed II are meticulously designed. Nothing is "cookie cutter," nor were any corners cut to complete the design of this game. No two alleyways or buildings look exactly alike, and they're all beautifully detailed with plenty of objects lying around for authenticity. Citizens stroll around like herds of cattle in the more populous areas of the cities you'll visit, and your character will have to side-step through the foot traffic to hustle through.
Whether you're scoping out ancient Roman Catholic churches in the big cities or galloping on a horse through the flooded outskirts of Romagna, every inch of this game's territories is beautiful and eye-appealing.
What other game lets you hang out with Leonardo Da Vinci?
These types of games always need some sort of "stronghold" for your character, and you'll get one when you visit Monteriggioni. Here, the city is yours to build upon and it needs a lot of repair. By putting forth your own hard earned money and upgrading pieces of the city, it will get more visitors from out of town, hence, more income. It's up to you to keep coming back and collecting whatever money was made (which is yours to keep, and do anything with). Upgrade Monteriggioni's shops, and they'll give you big permanent discounts.
The villa here also has various show rooms for your armor, weapons and art, which populate the rooms as you acquire them. It's the only place where you can equip different kinds of weapons and armor.
Outside of the villa is a training circle, where you'll learn more moves and strategies against different kinds of enemies, using different kinds of weapons.
Update the city of Monteriggioni to increase your own wealth
Hidden Treasures and Locations
Since climbing is so pivotal in this game, that means you'll find a lot of hidden secrets and fun things that keep the game interesting.
You'll find a series of glyphs hidden throughout the world, which piece together a video revealing "the Truth" (that's something I'm not going to reveal to you).
Most importantly, you'll have to seek out and find various seals which ultimately lead to the unlocking of the prized Armor of Altair. These seals are difficult to get, involving your travel to ancient catacombs and mysterious places with tricky physical puzzles, climbing, jumping and timing.
Exploring 6 ancient tombs - a challenging & unforgettable part of the game
Assassin's Creed II combat is flat out fun, albeit, difficult to get used to if you're a complete newbie to the game series. Newbies will be compelled to button-mash in the beginning, until they've learned the elegance of combining different tactics in battle. There are various attacks you can perform that depend entirely on the position and timing of your character and his enemy.
Assassinations are immediate, and you can perform them in hand-to-hand if the timing is right, or if you've above or behind an enemy. Otherwise, it's a lot of hack-and-slash unless you make use of the game's other fighting mechanics: dodging, deflecting and counter attacking. Overall, the key to progressing through some of the battles in this game is to master the counter attack, which involves dodging and striking back at your enemy...or, disarming them and killing them with their own weapon (this particular move reminded me of that in Matrix: Path of Neo). This is a must for heavily-armored guards, which begin to appear more as you progress.
While you start off with only one wrist blade, you'll soon after get another. Your wrist blades are your bread-and-butter items in the game, and they'll let you assassinate, dodge and attack very effectively. If you grow tired of them, there's a plethora of other era-specific weapons, from various swords, blades and maces. Each one has its own rating, which gauges that weapon's speed and efficiency. Later on, you'll even be able to fire bullets from your wrist-mounted "pistola."
One other notable thing to mention is that being bare-handed is actually required to perform disarms and disarm-counter attack combos, since you won't be able to do them if you're holding a sword.
In battle, you can disarm and "take" an enemy's weapon, but it can never be yours, as it is never saved to your inventory. You'll have to actually purchase weapons (armor, too), and they're not cheap. Certain weapons use different strategies, as the bigger and heavier mace is realistically "heavy" to maneuver, but devastating when it connects. You'll learn how to effectively use them thanks to your battle-proficient uncle Mario, later on in the game.
At all times, you can carry one of each weapon: wrist blade(s), 1 long sword (or mace) and 1 short sword (or blade) - the latter two are always displayed as holstered on your belt. I've already covered a description of the wrist blades. As for the sword, it's yours to draw at any time, and is more effective in battle than wrist blades (which were designed for discreet use or assassinations). The short blade is actually something I played through the entire game without ever using. There are a few more amusing executions you can do with it, although I found it to be way more practical to use the sword and wrist blades instead.
Through training, you'll obtain many new moves as the game progresses that were not available before. Inching your way across a gutter? Reach up and stab a guard, then pull him off the side of a roof....or, simply target an enemy two stories down below with an insane jump-to-execution attack. If you've had enough of a rooftop scuffle with a guard, rough him up a little, then pick him up by his shirt and push him over the side of the roof for a merciless death.
Assassin's Creed killing blows
This video shows 10 specific deathblows in the game, some of which are uncommon. I'd warn you about the violence, but hey, you're reading a review for a super violent game!
An Assassin's Way of Life
As you scour through each city, you'll inevitably get yourself into various battles, mostly with town guards. Sometimes, an accidental shoulder bump into a strolling guard is all it takes for a street quarrel and eventual fight to spark. In other completely infuriating scenarios, you'll see townspeople walking around carrying goods in wooden boxes...if you walk too close, you'll knock it out of their hands and any guards in the area will immediately attack. This is especially annoying when you don't have time to fight, and even more so to note that these townspeople seem to want to get the item knocked out of their hands...they seemingly step in front of you on purpose.
When you're "wanted" by guards, your meter will fill up. This works identically to Grand Theft Auto IV's "radius," where any guard within the radius around you on the map is aware of your location and will pursue you until you leave that radius and they lose sight of you. There's also a notoriety meter. The higher it is, the more likely it will be for a guard to recognize your face as you're walking by, initiating an attack.
There's really no limit as to how many enemies will jump in to the fight - there were times where I had a dozen or more guards circled around me. Some of these situations are literally impossible to get out of through traditional means, but you won't encounter their possibility until later on in the game (and that's where the ever-popular smoke bomb will save your life). One thing that's completely frowned upon are attacks on innocents - the game will visually warn you if you do it, and you'll fail if you ignore this warning.
Your actions can hold you accountable: while the guards in some towns might overlook the sight of you standing on a ledge, others will forcefully tell you to get down, or initiate an attack. Almost all guards will have no tolerance at the sight of you scaling up the side of a wall. If you get to the roof, there will assuredly be a patrolling guard up there who will warn you to get down, or else.
Throughout each city, you'll find small chests with different amounts of Florins. There's no particular award for finding them all, but cash is much needed in the beginning of the game. Need more cash? Do a contract killing - you'll find these jobs on your map, and can trigger them by finding a carrier pigeon.
Missions are noted on your map, and it's the necessary way to progress through the game. Thanks to the game's linearity, you can pick and choose which mission to do whenever you feel like it. Or, just spend days on end exploring, and get around to the missions later on. All missions come complete with an introductory cut scene that gets you prepped and ready to begin.
Perform different kills depending on where you are...even in a hay cart
From beginning to end, it's impossible not to enjoy the plot of Assassin's Creed II. Overall, I felt as though there could have and should have been a greater uproar of emotion in Ezio after a major climax incident near the beginning of the game. Overall, though, you'll travel with Ezio as if you literally are him -- making decisions and doing whatever it takes to escape danger, by any means necessary. The people you meet will train, influence and change you as you progress and grow older as the plot moves on.
Plot twists are abundant but far and between. The biggest twists of all happen later on; especially the ending of the game which is truly bizarre and satisfying, leaving you wanting to jump right in to the next game.
My advice to upcoming AC II players: never put your controller down during a cut scene. Many of them are interactive, requiring you to hit a button at an exact moment! Don't miss out on these opportunities to see how certain cut scenes play out when done correctly.
Things I Didn't Like About Assassin's Creed II
Ranged Weapons...Specifically Arrows
Most rooftop guards are archers and will drop a bow. However, you can't pick it up or use it. In fact, there's no archery whatsoever in Assassin's Creed II. The instant you realize this is the moment you really wish it were there.
Completing A Collection
This might just be me, but I can't stand mini-quests that involve running around collecting large amounts of things. In this game, an optional task is to collect 100 feathers strewn across the game world. Doing so will complete a minor part of the plot and unlock a new weapon after 50 feathers, and a new cape when you've gotten all 100 feathers (strangely enough, I never got the cape even though I got all 100 feathers). It's in your best interest to just get it over with to complete the full checklist of things on your to-do list, which can be viewed in the villa at Monteriggioni.
My advice to you is to NEVER touch a single feather unless you are willing to print out a feather map from the internet and do it correctly, in order. Otherwise, you'll never remember which of the 100 have been collected already. After a couple hours during my first complete pass, I was able to collect 99 feathers and I had no idea where the last one was. I had to start ALL over again, from the very beginning. "Frustrating" doesn't even explain it!
There is one worse part about the feather fiasco. While you can buy maps that reveal all of the treasure chests in a city, you can't buy a "feather map" in the game because it doesn't exist. So, the only way to find them is to download a map off the internet, and spend an awful lot of your time going to every location and hunting for the feather (a good number of them are hidden pretty well and aren't easy to spot).
Playing AC II has given me pteronophobia (that's the fear of feathers)
Blocking & Countering Issues
There are some cases where an enemy will be "on a roll" in terms of striking you over and over, and there's nothing you can do about it beyond taking a royal ass kicking. I found this to be extremely annoying, especially in terms of "gang attacks" against you. At times, it's impossible to break the attack by blocking or countering because the game simply won't allow you to do so. This is more of an annoyance, rather than something that will hinder your gameplay.
In many cases, this game almost feels "turn-based," as if you need to wait a second before attacking again (or as if your enemy must also wait a second before its their turn).
This is something I stereotypically talk about in all of my game reviews: I absolutely HATE "chase missions." That is, missions that are timed and involve you to move with laser precision, without faltering whatsoever, in order to reach a final checkpoint. A small handful of these missions exist in Assassin's Creed II, one of which I will forever call "one of the hardest things I ever had to do in a video game" (a particular bitch of a mission called "Capture The Flag").
If you have problems with missions that are timed and require total precision, some of these missions might result in thrown controllers...don't say I didn't warn you!
I thought the prospect of poisoning your blades was interesting, but not very practical or helpful in any way. This minor upgrade allows you to stick an enemy with a poison-tipped wrist blade, which slows them down and makes them completely vulnerable to a death blow. However, it's kind of pointless to use, since you're better off just finishing your enemy off, anyway.
I would have liked to see more of a usage for poison than this. At least, if you were to swipe at an enemy, let them experience the effects of poison (however, a swipe will not activate it).
Death via poison...funny, but kind of useless
Things I Like About Assassin's Creed II
The game is very generous in the fact that you can carry medicine, which revives a large portion of your health and can be accessed simply by pressing "left" on your D-pad. Doing so is instant and there are no annoying animations you have to sit through. It's an absolute blessing when you're about to die in a battle.
Falling From Heights
Assassin's Creed is not a good game for people who have a fear of heights, and you certainly will find yourself climbing up some VERY high structures. Thankfully, the game is merciful when it comes to falling from great heights. With a fairly high health bar (additions to your health bar are acquired as you find more Codex pages), you can easily survive a running jump off of a 2-story building with some health to spare. Any more than that, and you're a goner.
Swimming is a valid way of getting around, and nothing's more fun than taking a three story head-first dive into the beautiful blue waters down below. In Venice, you'll enjoy hijacking a gondola and rowing yourself around the canal-connected structure of the city. Best yet, any enemy of yours who falls into the water will instantly die.
Assassin's Creed II Pros
- Absolutely fantastic graphics, fluid gameplay and plot. A lot of time and care was put into this game, and it shows in a very big way.
- The music is a masterpiece. , here I come. AC II Soundtrack
- A fun combat system
- Lots of "life" in your surroundings, and in the cities you visit
- Tons of mini-quests and other little things to explore if you need to play the game to perfection (like I do)
- Be sure to play through the game, and then watch the live-action Assassin's Creed movie that is on the game disc for maximum enjoyment.
Assassin's Creed II Cons
- No archery. Why?
- Combat can be a little clunky and laggy.
- Would have been cool if the background objects were movable/destroyable or had physics
- As great as the game is - personally, I don't think it has a lot of replay value after you've beaten it and completed all of the collections & mini-quests. It does lack multiplayer, which wound up being a huge focus of its successor, . Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Assassin's Creed II was perhaps the most epic, elegant and well-done game I've played in a very long time. I've played through the entire Assassin's Creed series -- including Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed: Revelations -- and II continues to be my favorite of the entire series. Between the captivating storyline and the fact that this is one of the few games that makes you feel as though it is more of an "experience" than a game (much like how games including Final Fantasy 7 made me feel), it would be an insult if this game didn't make a list of the best all-time games for the PS3 and XBOX. Another thing that will forever stay with you is the soundtrack, which is no less epic than the game itself.
Know that Assassin's Creed series is purely an "adventure game" series, and not an RPG in any fashion at all. There are no skill points or attributes here, just pure swashbuckling action and character development through the learning of new moves and acquisition of new items. There's not a single creature or animal adversary in the game - don't expect magic and mythology. However, it's a classy epic adventure with historical references, "thinking" decisions and plot twists that make the game what it is: a unique game that I guarantee nobody would regret having as part of their collection.
Take a look at the trailer below to get a glimpse of what Assassin's Creed II has in store:
for the PlayStation 3
for the XBOX 360
for the PC