Although the other Pete already reviewed the game 6 months ago, I’m just now getting around to playing Assassin’s Creed 2. As usual, he’s already said everything I would plan on saying, and been more eloquent about it. But, I get paid by the word here, so I’m going to opine a little here on some of the things that AC2 gets right, compared to the first game.
The Personal Is Political
My first observation is that the plot of AC2 is worlds ahead of that in the first game. Overwrought? Perhaps. But the plot in the first game was so distant and emotionally uninteresting that I really wouldn’t have cared if every character in the game died in a fire. For all of its flaws,the story in AC2 is one with a little bit of personal pathos.
In Assassin’s Creed 1, I felt like I was playing with a vaguely interesting physics engine that was occasionally interrupted by a bad plot. AC2 has managed to keep me interested in the plot. Although it does have the moments of distraction that psu talked about — “Must save my friend, who is being tortured! Oh, wait, I want to climb this tower to get a nice view, first” — on the whole it feels much more well integrated.
Interestingly, like the first game, Assassin’s Creed 2 also opens with a note asking Wahhabi extremists to please not murder the developers or their families, since they are very nice people.
Here is what the first Assassin’s Creed was like, from a visual perspective. First, you’re in a desert town with nondescript architecture. Then, you get a mission to go somewhere else. So you get on your horse and ride through a brown landscape, punctuated occasionally by bits of tan dirt, and the occasional tan guard tower, until you reach your destination, which is another desert town with nondescript architecture.
You can almost imagine the planning meeting for AC2 where someone said “What’s the most interesting building made during the Renaissance? The Duomo in Florence? OK, that’s where the game will be set.” If you have ever been to Firenze, playing Assassin’s Creed 2 is going to make you want to go back. No one in the entire world felt that way about Damascus in the first game.
Epiphany: The Futuristic Office Building Is Not Interesting
In the first game, your character kept flipping back and forth between Altair’s crusader-killing-spree in the Middle East and the futuristic office building where you were being held prisoner. I am not that far into the game, so this may change, but at least so far apart from the game’s opening sequence, I haven’t been back to The Boring Office Building. I’m hoping that continues, and if it does, it will have been an improvement on the first game. Hint to Ubisoft: next time, skip the cover story completely and just drop us in whatever past era the game occurs in. That’s why we are playing. (Footnote 1)
Minstrels are Better than Beggars
Because at least the minstrels make me laugh.
Il Nome Della Rosa
It’s not clear to me yet how long I will maintain my interest in the game; as I said, I’m only partway in. It’s likely, I suppose, that the bloom will come off the rose at some point. But whereas by my second session of the original Assassin’s Creed I was already starting to think of it as a sort of a disappointing job that I was obligated to undertake, tonight I had to force myself to stop playing AC2. And that’s a pretty good place for a game to be.
Footnote 1: May I humbly suggest “Assassin’s Creed 3: Ninja’s Creed” in Edo-era Tokyo?