Tuesday, March 1, 2011

[Game Review] Assassin's Creed 2

I played the first Assassin's Creed a year ago, and I enjoyed it very much. (Click the link to read my review of the first game). It had some flaws, but overall it was a solid game, especially since I paid almost nothing for it. In many things - games, books, and movies especially - we hope that sequels will manage to capture what we liked about the original and then improve upon it. All too often, they fail to achieve either or both of those goals. Assassin's Creed 2 is the happy exception.

Assassin's Creed 2 managed to maintain much of the feel of the original game, from the historic settings to the combat moves and the relatively open nature of the gameplay. It downplayed the need to perform a wide variety of side missions in each city, concentrating instead on the main storyline. But it made up for that by making the main storyline extremely compelling.

Sadly, some of the original's flaws carried over as well. For instance, it's often incredibly frustrating to get your character to move precisely where and how you want, even when you use the controls precisely as designed. The ONLY time I found myself cursing this game was when I would follow a pickpocket all over town, finally catch up to him, and then somehow swing my fist at empty air instead of clouting him soundly like I should have. Or when the game would cause my character to jump off in some random direction that had nothing to do with the keystrokes I entered, for no apparent reason, and usually get me killed. Man I hated that. It was especially frustrating because, much of the time, the game is really, really smooth about figuring out where you wanted your guy to go, so he could effortlessly swing and jump from one precarious perch to the next. So when that capability failed - when the game not only didn't figure out what you were trying to do, but actually did something fatally contrary to what you were explicitly telling it to do - it was doubly frustrating.

This game actually involves the same "character," in the sense that you're playing a modern-era man who is descended from the "assassins" in the game. He is able to use these high-tech machines to enter a virtual world with his mind, where adventures from his ancestors are recreated. This allows him to explore where they lived, learn what they knew, and investigate people, places, and hidden clues that offer up information he and his cohorts can use in present day. The first time, he lived life in the body of an assassin in the Middle East during the time of the crusades. In the sequel, he takes on the identity of a Florentine nobleman who must avenge his family and continue to fight against the evil Templars, who continue to plot world domination right up through the present day.

Other changes include a wide array of different weapons, a home base that you can enter pretty much whenever you like, and money that's used to procure your new weapons and armor, as well as to make improvements to your home town. The weapons give you steadily increasing combat effectiveness throughout the game. The introduction of money, however, was somewhat clumsy. By midway through the game, I had such a ridiculous amount of money that it ceased to have any meaning for me. Only in the very earliest stages of the game did I ever make any real decisions based on what I could afford.

Lastly, the sequel introduced a series of puzzle-style mini-games, where you had to unravel the pieces of a mystery by finding and then decoding them one at a time. I found these mini-games extremely tedious, and most of them I only managed to solve by randomly clicking stuff until something positive happened.

Overall, though, Assassin's Creed 2 was a worthy successor to the original, and just as much fun to play. Better still, it didn't shoehorn you into a single fighting style at the very end, which really affected my ability to fully enjoy the first game. The game didn't feel quite as open as the first one - I was encouraged more to follow a prescribed series of quests in order - and I'm not sure there was quite as much strategy involved as in the first game. Still, it kept me cheerfully occupied for a couple of weeks, and that's really what I ask my games to do for me. I look forward to the forthcoming Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood to be released for the PC, and then a year later I can buy it when it's suitably discounted.

I rate Assassin's Creed 2 an A- and recommend it highly!

No comments:

Post a Comment