“Thief, thief! Dirty thief” Thank goodness you don’t hear these dreaded words in Assassins Creed II. The problem with the first game was too much repetition; everywhere you went as Altair you had to jump down to save a citizen from some soldiers trying to restrain and drag them away, fight the soldiers and wait for the note of approval from the victim who always took a long time to talk, which by the time they had finished 90% of the time other soldiers would have appeared and funnily enough all the citizens you save rotate the same looking characters. At least saving the citizens gained more access to your memory leading to unlocking more areas of the map to explore, but you have to admit this feature was really annoying. Being Al Mualim’s bitch trying to regain my status as an Assassin, even at one time without weapons running around doing assassination after assassination then riding a horse for a long length of time to another similar looking area wore off any fun for me, especially jumping in and out of the Animus at every given second to be shouted at by the doctor, but at least it gave me more insight to Lucy who later we find out is an Assassin. I was soon glad to finish the game and defeat Al Mualim with his Megaman type boss level.
Assassins Creed II is altogether a beautiful game. You play as Desmond Miles again; breaking out of Abstergo with Lucy fighting off the guards, it was an interesting feeling finally being able to use Desmond to fight instead of just aimlessly walking around the animus talking to Lucy. The only thing I should mention since it’s early on in the game that puts me off it is the really unnecessary achievements at the beginning of the game such as getting achievements for breaking out of Abstergo and being born again as Ezio, which only required me to control Ezio as a baby, moving his hands and legs via the interactive buttons -.-
You reach a new hideout and a new animus, and more of Lucy’s associates who will help Desmond along the journey as Ezio Auditore da firenze, a Florentine nobel born 1459 during the Italien Renaissance. After your two brothers and father get hung, there’s a lot more characters you associate with. My favourite being Leonardo da Vinci who helps Ezio fix his hidden blade and decipher codex pages you find around the map to learn new assassination techniques. Your sister and mother move to Monteriggioni with Ezio’s uncle, “It’s me Mario!” in his villa, which is also used to eventually unlock Altair’s armour with all the Assassin Seals you collect in the tombs, but more about that later. Feathers you collect in memory of your younger brother; Petruccio is placed in a chest in one of the room’s of the mansion which when collected eventually lead to unlocking a different cape, money collected from income of upgrading the city’s land with the architect such as; the well, the bank, and the doctor and blacksmith is placed in a chest, which also helps give you discounts. You can also collect mini statues scattered around the area, which when placed in the correct statues back at the villa, repays you in money. These aren’t too hard to find as Monteriggioni is fairly small.
Money is a new feature in the game; allowing you to purchase new types of weapons such as smoke bombs to upgrading armour (if you don’t already have the Altair armour which requires no upgrades), more ammo for your pistol and poison blade, to hiring in the new feature of factions who help Ezio; courtesans can either seduce guards Ezio selects or walk around Ezio to hide his character much like the scholars did in the first game. Both proved useful to gain Codex Pages which were guarded, without having to start a fight and to blend past guards in a restricted area, as blending normally requires more practice than previously finding scholars. The second and third factions Ezio can hire are thiefs and fighters, thiefs can steal and distract guards away from an area and fighters can literally start a brawl with them as another distraction. Using taunts is a new feature in the game which helps lure soldiers to fight if you find it annoying of them just standing there for ages before attacking, Wanted Posters appear especially when the Assassins logo in the top corner is fully red meaning soldiers are on high alert, the more red, the more soldiers will find and attack you so this along with bribing Heralds with money to keep quiet helps bring down your status. Stores are also now available in the game; Art Merchants allow Ezio to purchase old famous paintings such as Madonna and Child and the Baptism of Christ, which are displayed in a gallery back at the villa, purchasing medicine and healing yourself can be done through the Doctor located at random spots around the map wearing a bird mask in certain cities as doctors at that time wore it to protect themselves from disease, the Blacksmiths can be used to purchase weapons, ammo and armour which can also be fixed, and the Tailor is used to dye clothes different colours so you can finally bring Ezio away from the standard Assassin colour of white. As a final move, Ezio can also use his money to throw on the ground as another distraction as guards run over to break up the frantic crowd gathering up money. And if doing the storyline and the voluntary Assassin missions for Leonardo located around the map aren’t enough you can always get a whole heap of money from the treasure chest of the Templar Lairs located in each city. Gaining access to this treasure chest isn’t easy and proves a big puzzle, one of many amazing puzzle features of the game.
My other favourite puzzle in the game is working out the Assassin tombs; again located in each city, there are about six tombs in total each gaining you an Assassin Seal which unlocks Altair’s armour. I went for these tombs pretty much as soon as I could, not only as I enjoyed working them out so much but because the armour didn’t need repair and proved helpful against strong enemies such as the Brutes which are heavily armoured soldiers with strong axes and the fast running soldiers who can outrun Ezio and easily gain a sneaky stab. The tombs are located in well known monuments and require Ezio to pull a skull lever which in turn twists and opens to span around a guarded high restricted area. These places are huge and require using all your new moves of wall running and back flipping and working out how to jump certain areas, it’s helpful there are checkpoints if you do fall. The graphics are simply breathtaking and fighting off the soldiers and finally reaching that tomb hidden far up high in beautifully decorated white stone with extra treasure chests is always so rewarding. Yet the timed ones later proved a demon for me xD the high-points in the game are also more challenging, much better than the simple dash up and pull yourself up tactic of the first game. One of the high-points even requires you to do a storyline mission and learn a new move from one of the thief characters you meet to jump higher and grab to reach further up a building. “Subject 16″‘s video is another major puzzle which when finding glyphs hidden around famous monuments, unlocks an extra puzzle usually of finding an object in several famous paintings to gain a code which further unlocks “Subject 16″‘s video, which I eventually got bored of wondering what it could be and was disappointed by the video uploaded on youtube which only ended in another conundrum, yet the puzzle solving of the glyph was my favourite part. The final puzzle Ezio has to work out is when you collect all the codex pages written by Altair which are displayed in the villa and which you move around using Eagle Vision to unlock a map finding the whereabouts of the Apple of Eden.
The game overall is excellent and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally get to playing it as I was so put off by the first title. The only other feature I wish was kept in the game from the previous is being able to grab people, as the loot players following Ezio proved slightly annoying in the game especially when trying to run from soldiers. In the first game, Altair was a fairly annoying character with his American accent, Ezio is more likeable and there are certain points of the game where you laugh at his antics such as his way with women, yet it was fun to re-play as Altair in one of the storyline missions when Desmond Miles blacks out at the hideout after some training with Lucy. It was interesting to have an action-based flashback passing the same old music, soldiers and templars chasing a character who then appears to be a woman and unlocking more into the assassin memories. Basing the game on non-fictional parts of Italy, with the exact layout and detail of monuments and famous characters following along with their biography and the history of each monument proved an interesting history lesson for me, and made me want to visit Italy even more and explore the monuments and areas I visited in the game, especially the beauty of Venice and pretending I’m riding the gondola as Ezio or watching the intricate costumes and dresses of the carnival people and jugglers and fire-breathers or stealth attacking targets from high points or flying over massive fires with Leonardo’s flying machine.