Tuesday, May 10, 2011
My Game Shelf: Assassin's Creed II (PS3)
For those who didn't play the first game, Assassin's Creed had the player control Desmond Miles, a seemingly average man who has been taken captive by a group called Abstergo. Abstergo uses Desmond to find out information on his ancestor Altair using a virtual-reality style machine known as the Animus. Altair, a professional assassin and member of an elite guild of assassins. However, over the course of the game, it is discovered that Altair is being used by the guild to find a powerful artifact known as the Apple of Eden. At the same time, Desmond finds he is being used by Abstergo to discover the location of the Apple, which is sought after by the famous Templars, who Abstergo is a front for.
The second game takes off from this point with Desmond and former Abstergo employee Lucy escaping and reconvening at a secret location. Lucy, after seeing what Abstergo is really about, agrees to help Desmond escape on the basis that he help them find the Pieces of Eden (the apple and a second part) in order to use them the right way and keep them out of Abstergo's hands. Lucy, along with her friends Shaun and Rebecca, use their own version of the Animus to allow Desmond to travel back in time to the life of Ezio Auditore de Firenze, the son of a prominent Italian family and descendant of Altair (and, as a result, another ancestor of Desmond as well).
One of the great things about the Assassin's Creed games is the amount of history that is jammed into them. Although the games are a work of fiction, they feature many real-life historical people and places, as well as actual conspiracy theories and legends, namely involving the Templars. As you progress through the game, biographies of these people as well as description of places become available to you for your reading pleasure. Being a history buff, I enjoyed reading these little tidbits. It's not imperative that you read them, but they will certainly give you a better understanding of events and happenings throughout the course of the game.
Throughout the game, Ezio tracks down the conspirators behind the death of his father and brothers (he is able to save his mother and two sisters, who spend the rest of the game caring for Mario's castle in Monteriggioni). With each conspirator he assassinates, he comes one step closer to finding the top man and the reasons for the initial killings. Eventually, he finds Rodrigo Borgia, more commonly known as Pope Alexander VI, a ruthless individual who plans to use the power that comes with the Pieces of Eden for his own personal gain.
While I won't spoil the ending, I will say that it involves the remnants of the gods that the planets in the solar system are named after-represented by a figure calling herself Minerva, Desmond being contacted directly by Minerva via the Animus, as well as Desmond's crew being discovered and confronted by Abstergo.
So far, I have played through both this and Assassin's Creed. Having been so impressed by the first game, I really looked forward to the second game. Needless to say, the second game took everything great about the first game and made it even better. The locales the second time around are much brighter and feel more alive, the story is much deeper, and the main character is much easier to relate to. While Altair was a great character, the fact is he was very cold throughout the game, showing little to no personality. Ezio, on the other hand, is charismatic, caring and actually shows emotion in regards to those around him. Plus, he has several historic sidekicks. Including the aformentioned da Vinci, Ezio is also aided by Machiavelli and the Medici family. While the cities in the first game were all very historic, their design made them all feel identical to each other, with no real historic landmarks being featured. II, on the other hand, has numerous landmarks featured, and every city you visit feels very, very distinct from every other one, with the game developers partially basing the game maps on the actual city layouts of the time period (the late 1400s).
While there are no skill levels to choose from in the game (i.e., Easy, Medium, Hard, etc.), the game is easy enough for anyone to beat while still providing a challenge for more hardcore gamers, especially those looking to collect all the trophies/achievements. The boss fights are fairly straight forward, and the cut scenes after you kill each boss are much, much shorter this time around, which allows you to jump back into the game faster.
I only have a couple of complaints with the game. There are several side missions you can do throughout the game to earn yourself more money, including deliveries and races. Most of these are okay, but I found the races to be frustrating, and completely ignored them after failing the first one several times. Also, the side missions you do in order to collect the Assassins Seals-six total-get progressively frustrating. The first three are relatively easy. The fourth one is only frustrating because it can be difficult to find your way out of the tomb (once you do though, it's pretty straight forward). The fifth and sixth ones are somewhat timed, as you have to pull several levers before they retract. If you can't do it within a certain amount of time, the lever retracts and you have to start over. Fortunately, you can redo this as many times as needed, and the game does show you the easiest pathway to take in order to reach the levers. While these six tombs are not necessary to complete the game, I still recommend doing it, as it unlocks Altair's gear, which is stronger than any other gear you can buy throughout the game.
Overall, Assassin's Creed II is an extremely satisfying adventure, and it makes me want to dive right into the next installment, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which continues the adventures of Desmond and Ezio. Fortunately, I already own this game, and will be starting it shortly.
Overall, I give this game 4/5 stars. While not perfect, the complaints I had are few and far between, and I found myself enjoying the game way more than I was frustrated by it. With each chapter, the story unfolded more, and I found myself enthralled, wanting to unlock more and more of the story.