Assassin's Creed always felt like a rough diamond. It had an interesting storyline, a spectacular game engine and a massive sandbox to play in, yet it was ultimately just a tad repetitive. For the sequel, UbiSoft has kept the engine and most of the basic elements of the sandbox-style gameplay intact and concentrated on stealth aspec 2172 ts of the formula, more varied gameplay and on the actual story. Yes, in Assassin's Creed 2 you will still ultimately end up stabbing a bunch of people, but that is just a small part of it all. Oh, and the PC version comes with a brand new form of DRM...
Animus 2.0 allows Desmond and the Assassins to explore the past by reliving memories embedded in the DNA.
The story so far? You still play as Desmond Miles, a present-day descendant of a long line of assassins, captured by Abstergo Industries, the modern day front for Templars. In the first game, Desmond was captured and forced to live the memories of Altar, his ancestor, seeking information about a "Piece of Eden" from memories encoded in his DNA while Altair worked his way to redeem his status as an assassin in the late 12th century Holy Land. Eventually Abstergo got what they wanted out of the memory sequences and dispatched a team to recover the "Piece of Eden" in the present day, ending the game in a cliffhanger, with Desmond still a prisoner.
The sequel starts off right where the first part ended and anyone who hasn't played through the first game will probably be a bit confused early on. Lucy Stillman, a modern-day assassin who had infiltrated Abstergo staff as a technician returns and helps Desmond to escape from the Abstergo facility, explaining that the Assassin order of the present day needs his help. Desmond may have experienced the key moments of Altair's life and may have a fine line of ancestors, but he's not yet a trained assassin. With Animus technology, this is not a problem - Lucy takes Desmond to a hideout equipped with an upgraded Animus device and the plan is for Desmond to explore the memories of another assassin ancestor in order to learn the skills through the "Bleeding Effect" of the Animus. Enter our new hero, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an assassin.
Desmond quickly dives into the life of Ezio, starting the journey from Florence, Italy in 1476. The story of Assassin's Creed II is very much the story of Ezio Auditore, following his long career as he plots to revenge the hanging of his father and two brothers. Like Desmond, Ezio is initially unaware of the fact that his father was an assassin and the early part of the story concentrates on Ezio learning about his ancestry and the skills an assassin needs. Numerous real historical figures show up along the way, notably Leonardo Da Vinci, Caterina Sforza, Niccolo Machiavelli, Lorenzo De Medici and Rodrigo Borgia - better known as Pope Alexander VI. As with the first game, minute historical details have been bent to fit the characters into the story. Real historical events are also tied in, with The Pazzi Conspiracy used as major part of the storyline early on. The mixture of real history and a fictional story is even stronger than in the first game and the detailed storyline is what sets Assassin's Creed II apart from the first game.
In the first game, you were pretty much sent to stab a bunch of people while learning about the order of Assassins and the actual big picture emerged only at the very end. The sequel merges everything much more closely with real historical figures, events and places and mixes it all with a pretty impressive thread of conspiracy that has apparently been going on for hundreds of years. Sure, it ain't a historical documentary but all the real historical figures, locations and events serve an important purpose, reinforcing the illusion of a "what if?" historical scenario.
The story takes you around Renaissance Italy with sections in Florence, San Gimignano, Forli and Venice, just to name a few. Each major area is also dotted with historic landmarks that are easily recognizable, further immersing you to the locales and wide open areas offer a fresh change of scenery when compared to your average action adventure game that forces you to slug through a predetermined path as if on rails. Yes, the storyline still demands you to visit specific places and perform specific tasks, but the play areas give you plenty of freedom to improvise.
Out-of-Animus parts are kept to a minimum - the events still all tie to the present day "real world" and Desmond, but the action in Renaissance Italy is interrupted only on very special occasions, unlike in the first game where you were constantly taking breaks between separate memories. This improves the flow of action considerably.
Games: Assassins Creed II
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