26 September 2012

Assassin's Creed Week: Dissecting The Creed: Assassin's Creed 2 (2009)

(Note: This feature was written as part of Assassin's Creed Week, you can read the first article 'Dissecting The Creed: The First Assassin's Creed here.)

For the sequel Ubisoft knew it needed to fix the flaws that many had attached to the original: lackluster combat and repetitiveness.

They did so aplomb. With a dynamic new setting in Renaissance Italy the story of Ezio took the foundations of Assassin's Creed and ramped them up with style. By choosing this period Ubisoft not only selected one of the most exciting and revolutionary periods in human history they were also given licence to incorporate some of the most renowned characters of that period. People far more widely known than many of Altair's contemporaries in the original. 

Certainly Assassin's Creed boasted such noted historical figures as Richard the Lionheart but the reality is that the Crusades are studied in far less detail than the Renaissance. Even if you'd never heard of Niccolo Machiavelli, Lorenzo di Medici or the Borgias you almost certainly had heard of a certain Leonardo da Vinci. 

And though there were more locales in Assassin's Creed 2 the one that most reflected how the series had progressed is, I think, Venice. 

The island city proved a playground for the developers, as well as for Leonardo and Ezio. The development of the glider, the new weapons at your disposal and the scale made clear that this was a game that had learnt its lessons. 

Fluid (comparatively) new combat which would form the basis of further refinements in Brotherhood and Revelations and a wide array of mission types accentuated the differences and paid testament to that quality of videogames so rarely reflected in other mediums: listening to the fans. 
Venice proved to have an alluring effect.
For taking these steps and representing the biggest single step forward for the franchise (to date) Assassin's Creed 2 is arguably the best game in the series.

While its successors - Brotherhood and Revelations - took elements of this title and improved upon them Assassin's Creed 2 marked the greatest advance over its predecessor. Adding to this is the plot which again is arguably the best to date.

Yet Ezio, the new protagonist, proved to be as significant a part of the series' progression as any of the other technical, narrative, or gameplay advances.

Charismatic and charming where Altair had been cold and aloof the Renaissance killer delivered a marked difference to his Medieval ancestor becoming so popular in fact that he would spawn a trilogy. Indeed Ubisoft have admitted that the future sequels starring Assassin's Creed 3's Connor Kenway will only occur if he matches the appeal of Ezio Auditore da Firenze among fans.  

With a wider range of missions than previously the game also revealed a significant amount concerning the modern day Assassin order and neat historical touches (the unfinished ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for instance) created a story that, while complex, was certainly intriguing. Similarly the prominence of the Apple of Eden and Desmond's (via Ezio) first real contact with Minerva and the First Civilisation expanded upon the mythology of the Assassin's Creed universe. 

This facet of the Assassin's Creed story is perhaps best illustrated by The Truth video pieced together by Desmond by solving all of the glyph puzzles dotted throughout the Animus:

The Truth, while not essential, illustrated the true extent of humanity's connection to Those Who Came Before and demonstrated Ubisoft's attention to aspects of their eon spanning plot.  

A particular aspect of Assassin's Creed 2's new elements that is notable is the village of Monteriggioni. By opening up the capacity to rebuild this dilapidated town and see revenues in your bank explode the more you invested there's was a rewarding quality to taking the time to do so. While both Brotherhood and Revelations expanded upon this principal Monteriggioni's reconstruction was the simplest and perhaps the purest.

As an example of a game that took aboard criticisms leveled against it's predecessor and handled them adeptly Assassin's Creed 2 proved to be the best all-rounder in the series. With a plot that expanded on the vision laid down in the original and an  exciting new setting this remains the high-point of the series. At least until Assassin's Creed 3.    

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