Assassin’s Creed 2 – Wow. Just, wow.

One of my Christmas presents this year was a copy of Assassin’s Creed 2.  I really enjoyed the first in the series, even though many others complained that it was a bit of a “grind-fest” (you go to various towns, and complete many of the same kinds of missions to advance the story line, to the point where you can pretty much guess what’s going to happen when you get to a new area).  Yes, many of the missions were repetitive, but the overall look and feel of the game was what I enjoyed the most: the storyline itself, the action sequences, etc.  There were nits I could pick, of course, such as the somewhat jarring sensation you’d get between missions, but it helped to further the overall story line and was understandable.  Plus, it gave for a nice break to remind you to go do something else.  Anyway, those nits – and ones picked by others about the original AC – all disappeared in AC2.  Instead they were replaced with a tighter sequel than I’ve seen in a long time, and my only regret about playing straight through and beating the game in just under a week of extremely late nights and bad circulation is that I want to forget the whole thing so I can experience it for the first time again tomorrow.

I’ll try to keep the spoilers away for those who haven’t played the first game either, but if you start with AC2 then the opening will give you enough of the background that you don’t feel lost having skipped the first.  For those who did play, you’re reminded of the ending and what happened – from Lucy’s sign to you, to all the signs you saw around you at the end.  You awake in Abstergo and are told to get in the Animus again, quickly, to get some new information.  After a very short cutscene with little interaction (there’s not much interaction you could do, anyway) you’re pulled back out and told you’re leaving.  Escape to another location, and then you finally get the why: you’re part of a much bigger thing now, and you need to help out on the home front.  The best way to do that?  Learn the ways of your ancestors, by doing just what you did the first time around.  So you start with Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young man from Italy who knows nothing of his lineage.  You work with him through the ranks in the course of the story, with a sandbox style of gaming similar to the Grand Theft Auto series; there’s very few times when you’re pressured to move on to the next mission, and while a couple of the side missions (not story-related nor required to complete the game) are similar to the original and could be considered repetitive, there’s enough variation in them to keep them interesting.  Plus, as I mentioned, they’re optional.  You could never do a single one, in which case the missions you complete are all unique, and spend plenty of time in between missions exploring the cities or causing havoc just for fun.

The game mixes a bit of humor among the history lessons, as well as a good bit of conspiracy theory which is kinda fun to delve into even if you don’t personally get interested by such things.  The ending combines a couple of those conspiracy theories with some good old fashioned “what the hell just happened?” that not only left me feeling good about the time I’d just spent on the game but seemingly left the series open for another sequel (which I’d be all over, considering the leaps and bounds they made from the first to the second of the series).  I’d say I probably completed the whole thing in just under 35 hours, with only going to a walkthrough for hints a couple times related to some of the puzzles left by “subject 16” to solve or for the feather locations.  And if you like puzzles, you’ll love the assassin’s tombs you have to raid.  They start pretty simple, and move up to very complex puzzles requiring a bit of good timing as well as problem solving, though the camera gives you some good hints of what to do next.

All in all, I loved this game.  It will definitely get some replay time later, though that is one major gripe people have with this particular one – namely, you can’t within the game replay a particular mission, only restart entirely or replay the side missions.  I’m hoping to do the former after getting a bit of amnesia so I can have the excitement of discovering all the bits again.

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