"While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die." – Leonardo da Vinci.
2007's Assassin's Creed told the story of Desmond—modern-day descendant of a dynasty of assassins—as he relives the Crusades through his ancestor Altair Ibn La-Ahad. While a solid title, the game's repetitive gameplay, wonky AI and iffy storyline ran a bloody dagger through its potential and prevented it from becoming one of 2007's greatest games. Even so, the game was successful enough to warrant a sequel and so far Assassin's Creed 2, which hits store shelves Nov. 17, is looking to be one of the year's best titles, provided Ubisoft has addressed the first game's shortcomings.
Assassin's Creed 2 transports players back to the fireworks, festivals and Humanista philosophy of Renaissance Italy. You take on the role of Ezio Auditore di Firenze, a young, privileged Italian noble who enjoys the good life (as well as the occasional brawl). When Ezio is betrayed by rival Italian nobles and witnesses his father's execution, he embraces his dark lineage and dons the white garb of the assassin.
Ezio's quest for revenge takes him through Rome, Florence, Venice, San Gimignano and the Tuscan countryside."For the sequel, we needed a new ancestor and thought 'where do we go and where can we take our game that'll be as cool as the Crusades?' We did our research and brainstorming and finally thought of Italy, which is a really beautiful place. We could do the Italian Renaissance, bring that world to life and it would make for a great fantasy," said Assassin's Creed 2 director Patrice Desilets in a Gamepro interview.
With a name like Assassin's Creed, you'd expect the game to have varied ways of discreetly dispatching targets, and Assassin's Creed 2 appears to be breaking away from the repetition that plagued the first game. Ezio possesses more methods of murder than Altair did: he can take out two enemies at once with his dual hidden blades, jump down on top of foes, hang from ledges and pull enemies over them, or kill soldiers while hiding in hay bales to name just a few. The end of one trailer suggests even more murderous methods hiding in Ezio's bag of tricks. Ezio's seen pursuing a masked noble through the streets of Venice. When the man stops and taunts Ezio in order to lure him into an ambush, Ezio takes aim and shoots the doomed target with a hidden gun.
Stealth is big in Assassin's Creed, but when discretion fails and Ezio is forced to fight, he possesses a variety of brutal combat moves and disarms to stylishly dispatch enemies with their own weapons—it's something like a Renaissance version of Dead to Rights. (Ubisoft) kept the sense of the combat of the first game, which is visually very, very rewarding, but we wanted to add a lot of variety to that, we wanted to add a lot of different weapons. So now we have more than 30 different weapons to collect in the game. They all have different animations, they all have different strengths and weaknesses," said Assassin's Creed 2 producer, Sebastien Puel in a G4TV interview.
Ubisoft also seems to have a thing for making its main characters climb walls, run and hop across rooftops as seen in the Prince of Persia series. Assassin's Creed 2 is no different, but provides players with more options for getting from point A to point B. Falling in water no longer means instant death since Ezio can swim, but if you don't want to get your feet wet, you can take to the skies in Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine. Yes, the famous inventor makes his appearance in the game, providing Ezio with various tools and weapons to complete his missions.
In addition to greater weapon variety, amazing mobility and cool gadgetry, the economy also plays a big role in Assassin's Creed 2. You can buy items from in-game stores, employ citizens to gather information, pay mercenaries to fight alongside you, or hire courtesans to distract targets. And if you find yourself lacking the funds to do these things, just mug the nearest citizen and voila!
By expanding players' weapons, movement and economic options, Ubisoft's goal in Assassin's Creed 2 is to make missions more varied by giving players more ways to choose how their Renaissance dealer-of-death gets the job done. "The first thing (Puel and Desilets) said to the team was that the focus has to be diversity. We have one of the most beautiful worlds created in video games I believe. We have behavior of the main character that is really outstanding. Now we wanted to show a whole new diversity in the missions, the weapons and all the activities the player can do. So you have this amazing playground and you have much more diversity in the way you use it," Puel said in a G4TV interview.
The first installment of Assassin's Creed had its issues: lack of diversity, an undesirable story and bad AI; however, these weren't enough to quell the series' chance at a sequel. If Assassin's Creed 2 comes through on its promises by providing more varied game play, bigger cities and cooler gadgets, it could be the masterpiece of death the first should have been and more.