So, as you may remember from my last article, I took a look back at the first Assassin’s Creed game to see how it has held up to the test of time and the development of the series in the years since its original release. While I found some aspects of game hadn’t aged well, such as the somewhat awkward (though still decent) combat, the free running that required far more travel between locations than was necessary and the occasionally underwhelming voice acting (mostly through Altaïr’s voice actor, Philip Shahbaz, as well as the cast of the present day sections of the game), I felt that the game’s story and graphics have held up surprisingly well over the year and that, despite some decisions that have caused later games in the series to move in a direction that makes some of the decisions here seem very odd now, it still is a solid game.
Well, now we move on to its successor, a game that still has fans going nuts over its lead character (Ezio Auditore da Firenze), is the highest rated game in the entire franchise on Metacritic (although it is worth noting that the franchise would not release a game that scored less than 80 on Metacritic in the main series until Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed Rogue were released in 2014…which surprised me when I learnt that, as I would have thought Assassin’s Creed III would have got a much lower score than it actually did, but we’ll come to that when we get to it!) and has been given many awards and accolades, including multiple Game of the Year awards, multiple nominations acclaiming it for multiple reasons by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and being featured in the 2010 book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die (a feat that its predecessor didn’t manage!).
However, the question is whether it still stands up now, so, without any delay, let’s take a leap of faith into Renaissance Italy with Assassin’s Creed II.
Now, I’m going to be honest: when I first completed the game, I loved it! I found Ezio’s journey so compelling: the fact that his family and his life had been ripped apart from such a young age really hit home for me, to the extent that I actually cried when Ezio’s father and two brothers were killed, and the rest of the troubles that he went through over the course of the game (including how far he goes in the official storyline to make his mother able to talk after she refused to speak at all for over a decade out of grief) really hammered home that Ezio was truly what an Assassin was meant to be: someone who does what is right, regardless of the opposition against them and the troubles they face. And the soundtrack made the hairs on the back of the neck stand up.
But how does it hold now? Well…very well, actually! The gameplay flows far better than it did in the previous game and it’s much better for it, being much more solid overall. The story still has me wanting more. Ezio’s vengeful crusade across Renaissance Italy has not lost its charm over the years, serving as possibly the strongest introduction to an Assassin that the series has done to date. Like its predecessor, its graphical fidelity still feels above the curve of what was being released at the time and is definitely an impressive use of the Anvil engine, which was updated for this game, having previously been used just for Assassin’s Creed, the 2008 reboot of Prince of Persia and Shaun White Snowboarding under the codename Scimitar). The freerunning still feels sharp and responsive in this game and is enhanced later in the game by the addition of the climb leap, which speeds up your ability to traverse buildings quite considerably when received, and double assassinations, which was a problem in the previous game due to there being multiple occasions where only being able to assassinate a single guard at a time meant that getting to some locations required you to either call the attention of every guard in the city or navigate around them. All of this means that the game is more forgiving than the previous game without necessarily sacrificing challenge (those new abilities? YOU’LL NEED THEM!). The voice acting is also improved from the previous game, with everyone doing an excellent job overall (with my personal favourite probably being Ezio himself: Roger Craig Smith, who provides his voice, does a truly excellent job overall, although people familiar with his roles as Sonic the Hedgehog, Chris Redfield, Steve Rogers/Captain America and Batman will already know that the guy is capable of doing excellent voice acting in general!). Character customization is also a welcome sight: I love the amount of weapons and armor you can go around in and the fact you can customise everything from the weapons you are carrying to the color of your robes means that there’s a lot that you can experiment around with.
Oh yeah, and you can swim now!
So there you have it, folks! I honestly have to say that this is a game that I would happily play again and again and again and…well, you get the point, I’m sure! If you haven’t played this game yet and love action-adventure games, then you really should give this a try, as it is the core upon which every future game in the series has been based and even now, seven games later, it still holds up very well. While some games in the years since have arguably done what the series did better than it did (Batman: Arkham Asylum springs to mind), Assassin’s Creed II is still more than worthy of your time!