Since my Xbox is out of commission, and I haven’t been able to play it recently, I thought I’d share some thoughts about the game I was playing before it bit the dust: Assassin’s Creed 2.
When details first started to emerge about the sequel to one of my favorite games, I got a little worried. A lot of people complained about the repetitiveness of the missions. Personally, I didn’t mind that they were repetitive because they were so fun to do. But, because of the complaints, one of the points that was driven home whenever Assassin’s Creed 2 was discussed, was that it would have more variety in missions. That it would be more challenging. That it would be less repetitive.
Challenge is good. Variety is good. But I was worried that the game would explode into something that was so far past its predecessor, that it couldn’t be considered the same game. I might not have been so worried about this if it hadn’t already happened to another game I loved. Jak and Daxter was my first PS2 game, and I adored it. It was pretty simple, but it was a lot of fun. It was obvious that there would be a sequel, and I couldn’t wait to see where the series went next.
Where it went was somewhere completely different. And I didn’t really like it. I mean, it was okay. The core mechanics were there. But so much other stuff changed that it became a different game. And I was afraid the same thing would happen to AC2.
Luckily, it appears that didn’t happen. They’ve added a lot to the sequel, without changing the fundamental aspects that made the first game so interesting. They certainly did increase the variety of missions you do in the second game – but there is still repetition. The similarities are just well-masked, and there is enough going on in between that it doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same thing every five minutes.
I’ve enjoyed just about every aspect of the gameplay so far – the classic assassination mechanics. the pseudo-history surrounding the characters, the new open area “Prince of Persia”-like environments. Even the ability to buy and sell goods has been integrated well, something I was also worried about before release. It’s not a very complex mechanic, but it serves the game well.
Unfortunately, however, it’s not perfect. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that there appears to have been no attempt to make the main character easier to maneuver in certain situations. In the first game, Altair would be more than happy to grab onto any ledge, ladder or climbable surface when you were doing a free run, usually sending you off in a direction you didn’t intend to go. Sadly, Ezio is just as inclined to do this in the sequel. There are many times I wanted to jump one direction, but the game decided it would be much better to jump the other direction – usually with disastrous results. I hope they spend more time on fixing this shortcoming in the third installment.
One of the more compelling aspects to the game is the fact that the past is actually a replaying of memories, encoded in the DNA of the assassin’s ancestor. The first game frequently cut between reliving those memories, and the events of the present. But the second game only does this occasionally, and that’s disappointing. I read one review that considered this a good point, but if you truly are absorbed by the underlying story, this lack of interaction in the present makes it feel like you’re losing a large chunk of the narrative.
Of course, I am only about halfway through the game, so there may be more to come that makes the wait worthwhile.
Finally, there is the case of the missing memory segments. I actually haven’t reached this point of the game yet, but it’s worth a mention. Ubisoft actually cut out two segments of the game due to time restrictions, deciding to offer them later on as DLC. They say this is perfectly acceptable, as the player already gets more than their money’s worth from the content that is provided on the disc.
And I don’t argue that fact.
However, it is a bit disjointed to have to skip over those segments, only to “relive” them later. My 360 getting its red ring may actually be a blessing in disguise in that the DLC may be available by the time I get to that part of the game, allowing me to play all the memory segments in order. I understand the reasons for what Ubisoft did, but I question the final execution.
I think that’s it – very brief, very high level. Overall, I’m enjoying the game considerably, and I highly recommend it for both the likers and haters of the first game. Just be prepared for the fact that not all the quirks of the first game got ironed out.