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Let's Talk About: Assassin's Creed II


Assassin’s Creed II was handed down to me a few years ago by my older brother, along with his PlayStation 3. I didn’t know much about the game, and so I kind of put it to one side in favour of other games like GTA V and some Silent Hill titles. But after stumbling across it like some kind of hidden relic a couple of years later, I decided to give it a try, and I discovered just how much I’d been missing out.

It’s not exactly news that AC II is a fantastic game. It’s been out since late 2009 and is often considered the best of all of the AC games, or at least coming in second, with the first game generally rated pretty low in comparison. And it’s not hard to see why when you consider the beautiful, sprawling world of Renaissance-era Italy, the fluid controls of free-running and combat, and the mammoth amount of missions that are available to you, seemingly without limit. I’m not exaggerating when I say I really thought there would be no end to this game, and that prospect was definitely fine by me.


From the beginning the story had me hooked. The protagonist, Ezio Auditore da Firenze and his entire family struck a chord with me. I enjoyed seeing this completely realistic depiction of a (slightly) typical family and the individual lives they were all leading; where Ezio was first introduced to me, not as any kind of assassin, but as a protective brother and a devoted son. His character, and those of his family felt real to me, solid and fleshed out with several dimensions. And of course, I was inevitably heartbroken when his father and two brothers were publicly hanged; the very event that sets the rest of the game in motion.


From then on, the game becomes nothing short of a veritable roller-coaster ride. The main goal of the game will have you traversing across Italy to Tuscany, Forli, Venice and even Rome as you locate and methodically assassinate each of your targets. You’ll find allies in big names like Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci as well as in groups of regular citizens and courtesans, gradually learn a host of new free-running abilities and discover an entire range of weapons at your disposal, like daggers, swords, maces, poison blades, and even what can only be described as a miniature firearm for long distance kills.

The chief missions, or rather the compulsory ones, are so diverse and interesting that I never felt ready to stop playing. A personal favourite would probably be competing in the four Carnivale challenges, consisting of a race, a game of capture the flag, woman-charming and a fist fight, in order to win a golden mask. No two missions ever seemed the same to me, and I barely ever knew what to expect throughout the majority of the game. From conducting a stealth assassination upon a ship, to flying Leonardo’s prototype flying machine over Venice, all the way through to infiltrating the Vatican to assassinate your final target; these are just a few examples of the missions that make up Ezio’s incredible story.


The game’s major storyline really is something that will easily keep anybody entertained for hours but if you happen to find yourself wandering from it, you’ll come across side-quests and extras within the first five seconds. You can loot crates, collect feathers, glyphs and statuettes, scale view-points, participate in races, practice your combat skills, act as a courier, complete extra assassinations on the side and buy yourself some new armour or dye your clothes. There are even six hidden assassin’s tombs dotted throughout Italy, five of which are optional side-quests. All of them require you to stealth your way through the secret entrance, before you have to free-run through the building to your goal. In the tombs you’ll find hoards of treasure along with a special assassin’s seal in each one. These seals can be used to unlock the Sanctuary beneath the Villa Auditore, where you can obtain the Armour of Altair. When you consider that it’s the strongest armour going, this side-quest becomes more than worth it.


In short, I loved this game and I know my feelings are shared by many others. I play a lot of games of different genres on a lot of different platforms, and I’ve found it hard to discover any that manages to top AC II. It’s everything I could want in a game; the stunning graphics that somehow manage to make Italy even more beautiful than it is, the fun of Ezio’s free-running and climbing, especially on major monuments like the Duomo, the challenging-but-not-quite-frustrating new methods of assassination you can employ, the intricate puzzles, the countless extras and the exquisite storytelling behind everything; it’s the closest thing to a truly perfect game that I’ve ever encountered. Honestly, I’ve yet to meet anything that comes close to matching it.

 
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