Fresh from E3 and impressed by Ubisoft’s upcoming efforts, I decided to tackle Assassin’s Creed II, one of the biggest games in my pile of shame, earlier this month. Not only am I ready for Assassin’s Creed III, it’s now one of my most anticipated games of the year, thanks to my time with Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
When Assassin’s Creed II was being shown off at E3 2009, I was really impressed. Though I hadn’t played the first one (I’m not a fan of stealth, and I didn’t think I’d care for the gameplay), I thought the highly anticipated sequel looked incredibly good. But when it came out during the crowded holiday season, it wasn’t a high enough priority, and was quickly buried beneath a pile of new releases. After being similarly impressed by Assassin’s Creed III and accompanying PlayStation Vita title Liberation at E3 2012, I decided not to make the same mistake.
I popped in Assassin’s Creed II within 48 hours of returning from Los Angeles, deciding to skip over the first game entirely. I’m sure Altair’s story was interesting, but games that came out that early in this generation sometimes feel like unpolished tech demos compared to current releases, and the impression I got from friends was that the second game was a huge improvement. Even as I began to play, I had doubts. What if it wasn’t for me after all? What if I didn’t have enough patience to master the stealth needed for some of the missions? What if I couldn’t get into it and I’d just missed the boat entirely?
I’ve now mentioned stealth twice, because it’s a gameplay style of which I’m really not a fan. It doesn’t matter how good the game is; I just completely lack the patience for an entirely stealth-based title. Thankfully, Assassin’s Creed II makes sneaking around fun, much like the recent Batman games were able to. I also appreciate missions that give me a choice: remain unseen as you stalk and kill your target, or rush in, blades out, ready to fight. Though I’m often the rash, sloppy, kill-first-ask-questions-later type, ACII made me appreciate the strategy of stealth, and the satisfaction of moving through a crowded city without being noticed, even if I was leaving a trail of bodies along the way.
After a few hours, I was completely hooked. I couldn’t even remember why I hadn’t played it before, it was just so good. The game is also a lot deeper than I expected, with lots of hidden things to find, buildings to upgrade, people to assassinate. I expected a much more linear experience, but to have those kinds of options to give me a break between story missions was refreshing. Of course, Assassin’s Creed II definitely isn’t problem-free. I experienced quite a few frustrating moments as I made my way through the game, including some Tomb Raider-esque camera issues and annoying timed races through the crowded streets.
In the end, those issues were minor. I beat the game and immediately started Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, which I’m now about halfway through. At this rate, I’ll finish off Ezio’s story well in advance of the two games in the series coming out this holiday season. I’ve even been neglecting newer titles, like the Civilization V expansion I was so excited about, in favor of games that the industry has long since stopped talking about. Thankfully, later this year I won’t be left out of the conversation.