Assassin's Creed II Reader Review
I finished Assassinís Creed II the other day (for reference: the PC version; running at 1080p with maxed out graphics. I played the game on my plasma with a gamepad)
I really wanted to like this game and I did for a while, but in the end it was quite a disappointment. As the hyped and apparently remarkably improved sequel of Assassinís Creed, I decided to give it a go. The first Assassinís Creed still holds the dubious honour of being one of the very few games I stopped playing halfway, without any intention of going back (the other being Far Cry 2).
And yes, I finished this game. And yes, itís a striking improvement over the first game in the series. This does still not make it a good game however. While there is certainly enjoyment to be had, looking back, I wished I quitted playing this one to. The game overstayed itís welcome by quite a margin, becoming a real drag towards the end. It almost made me forget I had some decent enjoyment out of it for the first 2/3 of the game. Well at least it made the completionist in me happy.
To be fair, most of the boredom came from the DLC, but since the PC-version came bundled with it I will take it in consideration nonetheless. Really, itís some of the worst DLC I ever experienced. Itís bad enough it feels cut from the main game prior to release but in this game consolegamers should be happy they are missing out on it (unless you paid money for it of course). The first (battle of Forli) is not even that bad, but the second (Bonfire of the Vanities) is downright atrocious (ďletís ramp up the difficulty by making the player notorious all the way and adding dozens of guards, while he grinds pointlessly through his objectivesĒ). It has sizable length, but itís a grind from start to finish. Really uninspired and with abysmal game design.
Yet I quite enjoyed the game for the most part (despite some serious flaws obvious from the start), but I can not help but feel what a missed chance it was. Really a lot of wasted potential, it could have been so much better! Now itís a pretty shallow action game that is far too long for itís own good.
There is more variety in missions now, which is good. No more repetitive tasks to track down your objective but a far more dynamic approach. Some of the missions were even quite good and really enjoyable (especially in the first half of the game). Itís just there arenít much ways to approach your objective. I really miss the possibility of a completely stealthy approach. They really should have chosen for the Hitman: Blood Money approach: Choosing youíre own style to perform missions with different ways to approach your objectives. Like stealth (with special rewards for remaining undetected all the way), arranging accidents, deceit, or rambo¨-style wouldíve been so awesome. Itís not really a challenge now.
A shame, because I never felt like an assassin, more like a very agile fighter capable of cool stunts Ė which is nice too, but they should have expanded a bit beyond the simple action oriented gameplay. Making sneaking a real possibily (because itís not really now, youíre not even able to crouch) would add much more replay value, challenge and variety. Would love a bit of sneaking along with a decent lighting system and AI (sadly, the game sorely lacks in these departments).
Climbing, jumping and running over the rooftops is a joy though, really a great experience at times. Also the freedom is lovely and the animations of Ezio are nice.
Apart from the main storyline, the game adds quite much, but most of it not in a really good way. Glyphs (puzzles to discover a so-called ĎTruthí), collectibles, etc. generally break the pace of the game, detracting from experience. There is more pace and focus compared to 1 though; the useless countryside areas are almost completely scrapped (which is a good thing, as they arenít the best looking either). You also can (re)build your own village now. Which is nice at first, but doesnít add much. Either do it well or not at all. Anyways, feels good to have a bit of a base of operations.
The game also adds money and weapons and armor + some other things to buy, which is cool, but again couldíve been implemented better.
My main gripe with the game are the unresponsive controls (it seems you must finish animations first and only after that can issue orders). Often Ezio did completely other things than I wanted him to do, like running up a wall or jumping of a building or get stuck multiple times. Sometimes I really wanted to smash my controller through my tv. Very frustrating and it does not help that the camera is really bad sometimes.
The fighting system is despite this nice enough with some really cool animations. Itís very unrealistic though, especially when fighting in large groups. It should be much harder to win fights against 2 or more enemies. Also, the AI is abysmal: really stupid and forgiving overall - as in plainly deaf for the most part, very predictable despite their sometimes completely unnatural behaviour. And no, adding more and more guards is not the way to remedy this. Also, it is very easy to lose the guards.
By doing actions against the law you raise your notoriety, making the guards looking out for you more. Itís a logical addition with a rather pointless execution. Keeping your notoriety down is ridiculously easy. Keeping your notoriety down should be far more challenging (and notoriety should never raise if you could arrange accidents or be very stealthy, performing actions without being seen). Bribing heralds and assassinating witnesses is ok and a step in the right direction, but overall notoriety is very dodgy done as it is now. Youíll never feel really outlawed and hunted because of this, there seem to be no consequences at all to your undoubtedly illegal actions. You can literally kill off half the city and then remove some pamphlets and nobody will ever know it or recognize you. Strangely enough dyeing your clothes a different colour does not lower notoriety. I thought changing clothes would be helpful to become incognito.
Overall, fighting and assassinating is far too easy, even with the fiddly controls. The game should rely more on stealth, and less on your nigh infinite health blocks. If the controls work, the gameplay and fighting is pretty smooth and enjoyable though.
All in all, the game is really easy and not much of a challenge. The only challenge seems to come from the numbers of the guards and the occasional fighting with the controls, but I had hoped on something you know, more creative.
Bottom line: enjoyable albeit shallow gameplay despite dodgy controls and awful AI, but really should have looked more to hitman or thief. (4x) 6,5/10
At first I thought Ezioís story was decent enough, although motivations other than revenge remain largely unclear or unconvincing. This is also true for the enemy, the Templars. The story had some nice and convincing moments (betrayal for instance). Towards the end the story became less and less believable and the ending is the worst I have seen in any game. Completely unbelievable and totally out of place. Unrewarding too. If you want supernatural stuff in a game then do it proper and make a SF game.
Desmonds story (the modern overarching plot) and the Animus crap sucks and is pointless as ever. Itís tedious, does terrible things to the immersion and as a narration device itís downright shite. Ubisoft is better of ditching the whole concept (along with the trademark Ubisoft collectible grind and the glyphs) and investing more time in good side missions and fleshing out the main story more. Itís not as distracting as in AssCreed 1 however. Side missions as they are now are sometimes nice challenges, most are pointless and repetitive though and detrimental to the focus and pacing of the game and overall experience. Same goes for the collectibles. This part of the game is not as shockingly bad as it was in AssCreed 1 though.
Storytelling with (sometimes interactive) cutscenes is ok. Theyíre not too long for the most part, but unskippable sadly. Characters are decent but flat and forgettable for the most part. There is no real dynamic character progression or otherwise evolving characters, not even Ezio himself. Heís a likable fella for the most part, though. Would be cool if there were more complex characters and motivations, not just black/white stereotypes.
At first enjoyable but completely lost it towards the end. (2x) 5/10
Technically the game is mediocre: The scope of the game is really expansive, with detailed locations and a high draw distance (at least on pc), but with awful texture pop in, for the most part terrible lighting, ugly shadows (especially in the distance), lacklustre facial animation, mediocre to shite character models with a bit plastic look (play some Uncharted 2 or Mass Effect 2 Ubi) and lots of cloned NPCís (at least give their clothing a different color). Buildings to, though less obvious and not really annoying.
Artistically the game is a mixed bag: there is an empty void around locations along with futuristic elements ruining the experience. The menu and interface are really ugly. Also nighttime isnít very well done, the environment is almost as bright as in daytime, which looks very odd. Water looks very weird too.
The cities are very beautiful for the most part. It really is awesome to walk through the streets and over the squares, it really gives a good vision about medieval life. The cities are very lively and beautifully crafted with great attention to detail. Especially Veniceís San Marco & San Polo and many of the monuments are nothing short of great. As in astounding, very well done. Countryside areaís pale in comparison, nothing special those.
Though I can not help they lack soul in places, theyíre often a bit too clean, sterile looking. Maybe caused by the lighting/shadowwork too, which seems sometimes ok or even atmospheric but is quite bad overall. Some totally out of place futuristic elements (the many highlights, the ui) give the game a bit of a weird look. It really kills the immersion imo. Still artistically the game is a remarkable achievement for the most part. Ezioís animations are good, other characters in cutscenes are a bit stiff with lacking facial expression.
(2x) 8/10 (not totally deserving, but an extra point for the expertly recreated cities)
One of the few areas this game is actually consistently decent overall. The musical score is quite good and numerous sound effects make the world come alive. The sound effects are convincing and varied. The voice acting is for the most part decent and better than most games out there.
Not for me. Canít give a ratís ass about collecting treasure chests and feathers + achievements. Otherwise, if you fall for such cheap, uninspired added replayability there is pretty much none replay value. Maybe Iíll play a few assassination side missions to show the game to friends.
Does a lot of things, but nothing really exceptional or new. Since itís a sequel, itís not really original either. The Glyphs puzzles are done before in the predecessor, but can be considered original. I didnít think the glyphs added to the experience and I did not like them much, but I can see some people would.
Although taking elements of real history and weave it subtly in the game is actually cool and not done very often. Shame about the execution end-game though.
Also the background information delivered about buildings and people is interesting and expands the backstory and thus improves immersion.
While the game was vastly improved and enjoyable for the most part, it felt utterly lacking in the end.
Finally, this game does indeed have pretty intrusive DRM. Canít really be bothered with it, but Iíd rather play games without it.
All in all I canít recommend the game really, it does some things well and there is some enjoyment to be had, but other games do it better and are overall more consistent and worthwhile.
Overall score is a
which seems harsh, but feels about right.
No bonus points / end score modifiers here. I hope Brotherhood is better, but I think Iím done with this franchise. The most overrated this gen if you ask me.