The story takes place not long after the first Assassin’s Creed in 2012 and Desmond Miles is in the research facility of Abstergo, owned by the Knights Templar. However, another assassin called Lucy helps Desmond escape; hiding him to continue searching his ancestors’ memories with an updated Animus.
This time you play as a young man of seventeen called Ezio Auditore de Firenze, the son of a banker in 15th Century Florence. Ezio’s life is drastically changed when a traitor- claiming the Auditore family are conspirators- murders his father and brothers. He decides to become an assassin, vowing revenge for his family’s death. You follow him throughout his journey that spans 23 years – uncovering secrets and lies in the process – and end up asking more questions than when you began.
Assassin’s Creed II is free roam and there are a number of side missions to choose from, as well as secret tombs and catacombs to search. Even after completing the game, different missions are still available, as well as looking for hidden feathers, treasures and completing the list of achievements. There are many settings to explore in gameplay, including Venice, Tuscany, Florence, and, in the final level, The Vatican. The maps are large and you get used to travelling around the winding streets pretty early on.
Put simply, AC is a beautiful game in more ways than one. The environments are extremely detailed. You can climb up every building onto rooftops and look out on the villages and countryside. The first time I saw the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, climbed to the very top and looked out over Florence, I realised this game was going to be something special. It is a pleasure exploring the cities and meeting the citizens; there came a point when I would just play the game for the setting -ignoring the plot all together!
As with anything, however, there are a few down sides. Having to leave the Animus to get back to the present time can be slightly annoying when you’re so engrossed in the plot. A few phrases are said in Italian and if you don’t have the subtitles on, you can’t understand what the characters are saying at some crucial moments. Finally, the cinematic ‘building up’ of environments every so often can also get a little tedious, but again, nothing major.
Unlike the first Assassin’s Creed, as you progress, you can spend Florins on new armour, paintings for your villa, and dye to change the colour of your outfit. In addition, there is a wider range of weapons than the first Assassin’s Creed, including double blades, spears, and a pistol. As you move through the game, you can learn even more combat moves and develop into a deadly killer. The combat and free running are pretty easy to get to grips with, but look extremely cool on screen!
The last aspect that needs mentioning is the soundtrack. For me, music is very important in both films and games, as it creates a crucial atmosphere and ‘feel’. The soundtrack of ACII is beautiful and fully deserves to be listened to in isolation.
Two new downloadable missions are now available, called The Battle of Fori and Bonfire of Vanities. Personally, anything to prolong this wonderful game is something positive. I’m thinking of playing it through again, as I’m sure it’s one of those games where you take something new out of it every time.