ASSASSIN’S CREED II
Molto bene. The bellissimo Italian Renaissance follow-up was so good it spawned its own trilogy – magnifico!
We can’t overstate just how important Assassin’s Creed II was for the series. Not only was it a huge step up mechanically, feeling infinitely smoother to play than the first outing, it introduced a new hero – Ezio Auditore da Firenze. A suave Italian discovering his family’s history with the Assassin Order from the outside in, Ezio captured not only the hearts of fictional Italian women, but also the hearts of everyone who played as him. What made it particularly special was you started playing him from birth (in an only moderately traumatic tutorial scene that taught you the controls by getting you to wiggle your little baby legs), and – with his journey continuing through two nonnumbered follow-up games, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations – finishing as he hangs up his Assassin robes for good.
Renaissance Italy is captivating from the very beginning. Assassin’s Creed II starts off with Ezio’s bachelor youth in beautiful red-roofed Florence, before the young assassin takes a murder tour throughout different regions of Italy, culminating in the wonderfully canalled Venice (leaping from outcrop to outcrop over the waters is unforgettable), which is followed by a quick jaunt to Rome at the end, where Ezio learns more about his Assassin
“A THRILLING COMING-OF-AGE STORY, WITH ALL THE RIGHT DASHES OF PULPY SECRET PLOTS.”
lineage and seeks revenge for the death of the rest of his family. And we have to give a shout-out to some of the best costume designs for videogames out there (a strong part of the series a whole). It’s a thrilling coming-of-age story in its own right, with all the right dashes of pulpy secret plots and appearances from famous historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, who (of course) makes some fantastic gadget upgrades for Ezio.
LIKE A FINE VINO
Follow-up Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood picks up immediately after, being set almost entirely within the Rome of the period, as Ezio becomes more ingrained in the Assassin Order, rising to the rank of Mentor of the Italian Brotherhood. Assassin’s Creed Revelations follows him as an older man journeying to Constantinople to learn more about Altaïr and uncover his hidden vault.
The jump from the first game to Assassin’s Creed II was immense. Mechanically everything felt smoother than ever – climbing buildings no longer took an age, movement animations felt natural, and combat was much faster-paced, with more tools in your arsenal to help out than ever. The vistas of Italy offered much more variety than the samey cities of before, and, perhaps most importantly, the story allowed for a lot of mission variation. No longer did it feel like you were just ticking off items on a checklist before being allowed to do a main assassination mission. You felt you were following Ezio’s journey, with all the twists and turns that entailed. And there were plenty of extras, with things like hidden tombs offering one-off platforming challenges in unique locations, from maze-like crypts to chases up St Peter’s Basilica. Ezio’s life was constantly exciting, packed with fantastic architecture to parkour all over. Throughout the Ezio trilogy the games constantly refined this gameplay until it was a near-perfect representation of its initial premise. Sometimes these systems would get overcomplicated, feeling bolted onto the pre-existing game unnecessarily, with things like crafting and recruit management being a bit too much by the time Revelations released. But mechanically things were silky smooth, and the story of Ezio drew to a natural, emotional close. Few other games have managed to connect players to a character so strongly over the course of a series since.
FORMAT PS3, PS4 RELEASED 2009 PUB UBISOFT DEV UBISOFT MONTREAL
Hidden blades and swords are still in, but Ezio adds plenty more weapons to his arsenal.
Air assassinations and the double hidden blade changed the way you stalked prey.
One of da Vinci’s real-life flying machine designs made it into the game.