After playing the first Assassin’s Creed game, I was a little reluctant to keep going with the series. I found it to be such a dreary game and I was concerned that the second game might be a similarly unenjoyable experience. But I pushed on, because I knew the series was really popular and several people had told me how good some of the later games were.
And you know what? I’m glad I kept going. I can honestly say that Assassin’s Creed II was a pretty darn good game. But what’s funny is that in a lot of ways, it’s very similar to the original – it just goes to show that with just a few small tweaks, a bad formula can become a good one.
The biggest (and best) difference, is that this game is much more story driven than its predecessor. While the first game only really used Desmond as a character to walk in and out of the Animus, there are some pretty dramatic developments on his end this time – to the extent that I often enjoyed playing as him just as much as I enjoyed playing as Ezio in the past. Although Ezio’s storyline was pretty great too. Especially the ending.
Ezio, by the way, replaced Altaïr as the primary protagonist. While Altaïr was a bit of a ‘blank slate’ character who never received any development and just followed his orders without us ever really getting any glimpse at who he was, Ezio is a real person with thoughts and feelings of his own. You see his family (you even see him being born!) and get to see his relationships grow with other characters – I particularly liked the friendship between him and Leonardo Da Vinci. Ezio is a man who finds himself caught up in the world of Assassins and Templars without knowing anything about them beforehand – making him a bit of a gateway character, which I think is needed in a game like this.
Since I actually cared about Ezio (unlike Altaïr) this gave me much more motivation to keep going through the game. But that’s just one of several things which made it much more appealing . You can now collect money from the guards you kill (meaning that when they endlessly fight you, it actually feels productive) and you then use this money to buy medicine, improve your armour or purchase new weapons. They’re just small additions, but it means even if you don’t really progress the story when you play, you can feel like you did something worthwhile (rather than just wandering around and fighting pointlessly).
Another positive was changing the setting to Italy. The environments felt atmospheric and were kind of beautiful. The green open countryside that you sometimes walk (or rode your horse) through was easy on the eyes and it was a significant improvement over the dusty old cities of the Holy Land that Altaïr had to explore.
Overall, this is a pretty solid game and if you’re interested in getting into the Assassin’s Creed games, I recommend starting here over the first game. You really don’t miss much by skipping over it – except from perhaps a few hours of boredom. This will be a much better first impression for a series which is well worth playing.