Well worth the wait
When Assassin’s Creed was released for the PC a couple of years back it quickly became one of my favorite games. It made running around the roofs of beautifully modeled cities both thrilling and easy. Unlike most games where you do lots of jumping and climbing; like Tomb Raider or the Prince of Persia series, where jumping can be really frustrating; AC made it both fun and effortless, it was like just flowing over the city roofs. Add to that a very nice combat mechanic and assassination moves and you had a real hit.
A couple of days ago Assassin’s Creed 2 was released. At first I was a bit annoyed, because Steam kept pushing back the release, from Wednesday to Thursday and then from Thursday to Friday, but once I got my hands on it, I was completely hooked. It had the same smooth climbing, combat and killing and then some. You could describe the new additions as “You shouldn’t mess with perfection, but you might add to it”. The new features like double kills or even nicer ways of climbing roofs weren’t exactly missing from the first game, but they sure do make nice additions for the sequel.
I really liked the “home castle” in AC2, a place where you could spend the wealth you earned throughout the game (yes, there’s actually money in this one, so if you run out of throwing knives you can buy more, you don’t have to find a suitable target to pickpocket :p), both improving it and shopping at a discount from the stores there. The addition of currency and stores was also really nice, bringing along small gadgets like smoke bombs and health potions which wouldn’t have been easy replenishing in the first, storeless, game. Something really nice for me, being a completionist, was being able to buy treasure maps, making finding everything a lot easier. Even though there was no such thing for finding the collectible feathers, even that was made easier by the game keeping lists of how many feathers you’d found in certain city districts, making the missing ones a bit easier to track down (also, this excellent guide helped.
Downsides? Well, there were a few. I can’t really say that I enjoyed the vehicle sequences too much. Neither the cart sequence nor the flying sequence was really that bad… but they weren’t that good either. And the additional flying added to Forli from the DLC which was automatically included in new copies of AC2 wasn’t really anything to cheer for either. Also, I can’t say I cared for the new model for Lucy, I thought the first games was much better… and with all the beautiful female models in the game, I’m surprised that they so utterly failed with hers. Another thing which really confused me was why the wanted posters you could tear down to decrease your notoriety never wear at street level? Don’t they want people to see the wanted posters? :p
The PC port was a bit lacking in the control department; you clearly felt that the keys were just selected to replace console keys… and when introducing new abilities you only got vague pictures of buttons, sometimes coloured ones representing the console controllers coloured buttons. Would’ve been nice if they’d bothered switching those instructions to things like “press E for eagle vision”, “keep right mouse button down for aggressive action” etc. As it was I had to frequently go to the customize controls menu to check
what these pictures represented on the keyboard (picture of this menu added; the only thing you see when instructed to do something is those small circle icons, then you had to go to customize controls to figure out what they really meant). I was also a bit annoyed by the fact that only the first 4 number buttons were tied to specific weapons and then you had to start digging through a weird feeling ability wheel for the rest; would’ve really liked to bind some of those other abilities to shortcut buttons. Same went for the game menus; weird feeling and hard to browse with the mouse, obvious direct console ports without making any effort to adapt them for PC and mouse use.
The story of the game was excellent… though the fact that the game was supposed to take place over 20 years felt a bit strange… from how the storyline played out it felt more like 2 weeks. Both Ezio’s story of vengeance and Desmond’s story which focused more on the “Pieces of Eden” and the mystic (or futuristic technology, which often is the same as mystic :p) were excellent. I would’ve liked a few more Desmond sequences, really only got two in this game, but from the looks of things the next game might focus way more on him.
Anyways, enough rambling, AC2 is a great game, met all my expectations and then some. I’d really like to give it 10/10, because once you get over the poor console port issues it’s a fantastic game, but I have to dock some serious points because of that laziness and end up giving it “only” 8/10. Next time, if you’re gonna release a PC version months and months after the console one, try to at least have something to show for it…