The stabby stabby

November 30, 2009 by Tim

I picked up Assassin’s Creed 2 a little while back, and my first impressions were met with a lot of feedback on Twitter. To summarize, I called the game a disappointment.

To clarify, I don’t think it’s a bad game. It is by no means a bad game. And upon continuing to play it, I’ve decided that it is indeed a very enjoyable game. It’s just not the game I’d hoped for.

Assassin’s Creed was a fantastic game with a lot of core flaws. It tried many new things, it took bold steps, and its problems were more easily overlooked because it “wowed” us with all of the stuff it did right. However that newness is gone now.

For instance, free-running, while still fun and cool, is not as shiny and exciting as it used to be, and it becomes harder to ignore the problems within the system. The automated jumping and grabbing that makes the free-running work, also removes the precision necessary for certain platforming elements. You’re still going to take most of your damage from falling, and sometimes the unclear handholds (what can and cannot be grabbed onto) will halt what should otherwise be a smooth parkour run.

While the combat and counters look as flashy and violent as ever, the enemies still stand around you in a giant circle, waiting to be dispatched by these flashy counters one at a time. Batman: Arkham Asylum nailed the freeflow combat system by keeping it fast and brutal, and Assassin’s Creed once again feels a little fake.

My biggest complaint about Assassin’s Creed 1 was the repetitiveness of the missions. Every secret conversation that you needed to overhear was conveniently held withing earshot of a bench, for instance. In Assassin’s Creed 2, they’ve added more varieties of missions… but then made the game longer, so late in the game you’re still seeing the same tasks over and over again, and they start to feel stale.

They’ve also added new elements to the game such as an economy, in an attempt to give the game a “deeper” gameplay experience. However if you invest in your villa, pretty soon you’ll be drowning in income, and the extra collectables you can buy become meaningless.

You also get a number of completely pointless “interactive” cut scenes, whereby you’re told to press a button to perform an action like kissing a girl, however you are given no alternative. You are basically being yanked out of what could simply be a cutscene, and reminded that you are playing a video game, for no reason at all.

The characters are top-notch (at least, those within the animus), and I really love Ezio as a protagonist. However, the graphics, which are great during general gameplay, really break down up close during cutscenes. The faces and facial animations on various characters run the gamut between stiff and lifeless to overly animated and exxagerated.

While Lucy actually resembled Kristen Bell in Assassin’s Creed 1, I can’t tell who she’s supposed to look like now, and her fishlips that stretch from earlobe to earlobe have me worried that her head is going to flip back at any moment and offer me a giant Pez candy.

Still, what I’ve listed here are mostly things that were problems in Assassin’s Creed 1, and that I’d really hoped to see addressed in the sequel. A few were, but for the majority it seems like we got the exact same game, with a bunch of features piled on top. Nothing about Assassin’s Creed 2 makes me feel like we’ve really been offered anything new.

And so, since the first game was enjoyable for what it was, the sequel is enjoyable for the exact same reasons. I’m just disappointed that there was no “wow” factor this time.

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