Woohoo! I finished it. This is less of a review and more like a blog. Or a review from a non-regular-gamer’s point of view, if you like.
I don’t play many video games but I have a vague awareness of some of the major games around. The Assassin’s Creed franchise was pretty hard to avoid, unlike some of my botched assassination attempts. It was released in 2009, but lacking any of the favoured consoles to play it on, I passed it by.
Luckily, this story has a happy ending. In 2012 I got a laptop that could do more than type Word documents complaining about the stuff I couldn’t do on it. My current laptop is not high-range by any means, nor is it intended as a gaming laptop, but it suddenly became enough. Originally, I intended to do the chronological thing of buying AC1, especially after strolling through GAME one day and seeing it at an amazing £5. However, the next time I got around to passing by it was now AC2. I thought I’d just take my chances, and bought it. I later found it that it has been ranked as the best out of the currently available Assassin’s Creed games. Such luck.
Enough of the backstory.
The graphics were lovely, even with everything running on minimal settings (my laptop, yeah, that). I’ve been to Florence, and visiting it in virtual 15th century style was a treat. Being able to unlock viewpoints by climbing onto towers and other assorted high points encouraged wide-scale appreciation of the settings from above (no doubt also a show-off by the creators). It would have been nice if everything was clear from those high points rather than being a tad over hazy in the distance – a lesser version of the same effect would have been preferable, like a loss of detail rather than saturation. The animation for horse riding is also a little awkward, but other than that the graphics have aged (and I think will continue to age) well.
The characters and storyline. (Spoilers in this paragraph.) Okay, so it’s kind of your standard ‘must avenge loss, the plot is bigger than they thought, now they have to kill more people’, but at least the characters have a bit of personality. Leonardo da Vinci was by far my favourite as the sweet helpful friend who unlocks your Codex pages for you and upgrades your hidden blade. Some unexpected things come of your acquaintance with him including a fast carriage ride and use of a flying (or should I say gliding) machine. I wish he’d had more to say after a certain amount of Codex page visits than just the ‘Ah, another one’ sequence, especially for the last Codex page, I mean come on, can’t we have some kind of concluding thank you at least? But at least if your reflexes are slow and you miss the first hug (like me, I was gutted) you have a hug later on (which you don’t have to worry about being ready for).
The open world setting and side missions. If you are a purist, easily distracted, need some more in-game money, or ever had the urge to procrastinate from challenges within a game, then you certainly have the chance to. Side challenges take the form of assassinations, courier duties, races or beat up events (punishing cheating men). Or you can go on self-set tasks, such as completing all 6 tombs to unlock Altair’s super-armour, unlocking viewpoints, hunting treasure, finding pieces of The Truth, or just trying to get the very top of the Duomo. You also have your very own little villa to upgrade which will bring you in cash. It’s quite neat to watch the place improve with investments, even down to the clothing of its humble inhabitants.
The variation. For me it hits a nice balance of being able to hone the skills you have and enjoy some familiar elements whilst also giving you different types of challenges. In some cases there is a choice between brute force or stealth, in others you have no choice, and the Notoriety feature occasionally compels you to blend with the crowd (rather unrealistically, but I’ll overlook it) and move between hiding spots to reach places.
The PC controls. Are you kidding me, seriously? – Ubisoft did not think of the PC gamer at all with this. Instead of the expected useful tutorial the game presents you with cryptic pictures – yes, blue closed hand key, wow, that’s so obviously left mouse click – and leaves you to key hunt. Or more likely, to blink, frown, and look up the controls. Which you are going to have to basically try to remember straight up, because the game doesn’t help you with them. With a little practice (and potentially some customisation) it gets easier, so I wouldn’t say the game is ultimately spoiled by it. However it was an unfortunately overlooked and easy fixable oversight (just tell us the keys to press for what function?!) that annoys me significantly. About half way through (coincidentally) I ended up getting a SpeedLink controller (at a nice £10), which definitely improved things.
I feel like the big Biblical style big-picture plot is maybe a tad overdone, though I accept it as rather the nature of some games. I also feel like a better suited ending might have involved a wider scale, large open environment stealth planning, maybe then followed by the final fight.
One last other thing: I would have quite liked it if you could change back to Ezio’s very first basic outfit. I mean, on the Uplay launcher which you are also forced to install you can unlock Altair’s outfit, but you can’t even get back to Ezio’s own first outfit? Just a thought.
(When I play) I like playing action-adventure games with beautiful and or fantasy settings. I love beautiful graphics and have a reasonable bias towards those games (but my laptop, alas, will limit me). Also a sucker for good storylines. Occasionally I watch game walkthroughs of games I won’t be able to play (Heavy Rain, Beyond two Souls, The Last of Us, Tomb Raider (relaunch), GTA V and Journey (beaut!) all come under this.) I’ve played some Lara Croft and Prince of Persia, also Fable 3 (and a lot of Sims). For my next game I was thinking next of moving onto Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood or Fable 2, Prince of Persia (2008) or The Path. Longer term, I think I’d like to try The Walking Dead episodes or mystery games. If you have any comments, recommendations or otherwise, do feel free to give me a shout.