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Assassin's Creed Series

Assassins Creed Ubisoft

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#1 Virgil Vox

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Posted 08 April 2018 - 02:00 PM

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Assassin’s Creed II is the game where most people say the series really took off. It corrected the flaws of the first game while building on what worked.

The game is set in Italy during the Renaissance and focuses on Ezio Auditore. When the game begins he is a young man more concerned with courting women and brawling in the streets than helping his father run the family’s banking business. Things take a turn for the worse when Ezio’s father and brothers are arrested for treason and hanged. Ezio flees with his mother and sister to their uncle, Mario. That is when Ezio learns he is part of the Assassin Brotherhood, and his uncle can give him the skills to take down those that murdered his family and stop the Templars from gaining control of the world.

The story really stands out in the game. Ezio is a good character. He’s flawed and doesn’t always do things for the right reasons but you feel for him and what he has been through. It helps that the game takes place over a decade, so you watch him grow from a naïve young man into a trained Assassin. There is also a strong supporting cast to back Ezio up. They do have a tendency to disappear for long stretches at a time but they always pop back up. If I have one complaint it’s that Ezio’s sister and mother have no real role. His mother is basically catatonic and his sister runs the villa, which means she stays in once location and repeats the same dialogue over and over.

I do think the story gets a little too unwieldy at times with too many characters and moving parts. There was a whole sequence dedicated to Savonarola that felt tacked on.

I also had a problem with the ending. Ezio confronts and defeats the big bad of the game, Rodrigo Borgia, and lets him live. The reason he gives for why is so stupid considering all the people Ezio has killed to this point. The real reason is that Borgia didn’t die at that point in history. It is one of the weaknesses of the series. They love to use history and historical figures but sometimes they use too many and have to twist the story in some weird ways to make it work.

The modern day story is nice though it only pops up occasionally. It starts with Lucy (modeled on and voiced acted by Kristen Bell) freeing Desmond (voiced by Nathan Drake himself, Nolan North) from Abstergo. They meet up with two other Assassins, Shaun and Rebecca, and work to unlock Ezio’s memories so they can find a Piece of Eden. The ending sets up the main arc that would continue into the next two Ezio games (Brotherhood and Revelations) and culminate in AC:III.

The game play is great, at least for when the game was released in 2009. What set this series apart from other games at the time was the parkour free-running system which allowed you to climb up buildings, leap from roof top to roof top, and pole to pole.
It is still fun here, but compared to later games the free running isn’t as polished. There were many times I had a cheap death because Ezio leaped the wrong way or did an extra leap when I didn’t want him to. There was one frustrating section where you have to travel across an area to hit levers before the timer ran out. It was a nightmare, especially since it introduced a new jumping tactic that hadn’t been used in the game before and was really sensitive. I ended up jumping backwards instead of to the side more often than not.

Still, when it works the free running is great. My only main complaint, and this goes for other games too, is that enemies are stationed on roof tops and will chase you if they see you. I get that it adds a challenge to the game but it also makes free running a hassle. It can be hard to lose the guards and it wastes time. There were plenty of moments where I just decided to stay on the streets.

I want to talk about the villa next. Ezio’s uncle Mario is in control of a villa. It consists of a small town and a mansion. When Ezio first arrives the place is run down, there are almost no shops, and no people. Ezio can upgrade the villa by spending money to open more shops and to renovate buildings like churches and banks. This generates an income for Ezio. Money is deposited in a chest every 20 minutes. The more you renovate the villa the more money is deposited every 20 minutes. I made sure to use my money to renovate the villa early so I would have a large income every 20 minutes.

What I also liked is that every collectable also improves the villa and adds money to your coffers. When you buy weapons, armor, and paintings it increases the value of the villa. The same when you collect feathers. None of it is superfluous.

I did have a sense of pride as I watched the villa go from a broken down wreck to a shining town filled with people. It was a nice visual cue as to the progress I was making.

There are some character customization options, but not many. There are different armor sets you can buy throughout the game that changes Ezio’s look, but for the most part you just wear the newest armor because that is the best armor available.
You can buy dyes to change the color of your assassin robes, and I did appreciate that.

There is also a side-quest where you explore the tombs of six previous assassins to retrieve seals to unlock the armor of Altair, the Assassin that was the main character of the first game.

There are new game mechanics as well. Ezio befriends Leonardo da Vinci, who makes new tools for Ezio to use. Ezio gets two assassin blade gauntlets, and they get loaded with poison. In one sequence Ezio gets to fly a glider over a city.

What I really appreciated about the game was the pacing. Ezio is constantly learning new techniques as the game progresses and it feels natural. He is learning to become an Assassin and he isn’t going to learn all the abilities at once. It meant that there was enough time to get used to the technique just introduced before a new one was thrown at me.

This applies to the cities as well. For the bigger cities only a small portion of the map is open to explore at first and as the game progresses more of the city is opened up. It helped to keep the feeling of being overwhelmed at bay, though the sequels will just open up the entire city at the start.

The fighting is good. Again, it’s not as good when compared to more recent AC games but I can’t complain. Combat comes down to either spamming the attack button or waiting for an enemy to attack and parrying it, which usually results in an insta-death. There is more to it. Ezio can grab enemies and punch them, knee them, head butt them, or throw them.

Of course, there are also plenty of stealth options. Ezio can assassinate enemies using his blades or a small wrist mounted gun. He can leap at enemies from rooftops or hide in hay stacks, on benches, or in groups of people.

One of the big complaints about the first game was that it was too repetitive. You travel to a city, perform the same missions to unlock the assassination mission, and then move on. AC:II avoids that by giving the main story missions a lot of variety. I’ve read that there are around 200 missions in the game, with half of those being devoted to the main story and the other half being side-quests.

The side-quests aren’t necessary unless you want to earn money and just enjoy doing them. I mainly skipped the side-quests that were races but I did most of the assassination side-quests.

The main missions are pretty varied, though some are similar in nature. Still, there was enough variety to keep me engaged. It also helped that I was invested in the story.

The game takes place in multiple cities, though you will spend most of your time in Florence and Venice. All of the cities look different enough so I never felt like I was really in the same place with just another name.

I really enjoyed AC:II. This is a game where just about everything clicked. The story was intriguing, the game play worked and was fun, the collectibles served a purpose, and the missions were nice and varied.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."

It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#2 Virgil Vox

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Posted 29 November 2018 - 08:10 AM

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Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Brotherhood is a continuation of the Ezio story that started in the previous game and carries over many of the same game play mechanics while making some alterations.

Story-wise, the game picks up where the last one left off. Ezio has just defeated Rodrigo and gotten the warning from Minerva about a disaster that could wipe out all life on Earth. He returns to his villa to relax but it is attacked by the Borgias, led by Cesare. His uncle is killed and the villa destroyed. Ezio makes his way to Rome to rebuild the Assassin Brotherhood and seek revenge against the Borgia.

In the modern day story Desmond, Lucy, Rebecca, and Shaun set up a base in the ruins of Ezio’s villa. They hope that by having Desmond continue to access Ezio’s memories they can discover what Ezio did with the Apple of Eden. They need the artifact to discover the ancient temples left behind by the First Civilization so they can stop the coming catastrophe.

The story is pretty good. It doesn’t quite have the same punch as AC:II, though. It is Ezio more or less continuing to get his revenge on the Borgias and that was done better in the previous game, IMO. Most of the characters from the previous game return.

The modern day aspects are nice, with the characters being fleshed out more, especially in the e-mails Desmond can read. It makes the characters more likeable and feel more real. This is also when Juno is introduced, who will be a Big Bad for multiple games. There is also a pretty big cliffhanger ending.

Graphically, this is an improvement over the previous game which was slightly unexpected because they came out only a year apart. They are still Xbox 360 graphics that have been slightly updated for the Xbox One so they’re not amazing but the game does look better.

The game play mechanics are more or less the same. If you played the last game than you should have no problem playing this game. One change is that the game takes place in Rome and the surrounding country side. The previous two AC games had you traveling to different cities.

Combat has been modified. There is now a kill streak mechanic that allows you to effortlessly kill enemies. It can be fun and a nice way to clear out a large number of bad guys but it can also be disrupted pretty easily.

A crossbow has been added to Ezio’s arsenal which I loved. It makes some of the stealth portions of the game much easier to get through.
Ezio can be upgraded in the same manner as the previous game. New sets of armor are unlocked as you progress and they increase Ezio’s health. The same is true for weapons. Better weapons can be bought as you progress through the game. Ezio’s carrying capacity can also be upgraded, allowing him to carry more medicine, knives, darts, etc.

A major new addition is the ability to recruit Assassins to your cause. Twelve Assassins can be recruited over the course of the game. They serve two functions. The first is that you can call on them to help you during the game. They can perform assassinations for you or, if you have enough Assassins, they can rain down arrows on all your enemies.

Their second function is that they can be sent on missions around the world. When those missions are completed Ezio is rewarded with money and useful items. The Assassins also earn experience. As they level up you can equip them with better weapons and gear. Eventually they will earn the rank of Assassin.

I liked this addition. It is fun recruiting Assassins and sending them on missions or calling for their help. My only complaint is that the Assassins have no personality. They are interchangeable.

While the villa is destroyed, Ezio does have access to an Assassin HQ. Quite frankly, I felt it was a step down from the villa. It just wasn’t as visually interesting and I didn’t have the same drive to buy all the paintings to furnish it with. Otherwise it serves the same function as the villa.

In AC:II you could upgrade the villa by renovating stores and landmarks. That system is now applied to all of Rome. You pay to renovate stores, banks, landmarks, and the entrances to tunnels that serve as a fast travel system. Everything you renovate adds to your overall income which is deposited every 20 minutes.

A new addition are the Borgia Towers. The Borgias have a huge influence on Rome and the way to weaken it is by destroying the Towers. Once a Tower is destroyed you can start renovating that section of Rome. That is also how you earn new Assassin recruits.

The side quests are similar to the ones in the previous game. I did like the Leonardo war machine quests. Basically, Leonardo was forced to make war machines for the Borgias (like a gun boat and tank) and Ezio has to find them and destroy them. These play out in similar fashion: Ezio has to sneak around an area until he finds the machine and then he has to use it to destroy all the other machines before destroying the one he is using. It is slightly repetitive but it makes for a nice change of pace and the war machines are fun to use.

I have to say, the stealth system in these games have come a long way. It isn’t that stealth here sucks. It just sucks compared to how much better it will get in future games. Switching from playing some of the newer entries in the series to one of the older ones made me glad they improved the stealth aspects.

The platforming sections can be a lot of fun and also really frustrating. For the most part if you aim Ezio or Desmond at something they will latch on to it but there are times they won’t grab the ledge and you end up falling. Also, compared to newer additions the free running isn’t as refined and you can’t climb on everything like you can in other games. Still it is a lot of fun to climb all over the buildings in Rome.

Brotherhood kept most of what worked from the previous game, tweaked some things, and introduced the ability to command other Assassins. If you liked the previous game you’ll like this one. If you hated the previous game this won’t change your mind. Still, it is a good addition to the series that furthers Ezio’s and Desmond’s stories and is fun to play.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."

It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

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