Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Assassin's Creed II impressions . . .

I enjoyed the original Assassin's Creed.  It was a severely flawed game, but the core engine and game mechanics were refreshing and new.  I always had the impression that the developer spent so much time getting the building blocks in place that they just didn't have time to iron out the actual gameplay and story.  So you had a nice playground to play in, but there weren't too many interesting things to do.
Hopefully the sequel remedies that right?  Afterall, the groundwork is already done.
I was reluctant to pick up ACII.  It would be cutting into my MW2 time.  But I caved and got it on release day.
Much like with Gears of War 2, I hated it the second I started playing.  The entire first hour or so is dreadfully boring and uneventful.  I didn't even think the game looked impressive graphically.  It was bland and lifeless and I stopped playing wondering how Ubisoft could drop the ball on a game with such promise.
The game certainly takes a while to get going.  You don't even get a weapon until about 2 hours in (I spent some time exploring and finding treasure chests, so your results may vary).  You also start out as a carefree young man, not involved in anyway in the entire Assassins vs. Templars war that is going on behind the scenes.  Your first few tasks are mundane and seemingly unimportant; delivering some letters for your dad, beating up a cheating boyfriend for your sister, walking with your mom to pick up a package.
But all this exposition and "bonding" with your family serves a purpose.  One that the first game could have definitely used.  When the "shit hits the fan", and you are forced into this world of conspiracy, Assassins, and Templars, it is very personal and you really do want revenge.  I barely knew why I was taking guys out in the first game.  Sure there was a reason, but it was mostly because I was told to do so.  The targets meant nothing to me on a personal level.  Now, in ACII, every assassination is all the more sweet because I am much more invested in the reasons for them.
Once the game gets going, it it can be overwhelming.  There are so many different things to do.  You have your main story missions, sure, but there are countless side missions.  Beat-up events and races.  Viewpoints to reach.  Hidden chests to loot.  Feathers to collect (and even these are tied to the story).  There are Assassin's Tombs to find and clear (these are a blast).  There's the "truth" to seek out by finding hidden glyphs on the sides of selected buildings and solving their puzzles (which are unique and intriguing).  There are codex pages to locate and add to your collection so that you may reveal to bigger puzzle.  There are pick-pocketers and theives to chase down.  And then there's a a whole economic system at play.  Weapons and armor to purchase.  Different outfits and larger pouches to increase your capacity for things such as medicine.  You can upgrade your uncle's Estate, by repairing the worn and torn town to increase its appeal and bring in business, thus increasing your own wealth (money collected by the town is deposited into a chest in your villa that you can collect).
This game is riduculously large.
So far, about 5 - 6 hours in, I am still learning countless new moves or acquiring new techniques and weapons.  I still haven't seen (or even unlocked) all that the game has to offer.
Once you invest some time into it, the rewards far out weight the slow the start.  I went in expecting a better experience than the original and yet I ended up getting a lot more.  ACII is huge, and deep, and a hell of a good time.  Looks like it will be keeping me busy for quite some time.

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