The first Assassin's Creed was a polarizing experience, with reactions split between people who were bored by the repetition of a few basic missions, and those who were so smitten by the core combat and free running that they didn't mind the drawbacks so much. Though I was soundly in the seciond group, I'd have no problem recommending Assassin's Creed II to the first.
Even Ezio, the new lead character, is miles ahead of Altair, replacing what was little more than a talking hood with a likable rogue whose journey to becoming an assassin mirrors his passage into adulthood.
The sequel picks up immediately after the events of the first game. Desmond Miles is still being held prisoner as a test for Abstergo Industries, the modern.day face of the Knights Templar. That is until Lucy Stillman, one of his captors, goes rogue and helps him escape to the warehouse where a small team is waiting with the Animus 2.0, an upgraded version of the machine used to send Desmond into the 12th century in the previous game.
His destination this time is Rennesance-era Italy, specificaly the persona of Ezio Auditore. Without giving away too much of the story, Desmond-as-Ezio leaves a trail of blood across Italy as he works to right a great wrong perpetrated against his family. Simultaneously, Desmond's present-day pals work to unravel more of the mystery surrounding the centuries-old sect of assassins.
Clearly someone at Ubisoft Montreal was listening to complaints about the previous game. The multi-phrase process leading to each assassination is gone. No longer do you have to engage in a series of repetative and trifling tasks in your hunt for information about Ezio's targets. The setup now falls closer to Grand Treft Auto, with story-specific missions triggered by traveling to locations marked on the map.
But if you wont to do a little exploring outside the main story, you'll find plenty of rewards for doing so. Helping out townspeople with odd jobs like letter delivery or beating up cheating husbands earns you money that can be used to purchase or upgrade weapons and armour, more slots for injury-curing medicines, throwing knives, or just a new colored uniform that best suits you and the city where you are.
Also, you can find several art dealers in Italy. Those dealers sell paintings that can upgrade the worth of the village owned by your family, in turn generating more rental income for you. Money invested in the shops in your village will also net you some helpful discounts. On the non-monetary side, there are mysterious glyphs painted on buildings, map-revealing high points and codex pages to track down throughout the stunning, gorgeous rendition of Italy, each tied to their own gameplay or narrative rewards.
Ultimately, it is still deeply entertaining to run around and kill things in Assassin's Creed II. The signature of free running, which has Ezio vaulting to the top of buildings with just a few button presses, is still as just as fluid and empowering. But now, instead of using it solely for locomotion, your skills will be tested in six burial chambers of fallen assassins, great sequences that looks like Prince of Persia or some better Tomb Raider titles.
Confrontation remains focused on stealthy assassinations and the rhythm-based counter system from the last game, with new additions to your repertoire providing more options in combat. While the swords and the knives from the last game return, you'll now find:
- Smoke bombs
- Short blades
- Dual hidden blades & hidden gun
These all require different timing to counter and be countered, but also add new tactics, from sweeping multiple targets with a spear to bludgeoning past an enemy's guard with heavy weapon. The disarm ability is especially useful, enabling you to steal your enemies weapons, which becomes particuraly important against move heavily armed opponents. Counters remain your primary resource for kills, but standard malee combat has beed redone; a simple but elegant combo system reminiscent of Fable 2 is in place, where timing button presses correctly yields a fluid series of attacks.
The inventor of most of Ezio's weapons which he decodes from Altair's codex is Leonardo Da Vinci. Ezio will get Leonardo pages of the codex and then Leonardo will invent upgrades for Ezio's equipment or something new like flying machine or hidden gun & blades.
And at the end I'd like to say something about DRM. For someone who don't know DRM or Digital Rights Menagment is protection from illegal copying games. You've must have high-speed internet (min. speed 1Mbps) or you can't play the game. Also, you must create account on Ubisoft.com. By doing that you get access to savegames which are on Ubisoft server.
PS Ubisoft DRM (and all games which have DRM) has been cracked by group SkidRow. It's just a fact that there's no protection against PC piracy.
You can watch and read walkthrough for Assassin's Creed 2 here.