For the most part, sequels of any medium, be they film, novel or video game, have a few important items to address on a checklist: better developed characters, a more enticing story, new locations, and most importantly, a sense of polish and completeness that the original, while perhaps something new and unique, was unable to be fully realized for any number of reasons.
Assassin’s Creed II manages to not only address all of these issues, but manages to throw out the entire list and make you wonder just how far the inevitable sequel will be able to go from this point.
Anyone familiar with the first Assassin’s Creed is aware of the ongoing war between the Assassins and the Templars. The story picks up immediately where the first game left off, with you starting out in the shoes of Desmond Miles. Luckily, this is quickly rectified, and you are whisked away to the Renaissance, landing in the middle of 15th century Italy. Immediately, the sense of history, structure and life that flows through the city streets is instantly believable, immersing you in the reality of the game world. Merchants sweep the walkways in front of their stores, businessmen walk the streets with an entourage in tow, all the while engaged in private conversations. Doctors and artists hawk their wares to the passing crowds, some of who even stop in for a quick peek before returning to their chore of the moment. The cities feel alive in a way that the first game lacked, and each character walking the streets is unique – very rarely will you see a repeat costume or face in the same block of cobblestone walkways.
What helps to bring these vistas to life is the fantastic musical score. From haunting melodies to angelic choirs, the music fits the scenery as well as the action throughout the entire world. Attempting to scale to the top of a church tower results in both an uplifting and equally haunting rise in the score, making the sequence feel scripted, even though you are in complete control of when and where you choose to start climbing, or even if you decided halfway up to perform a swan dive into a conveniently-placed ox-cart; and even then, the sound design doesn’t fail. Dive off a high enough ledge, and you hear the wind whistle past your ears, and your clothes begin to flutter faster and harder the longer you fall. It is this attention to detail that helps fully realize the world in which Ezio lives, and immerses you in a way that few other games have been able to do. Read more…