Assassin’s Creed 2 was always going to be a difficult game to develop. How do you follow a first game that was massively hyped yet suffered from a vicious (but deserved) backlash for an incredibly repetitive structure and pseudo-scientific but oddly schizophrenic plot? It’s a testament to Assassin’s Creed 2’s strengths that it manages to be both so new and yet so familiar.
Critical improvements have been made over the first game both in terms of the way the story is told and the overall structure of the player experience. Yet it retains all the iconography and appeal that underpinned the original Assassin’s Creed and made it such an interesting game despite its flaws.
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The most immediately obvious repair work has been done to the plot and the way story is presented. Assassin’s Creed 2 doesn’t bother with the slow trickle of information and backstory that players were forced to uncover in the first game. Instead, it jumps you straight into the midst of things and keeps the plot moving forwards at a suitably quick pace, relaying only the essential Cliff Notes from the first game and discarding the chaff.
Assassin’s Creed 2 picks up exactly where the first game left off, with 21st century everyman Desmond sitting in his cell at the Abstergo Corporation after another trying day of exploring his genetic memory under threat of death. Suffering from a strange bleeding effect from his prolonged exposure to the memories of Altair, Desmond has inherited the 'Eagle Vision' ability and is staring at secret messages that are scrawled all over his walls.
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Suddenly one of his more friendly captors, Lucy, bursts in and starts barking orders as she organises Desmond’s escape. Turns out that she’s one of the good guys (or, less bad anyway) – one of the Assassin order, mortal enemies of the shadowy Templars who are behind Abstergo’s pharmaceutical front. The Templars are planning to take over the world using mysterious relics that Desmond’s genetic memories have pointed them towards, she explains while pushing you out the door.
Soon enough you arrive at a new and much friendlier looking Assassin safehouse and are filled in with the bare essentials of the plot and encouraged to join up with the Assassins and, as Desmond, oppose the Templars in the here and now. Mercifully the game doesn’t bother with any enforced reluctance on Desmonds behalf or any pointless conversations – you just agree on the spot. It’s hard to describe how happy we were to see Assassin’s Creed 2 actually get to the point so quickly, which is something the first game never did.
Obviously though, you can’t fight the Templars as you are. You’ll need to gather the skills and talents of a true assassin, so you hop into the Assassin order’s own version of the time-travelling Animus device and set about absorbing all the knowledge of the order’s greatest assassin and renaissance man – Ezio Auditore.