Assassin’s Creed II wants to blend 15th century historical Italy with a man who’s killing political figures of the era for… I suppose… common good. Unfortunately, the history is lost on me, and probably on most average educated people. The cutscenes are dialog heavy, but don’t expect Broadway-caliber performances. The game builds on the first game’s gameplay, inspired by Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, though doesn’t distinguish itself from the first game. Although a sequel to the excellent Assassin’s Creed is nice, Assassin’s Creed II boils down to formulaic bloody assassinations, and not enough violence-free missions to be enjoyable.
The history and time period is too specific for me to get much from the plot. Taking an educational approach to the story would have been nice, but Assassin’s Creed II takes creative liberties with actual history. This is also true of later Assassin’s Creed games, namely Assassin’s Creed IV, set in colonial America, though not resembling colonial America much at all. This game borrows the go-to-a-location-on-your-mini-map formula from the GTA series, and for that I am grateful. Also like GTA, you can start a fight almost anywhere, or interact with the crowd, like blending into a group of people to avoid detection of a guard.
The game is a faithful follow-up to the original Assassin’s Creed, and there are fun things to do like climbing tall peaks and upgrading weapons and armor. Actually, some underground sneaking missions are stellar, and there are one-time missions like escaping enemies in a chariot and releasing hostages. All well done. All of your main and secondary missions are on the mini-map. Once all main missions are out of the way, the game is over.
With minor tweaking of graphics settings, tweaking I was able to get 60 frames per second on an nVidia Geforce 960–very basic hardware all things considered. With graphics settings maxed out, I got a constant 60 frames per second on my Radeon 570. The graphics only show their age only with close-ups of certain faces. This is why I love PC gaming: you get more graphics settings, and run on hardware that surpasses the intended console platform from technology advancements. The AC2 PC port is actually very good.
As much as I want to praise later games in the series, (namely the fourth entry) this is a textbook sophomore slump. The graphics are impressive, and missions without assassinations are fun, but the frequent assassinations aren’t fun. I was able to breeze through later missions, but again, the violence is too much. I may review other Assassin’s Creed titles; I remember Brotherhood and Unity were actually highly rated. I recommend Assassin’s Creed II only to a dedicated fan.