Assassin’s Creed II: The Creedening

So, I said about a week ago that I’d be talking about Assassin’s Creed in a couple of days, but it turns out that I was wrong about that by a few days.

For the record, I did manage 4 weeks straight of daily posts, which is pretty good by my standards. Mind you, my standards are pretty low.

Anyway, Assassin’s Creed and its sequel, which i will refer to collectively as The Ballad of Desmond Miles, represent a surprisingly seductive philosophy of game design that I would like to see more of in future: the premise that your on-screen character is surprisingly competent at what he or she does.

Batman: Arkham Asylum was another good example of this, but that particular game had the advantage of, well, being the goddamned Batman.

To sum up: I’ve played a few games with stealth elements in the last few years, and they’ve all included a “press X to move all stealthy” kind of mechanic.

In TBoDM, on the other hand, you’re playing a sneaky bastard, and the control scheme reflects that – you’re naturally moving in a low-key, blending-in way, and you actually have to push a button which may as well be labeled “break stealth”, because what it does is change you from a mild-mannered good citizen – albeit, a surprisingly well-armed good citizen – into a stabby parkouring Very Bad citizen.

Furthurmore, as a Very Bad citizen, it’s assumed that you’re pretty good at Stabbying Mans in gruesome and occasionally deeply amusing ways, so the process of doing so is reduced to a single button press that represents your desire to do so, which is generally immediately followed by a satisfactory bit of on-screen Stabbying.

The platforming bits of the games also follow this basic philosophy of divorcing the on-screen action from any actual ability on the player’s part. Doing visually amazing parkouring bits in TBoDM is a simple matter of pointing the controller in a direction and holding down the Awesome Moves button.

OK, yes, so it might be a bit dumbed down compared to, say, a Mirror’s Edge or the like, but the end result is that you get to feel pretty damn smug about your sheer awesomeness, even if you’re not directly responsible for most of it.

Now, while the first game was awesome at the stabby and jumpy bits, it was also rather deeply flawed in some ways; the horsey travel bits were fun but repetitive, it was really easy to get lost once you got out of the first town and needed to go to the correct next town to advance the plot, and there were a ton of random little things to collect for no real plot reason.

Oh, and it was pretty hard to feel much empathy for Altair. I mean, it was a game about being an assassin, so maybe empathy wouldn’t be a great thing, but the family elements they added in for Ezio’s story made him a much more interesting character, and gave some actual purpose to the scaling buildings looking for random shiny things.

Oh, and while they did keep SOME horsey bits in for the sequel, actual town-to-town travel was considerably streamlined.

Anyway, I was really impressed by AC2; I’d liked the first game quite a bit and didn’t expect to enjoy the sequel so much more.

Is it wrong at this point to say that I hope Ubisoft doesn’t screw it up?

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