Despite some mixed results (and reviews) for 2007's "Assassin's Creed," the game's sequel, appropriately named "Assassin's Creed II," may turn into pure gold for the game's developer, Ubisoft.
Fifteenth century Italy may not be the first place you'd expect a video game to take place. But the wizards at Ubisoft tell such an intriguing story, offer game play to match and have wrapped it all in such a beautiful bow, you may wonder why more games aren't set against the backdrop of the Renaissance.
An Epic Story
The basic premise of the "Assassin's Creed" universe is this: by using a machine called the Animus, one can access the memories of ancestors hidden deep in their DNA and live out those memories.
In the first game, the main character, Desmond Miles, is kidnapped and forced into the Animus in order to relive the memories of an ancient ancestor in the Middle East during the Third Crusade (12th century).
During that adventure, Miles uncovers an epic and centuries old struggle between a group of assassins, of which his ancestor is a part, and an opposing force called the Knights Templar.
Now, Miles, (aka "you"), is at it again, but this time, voluntarily, and as a new character named Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a 15th century nobleman living in Florence, Italy, toward the end of the Italian Renaissance.
An altercation with members of a rival family sets the stage for the events that turn da Firenze's world upside down and thrusts the player back in the role of the assassin.
Revenge, a Dish Better Served Cold
At the heart of this intricate and exquisitely executed story, is a classic revenge fantasy. Bad guys kill off your loved ones and now it's time to take out the trash.
It's a nice touch that you happen to be a member of a long line of professional assassins who leap from rooftop to rooftop, can blend into crowds and have an arsenal of weapons to choose from, as it makes exacting revenge so much easier.
There is so much story in "Assassin's Creed II" that to even begin to lay it out would be more than you'd want to read, but suffice to say, you get the idea.
Yet, the story is what makes this game so spectacular. "Assassin's Creed II" delivers one of those rare game experiences that couples a rich, compelling story with fun, challenging game play to match.
Forget cut scenes and the boring holes many games fall into when addressing the who, what, why, and when of the plot. There are only very short snippets of those scenes and control is taken away and returned to the player so quickly, they may not even know they lost it.
Tools of the Trade
Though an intriguing story is at the heart of what gives "Assassin's Creed II" its soul, taking on the role of a ninja-like assassin with an abundance of weapons to silence any who stand in your way, makes for some pretty exhilarating game play.
Just as James Bond had Q to supply him with the latest in high tech gadgetry, da Firenze, too, has a brilliant supplier of the cool and lethal. In a rare cameo appearance, Leonardo da Vinci plays a pivotal role in the story and in expanding the killer's deadly arsenal.
All of the old favorites from the first "Assassin" are back, from the spring-loaded dagger concealed in the wrist, to sharp and very pointy swords. New additions, like a poison blade add more options for felling badies.
In addition, there are a plethora of new role-playing elements in "Assassin's Creed II." Renovate your family's villa to generate some money for your escapades. Track down various collectibles, buy weapons, armor, even art, and display them in your home while improving your income.
"Assassin's Creed II" is the perfect sequel. Aside from some very minor control issues that creep up occasionally, Ubisoft has extracted the best elements from the first title, blended in a triple-A story, some great improved game play and mixes it with love.