The Iowa Pro Gaming Challenge The Iowa Pro Gaming Challenge

Tournament Seeker

Video Game Tournaments

Whether it's a website for your own company, ad space on The GoG, or video game related tournaments/events, reviews, photos, and videos...Jet Set Studio can help you connect with your market in ways you'd never imagine. Let us know if you have any ideas, comments, or questions and we'll look forward to working with you to accomplish your visibility goals...
Jet Set Studio


Ryan M. Eft has 8 chronicles

  1. Ryan M. Eft Review: Assassin's Creed II

    Player Chronicle -- Posted on Dec 03 2009

    Assassin’s Creed was something of a mixed bag when it hit in 2007. Many people loved it, and many people didn’t. But one thing no one could reasonably argue with was that it was unlike any game that had come before it.

    The mixture of a marionette control scheme, Crusades-era setting, free-climbing and sci-fi storyline combined to create a unique action title in a genre particularly overpopulated by clones and sequels.

    If you weren’t a fan of that game, I can answer your main question right now: almost everything is fixed. Gone is the repetitive mission structure, linear story, lack of discernable rewards from sidequests, and one-trick combat.

    The game isn’t without issues, but ultimately they are flyspecks on the Sistine Chapel. Assassin’s Creed II is a game for the ages in both storytelling and gameplay.

    ACII makes itself unique among action games right off the bat, in that it shares neither a setting nor characters with the first game. The previous game was set in 1191 in the Holy Land; the sequel takes a 250+ year jump to the middle of the 15th century in Renaissance Italy.

    From the start, you realize the young nobleman Ezio Auditore de Firenze (five times fast!) is a very different sort of protagonist from the duty-oriented Altair. He is a free spirit who gets into pointless fights and likes his women. He’s not an altogether likable guy, but that fits: 15th century Italy wasn’t a very likable place. After Ezio’s family is betrayed by a corrupt official, he sets out to seek revenge.

    This quest unfolds over decades of Ezio’s life, and will eventually take him to Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Romagna and a surprise bonus pick. As this political drama unfolds, we follow Ezio’s growth as a character parallel to the twist-laden story.

    The backdrop against which this drama unfolds is absolutely astounding, to the point where you may think Italy is the real star of the show. Florence is dusty and a tad murky, whereas Tuscany’s countryside is bright and vibrant.

    The Auditore family keeps a country villa, and although the surrounding town is beaten and battered when you first arrive, your presence there can make it thrive.

    From a setting standpoint, though, Venice completely steals the show. The astounding beauty of the canals and magnificent churches serve as a contrast to the seedy underbelly of political corruption, theft, adultery and death. The surrounding countryside is appropriately soaked, full of crumbling buildings, and the effect is made more palpable by one of the most realistic-feeling day/night cycles I’ve yet to see in a game. I think I could free-run around Venice forever and never get bored.

    As expected, Ubisoft’s team has outdone themselves in historical accuracy, and I’ve heard reports of people finding a landmark in the game by looking it up on a real Venetian map. All these places are populated with some of the most believable NPCs in a game to date; you’ll rarely overhear the exact same conversation twice, and there is a greater variety of townspeople.

    The tale being told here is more cinematic; you no longer have control of your camera during most cutscenes and conversations, but since it means these interludes are more than talking heads this time, I doubt many will mind. And the drama is by no means limited to cutscenes. There are various one-shot story events, including an absolutely spectacular scene in which Ezio pilots Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine through Venice. Many of these sequences will leave you wanting to play them over and over (sadly, there is no option to do this).

    The biggest addition to the story is the glyphs left behind by a mysterious person. These unlock a significant mystery, but there’s another benefit: finding them all will give the player new insight into the ongoing battle between the Assassins and the Templars. These serve the same function as recordings in Bioshock or the chronicles of Arkham in Batman; they don’t give you any great rewards, but they expand and enhance the fiction of the game without breaking into the central story.

    Now, how about that gameplay? In a word, yes. The most noticeable improvements have been applied to combat. Trying to counter-kill until everyone is dead is no longer an advisable strategy. There are now soldiers who are heavily-armored, and armed with weapons you can’t counter. They are also smarter; rather than charging at you face-to-face, they’ll surround you, hit you from behind, knock away your weapons and try to distract you. Keeping your guard up is no longer foolproof, either, as some moves and weapons can break right through your defense. Guards can be much more dogged in following you if they grow suspicious, and now they can even search hiding places. Not all guards pose a threat (archers still take so damn long to actually shoot you that most never get the opportunity), but by and large you’ll no longer feel invincible.

    What’s an erstwhile assassin to do against all these low-down new tricks? Get a few new lowdown tricks of his own, of course. Ezio is not hampered by the somewhat limited moveset given to Altair. He can disarm enemies and turn their weapons against them, take opponents hostage, and acquire an assortment of different armor and weapons (via a fully functional economic system) to help him in the fight. He can even knock enemies down or throw sand in their faces, and a combination of all Ezio’s moves is often useful in getting out of tight spots.

    He also some new gadgets, most notably a second hidden blade for taking out two targets at once. Leonardo will also design him a poison blade and a pistol attachment (the poison blade is pure cruelty, so of course I love it). He’s also learned to assassinate from hiding spots, ledges and rooftops. As far as replay goes, hunting down feathers, glyphs, viewpoints, completing free missions, and scouring hidden locations provide plenty of things to do when you’re not going after your target. I missed the Save Citizen missions from the first game, but not enough to really complain.

    Sadly, the one major, glaring gripe I have with ACII comes courtesy of the franchise’s most unique feature: free-running. For the most part, climbing structures and precariously balancing on things it is unwise to precariously balance on works great. The greater variety in environments also means there are a lot more kinds of places to indulge in your parkour fantasies.

    Unfortunately, when you throw caution to the wind and enter free-running mode, controls become much more finicky. I suspect true mastery of this skill, if possible, will require more time and dedication than most gamers have to give. The controls work, they’re just really, really, really picky. When free-running, the slightest, and I mean the slightest, error will usually cause you to plunge into a canal or fling Ezio straight into a group of inconveniently placed guards. I really cannot count the amount of times I nosedived a few hundred feet because I missed my mark by a fraction of an inch, or because the finicky free-run controls interpreted “climb the next ledge” as “take a flying leap into oblivion”.

    Since free-running is usually entirely optional, this isn’t that huge a deal. But when you’re on a time-sensitive mission, it becomes a big deal. There’s nothing more frustrating than losing a target because you tapped the analog stick a smidge too far left.

    Fortunately, that’s kind of like being given a box of 12 donuts and complaining that it isn’t a baker’s dozen. The bottom line is Assassin’s Creed II an innovative concept, damn near perfected. It’s also a fascinating story and an achievement in world design, and an experience all gamers owe it to themselves to have.


    Send To A Friend


Chronicle Comments

Ryan M. Eft has 2 comment s on this chronicle.

  1. MaTrIx MaTrIx
    Posted On Dec 04 2009

    VERY NICE! Not too sure if I should write my review OH! check out my comment about the Visitazione Catacombs in the AC ll thread Wink

  2. BEN BEN
    Posted On Nov 25 2009

    What an EPIC video game review!

    Talk about some depth, nice job Ryan and I enjoyed this read a lot. I thought the last paragraph summed things up nicely and I wish you were this involved with more games, so we could continue to share such in-depth video game reviews with our community!

    Don't worry though, that game reviewing element we've always talked about will come someday soon Wink