Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August of Games: Day 6 - Assassin's Creed II

Jesper Kyd's soundtrack for Assassin's Creed II is one of the best out there. It is significantly responsible for the immersing power of the game, and functions strongly on its own outside of the game. This song became a motif running through all three of Ezio's games, but especially II and Brotherhood.

Assassin's Creed II
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre (Setting): Modern sci-fi, Historical Fiction
Genre (Gameplay): Third-person action-adventure, heavy platforming
What is this game: In this game you play as a guy who is strapped into a chair that lets him relive the memories of his Renaissance ancestor, Ezio. As Ezio you become an Assassin, a paragon of freedom and justice, going on a quest for revenge against the corrupt noble who killed his family. You jump and climb through painstakingly recreated Italian cities in the late 1400s, stabbing men and gathering information. The game is also filled up with lots of historical data about the actual Italian Renaissance and the people and places around for it. In the rest of the series you play as the same guy in a chair living through his memories of different ancestors looking for clues on how to stop a world-controlling secret society from enslaving the populace - these ancestors involve an original Assassin from the Third Crusade and a half-Native American in the Revolutionary War (and soon to join the list is a notorious pirate in the Age of Expansion).

What's great about it: Torn (a friend on the forum I frequent) and I have the exact reverse opinion on what makes this series great, though we both agree that we love it. I love the intense historical detail they put into it (and you should really take a listen to Geop's extraordinary Let's Plays of ACI and ACII, with Brotherhood soon to come - they reveal just how accurate the games are, and are very informative when the game isn't), even in ACI where there wasn't a database pointing it all out. I love the intricate way the control system allows for all sorts of approaches to combat, both in stealth and in melee, though the system only became excellent in Brotherhood and was nearly-perfected in Revelations, though ACIII is a step down in that regard for me. I love the exploration and running and climbing and stealth. In terms of gameplay, Revelations is probably the peak. Brotherhood is my favorite, with the gameplay being nearly as good as Revelations but with a much more fun setting (I like Constantinople, but the different sectors all felt the same). Why am I talking about ACII then? Because ACII has the most powerful FEELING. It grabbed me and immersed me into Italy, it dragged me all across the varied locales of Florence and Venice and Tuscany, each distinct but connected, with their own visual identities. Jesper Kyd provided a soundtrack that I listen to regularly as regular music, and not only completes the atmosphere, but promotes it. Sure, ACII has gameplay issues, and Ezio just ignores your button inputs like a fourth of the time, and combat is boring if you spam counter-kills, but by the pure feeling of it it stands out as the series highlight.
To be absolutely clear about this: It was almost single-handedly ACI and ACII and Geop's LPs of them that got me interested at all in history, and I'm now planning to declare History as a formal Minor for my degree. It has had that much influence on me.

How do I get it: It's on Xbox 360, PS3, and Steam. The Deluxe Edition on Steam (with three additional exploration and platforming maps to explore) is $20, while the others you will likely need to get used.

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