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Assassin's Creed II

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Assassin's Creed II

Assassin's Creed II


Developer(s) Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher(s) Ubisoft
Director(s) Patrice Désilets
Designer(s) Benoît Lambert
Programmer(s) James Therien
Artist(s) Mohamed Gambouz
Writer(s) Corey May
Joshua Rubin
Jeffrey Yohalem
Composer(s) Jesper Kyd
Series Assassin's Creed
Engine Anvil
Platform(s) PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Microsoft Windows
Mac OS X
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action-adventure, stealth
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Optical disc, download, cloud computing

Assassin's Creed II is a 2009 historical fiction action-adventure open world stealth video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the second major installment in the Assassin's Creed series and is a direct sequel to Assassin's Creed. The game was first released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November 2009, and was later made available on Microsoft Windows in March 2010 and OS X in October 2010. Several minor game related features could be redeemed on Uplay and three downloadable expansion packs were released on Xbox Live.

The frame narrative is set in the 21st century and follows Desmond Miles as he relives the genetic memories of his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The main narrative takes place at the height of the Renaissance in Italy during the 15th and early 16th century. The player can explore Florence, Venice, Tuscany and Forlì as they guide Ezio on a quest for vengeance against those responsible for betraying his family. The primary focus is to utilize the player's combat and stealth abilities, as Desmond begins to uncover the mysteries left behind by an ancient race known as the First Civilization in the hope of ending the conflict between the Assassins and Knights Templar.

Assassin's Creed II began development shortly after the release Assassin's Creed using a newly updated Anvil game engine. The game received highly positive reviews from video game publications and has sold over 9 million copies as of May 2010. The PC version was met with some criticism in relation to the digital rights management system. The game spawned a followup, Assassin's Creed II: Discovery and two direct sequels, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Assassin's Creed II provides a longer campaign story than any other game in the Assassin's Creed franchise .

Gameplay

The player directly control the on-screen character through a third-person perspective, and can control the camera allowing for a 360° view of their surroundings. The game takes place in an open world environment with nonlinear gameplay, allowing the player to roam freely within several regions throughout late fifteenth-century Italy such as Venice, Florence, Forlì, San Gimignano, and the Tuscan countryside. The Animus 2.0, a new version of the machine of the same name present in Assassin's Creed, provides in-game context for changes and additions to several game elements. A database is also available, providing extra historical information about key landmarks, characters and services that the player encounters. The health system has been made more dynamic, with synchronization to the Animus and causing the character to recover only from minor injuries.[1] More grievous injuries require visiting a street-side doctor or use of medicine (which can be purchased from doctors or found on bodies).

The player may now swim in water, and Eagle Vision—the ability to identify specific people and landmarks—can now be used in third-person view and while moving.[1] A young Leonardo da Vinci is present in the game, aiding the player by creating new weapons from translated "Codex pages" that Altaïr, the original game's main character, left behind for future Assassins' analysis and insight.[1] Within the game, the player will be able to use Leonardo's flying machine (based on real-life plans by Leonardo) during one mission. The player also has the ability to control a carriage in one level, and can row gondolas, as well as ride horses at any point in the game where they are readily available between towns and cities.[1] The setting of the various places the player may go to have been made more detailed and in-depth; civilians sometimes cough or sneeze. Additionally, the player can hire different groups of NPCs, such as mercenaries, courtesans, or thieves; these groups can be used to fight, distract, or lure guards, respectively. A day and night cycle has been added to the game, giving the game more of a sense of time, in addition to setting missions and events at certain times of the day.[1]

There are many ways to interact with NPCs. Money thrown to the ground, or a corpse carried and then deposited on the ground, may also serve as a distraction for both guards and peasants. There are also several different types of enemies, some more agile or stronger than others, and some of which will actively search hiding places where Ezio was last seen.

Ezio stealing a gondola from a small pier

The combat system is more complex than that of its predecessor, with the ability to disarm opponents using counter-attacks while unarmed. If the player steals an enemy's weapon, it is possible to follow up with an attack that instantly kills the enemy.[1] Da Vinci provides the player with specialized weaponry, such as the dual hidden blades, poison blade and the miniature wheellock firearm, which are all based on schematics found in Altaïr's Codex pages. Generic swords, cutlasses, maces, axes and daggers can all be purchased from vendors in each city. The player can also pick up any weapon on the ground or use improvised weapons, such as brooms or halves of a spear. These weapons are used just like normal blunt weapons. In addition, players are able to purchase artwork for their villa, obtain new armor as the game progresses, and even dye Ezio's clothing with a number of different colors. Other equipment includes larger pouches to carry more throwing knives and medicine. Six additional weapons can be unlocked by connecting a PSP with Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines to the PS3.[2]

The Auditore family's countryside villa, located in Monteriggioni, acts as Ezio's headquarters: the surrounding property can be upgraded, drawing income for the player's use. There are several outlets for using currency, with vendors selling items such as medicine, poison, weapons, repairs, upgrades, paintings, and clothing dyes. When these shops are renovated, Ezio receives discounts at the shops on the goods they sell. Purchasing weaponry, armour sets and artwork also contributes to increasing the villa's overall worth, in turn generating more income for Monteriggioni.

There is now a broader array of methods for hiding or blending in the area. One can dive underwater to break guards' line of sight, and blending may be performed with any group of people, rather than only a specific type (as in the first Assassin's Creed[1]). The game features a notoriety system, with guards more alert to Ezio's presence depending on his behavior, location, and current mission. This infamy can be reduced through bribery, removing wanted posters, or assassinating corrupt officials.[1]

The missions in the game now have an expanded variety, with different structuring. For example, a mission may have the objective to escort someone, but may change to a chase and assassination. Investigation is less explicit, and instead missions may follow people and/or a narrative. There are roughly 200 missions in the game; about half are part of the main storyline, while the rest are side quests which need not be completed in order to finish the game's main storyline. Cities also contain hidden locations such as catacombs and caves (the design of which have been compared by the developers to the Prince of Persia series, where the objective is to navigate the area). Exploring these locations eventually rewards the player with an Assassin's Seal; the collection of all six Seals allows the player to unlock the Armor of Altaïr, in a concealed section of the Villa.

Like Assassin's Creed, characters based on historical figures are present in the game, including Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, Lorenzo de' Medici, the Pazzi family, and Pope Alexander VI.[3]

Locations in the game include the Tuscany region[1] (Florence, Monteriggioni and San Gimignano[4]), the Apennine Mountains, the Romagna region (Forlì[4]), Venice and Rome. Specific landmarks include St Mark's Basilica,[1] the Grand Canal, the Little Canal, the Rialto Bridge,[1] Santa Maria del Fiore, the Sistine Chapel, Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, and Santa Maria Novella.[4]

Synopsis

Plot

In the "Truth puzzles", certain historic paintings are used, such as the first depiction of a firearm.

Assassin's Creed II begins immediately after the events of the first game in 2012; Desmond Miles is still trapped by Abstergo Industries (the modern-day face of the Knights Templar) after being forced to use the Animus device to revisit genetic memories of the Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, and has discovered prophetic warnings from Subject 16 (a previous captive) describing the end of the world. He is soon rescued by Lucy Stillman, a mole for the Assassins within Abstergo, who takes him to meet two other Assassins, historian Shaun Hastings and computer expert Rebecca Crane. They request that Desmond use their version of the Animus, dubbed the Animus 2.0, to relive memories of another Assassin, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, to train Desmond in the ways of the Assassins through the "Bleeding Effect" of the Animus. It starts with the birth of Ezio.

Assassin's Creed II '​s plot includes the fictional depictions of historical characters including Pope Alexander VI.

Ezio's memories begin during the glyphs left by Subject 16 in the Animus, which, when decoded and assembled, form a brief video of a man and woman, "Adam" and "Eve", running through a futuristic setting called "Eden" with a Piece of Eden. The video ends with the ASCII codes (in binary) for "EDEN" (01000101 01000100 01000101 01001110). The video implies that Adam and Eve were not cast out of the Garden of Eden, but rather stole a Piece of Eden being used to control humanity before escaping.

After this memory, the modern Assassins discover that several years of Ezio's memories are inaccessible from the Animus (later being accessible via DLC Sequences). Desmond can only revisit those starting in 1499, where Ezio and the Assassins plan to attack Borgia (now [5] Ezio uses the Apple and the Papal cross (which is also a Piece of Eden called the Staff), and discovers the entrance to the Vault. Inside, he is astounded when a holographic figure, calling herself Minerva, appears. Speaking directly to Desmond and those monitoring him in 2012, she explains that she was part of a far more advanced society that initially co-existed along with the early humans on Earth before they faced each other in war. A global catastrophe occurred that nearly wiped out both sides, and the survivors joined together to construct "temples" across the Earth to allow humans to prevent a similar catastrophe in the future. Before the hologram disappears, she warns Desmond—by name—that "the rest is up to you." Desmond and Ezio are both equally confused and shocked at Minerva's words and appearance.

Shortly after recovering this memory, Desmond and the others are forced to flee with the Animus 2.0 from their location as Abstergo troops surround it. There, they encounter Warren Vidic, who flees when Desmond and Lucy deal with the troops. As the team heads towards a new safehouse, Lucy explains that there are newly discovered weaknesses in the Earth's magnetic field; a solar flare striking this weakness would cause a similar level of global destruction as described by Minerva. Desmond resolves to help the Assassins find these temples, and prepares to re-enter the Animus, knowing that Ezio may hold the answers they seek.

Though Ezio's story seemingly continues after this in the open-world environment of Italy, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood starts immediately after the events of Assassin's Creed II.

Cast

Appears in DLC

Development

System requirements
Minimum Recommended
Windows
Operating system XP, Vista or Windows 7, Mac OS X
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz or AMD Athlon X2 64 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 2.6 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ or better
Memory 1 GB for XP
2 GB for Vista or Windows 7
Hard drive 8 GB
Graphics hardware 256 MB DirectX 9.0–compliant card with Shader Model 3.0 or higher[6] GeForce 8800 GT or ATI Radeon HD 4700 or better(512 MB)
Sound hardware DirectX 9.0 –compliant sound card 5.1 sound card
Network Non-Constant Internet Connection: Broadband connection with 128 kbps upstream or faster.

Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot officially confirmed that Assassin's Creed II was in development on November 26, 2008, during the company's financial performance report.[7] This was followed by Michael Pachter speculating in GameTrailers' "Bonus Round" that game would change its setting to the events of the French Revolution, which turned out to be false.[8]

A promotional video was released by Ubisoft on April 6 showing a skull, some hidden blade designs, and Leonardo's flying machine on a scroll.[9] On April 16, Game Informer released details of the game, including pictures of Ezio,[10] a new teaser trailer[11] was released, and the game was "officially" announced by Ubisoft.[12]

In an interview, in May 2009, Sebastien Puel stated that the development team working on Assassin's Creed II had increased to 450 members, and the development team's size had tripled since the first game.[13]

On June 1, 2009, Ubisoft released a new four-minute cinematic Assassin's Creed II trailer at E3.[14] On June 2, 2009, Ubisoft revealed the first live gameplay demo, lasting 6 minutes, at the Sony Press Conference.[15] GameTrailers features an exclusive developer walkthrough from E3 2009. In an interview with GameTrailers Ubisoft Montreal creative director Patrice Desilets stated Desmond would be doing more than walking around and discovering clues.[16]

It was announced at the Assassin's Creed panel at Comic Con 2009 that a mini-series of three episodes, Assassin's Creed: Lineage, would be released showing the events leading up to the game and the history of Ezio and his father Giovanni.

It was also revealed that the humorist Danny Wallace would be voicing a new character in Assassin's Creed II: Shaun Hastings, a sarcastic historian assisting Desmond. The character's face would also be modeled after him.[17] Actress Kristen Bell returned for the character of Lucy Stillman.[18]

The game was originally due to be released at the same time on all three platforms, but Ubisoft announced on September 24, 2009 that the PC version would be delayed to the first quarter of 2010 in order to have "a bit more time for the dev team to deliver the best quality game."[19]

Downloadable content

On December 1, 2009, Ubisoft announced the first of several downloadable content (DLC) expansions for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Assassin's Creed II. The first, titled Battle for Forlì, continues the story of Caterina Sforza, and was released on January 28, 2010. It also includes a special memory that allows users to pilot Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine over Forlì. The second expansion, titled Bonfire of the Vanities, concerns the mass burning of sinful objects in Florence and was released on February 18, 2010.[20] These were both initially planned to be included as part of the main game, but were later cut due to time constraints;[21] this issue was written into the game's story as the Animus corrupting several memory sequences. The retail PC version included these DLC packages as part of the main storyline.[22]

Uplay content

Ubisoft's Uplay system enables further in-game enhancements which can be redeemed by points that are given when playing the game. The available awards are an Assassin's Creed II theme or wallpaper for PC and PlayStation 3, additional throwing knives, Altaïr outfit and the Uplay exclusive Auditore Family Crypt map.[23]

The Battle of Forlì

The two Girolamo Savonarola.

The Pack also includes a bonus memory in which Ezio can pilot Leonardo's Flying Machine over the Forlì area. Unlike regular memories, the player is able to play this memory an unlimited number of times.

Bonfire of the Vanities

Sequence 13 begins in 1497, two years prior to Sequence 14 and nine years after Sequence 12. Ezio has tracked Savonarola to Florence, where the player can now explore the southern district of the city. After meeting with Machiavelli, Ezio devises that bringing unrest to the city will force Savonarola to come out and settle the unrest. In order to bring about this unrest, Ezio assassinates nine of Savonarola's lieutenants who preach within the city. The people become angry and a mob forms outside the plaza, where Savonarola preaches to the mob to disperse. He exposes the Apple to bewitch the mob, but Ezio quickly throws a knife at the Piece of Eden and Savonarola drops it. The mob proceeds to take the monk away, but a Templar courier quickly rushes in to retrieve the Apple; Ezio rushes after the guard and reclaims it. Afterward, the mob takes Savonarola to the Piazza della Signoria to burn him at the stake, but Ezio, believing no one deserves such a painful fate, jumps on to a wooden platform, leaps at Savanarola, and stabs the monk with his hidden blade to spare him the pain. Ezio stands before the confused crowd and declares that all should follow their own path, as he was taught by his mentors.

Templar Lair

These three dungeons, platforming puzzles, similar to the game's Assassin's Tombs but without special rewards other than treasure, were originally included in the Assassin's Creed II: Black Edition (European and Australian release), with one included in the White Edition and two in the North American Master Assassin's Edition. Ubisoft subsequently offered them as DLC via PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. They have since been included in Assassin's Creed II: Deluxe Edition and Game of the Year Edition.

Bonus skin

This costume (dye) is unlocked by entering a code obtained after buying the Assassin's Creed II 3D mobile game from the Verizon App Store. Also this bonus skin is included in the Game of the Year Edition and Deluxe Edition.

Music

The score to Assassin's Creed II was composed by Jesper Kyd. It was recorded at Capitol Records with a 35-piece string ensemble and 13-person choir, with featured vocals by Melissa Kaplan.[24] A soundtrack was released via download on November 16, 2009. 14 tracks of the soundtrack were also released on the game disc available with the special pre-order Black edition of Assassin's Creed II.

In the marketing, "Genesis" by Justice was used in the "Visions of Venice" trailer.[25]

Marketing

Promotion

On October 20, 2009, Ubisoft announced a series of short films, to be broadcast via YouTube, that would provide additional back story and the introduction of some of the characters found in the game. The shorts, collectively called Assassin's Creed: Lineage, came in three parts and were developed by Ubisoft's Hybride Technologies, who previously worked on the films 300 and Sin City. The series focused on Ezio's father, Giovanni Auditore, and contained live-action and computer-generated imagery. The first of the films was released on October 27, 2009, with the remaining two released on November 13, 2009.

On November 12, 2009, Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed II themed virtual items on PlayStation Home to promote the release of the game, as well as the game Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines for PSP.[26] Assassin's Creed II virtual items and an Ezio costume were also released on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360's avatars.[27] On November 19, 2009, more Assassin's Creed II virtual items were released in PlayStation Home, along with a costume for Ezio, which was released on November 26, 2009, in which the player could obtain and roam PlayStation Home in it.[28] On December 3, 2009, more 15th century Italian renaissance themed items were released in Home.[29] Ezio's "Purple Assassin" costume is available to download on LittleBigPlanet, as of December 8, 2009, on the PlayStation Network.

Assassin's Creed II is the first game to be linked to Ubisoft's Uplay feature.[30] Progression through the game allows Uplay members to acquire points that can be redeemed for bonuses for use in the game, including a new crypt to explore and an Altaïr costume.[31]

A novel based on the game, Assassin's Creed: Renaissance (by Oliver Bowden), was published by Penguin Books in November 2009.[32]

Editions

There are several different limited editions of Assassin's Creed II. The Black Edition contains an Ezio figurine garbed in a black outfit and was released in Europe and Australia. Included also are three bonus areas and missions, an art book, a DVD with part of the game's soundtrack, one premium PS3/Xbox 360 theme, behind the scenes videos, and 2 desktop wallpapers. The White Edition contains one bonus area/mission and an Ezio figurine in his white outfit.[33] The Master Assassin's Edition is the North American limited edition, which contains an Ezio figurine, two bonus areas, an art book and a Blu-ray with music and behind the scenes videos.[34]

After much complaining from Assassin's Creed II fans that they were unable to complete the game due to the need to complete the three Templar Lairs (only available on the White or Black Editions) to earn 100% synchronisation, Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed II: The Complete Edition. Included in the package are download codes for the two DLCs, Battle of Forlì and Bonfire of the Vanities and the three Templar Lairs. Later Assassin's Creed II: The Game of the Year Edition was released, containing the extra content incorporated on the game disc.

Eventually Assassin's Creed II: Deluxe Edition was also released, containing the three bonus areas & missions and the downloadable content Battle of Forlì and Bonfire of the Vanities. This Edition, however, is only available via Digital Download.

Reception

Critical reception

Assassin's Creed II
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (X360) 90.73%[35]
(PS3) 90.71%[36]
(PC) 83.50%[37]
Metacritic (PS3) 91/100[38]
(X360) 90/100[39]
(PC) 86/100[40]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A-[41]
Computer and Video Games 9.4/10[42]
Edge 8[43]
Game Informer 9.5/10[44]
GamePro 5/5[45]
GamesRadar 10/10[46]
GameSpot 9/10[47] (PS3/Xbox360)
8/10 (Windows)
GameSpy 5/5 stars[48]
GameTrailers 9.2/10[49]
IGN 9.2/10[50]
TeamXbox 9.5/10[51]

Upon release, Assassin's Creed II garnered widespread critical acclaim. Review aggregator site Metacritic gave the PlayStation 3 version a score of 91 and the Xbox 360 version a 90. It is the highest rated game in the whole franchise.

In an exclusive review by Official Xbox Magazine, Assassin's Creed II scored 9/10.[39] Its second review was a perfect score from the Official PlayStation Magazine US, while the Official PlayStation Magazine UK scored the game a 9/10.[38]

German magazine Computer Bild Spiele reported that the game's publishers offered to provide a pre-release copy of the game if the magazine would guarantee a review score of "very good". The magazine rejected the request and instead opted to delay their review.[52][53]

GameSpot which reviewed the PC version of the game, said despite the game being "fun and beautiful" it was hard to justify the higher price point. It was also mentioned that the game was hindered by Ubisoft's DRM and the game "deserved better. For that matter, PC gamers deserved better too."[54][55]

According to pre-official sales estimates, Ubisoft announced that Assassin's Creed II sold 1.6 million copies worldwide during its first week of sale, representing a 32 percent increase over the first week retail performance of the original Assassin's Creed.[56] As of February 10, 2010, the game has sold 9 million copies.[57]

At the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards, Assassin's Creed II was named Best Action Adventure Game, and IGN named it as the Action Game of the Year for Xbox 360 and Xbox 360 Game of the Year. Game Informer also named it as Xbox 360 Game of the Year. It also received Game of the Year from GamePro, Eurogamer and The New York Times. Assassin's Creed II has been nominated for the "Outstanding Achievement in Animation", "Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction", "Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering", "Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering", "Outstanding Achievement in Original Story", "Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition", "Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design", "Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction", "Adventure Game of the Year" and "Overall Game of the Year" Interactive Achievement Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.[58] The game was also nominated for several Game Developers Choice Awards including "Best Game Design", "Best Visual Art", "Best Technology", and "Game of the Year".[59]

The game is included in the 2010 book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.[60]

DRM-related criticism

The PC version of the game contains Ubisoft Online Services Platform, a digital rights management (DRM) system that initially required all users to remain connected to the Internet while playing. In the initial retail version, any progress made subsequent to the last checkpoint was lost if the Internet connection was severed. Ubisoft stated that if the disconnection was temporary, the game would pause. In addition, the company argued that there were numerous checkpoints spread throughout Assassin's Creed II.[61] The company was also criticized by overseas members of the U.S. Armed Forces, who could not play the game while in locations with sporadic and expensive connections.[62] Ubisoft has since published a patch to alter the DRM: after resuming their connection to the Internet, players are now able to resume the game from exactly the same point.[63]

Shortly after the release of the Windows version, Ubisoft claimed that a cracked version of the game had not been created, and was confirmed by at least one website. During the following weekend, the DRM servers for Silent Hunter 5 and Assassin's Creed II were, according to Ubisoft, affected by a denial-of-service attack. Ubisoft later stated that "95 per cent of players were not affected, but a small group of players attempting to open a game session did receive denial of service errors."[64][65][66] A server emulator to overcome the DRM has been developed. A cracked dynamic-link library bypassing the connection requirement entirely was released in late April.[67][68][69]

Following the series of server outages, Ubisoft offered owners of the Windows version all DLC from the Assassin's Creed II Black Edition, or a free copy of Heroes Over Europe, Tom Clancy's EndWar, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X, or Prince of Persia (2008).[70]

The DRM was modified in December 2010 as the game no longer requires a constant Internet connection while playing. Instead, the player has to be connected to the Internet every time the game is launched.[71] In 2012, Ubisoft announced that they would patch the game to remove internet access as a requirement to play, and would not require internet access for DRM henceforth.[72] However none of these changes affected the Mac OS X version of the game which still requires a constant Internet connection and will lose the player's progress if the Internet connection is disrupted.

Sequel

Discussions about details of Assassin's Creed III were already present before the release of Assassin's Creed II, with the game staff's notion of possibly having a female descendant in England during World War II.[73] However, co-writer Corey May has stated that the series will never take place during that period, as a major goal was to take players to settings normally unvisited in games.[74] Ubisoft's Philippe Bergeron stated that potential settings could include England in the Middle Ages, during the era of King Arthur, and feudal Japan, the latter of which had been a "personal favorite" of many in the staff. However, on March 1, 2012, the setting for Assassin's Creed III was revealed to be colonial Boston during the American Revolution, starring a Native American protagonist named Ratonhnaké:ton.[75] This game was released at the end of October 2012.

Two Assassin's Creed games were released concurrently with Assassin's Creed II:

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