Assassins Creed 2 Turns 10 Today and is Still Ubisofts Most Influential Game

Assassin’s Creed 2 Turns 10 Today and is Still Ubisoft’s Most Influential Game

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Richard Walker

It's easy to forget just how big an impact Assassin's Creed II had upon its release, a decade ago today. While the first game - which came out in 2007 - managed to make history interesting with the story of Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, set during the Third Crusade in 1191, that game turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. In terms of potential, Assassin's Creed II expanded upon its predecessor in almost every conceivable department, putting a more charismatic lead character, in Ezio Auditore, at the centre of an epic narrative that revolves around family, insidious political machinations, betrayal, and vengeance – everything you could possibly ask for.

Ten years on, Assassin's Creed II has aged surprisingly well. Sure, games have come an awful long way (visually, at least) since Ubisoft Montreal shipped the game, but it still casts something of a long shadow over open-world games that, to this day, use the series' towers to defog its world and push players into exploring (Horizon Zero Dawn, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dying Light, and even Death Stranding’s chiral network are a few recent examples, as well as a raft of Ubi’s own titles). But it's Assassin's Creed II's attention to detail that still impresses, and the huge amount of depth it brought to the table, improving immeasurably upon its forebear with interesting side quests and sub-games.

Most involving of these was the rebuilding of Monteriggioni, the Auditore family villa and surrounding walled township - an initially sad sight as you skulk past boarded-up shops and derelict places like the church, barracks, and the local brothel. Because every 15th century town needs a good brothel, and for 3,000 florins, it's yours. Additional quests presented you with assassination contracts, requests to beat up certain ne'er-do-wells, message delivery, and races across rooftops. Variety was the spice in AC II, and a refreshing change of pace after the relatively restrictive nature of the first game. Assassin's Creed 1 set the template, but Assassin's Creed II built something far more significant upon those foundations.

Spread across Florence, Venice, and Forli (with a thrilling coda in Rome), it's the game's revenge story that persists in the memory, the brief visits in which you catch up with Desmond Miles in the present day remaining largely forgettable. You can see why Ubisoft decided to put these bits further and further into the background in subsequent AC games, and why Desmond's tale was hastily put to bed at the end of Assassin's Creed III. The reason AC II was so good, then, was because it successfully provided a wish list of things that players wanted, and layered so much more on top of that, focusing on the fundamentals that make Assassin's Creed tick. It made history a playground, with a version of Italy that served as a wondrous piece of virtual tourism.

The less said about collecting feathers, the better (at least it wasn’t 400 flags), but who could forget gliding with Da Vinci's flying machine, traversing intricate subterranean tombs, scaling the grand Il Duomo cathedral, or scampering across the sun-burnished terracotta rooftops of Florence? Assassin's Creed II's ambition is encapsulated in its dual hidden daggers – now you could assassinate two targets at once (as long as they were close to each other), doubling the playful, brutal thrill of assassination that the first game harboured at its core. Greater detail, a more compelling story, a protagonist with a personality, and a vibrant, lived-in location that felt vital and fresh. AC II had it all, and it still does. It quite possibly remains the best and most influential Assassin's Creed game that's ever been. Without it, there’s no Assassin’s Creed Origins, no Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, there’s no Assassin’s Creed.

Granted, the success of Assassin's Creed II essentially gave Ubisoft carte blanche to copy the formula again and again for countless sequels, muddying the waters with naval combat and other fripperies that we could have done without. Assassin's Creed II was the purest expression of the series' remit, enabling you to fully embody Ezio, and see through his vengeful mission to its bitter conclusion. His saga continued in the brilliant Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and the less good Revelations, but the sequels couldn't really hold a candle to where Ezio's tale began.

And yet, we'll probably never see another Assassin's Creed game like AC II ever again. The series has moved on to far more expansive, action-RPG pastures, scrapping many of the fundamentals that previously informed what an Assassin's Creed game was. In moving forward, the franchise's future seems assured (at least for now), and Origins and Odyssey have both demonstrated the level of ambition that Assassin's Creed is still capable of delivering. But there’s no escaping AC 2’s utterly pivotal influence over the series, ten years hence.

Still, we long for the simpler days of the hidden blade, a hooded robe, and a trusty sword. We miss stalking prey from the rooftops in a dense, populated city, waiting for the right time to emerge from out of the shadows, the glint of our steel in the moonlight the last thing our quarry sees, as we take their wretched life. Requiescat in pace.

Comments
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  • Friend and I always say how AC2 was best in the series. The perfect example of what a sequel should be. Ezio remains my favourite AC protagonist although I haven’t played Origins or Odyssey. 2009 was such a great year for games. I think the entire period from 2007-2011 had some amazing games in general. We’ve still had plenty in the recent years but it feels a bit different to me. Very likely to do with me not being a teenager anymore haha
  • Earlier this year, I replayed AC2, 9 years since I first played it. As someone who has played all AC main entries so far, I must say I found the gameplay elements in AC2 some of the most divergent without being added in just for the sake of lengthening the game (perhaps except for feather collection, but the reward is still heart-warming).
  • I would say AC4 is my favorite if we're talking numbered games but Odyssey replay value is very high so that is easily my favorite
  • Those damn feathers! Was a great game though. Can’t believe it was 10 years ago.
  • Huge AC fan here. Played them all, multi-platform and remakes included (because I'm stupid like that xD) and to me it honestly feels like it's been way more than 10 years with the maaaaany entries they made in that timeframe ^^ About AC2, I really liked Altair and Ezio felt not as awesome to me at first. Took me most of the game to start to like him and I only did completely in brotherhood. But the gameplay was (and is still) awesome. From a list of 3 activities, you know have (nearly) too many and the game became less "boxed" and open-world. AC2 for life :p
  • I Prefer AC1 But AC 2 is still a great game !
  • I was about to give up on AC after the first game. My dad bought the second one for my birthday and I was really glad. Great game. I really enjoyed all those subject 16 puzzles. Enjoyed Brotherhood and Revelations. Played AC 3 but never completed it.
  • I completed Ezio's Collection recently, after i played every main AC release up to Syndicate. I thought II would be a chore to play after the many advancements in gameplay and quality of life improvements the series went through. Was surprised by how the gameplay still holds up even today. II aged quite well and so did Brotherhood and Revelations.
  • AC 2 was great at the time, now its showing its age, anybody who says that is better than more recent entries like origins and odyssey are just going off nostalgia at this point.
  • Best cutscene in a game. "Its me,mario"
  • Out of what I have fully played 2 is third favorite after Black Flag and Brotherhood
  • This was the first 360 game I got 100% achievements on. Fantastic game all around. Playing the Ezio collection was an absolute blast
  • 2 is the best assassin's game, black flag is the best in my opinion but it's not really an assassin's game really apart from name.
  • While 2 may be the best game in the series in terms of gameplay and story, my boy Altaïr is still the best protagonist in the series.
  • Having beaten Assassin's Creed (the first release) I was genuinely surprised how much fun I had exploring The Third Crusade time period and battling with the Templars. I loved the setting, loved how original the story was at the time and I really loved Altair/Desmond Miles as the protagonists. I thought that even though the game was a bit rough around the edges I sincerely believed even if Ubisoft came out with a second and third and fourth release, they wouldn't hold a candle to the original but I was happily mistaken. Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood improved on an already fresh idea and somehow made the overall experience 10x better in just about every way imaginable. I still prefer Altair as my favourite over Ezio but after playing the following two releases AC2 and Brotherhood I realised just how captivating it was to run around as Ezio all around 15th century Italy and it's surrounding areas. Since the first 3 releases I haven't felt the same about the franchise though. I've played from ACIII all the way through Origins and I nothing comes close to being as good as the first three, period.
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