The Assassin's Creed

After making several grand recommendations that I should get hold of Assassin’s Creed 2 for the PC El Kay got tired of my relentless application of the Infamous Tendering Process and bought it for me, and I’m already glad she did.

To be honest though the main reason for my reluctance wasn’t anything to do with the game itself, but more to do with the now infamous DRM system that Ubisoft have applied to the game. To be doubly honest though if El Kay hadn’t pushed me I’d probably have hummed and hawed for so long that I would end up never buying the game. It’s a good job El Kay “doesn’t take any humming and hawing shit” though because I’d have missed out on an excellent game.

At it’s heart Assassins Creed is simply a platform game set in a sandbox world, but it’s not the genre that makes it remarkable: it’s the world itself. There is a framing story set in the near future of 2012 where Desmond Miles, who’s DNA contains the genetic memories of a long lineage of assassins stretching back to Altair the medieval Assassin from the original game. At the beginning of Assasins Creed 2 Desmond has just been freed from a shadowy corporation that has been using him to access his genetic ancestor’s memories using a Maguffin called The Animus. The vast bulk of the game is set in Renaissance Italy between 1476 and 1499. It follows the life of Ezio Auditore da Firenze a young Florentine nobleman who, as the result of his family being murdered, becomes embroiled in an a secret war between the ancient order of assassins who seek to free mankind, and their enemies the Templars who are  conspiring to control the world.

Two things really make the game for me. Firstly the world of 15th century Italy is so vividly realised that it almost becomes an important character in the game. Merchants peddle their wares to passing groups that wander realistically through the finely detailed streets. Guards react realistically to you when you pass into restricted areas, or even if you’re rude and bump into other people in the street. Bards run after you strumming medieval ballads that bear an uncanny resemblance to 80’s rock lyrics on their lutes. Everywhere this is activity which makes the cities seem alive in a way that I think only Grand Theft Auto IV has even approached. Interestingly the game also includes a database, part of The Animus interface, which  contains details on important historical individuals and landmarks. It really fired me to investigate an area of history that I really knew nothing about. I was a aware that Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo both lived and worked in Italy during this period, but I knew nothing about the politics or culture. The makes of Assassin’s Creed should be rightly proud of themselves for avoiding setting their game in a far more recognisable age such as the second world war, or medieval England.

The second element that I really loved from the game was the control method. Ezio is a master of free-running, and the game manages to allow you to control him through complex, and dangerous, manoeuvres across the rooftops of medieval Italy without the controls ever becoming difficult to handle or intrusive. You simple hold down the run button, point him in the direct that you want to travel, and off he goes scaling buildings, sprinting across rooftops and balancing precariously on ledges. It really has to be seen to be appreciated:

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