Deep. Epic. Fresh. Brilliant.
They all describe Assassin's Creed II. It is a phenomenal gaming achievement that is by all accounts a worthy successor to the original. Released in 2007, Assassin's Creed was one of the most polished and intriguing new franchises of this generation, and the developers, Ubisoft Montreal, did a fantastic job on the sequel.
First, let's be clear on what this game isn't. It isn't for the impatient or casual player. It is a deep and involved game that will take many long nights to even get close to completing. This can easily be said about many role-playing games, but for a stealth action game to have the depth of AC2 is quite a feat.
However, depth is nothing if it's boring and fruitless. AC1 was criticized for its many repetitious quests, which quickly became boring for gamers. The developers listened, and AC2 nails the quest system. The quests aren't nearly as repetitious, and every single one provides some sort of reward, be it money, health or another piece of the story unlocked.
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Speaking of which, this is easily one of the most interesting and fresh story lines you will find in any game. It has a very Dan Brown feel with its Knights Templar and Assassins Guild. And it manages to provide a lot of incentive to move forward in the game. Plot elements are set well, and minor side information is strewn across the countryside, waiting to be discovered.
Players won't be lost if they missed the original, but it does help provide some back story and a good starting frame of reference.
Many games have attempted the free-running, open-world, building-climbing style, but the Assassin's Creed franchise dominates without a doubt.
Controlling the main character as he traverses rooftops, scales cathedrals and leaps off balconies is simply a joy. The movement is fluid, simple and beautiful. Frustrations such as getting stuck or falling off a roof are rare, and the simple controls for climbing are a welcome breath of fresh air. Simply move the analog stick in any direction, and the character will follow.
Combine the excellence of the climbing system with the gorgeous graphics, and you start to get a picture of how breathtaking the game can be at times. There are random "viewpoints" in each city, essentially high towers or skyscrapers, that demonstrate the fun of climbing and graphical beauty very well.
Assassin's Creed 2 definitely is in the running for game of the year and is a must-play for any action-game lover.