If you happened to have caught my post last month concerning rage-quitting and Assassin’s Creed, you might think that I’d never want to see hair nor hide of the series ever again. In theory, the Assassin’s Creed games and I should have gotten along much better. They had rich stories, semi-open worlds to explore, decently fleshed-out characters, and mission-based gameplay to keep things on track. On paper, the life of an assassin should be been all that and more for me. After writing that post, was it too late, I wondered?
In fact, it wasn’t. That post propelled me to take action, because if I was to ever get over that incident with the original Assassin’s Creed, I would have to man up and re-enter the series. Except…well, I wasn’t too keen on revisiting the life of the assassin Altair in the twelfth century. That ship had sailed on long ago, and it was for the best that I simply move on. But to where? Only two other Assassin’s Creed games graced our library: Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Unity. The former I had tried awhile back, but it lacked a hook. The latter just didn’t seem like a good time.
I opted instead to purchase and play Assassin’s Creed II, which, as I understood it, improved well upon the first game. Years ago, I watched a portion of the game being played, and at the time, I just wasn’t ready to return to all the stalk and stealth. But I was also young and dumb then. Would an older, wiser me be able to accept the challenge of a new (to me) assassin? There was only one way to find out.
Though I never completed the first game, I knew enough to understand that the two games worked together in tandem, with the events of the second game picking up after and referencing the first. In it, you played as another of test subject Desmond Miles’ long-lost ancestors, here Ezio Auditore, an assassin-to-be living in fifteenth century Italy. While Desmond’s own story took a dramatic turn of its own, most of the game was focused on Ezio as he traversed a number of spots in and around Rome in search of the men who attacked his family. Along the way Ezio met up with others who helped him progress through the ranks, teaching him the ways of the assassin, and showing him how to do away with his targets one by one. Ezio’s story is a grand one that’s neatly compacted into a 20-30 hour time span, and it’s complete with a number of activities and discovery events outside of the main story.
I was a bit surprised at how easily I slipped back into the Assassin’s Creed world. I was happy to see Desmond again, though distressed by his plight. I was pleased roam and run through various Tuscan and central Italian cityscapes. I was ignited by the option to build up my own little walled venue, Monteriggioni, and bring it back to its former glory. I took joy in the small things: finding treasure and collectibles, upgrading Ezio’s armor and weapons, and traveling by horseback. And I was displeased by the same things that displeased me in the first game, namely being stealthy the difficulties of movement, (i.e. getting Ezio to go where I wanted him to go rather than just clinging onto to nearest clingable thing. But more than anything, I adored Ezio’s story. Maybe it was Ezio’s imbued charm or attractive accent, or maybe it was the glorious Italian Renaissance setting. Whatever it was, Assassin’s Creed II and I got along pretty darn well.
While I didn’t start Assassin’s Creed II with any notion of necessary failure, I admittedly carried along the baggage of Altair for most of the game. I kept expected a breaking point, a rage-quit moment, something that would forever sever the tenuous bonds I had started to form. But…nothing like that ever happened. In fact, when the game came to its rather dumbstruck end, I was amazed to see the credits. As I said, I wasn’t expected to fail, but I didn’t believe that I would triumph as I did. In anything, the closest I came to quitting within the game occurred not with the main story and its assassination targets, but with a sidequest that involved retrieving six seals in order to gain access to Altair’s famed armor. I made a conscious effort to avoid most of the game’s activities: races, couriering, finding random targets. But I really, really, really wanted Altair’s armor. The seals were hidden in tombs scattered throughout the game, and getting the seals meant solving the puzzles in each tomb. For me, the puzzles in the six tomb were split down the middle of difficulty, with three of them being relatively easy and three being relatively difficult. The final one involved maneuvering through a timed obstacle course. That one was quite the hassle. But once I got the seal and Altair’s armor, the game felt complete.
As worried as I might have been about things falling out with Assassin’s Creed II, the opposite proved to be true. It was a marvelous game, and I look forward to someday continuing with Ezio’s journey in the game’s sequels, Brotherhood and Revelations. I’m also glad that I didn’t opt to give up on the series entirely, which I could have done easily. Overcoming my issues with this game has had me thinking about other games that could use some relationship repairing. What’s that they say about where there’s a will, there’s a way?
Have you ever failed at a game the first time around, only to succeed at it later? Lend your stories in the comments!