The Will, the Way: Assassin’s Creed II

Image by Flickr user Dakota Thrice (CC)
Image by Flickr user Dakota Thrice (CC)

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!


  1. Ocho says:

    I think unlike you I liked AC 1, though it didn’t click the first time I played and it took another round to get it to do so (where I wasn’t so hung up on all the side stuff). Once I beat 1, though, 2 was like the sky had opened and the sun came shining down. Brotherhood also felt this way. Revelations wasn’t up to par as 2 or Brotherhood, but it brought a nice end to Ezio’s story and, as such, felt hard to *not* play. 3 was… okay. Loved the New England setting, but otherwise it lost a bit in the execution. And from there I haven’t gone any further (next on the list is… Freedom Cry? Have to check…)

    AC 2, Brotherhood, and Revelations alone are what I’ve felt to be the *true* AC experience. Open world-ish, simultaneously plot and loot driven, sometimes a challenge and sometimes a cakewalk, but at least the story always made it interesting. But, then, I appreciate a good story above all else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Your comment makes me think that I should get to Brotherhood and Revelations sooner rather than later–strike while the iron is hot, and all that–but neither is in the immediate cards. Even with its frustrations, ACII proved to be an excellent game. And it’s not that I didn’t like the first one…I really did up to that awful moment. It’s my own fault for not giving the game it’s due then.

      This has made me think a little more about trying ACIII again. It’s first hour of play, man…it was simply boring, and it had a that terrible tutorial. But, I really like the idea of playing with the assassin concept in colonial America, so maybe I’ll get back around to it someday.


  2. I definitely feel that Assassin’s Creed 2 was the best in the series until AC4: Black Flag released. That game may not have the story punch that AC2 did, but it played pretty well and had some really rad naval combat.

    I’m in the minority that really enjoyed AC Unity. I liked the idea of playing someone who learned to become an assassin from the ground up, unlocking skills that were otherwise commonplace in the series. It gave Arno a sense of growth, I suppose. I also really dug the idea of customizing your playstyle by unlocking and purchasing different pieces of gear. If you don’t want to sneak around, you can pile on gear with defensive bonuses and swing around an axe with a gun attached to the end. It was neat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      I’ve only watched a little of Unity, and it’s not wholly unappealing, at least in terms of the setting and gameplay. I didn’t watch enough to get into Arno’s story, but you make it sound pretty cool. Since we already have the game, it’s probably worth a shot at some point.

      Black Flag has been sitting on my wishlist since it first came out. Even then, when I wasn’t much interested in getting back into the series, its seafaring aspects looked highly enjoyable. Getting it on sale this past year didn’t make the cut…maybe next year…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    After making a personal challenge to knock several old title out of my backlog, I’m pleased to say that I made it through a big one: Assassin’s Creed II. After my not-so-nice experience with the first game in the series, and a dull start with the series’ third game, I really wasn’t sure that I was cut out to be a modern assassin in times past. In this post for United We Game, I recall my revamped efforts in Renaissance Italy and a new-found adoration for one Ezio Auditore.


  4. LightningEllen says:

    I like the original AC, but I absolutely loved AC II, Brotherhood, and Revelations. Ezio is still by far my favourite Assassin. He’s just too charming 🙂

    Final Fantasy VIII beat me on the second last boss. I plan to revisit it this year and hopefully succeed this time. I have a terrible memory so the story will seem new to me too, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      I was surprised at just how much of a hook there was to Ezio’s story. I liked Altair well enough, but Ezio there was quite a bit more depth to him. Plus, it didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eyes, haha. I look forward to continuing his story at some point.

      Good luck with FFVIII. I had a similar thing happen to me with FFVII — got stuck near the end but never finished. Would like to get back to that one too…someday.

      Liked by 1 person

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