Assassin's Creed is without a doubt one of the most successful franchises to launch in the last couple of years. Having sold more than 8 million copies and achieving a Metacritic score of 79 (PC), 80 (PS3) and 81 (360). However, numbers don't tell the whole tale as many gamers felt the first game lacked in variation and grew tired of the repetitive mission structure. For an what was described as an open ended game emphasising freedom it sure felt like a bit of a chore.
When I met the creative director Patrice Desilets he was painfully aware of this. He was very open about the fact that the first game had problems and that they had been working hard on eliminating those for the sequel. Getting rid of the old rigid mission structures, mixing them up and adding more variation and pivotal moments throughout the adventure. There will be about 15 different mission types in Assassin's Creed II and they will be tied together in chains, rather than the 4-5 different mission types of the original.
One of the things Ubisoft Montreal did right with the first game was the setting and the main character. Setting a game during the Crusades in the Middle East was a brilliant move and perhaps the setting for the sequel during the Italian Renaissance is even more inspired. Our new main character Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an out of favour noble, who has to learn the ways of his ancestor Altaïr in order to exact revenge of some of Italy's most powerful families.
Ezio will befriend Leonardo da Vinci, whose inventions will help aid him on his quest. During the E3 demo we got to see one of Leonardo's contraptions - a flying machine, put to good use by Ezio. Perhaps more importantly we were told that this was one of the one off events that will be littered throughout Assassin's Creed II, as the developer aims to keep the player's interest levels high all the way to the end.
As Ezio starts out a novice he will learn new assassination moves throughout the adventure, but one interesting addition is his hidden pistol. Getting the drop on enemies from above or performing a double assassination with his twin blades are other moves he can make use of. Overall the cities we have seen, Venice and Florence, look much richer and more living than what we saw in the original game. The addition of an economic system will also add depth and meaning to the world, rather than just providing you with a picturesque backdrop to your killings.
From what we have seen there is every reason to expect great things from Assassin's Creed II. Ubisoft seems to have picked up on their mistakes from the original and have expanded the successful elements. The atmosphere and world Ubisoft have created for this game is something very seldom seen in video games.