Assassin’s Creed II is a 2009 action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montréal and published by Ubisoft. It is the second major installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, and the sequel to 2007’s Assassin’s Creed. The game was first released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November 2009, and was later made available on Microsoft Windows in March 2010 and OS X in October 2010. Several minor game-related features could be redeemed on Uplay and three downloadable expansion packs were released on Xbox Live.
The plot is set in a fictional history of real-world events and follows the centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with free will, and the Knights Templar, who desire peace through control. The framing story is set in the 21st century and follows Desmond Miles as he relives the genetic memories of his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze to uncover the mysteries left behind by an ancient race known as the First Civilization in the hope of ending the Assassin-Templar conflict. The main narrative takes place at the height of the Renaissance in Italy during the late 15th century, and follows Ezio’s journey as an Assassin while seeking revenge against those responsible for the death of his father and brothers. The game features an open world comprising Florence, Venice, Monteriggioni, San Gimignano, and Forlì, and focuses on the player’s combat, stealth and parkour abilities.
Using a newly updated Anvil game engine, Assassin’s Creed II began development shortly after the release of Assassin’s Creed. The game received praise from video game publications for its Renaissance setting, narrative, characters, map design and visuals, as well as the improvements over its predecessor. It has sold more than nine million copies, is considered to be one of the best video games ever made and popularized the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The PC version was met with some criticism in relation to the digital rights management system, and thus had the always-online DRM permanently removed. The game spawned two direct sequels: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010) and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011), and a spin-off, Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery (2009). Remastered versions of Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations were released on November 15, 2016, as part of the combined Ezio Collection.
Players directly control the on-screen character through a third-person perspective and can control the camera, allowing for a 360° view of their surroundings. The game takes place in an open world environment with nonlinear gameplay, allowing the player to roam freely within several regions of late fifteenth-century Italy such as Venice, Florence, Monteriggioni, Forlì, San Gimignano, and the Tuscany countryside. The Animus 2.0, a new version of the machine of the same name present in Assassin’s Creed, provides in-game context for changes and additions to several game elements. A database is also available, providing extra historical information about key landmarks, characters, and services that the player encounters. The health system has been made more dynamic, with synchronization to the Animus and causing the character to recover only from minor injuries. More grievous injuries require visiting a street-side doctor or use of medicine (which can be purchased from doctors or found on bodies).
The player may now swim in water, and Eagle Vision—the ability to identify specific people and landmarks—can now be used in third-person view and while moving. A young Leonardo da Vinci is present in the game, aiding the player by creating new weapons from translated “Codex pages” that Altaïr, the original game’s main character, left behind for future Assassins’ analysis and insight. Within the game, the player will be able to use Leonardo’s flying machine (based on real-life plans by Leonardo) during one mission. The player also has the ability to control a carriage in one level, and can row gondolas, as well as ride horses at any point in the game where they are readily available between towns and cities. The setting of the various places the player may go to have been made more detailed and in-depth; civilians sometimes cough or sneeze. Additionally, the player can hire different groups of NPCs, such as mercenaries, courtesans, or thieves; these groups can be used to fight, distract, or lure guards, respectively. A day and night cycle has been added to the game, giving the game more of a sense of time, in addition to setting missions and events at certain times of the day.
There are many ways to interact with NPCs. Money can be thrown to the ground, or a corpse carried and then deposited on the ground, may also serve as a distraction for both guards and peasants. There are also several different types of enemies, some more agile or stronger than others, and some of which will actively search hiding places where Ezio was last seen. The player can also mock an enemy during combat.
The combat system is more complex than that of its predecessor, with the ability to disarm opponents using counter-attacks while unarmed. If the player steals an enemy’s weapon, it is possible to follow up with an attack that instantly kills the enemy. Da Vinci provides the player with specialized weaponry, such as the dual hidden blades, poison blade, and the miniature wheellock firearm, which are all based on schematics found in Altaïr’s Codex pages. Generic swords, cutlasses, maces, axes, and daggers can all be purchased from vendors in each city. The player can also pick up any weapon on the ground or use improvised weapons, such as brooms or halves of a spear. These weapons are used just like normal blunt weapons. In addition, players are able to purchase artwork for their villa, obtain new armor as the game progresses, and even dye Ezio’s clothing with a number of different colors. Other equipment includes larger pouches to carry more throwing knives and medicine. Six additional weapons can be unlocked by connecting a PSP with Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines to the PS3.
The Auditore family’s countryside villa, located in Monteriggioni, acts as Ezio’s headquarters: the surrounding property can be upgraded, drawing income for the player’s use. There are several outlets for using currency, with vendors selling items such as medicine, poison, weapons, repairs, upgrades, paintings, and clothing dyes. When these shops are renovated, Ezio receives discounts at the shops on the goods they sell. Purchasing weaponry, armor sets, and artwork also contribute to increasing the villa’s overall worth, in turn generating more income for Monteriggioni.
There is now a broader array of methods for hiding or blending in the area. One can dive underwater to break guards’ line of sight, and blending may be performed with any group of people, rather than only a specific type (as in the first Assassin’s Creed). The game features a notoriety system, with guards more alert to Ezio’s presence depending on his behavior, location, and current mission. This infamy can be reduced through bribery, removing wanted posters, or assassinating corrupt officials.
The missions in the game now have an expanded variety, with different structuring. For example, a mission may have the objective to escort someone but may change to a chase and assassination. An investigation is less explicit, and instead, missions may follow people and/or a narrative. There are roughly 200 missions in the game; about half are part of the main storyline, while the rest are side quests which need not be completed in order to finish the game’s main storyline. Cities also contain hidden locations such as catacombs and caves (the design of which have been compared by the developers to the Prince of Persia series, where the objective is to navigate the area). Exploring these locations eventually rewards the player with an Assassin’s Seal; the collection of all six Seals allows the player to unlock the Armor of Altaïr, in a concealed section of the Villa.
Like Assassin’s Creed, characters based on historical figures are present in the game, including Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, Bartolomeo d’Alviano, the Medici family, the Pazzi family, the Barbarigo family and Pope Alexander VI.
Locations in the game include the Tuscany region (Florence, Monteriggioni and San Gimignano), the Apennine Mountains, the Romagna region (Forlì), Venice, and the Vatican. Specific landmarks include St Mark’s Basilica, the Grand Canal, the Little Canal, the Rialto Bridge, Santa Maria del Fiore, the Sistine Chapel, Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, and Santa Maria Novella.