Assassin's Creed II is a third person action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles, and Microsoft Windows. It is the second video game installment of the Assassin's Creed series and is a direct sequel to the 2007 video game Assassin's Creed. The game was released on video game consoles in November 2009, and will be released on Microsoft Windows in March 2010.
The game is set in 2012, with player-controlled protagonist Desmond Miles escaping from Abstergo Industries with an employee, Lucy Stillman, after being forced to relive the genetic memories of ancestral assassin Altaïr ibn La-Ahad through a machine known as the "Animus." After escaping from Abstergo, Desmond enters a device identical to the Animus and relives the genetic memories of ancestral nobleman Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who lived during the Renaissance period of the late fifteenth century in Italy. The player controls Ezio, who becomes an Assassin after his father and brothers are murdered by a traitor to the Auditore family. While controlling Ezio, the player can explore game renditions of Italian cities, regions and landmarks in open world gameplay. The gameplay is a mixture of action, stealth and platforming.
Assassin's Creed II was met with widespread acclaim, garnering aggregated scores of 91% for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, from review aggregator Metacritic. The game was praised for its stronger emphasis on open-world exploration and interaction, non-linear gameplay and greater mission variety compared to the first Assassin's Creed. The game was also credited with improved non-player character AI and combat mechanics, and its new economic system allowing players to purchase accessories, armor and improved weapons through the course of the game.
Assassin's Creed II takes place in an open world with nonlinear gameplay, allowing the player to roam freely within several regions throughout late fifteenth-century Italy such as Venice, Florence, and the Tuscan 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 medicine which can be puchased from doctors.
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) while on one mission. The player also has the ability to control a carriage on one level, but can row gondolas, as well as ride horses at any point in the game where they are readily available. Ezio stealing a gondola from a small pier.
While Leonardo da Vinci provides the player with new weapons, such as a double hidden blade, a poison blade and a miniature firearm, you are able to purchase artwork for your villa, there is the option to purchase new armour as the game progresses and even the option to dye Ezio's clothing to a number of different colours specific to the area in which you are in, these armour upgrades and dye's are available at tailors in each city, you can also purchase bigger pouches to carry more throwing knives and medicine, there are also a variety of swords, cutlasses and maces, as well as axes, spears and daggers, a vast variety of weapons can be purchased as well as picking up weapons from defeated opponents. The combat system is more complex, with the ability to disarm opponents using counter attacks while unarmed, stealing their weapons, doing this and following it up with an attack will instantly kill your opponent with a finishing move. Six additional weapons can be unlocked by connecting a PSP with Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines to the PS3.
The Auditore family's countryside villa acts as Ezio's headquarters, and 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 colored dyes for changing the color of Ezio's outfit. When these shops are renovated, Ezio receives discounts at the shops on the goods they sell.
There is now a broader array of methods for hiding or blending in the area. One can dive underwater to break the 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 Ezio becoming more recognizable depending on his behavior, location, and current mission. This infamy can be reduced with bribery, removing wanted posters, or assassinating corrupt officials.
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 non-player characters, with some NPCs available for hire, to serve as a distraction, or to fight alongside the player. Money thrown to the ground may also serve as a distraction. There are also several types of enemies, some more agile or stronger than others.
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. Investigation is less explicit, and instead missions may follow people and/or a narrative. There are roughly 200 missions in this game; about half are part of the main storyline, while the rest are side quests. 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 symbol, six of which allow the player to unlock the armor of Altaïr.
Like Assassin's Creed, characters based on historical figures are present in the game including Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, Lorenzo de' Medici, the Pazzi 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 Rome. 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.
The game continues shortly after the events of Assassin's Creed, where, in 2012, Desmond Miles (Nolan North) is still a prisoner at Abstergo Industries after searching the memories of his ancestor, the Assassin, Altaïr, in the Animus. Abstergo, the modern-day Knights Templar, had been using Desmond to locate powerful out-of-place artifacts called "Pieces of Eden." Using the "Eagle Vision" ability he gained as a result of the "bleeding effect" (from overexposure to the Animus), Desmond is able to see messages and symbols written in blood on his bedroom wall, written by the former test subject, named "Subject 16(Cam Clarke)." Lucy Stillman (Kristen Bell), a former researcher for Abstergo and an Assassin, frees Desmond and brings him to a secret hideout used by herself and two other Assassins, historian Shaun Hastings (Danny Wallace) and computer expert Rebecca Crane (Eliza Schneider). With their own version of the Animus, dubbed the 'Animus 2.0', they invite Desmond to help them discover the memories of his ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, for two reasons: to train Desmond in Assassin skills through the bleeding effect, and to find other Pieces of Eden.
Ezio, residing in Italy during the Renaissance in the late 15th century, finds his family in Florence the victims of a political plot, and is unable to prevent the hanging of his father and two brothers. His father's final instructions lead Ezio to a chest containing Assassin garments and tools. Ezio's uncle Mario allows Ezio and his mother and sister to shelter in his countryside villa, and trains Ezio in the art of combat. Mario further provides leads to those in on his family's betrayal, and Ezio follows the trail of clues, leading from Florence to San Gimignano, Forlì, Venice and eventually to Rome. Along the way, he encounters several allies that assist in his pursuit, including Leonardo da Vinci, who is able to help decode pages from Altaïr's Codex, creating new equipment. After assassinating many people involved in the plot, Ezio is able to identify Rodrigo Borgia as the leader of the conspiracy, aimed to bring down the Medici family. Borgia later arrives in Venice with the "Apple," the Piece of Eden that Altaïr originally had found. Borgia believes himself to be the "Prophet" that would lead to the discovery of "The Vault", supposedly containing more Pieces of Eden and other knowledge the Templars seek. Ezio, joined by his allies, stop Borgia, who flees without the Apple. His allies, including Niccolò Machiavelli, reveal they are all members of the Assassins, and bring Ezio into their ranks, telling him that they believe him to be the Prophet that will lead them to the Vault.
During one break from using the Animus 2.0, Desmond suffers a hallucination that returns him to the body of Altaïr in Acre, and makes love with Maria, a Templar he had earlier spared (a decoy for Robert de Sable in Assassin's Creed whom Altaïr formed a relationship with in Bloodlines); when Altaïr departs, Desmond finds the memory staying with Maria, and leaves him confused when he recovers. He also learns of the case of Subject 16, one of several previous test subjects used by Abstergo, and the person responsible for writing the images he saw in his room at Abstergo. Subject 16 has managed to hack the Animus and place twenty glyphs that can only be seen and decoded by the Animus user, revealing a video of a man and a woman, claiming to be Adam and Eve, carrying the "Apple of Eden", running through a futuristic setting identified, by a flash of binary code, as Eden. In the 'truth puzzles', certain historic paintings are used such as the first depiction of a fire arm.
When Desmond returns to Ezio's memory after he fought off Borgia, they find several corrupted memories, and are only able to return Desmond to Ezio's memories in the year 1499 (23 years after his father and brothers were killed), where Borgia has since become Pope Alexander VI at Vatican City. Ezio's memories reveal that he and his allies have completed the Codex and discovered that "The Vault" lies in Rome, and realize that the Papal Staff is another Piece of Eden; Borgia's plan, upon deposition of the Medici family, would allow him to become Pope and gain access to the staff and the Vault.
Ezio travels to Rome; while his allies distract the rest of the city, Ezio discreetly enters the Vatican and attempts to assassinate Borgia. Borgia manages to escape with both the Apple and the Staff, and attempts to use them to open the Vault, but Ezio catches up and defeats him but does not kill Borgia, since revenge will not bring back his family. In Ezio's hands, the Apple and Staff open the Vault; inside, he finds a holographic figure that identifies him as The Prophet that has brought Desmond and the 21st century observers to the Vault, much to Ezio's confusion. The figure, calling herself "Minerva", reveals that she and others of her kind were part of a far more advanced society (Those Who Came Before) that lived on Earth and created humans in their own image (it is hinted several times throughout the game that humans were created as a slave race). Eventually the two races went to war against one another, soon halted by a natural celestial catastrophe involving a massive solar flare which resulted in the destruction of most life on Earth. The remaining people of both races rebuilt society. The few remaining Ones Who Came Before constructed several "temples" around the world (one being located within the Vatican) that would help the human race to prevent the same disaster from reoccurring once the Ones Who Came Before had become extinct. Minerva insinuates that records of the existence of the Ones Who Came Before, as well as their warning, had been misunderstood and had, over time, evolved into various myths, legends and religions throughout the modern world. As the hologram vanishes, Minerva says "the rest is up to you Desmond," confusing Ezio.
As the memory ends, Desmond wakes to find that Abstergo has discovered their hideout and, with his assimilated skills from Ezio and Altaïr, assists Lucy in dispatching their forces, led by Warren Vidic, while Shaun and Rebecca pack away their equipment. As the four escape, Lucy postulates that Minerva may have been talking about the Earth's geomagnetic reversal, Desmond realizes that the writing on his wall left by Subject 16 at the beginning of the game were actually warnings, and with time short, Desmond prepares to re-enter the Animus and continue searching his memories for more clues to the location of the remaining temples.
Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot officially confirmed that Assassin's Creed II was in development on November 26, 2008, during the company's financial performance report. This was followed by Michael Pachter speculating in GameTrailers' "Bonus Round" that game would change its setting to the events of the French Revolution, which turned out to be false.
A promotional video was released by Ubisoft on April 6 showing a skull, some hidden blade designs, and Leonardo's flying machine on a scroll. On April 16, Game Informer released details of the game, including pictures of Ezio, a new teaser trailer was released, and the game was "officially" announced by Ubisoft.
In an interview, in May 2009, Sebastien Puel stated that the development team working on Assassin's Creed II had increased to 450 members, and the development team's size had tripled since the first game.
On June 1, 2009, Ubisoft released a new four-minute cinematic Assassin's Creed II trailer at E3. On June 2, 2009, Ubisoft revealed the first live gameplay demo, lasting 6 minutes, at the Sony Press Conference. GameTrailers features an exclusive developer walkthrough from E3 2009. In an interview with GameTrailers Ubisoft Montreal creative director Patrice Desilets stated Desmond would be doing more than walking around and discovering clues.
It was announced at the Assassin's Creed panel at Comic Con 2009 that a mini-series of three episodes, Assassin's Creed: Lineage, would be released showing the events leading up to the game and the history of Ezio and his father.
It was also revealed that the humorist Danny Wallace would be voicing a new character in Assassin's Creed II by the name of Shaun Hastings, a sarcastic historian assisting Desmond. The character's face was also be modeled after him. Actress Kristen Bell returned for the character of Lucy Stillman.
The game was originally due to be released at the same time on all the three platforms, but Ubisoft announced on September 24, 2009 via Twitter that the PC version would be delayed to the first quarter of 2010 in order to have "a bit more time for the dev team to deliver the best quality game"
On October 20, 2009, Ubisoft announced a series of short movies to be broadcast via YouTube that would provide additional back story and the introduction of some of the characters found in the game. The shorts, called Assassin's Creed: Lineage, came in three parts and were developed by Ubisoft’s Hybride Technologies, who previously worked on the films 300 and Sin City. The series focused on Ezio's father, Giovanni Auditore, and contained live-action and computer generated imagery. The first of the films was released on October 27, 2009, with the remaining two released on November 13, 2009.
On November 12, 2009, Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed II themed virtual items on PlayStation Home to promote the release of the game, as well as the game Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines for PSP. Assassin's Creed II virtual items and an Ezio costume were also released on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360's avatars. On November 19, 2009, more Assassin's Creed II virtual items were released in PlayStation Home, along with a costume for Ezio, which was released on November 26, 2009. On December 3, 2009, more 15th century Italian renaissance themed items were released in Home. Ezio's "White Assassin" costume is available to download on LittleBigPlanet, as of December 8, 2009, on the PlayStation Network.
Assassin's Creed II is the first game to be linked to Ubisoft's Uplay feature. Progression through the game allows Uplay members to acquire points that can be redeemed for bonuses for use in the game, including a new crypt to explore and an Altaïr costume.
A novel based on the game, called Assassin's Creed: Renaissance by Oliver Bowden was published by Penguin Books in November 2009.
Upon release, Assassin's Creed II garnered widespread acclaim from critics. Review aggregator site Metacritic gave the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version a score of 91.
In an exclusive review by Official Xbox Magazine, Assassin's Creed II scored 9/10. Its second review was a perfect score from the Official PlayStation Magazine US, while the Official PlayStation Magazine UK scored the game a 9/10.
A German magazine, Computer Bild Spiele, reported that the game's publishers offered to provide a pre-release copy of the game if the magazine would guarantee a review score of "very good". The magazine rejected the request and instead opted to delay their review.
According to pre-official sales estimates, Ubisoft announced that Assassin's Creed II sold 1.6 million copies worldwide during its first week of sale, representing a 32 percent increase over the first week retail performance of the original Assassin's Creed. As of February 10, 2010, the game has shipped 8 million copies.
At the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards, Assassin's Creed II was named Best Action Adventure Game, and IGN named it as the Action Game of the Year for Xbox 360 and Xbox 360 Game of the Year. GameSpot also named it as Xbox 360 Game of the Year. It also received Game of the Year from GamePro, Eurogamer and The New York Times. Assassin's Creed II has been nominated for the "Outstanding Achievement in Animation", "Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction", "Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering", "Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering", "Outstanding Achievement in Original Story", "Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition", "Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design", "Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction", "Adventure Game of the Year" and "Overall Game of the Year" Interactive Achievement Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. The game was also nominated for several Game Developers Choice Awards including "Best Game Design", "Best Visual Art", "Best Technology", and "Game of the Year".