The legacy of Ubisoft’s adventure title now appears be a game that will distinctively maneuver amongst flexuous expectations and generate an irritating divide within its core audience.
1. Ezio races Federico to the top of a tower. [Mask = basic climbing]
2. Ezio beats up one of Claudia’s cheating beaus. [Mask = unarmed combat]
3. Ezio helps his mother carry packages to Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop. [Mask = Carrying items]
4. Ezio collects feathers for Petruccio. [Mask = Mobility practice by timed collect-a-thon]
5. Ezio runs errands for his father. [Mask = A-to-B narrative movement]
Individually, these have all been written off as the products of ‘tutorial-masking’ by many, which is fair enough I suppose. However, considering the game’s/players’ pacing, the player’s own interest, and even the most minute idiosyncrasies (e.g. player’s perception of the word ‘family), a rose colored lens can go to shit-stained in a matter of seconds. My personal interpretation of the above sequences revolves around exactly what they’re masking (and how stiff they came off as). This mainly just means that the parental sequences had a de-facto advantage over the interactions of Ezio and his siblings. The instances between Ezio and his father are a required aspect for moving along the game’s main plot. Since I was in no rush, this was exactly as organic as I required it to be. Being in no rush also housed enjoyment towards running a simple errand for Maria (which is merely walking a short distance and back).
The narrative fights with freedom on many occasions. This one of the most notable examples of the differences between Assassin’s Creed I and II. Though both games are very narrative-driven, the first title’s mechanics threw a lasso around the story and humbly led it forward for the player. Creed II however, essentially does the opposite; it lets the story control the way the freedom is granted to the player. Even in how the tale is told, the mechanics are leashed (and by extension the player). Since this role is reversed, Assassin’s Creed II can easily be perceived as an arrogant tale, which is in stark contrast to how the first game unfolded (e.g. the removal of the over-the-shoulder ‘cutscenes’ are a symptom of this).This is all due to how the narrative infringes upon the game’s own mechanical sense of freedom.
The embryonic art-world of 14th century Italy is in many ways absent during Assassin’s Creed II. This isn’t simply due to the nature of the narrative either, but more likely how it was laid over or integrated within the design of the game itself (i.e. which influenced the design of the other more?). The only time the game even remotely grazes such potential is during the assassination of the doge (Barbarigo I believe?), during which the carnevale is going on. Since that was more force than the first game ever used, nobody even noticed it (let alone appreciate it).
1. Stripping the HUD back to a certain extent to affect the player’s interaction with function. If the world actually were compressed and the map was taken away, the replacement opportunities seem far more fitting for the game individually. An example of this would be the database having some realtime popup (or just more real-time display in general). This would not be so much on the level as a simple meter as much as it would be an effect (i.e. something beyond the aesthetics of the gene sequencing flashing when the player is faced with imminent death). The GTA-esque map is definitely useful in its current state, but I’d personally rather see the game pioneer ground for itself and itself alone.
2. Zeta applies more to stealth games than other titles because the player is constantly and sophisticatedly reminded on a frequent basis of the nature of intelligence, be it their own, measured against the computer, or the computer itself. I can guarantee you not one hour will go by in a playthrough of Assassin’s Creed I or II without the player being reminded how ‘dumb’ the AI is. It’s a fundamental pillar of the game’s concept that’s always working against the player, so perhaps coloring the obvious deficiencies in modern game AI to reflect that is necessary. One solution for this would be the elimination of the guards in the sense of a ‘fodder presence’, merely an ever-present factor in the player’s path to be aware of. NPC & enemy AI architecture may not be super advanced right now, but I’ve learned recently that there are some simple tricks that designers constantly call upon in terms of building the illusion of intelligence (If anyone knows what I’m talking about, they’ll know why games like Metal Gear Solid 2 were so significant in their haydays).
Assassin’s Creed actually uses some of these tricks too, the problem however --- is what I opened with, which is that game is a mutt and thus will demand a relative reaction on how the ‘dumb’ AI is presented to the player. The reality is that the developers probably just layered traditional tactics over in the 2nd Creed game and this is all too evident when one contemplates the fact that Ezio can swim ‘now’ and his opposition cannot. Hell, he’s the only person in all of Venetia that can swim!
3. Sigma can be even further extrapolated to the game’s current sense of progression and also a cathartic moment I had as I played through it. During those first two hours of the game, I found it rather odd to run around hopping on top of people’s house’s in Italy as Ezio was no Assassin member yet, he was some spoiled and horny noble. The game however, flies directly in the face of this, pressing the player forcefully into situations where they will have to start 'Batman-hopping' right out of the gate.
First of all, if the player were stripped of that mobility during the first few hours, it may have had a chance at helping the narrative flow more powerfully for what it was. Second, after about the 50% mark, Rosa teaches Ezio a ledge-climbing technique that can arguably change the player’s experience with the game significantly. If the game were richer with that kind of ‘learning’ and progression, there would be much less of a problem with not only the narrative appearing more arrogant than intended, but the basic mechanical engagement with the player overall.
Lastly, if the base/weapon/accessory-building aspect of the game had a better spectrum of use, I wouldn’t have to stop my earlier compliment at problems merely being ‘addressed’. It's certainly cool to wander throughout the villa looking at all the weapons one has collected, but if there are no memories (no pun intended), then the elaborate cases displaying them lose meaning.
– resident Florentine in Assassin’s Creed 2