Retro Review: Assassin’s Creed 2 (Ezio Collection Part 1/3)

Credit: Assassin’s Creed 2. Screenshot by me. Sneaking up the fortifications into a heavily guarded compound.

The three Assassin’s Creed games featuring protagonist Ezio Auditore, AC:2, Brotherhood and Revelations, were released in a remastered bundle in 2016. This collection was ported to Nintendo Switch last February; I picked it up shortly after. Three classic games for $40, and I got it on sale even lower than that. With my fantastic experience playing other AC games, how can I turn down an offer such as this one? The first game in the Ezio Collection, Assassin’s Creed 2, shows a series getting legs beneath it and showing magnificent potential. Developers Ubisoft have given this series the royal treatment throughout its legacy.

Assassin’s Creed 2 follows two stories. One, Desmond Miles. Desmond was kidnapped and forced to live the memories of an ancestor, using a high-tech device in search of magic artifacts. After escaping, he uses another “animus” to go deeper into the memories of his ancestors and beat the evil forces to the punch. The memories he goes into next are those of Ezio Auditore, a Renaissance era Italian in a struggle between orders of Assassins and Templars. Both stories are interesting. The whole lore of these games is so fascinating, the parts influenced by real history and the made up bits.

AC2 is a game with a lot of grand ideas. Some pay out better than others. The story feels like that of a much longer game, in which we get to explore the people a little more intimately. I played over thirty hours, and there is a lot of side activities left to do. The parkour is more like fun platforming than fluid movement. You should always be thinking steps ahead when traversing. One wrong leap can be really unfortunate. This is fine, my bigger concern is the combat. Getting into fights is to be avoided, but far from torturous. Indeed, this is an earlier version of what ended up working great in later games. It is weirdly difficult to retrieve a weapon if you for some reason lose it.

Credit: Assassin’s Creed 2. Screenshot by me. One of the many interesting settings in AC2.

The Nintendo Switch was a wonderful way to play, whether docked or on-the-go. Although, I would recommend this game on whatever platform you prefer. I have yet to play Brotherhood and Revelations, so I can’t speak for the whole collection yet. The Ezio Collection also comes with two short films, Lineage and Embers, which bookend the three games. The remaster is a light one. It looks and runs nice, but the graphics do feel a bit dated as I play AC: Origins on my Xbox Series X. For a game from 2009, I feel like you could do a lot worse. The production value is there. Running around Venice at night during carnival season does prove to be quite a charming setting.

Pulling off a cool stealth section in this game is immensely satisfying. Whether weaving between dancing partners until you reach your target, leaping on a preacher in the middle of a sermon from high above, or however you end up taking out your target. The final kill is worth the buildup. From staging missions, to the meta of the assassination in question. There is always a scene of Ezio sharing the last moments of his target, and this has been a signature of the series. The last mission had me using every last one of my resources, besides the massive stack of cash I had acquired doing side content.

The sound design is on point. Music is sparse, but it is suiting. The environments feel alive. While I did say movement is not super fluid, there is a degree of skill that makes parkour much more enjoyable, and practical. You learn just the way to approach certain obstacles, you know when to exercise caution and slow down a little as you work a certain line, correct button use becomes more natural, these are the kinds of things you learn. You figure out how to engage certain enemies, or utilize certain weapons. Sometimes I felt like I had to cheese my way through, but the game is good at stopping that behavior.

Credit: Assassin’s Creed 2. Screenshot by me. Desmond is no longer alone in the sequel to the hit first game.

After beating AC2, I am excited for Brotherhood. I will start it almost immediately, I honestly doubt I will revisit AC2 anytime soon. Like I said, I am also playing AC: Origins on my Xbox, for one thing. Also, I would rather just move onto the next game than do the only other interesting thing left in AC2, which is collect the Animus Glitches. Fun little puzzles that are hidden in the world that if you find them all, you get some unique lore. The codex is also worth a read, if you skip it often when articles are introduced. Tons of information about landmarks, featuring some real sites and information.

Assassin’s Creed 2 set an amazing stage for the future of the series. With the success of the first game, Ubisoft knew they had something legendary on their hands. It’s clear they didn’t want to let down fans’ anticipations or expectations. The game was a blast, once I got the hang of combat and parkour. If you struggle early, I encourage you to persist. Thirty-some hours well spent. Lore, gameplay and setting are the big three things that I enjoy about it. Hanging out with Leonardo da Vinci and helping each other is neat.

Soon, I will finish Origins on my Xbox, moving onto Odyssey. I’m stoked for my Origins review, as I am finding it extraordinary. It is something to see how this series has evolved by playing games from the earliest, and most modern eras at the same time. They’ve just gotten better for the most part, in my opinion. I am thinking strongly about reviewing the entire series here, as I have started with the Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered review in my Archives. For the price, the Ezio Collection seems to be an unavoidable deal. Brotherhood, then Revelations, coming soon.

Credit: Assassin’s Creed 2. Screenshots by me.

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