18 years after the original X-Com: UFO Defense debuted it is being updated, re-imagined, and renamed XCom: Enemy Unknown. The new XCom will be released on October 9. It is surprising that a game would be re-imagined after so long. Would any recent games capture players’ imaginations so well that they would be updated for modern consoles and PCs after nearly 20 years? Could Borderlands, Halo, or Call of Duty do the same? Time will tell, but all of those games are FPSs and we are never hurting for new FPSs. When X-Com came out it was so unique that it basically spawned the turn based tactical shooter genre, but it was more than that. It took a core of turn based tactical game play and added tasty layers of strategy and RPG elements. The relatively complex style combined with familiar alien mythology and symbolism, like the little grey men with probes, to create a truly unique experience. Even today there is nothing quite like X-Com on the market. The big question for the fans of the original is, “Can these yahoos capture and update the X-Com experience?” The big question from everyone else is, “What is the big deal about these X-Com things?” The game play videos here should illustrate what XCom is all about for people new to the series and show old fans that what made X-Com fun is still there.
Sid Meier’s Firaxis studios is developing the new XCom. Not that Sid Meier had much to do with the development but the commercials always bang on about the guy like his mere presence is some kind of seal of excellence. More importantly, the lead designer for XCom: EU is Jake Solomon and he gets what made X-Com so good that people still play it 18 years later. He had a massive three part interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun where he answered fan questions and concerns (parts one, two, and three). That should help convince fans that the spirit of the old X-Com lives on.
The videos are good for showing the tactical game play but they skip over the strategic elements. It is understandable, deep strategy does not go pew pew pew and make alien heads explode. The objective in XCom is to defeat the alien invasion and a council of nations keeps you funded to do just that. It is up to the player to figure out a strategy to keeps those nations happy. Unhappy nations will take their money and run. As nations dip out it can lead to a cascade failure. You will be getting less and less cash and the aliens will keep bringing tougher and tougher troops. Eventually, you could become overtaxed and lose. That is right. If enough nations sign up with the aliens it is game over, man. Fortunately, there are more than enough toys designed to take the aliens down.
A remote controlled toy, XCom style
There are a lot of things to research and each will effect your strategy and tactics. Heck, part of the fun is starting off with pea shooters and teching up to flying, plasma fueled death god, but is more to research than just shiny new guns. As you expand your base, modules that improve your soldiers or aircraft will become available. How you go about getting all of these shiny new things will be an important part of your strategy. What you have available will limit the tactics you team can use.
The RPG elements add another layer to team tactics. All soldiers start out as classless cannon fodder rookies, but if they survive a few missions they will develop into Heavies, Supports, Assaults, or Snipers. After enough of your hapless rookies survive long enough you will be able to mix and match what kind of squad you want. Maybe you want to take four Heavies so you can spam rockets for giggles. Perhaps a team of Supports healing each other will make an invincible team. The best option will probably be a balanced mix, but there is nothing that says you can’t take four Assaults out for a Death Foot Race. All joking aside, which team tactics you prefer will inform your strategy. For example, if you prefer Snipers then researching the best sniper rifles will be a higher priority than getting the newest, shiniest rocket launcher.
Those are some of the core elements of XCom: Enemy Unknown. The tactical, strategic, and role playing bits should combine with the sci-fi setting and recognizable alien mythology to make a relatively unique game. Of course, PC’s already have a game with this mix in the original X-Com but it should be something new for the XBox 360 and PS3. There is more to XCom than what is mentioned here, but the developers are only at the start of their media blitz. More will be revealed in the run up to its October 9 debut. So far they have confirmed that it will at least have a multiplayer mode, destructible environments and a Psionic soldier class. Unfortunately, while researching this article the hype got to me. I already have a preorder in. Fortunately, it looks like these Firaxis yahoos have crafted a fun game.
I’ve spent most of my gaming time this last month in a single game, Mass Effect 3 – the final in the Mass Effect trilogy centered on Commander Shepard. The first Mass Effect game had you delay a galaxy wide “harvesting” by sentient synthetic lifeforms, Reapers, that cull the advanced civilizations of the galaxy every 50,000 years. The second game had you joining forces with a terrorist organization, Cerberus, (because they’re the only ones that admitted what was happening) to stop the Collectors, a race being controlled by Reapers, that were harvesting human colonies. In the final Mass Effect game, the Reapers have arrived in the galaxy and have begun their galaxy wide purging of civilization. You barely escape Earth and head off to the center of galactic government, The Citadel, in hopes of gathering together different races to fight together against this common foe.
The writing staff for this game must have put in some crazy overtime to get the dialog this good. Every character comes off much more personal than the shallow characters in previous games. You can tell that Shepard and some of these people have been through some serious, hard fought battles together and now they have this unbreakable bond. One of my favorite parts of the game is when Garrus Vakarian, the Turian who has been with you through each of the games, asks you to do him a favor. He takes you up to some off-limits area of the Citadel to finally answer a question once and for all – who is the better shot, him or you. You take turns throwing targets and shooting them in the air. The camaraderie that Bioware establishes between you and your squadmates, both current and former, in this game is awesome; it’s something I’ve never really seen done this well in any game prior.
The way Bioware took and wove together all the choices you’ve made throughout the first two games is a thing of beauty. Sometimes the people you meet can be fully recruited to join your team and be with you throughout the game. There are others where it’s just a simple conversation. I played a character that I had progressed since the first game and was honestly surprised how many choices of mine influenced the gameplay. It didn’t really hit me until I tried to play a vanilla, start-from-scratch character in ME3. It was just too bland. This wasn’t my Shepard. That level of influence that you can wield over the course of three games with your character really does build up a personal relationship. You end up actually caring about your character. That is something I can really appreciate from a designer standpoint.
As a software developer though, I find a lot of the Mass Effect games to be straight up predictable. The first game consisted mainly of 4-5 main story missions with a few dozen side missions used to collect stuff and build up experience. The second game was a series of 10-12 recruitment missions followed by 10-12 favor missions (where you did the character you recruited a favor), and then a single final mission. So long as you did them all, these games turned out just fine. Bioware marketed Mass Effect 2 as this massive suicide mission game where you and your crew may not survive. The problem I had with it is that there wasn’t any chance to it. So long as you sat down and paid your dues by playing each of the character’s side missions, the suicide mission was a piece of cake and no one died. They could have introduced a bit of chance into the game and made it so that bad things happen, no matter how much you tried or prepared beforehand. I was hoping for something of that in Mass Effect 3.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any randomness in my Mass Effect 3 game. As a friend of mine stated to me, Mass Effect 3 is just a bunch of fetch quests. You’re supposed to be out recruiting a massive army to go fight the Reapers and rescue Earth. You’d think the rest of the galaxy would actually comprehend the scale of what needs to happen. Instead, people want to dither about and will only commit to help you if you do them a favor first. Then there are the side missions in this game. At least they made it so that you’re not spending hours scanning planets looking for minerals like you did in Mass Effect 2, but they didn’t exactly replace that with something more fun to play. Instead, you get to go talk to people on the Citadel (or just eavesdrop on their conversations) to find out what they could use or need. You then get in your super stealthy space ship and go cruise around the galaxy looking for trinkets and then delivering them back to the people. Somehow, delivering a small item (ex. dog tags, a book, an illegal weapon) to some no-name person on the Citadel helps you build up your massive army forces to fight against the Reapers. The game really boils down to a bunch of fetch quests. A friend of mine said the other day that they should just repaint the Normandy (your ship) with the UPS logo and give you a brown shirt and shorts to wear because all you really are in this game is a delivery person. When I was in the middle of my umpteenth fetch quest, wandering around the Citadel trying to find the person who needed the latest crap I found, I found it hard to disagree with him.
So you play the game, you do your fetch quests, you kiss ass to every race you can think of and beg them to join your fight – you’d think that would be enough. It probably isn’t. Bioware decided with this game to tie in their new multiplayer mode such that it affects the possible outcomes of your single player games. As you do all your single player missions, you collect war assets, essentially a measure of how strong your side is against the Reapers. Even if you do everything you can in the single player game alone, it may or may not be enough, depending on how much of it is available to you based on previous decisions in past games. Don’t worry though, Bioware lets you go play multiplayer matches (essentially a knock off of Gears of War 3′s horde mode) in order to build up a multiplier score, Galactic Readiness Rating, that gets applied to your war assets. Through playing a few hours of multiplayer, you can essentially double the effective rating of your war assets in your single player game. You can even send your maxed out level multiplayer characters over to your single player game as more war assets. If ME3′s multiplayer wasn’t actually fun to play I might complain about it a bit more, but it’s still a gimmick, one that probably didn’t need to be included. I don’t need my single player gameplay to depend on multiplayer in order for me to be motivated to play it. Just make the multiplayer fun to play (which it fortunately is) and people will play it.
As I said, the new multiplayer mode is definitely fun to play. I’ve already put more hours into playing it than playing the single player campaign. I wondered when I first heard that ME3 would have multiplayer how they would do it. The basics are that you get to create multiple character classes based off of the six class types in the single player game – Soldier (full weapon proficiency), Adept (full biotic proficiency), Engineer (full tech proficiency), Infiltrator (part tech, part soldier), Vanguard (part soldier, part biotic), and Sentinel (part biotic, part tech). They got rid of the single player power selection popup menu, mainly because it simply wouldn’t work in multiplayer. You can’t pause a multiplayer game to select from multiple available powers. Instead, they give you various combinations of powers based on the race of the character you create. Human Engineers have different powers available to them than do Quarian Engineers. Each character has three powers available, each mapped to a specific button on the controller.
The actual multiplayer gameplay is a basic copy of Gears of War’s Horde mode. After the success of the first horde mode gametype in Gears of War 2, many other games have implemented it (ex. Halo ODST – Firefight). That’s not really a problem, becuase it’s damn fun to play. In ME3, you have various maps to select from to play on and then you face off against 10 waves of enemies; either Cerberus, Geth or Reapers. Each enemy type has advantages and disadvantages that can be countered by playing with different character types. The Geth, for example, are very susceptible to Engineers and Sentinels with their tech powers. As you play and level up, you earn both experience and credits. Credits can be used to purchase packages of random items to help you. The higher costing packages give you better chances at getting rare items. Packages contain game consumables (med packs, rockets, weapon mods), as well as new weapons to use and character unlocks. The more you play, the more credits you earn, the more packs you can buy, the better weapons you get….which makes you just want to play more. The wide range of play styles you can get with the six different character classes helps keep this pretty basic multiplayer mode fresh. If you get tired of shooting a sniper rifle, switch to a biotic Adept and throw enemies around the map, or be an Engineer and hack enemies to fight for you. It really ends up being a lot of fun to play. While I was apprehensive at first about this multiplayer mode, Bioware nailed it on the first try. I look forward to seeing how they improve it through DLC.
When it comes to game mechanics, Bioware took a step back in this game towards what they had in the first game. Mass Effect 2 took a lot of the RPG elements of the first game out and made it feel a lot more like a modern shooter game. Mass Effect 3 didn’t go back to the full customization level you had in the first game, but found, what I think, is a happy medium in between. This game is built on the Unreal Engine 3, the same graphics engine that was used in Gears of War 3, so the feel of the gameplay will be familiar to those that have played Gears 3. Mass Effect 3 is a bit tighter on getting into cover, requiring players to be closer to cover to initiate it. The game also doesn’t let you get out of cover as easy as you could in Gears 3. That’s one thing I think (I hope) could be tweaked through future game patches.
This game is not completely free of technological problems. During my game play I encountered several bugs that kept happening throughout the game.
Characters not rendered – This happens primarily during cut scenes. One or more characters simply don’t get rendered and you have dialog sequences with people that just aren’t there. The scene will show where they should be, and you’ll still hear the audio and can converse with them, but it just looks like you’re talking to a wall.
Shepard’s eyes – This one really bugs me, mainly because it just looks creepy. In various scenes, Shepard will be looking directly at something or someone, but the character’s eyes will be looking up a bit too far, almost rolled back in the sockets, leaving just the lower whites of the eyes showing.
Head control – For some reason, I will be in a dialog sequence and one of the characters involved thinks there’s something way more interesting to look at over on the far left or right of me. The person will have the whole conversation staring off to one side.
Impossible to finish side quests – I wish the game would simply mark them as impossible to finish instead of leaving quests mixed in with all the others I have yet to finish. Sometimes I’ve played the game to a point where they’re impossible to finish, such as finding the dogtags on Benning. I’d like to see this one patched.
Admiral Hackett available on vid com – The game will inform you via Specialist Traynor that Admiral Hackett is available to talk to, usually after finishing a mission. The problem is that this doesn’t indicate that any new dialog options are open to you. If the game is going to direct me to go talk to him, it should give me something new to talk about.
Shepard armor and clothing configuration – There seems to be a loading issue or memory issue when trying to configure clothing or armor using the interface down in the Shuttle Bay. I’ve had this bug come up on multiple occasions, but not every time. In the Shuttle Bay, the game will let you change configurations, but the preview images of what you’re changing never updates. In the bottom right corner of the screen is a constant “Loading…” message. When I leave and go use the configuration panel up in your cabin, it works fine.
Game Ending Controversy
This is something I can understand, yet don’t really agree with. The first two Mass Effect games presented fairly straightforward stories. As a player, Bioware told you what you were fighting towards and in the end, that is what you got. In ME1, you fought against a rogue Spectre, Saren, and a Reaper, Sovereign. You had to stop them from unleashing the rest of the Reapers upon the galaxy. You had a big gun fight in the end and you destroyed them both. It was exactly what you thought would happen. In ME2, you knew you had to stop the Collectors. You knew you had to go through the Omega-4 relay to their home and fight them there. There were a few surprises, such as finding out the Collectors were really former Protheans and were being controlled by Reapers, but in the end you still destroyed the Collectors. You knew that was what you were fighting towards and that is what Bioware delivered.
With this game, Bioware has been building up that you are fighting to destroy the Reapers and save the galaxy. You went to the Citadel to recruit an armada to go back to Earth and destroy them there. That was your motivation behind doing a crap ton of fetch quests, walking all over the Citadel, down every hallway, talking with every stupid person. You were going to make damn sure you were ready for this massive battle to destroy a fleet of Reapers.
Then Bioware went and did what they hadn’t done in previous games. They changed things on you. The ending you got wasn’t the ending you expected. It wasn’t the ending they alluded to you getting. They pulled the rug out from under you to reveal something completely different. Now, it’s not that the ending the gave you was necessarily a bad ending. It just wasn’t what you expected.
That trickery is what has irritated many so-called fans of Mass Effect. There has been letter writing campaigns, fund-raisers, internet forum ranting, and even a lawsuit filed against Bioware all over this ending to a v-i-d-e-o–g-a-m-e. I swear, the people on the internet continually surprise me to what new level of absurdity and stupidity they can fall to. Personally, I think Bioware just wasn’t literal enough in the ending of the game for most people to actually ‘get it’. I may be wrong on this, but I interpreted the ending as not really being an ending at all.
The end of the game has you back on Earth and fighting to get to what is essentially a grav lift in the center of London that will take you up to the Citadel, which now hovers in orbit above London (yeah, I wish they had a massive cut scene showing the Reapers bringing it there). You have to fight your way through tons of Reapers, only to get blown back and thrown down unconscious right before reaching it.
You apparently wake up and stagger your way to the beam, make your way up to the Citadel, only to find a control room where you are met by the Cerberus leader, the Illusive Man. He’s hell bent on controlling the reapers, having implanted himself with Reaper tech. Admiral Anderson is with you, pushing you towards destroying the Reapers. In the end, both of them lie dead on the floor and you get whisked away on a flying platform to talk to a ghostly image of a little boy that claims to be an artificial intelligence that lives on the Citadel and is actually what is controlling the Reapers. Your massive weapon you built to destroy the Reapers is actually a big hardware mod to the Citadel that somehow gives this AI the ability to think outside the box. He presents you with three choices. You can do as the Illusive Man wanted and try and control the Reapers, but you’re guaranteed to die in the process and be merged with the AI on the Citadel. You can do as Anderson wanted and destroy all synthetic life in the galaxy. This includes Reapers, Geth, EDI and even the tiny implants within yourself, possibly killing you too. All of it will be destroyed, leaving organic life alone. Then you are presented with a third option. You can literally combine all organic and synthetic life together into a new type of lifeform. But you die in this option too. Oh, and all options also result in the total destruction of all the mass relays, the technology that makes galactic travel even possible.
No matter what option you pick, the game shows cut scenes of the relays getting destroyed and the Normandy crew running for their lives and crash landing on some alien planet. Depending on the choice you make, different people exit the crashed Normandy. Then the end game credits roll. If you chose to destroy the Reapers, at the end of the cut scenes is a short clip of the body of Commander Shepard laying on the ground in a pile of rock and rubble, taking a breath.
Now, my theory is that when you were blown back unconscious in London, from there on out the end of the game takes place in your head, as a dream induced by the Reapers attempting to stop you. They’ve tried force, but you’ve killed them. Now they’re trying, in effect, cyber warfare. They’re trying to hack, well, …you. If you resolve to destroy the Reapers, then their attempts to hack you fail and you break free from their virtual world, thus the cut scene of you taking a breath, back in London, on the ground where you fell. The rest of the outcomes mean that their hack of you succeeded and they win.
I may be wrong in my interpretation of the endings, but that would explain a lot of plot holes in the final story, especially since Bioware isn’t really a game studio known for glaring plot holes in their stories. If I took people with me in my party to Earth, how did those same people end up on the Normandy in the final scene? If I get knocked back to the ground, dressed in full armor, why do I wake up in my civilian clothes, sans armor?
Either way, whether I’m right or wrong, Bioware made me think. That’s something to be commended on, but I can still understand the frustration of gamers who didn’t really get the ending that Bioware insinuated they would get throughout the whole game.
In the end, Bioware made a great game. Every game has it’s downsides and every game has things they could have done better, but Bioware has put out a superb game in Mass Effect 3. This really is something that every gamer should at least try out. This truly is a work of art if ever a video game qualified as art. I would easily qualify the Mass Effect series of games as the absolute best games I’ve ever played. The story is compelling, the characters are well designed, and the gameplay is fun. This is a series that I will replay many times over. Well done, Bioware.
This game is easily my favorite in the series (thus far). The storyline felt much more personal than any of the previous games, due in large part to the revelations concerning each of the main characters (Ezio, Altaïr, and Desmond). My only real criticism of this game is that Ubisoft switched out the voice actor for Altaïr. I really preferred the voice of Philip Shahbaz over Cas Anvar. This game had a more complex storyline than previous games which led me to become more engrossed in it. Revelations pretty much guaranteed my pre-order for Assassin’s Creed III later this year.
At the end of the previous game, the modern day protagonist, Desmond, was unconscious after being taken control of and being forced to stab Lucy. You wake up in this game on an island in a dream-like world. It turns out he’s stuck in the Animus (machine used to experience past ancestors’ memories) and because of his extended use of the Animus, his mind is losing its sense of identity, unable to tell where Desmond ends and his ancestors’ memories being. A previous Abstergo test subject, Subject 16, who died in the real world is also still stuck in the Animus, now able to communicate with Desmond. He tells Desmond that he needs to continue to live out the experiences of his ancestors in the hope that when he completes their memories that his mind will be able to then distinguish the difference.
Desmond jumps into the memories of Ezio Auditore, the Italian master assassin from the Renaissance. Ezio is at Masyaf, the former stronghold of the assassins, looking for the library of Altaïr in hopes of finding the real purpose of the Assassin’s in their struggle against Templars. He is able to locate the library door, but doesn’t have the required keys to open it; Altaïr having hidden the keys away centuries before. Ezio journeys to Constantinople where he hopes to find the keys. The game puts you in the middle of the struggle between the new Sultan and the remaining Ottoman resistance in the city. Similar to Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and the Borgia in Rome, you work to free Constantinople from Ottoman/Templar influence by reclaiming Assassin dens throughout the city. In Ezio’s search efforts to find the Masyaf keys, he enlists the help of a young Italian bookshop owner in the city, Sofia Sartor. The previous games laid out the heartbreak that Ezio has suffered throughout his life and this game was a nice change of pace to give the character a little happiness.
Periodically throughout the game, you can exit the memories of Ezio and then, playing as Desmond, are able to delve into a somewhat self reflection of Desmond’s own memories, revealing much about his life prior to him becoming a bartender in New York City and getting kidnapped by Abstergo Industries and being forced to relive his ancestor’s memories. The gameplay in these segments can be a bit frustrating, but they’re still pretty simple and can be figured out fairly quickly. In the end, Desmond finally comes to the realization that he is an assassin and has always been one, now finally accepting the role.
As Ezio finds the Masyaf keys, the keys trigger a memory experience similar to Desmond/Ezio, allowing Ezio to relive the memories of Altaïr at various points in his life. The memories lay out what happened to Altaïr from the end of the first Assassin’s Creed game until his death. Ezio also comes to the realization that all of these details that he is finding are not actually meant for him. Recalling the events at the end of Assassin’s Creed II, Ezio realizes that he is merely a conduit to pass these details and messages on to someone named Desmond. He doesn’t understand the mechanics of how the message is being relayed but is aware enough to recognize it happening. The game ends with a revelation as to where a final vault left by the First Civilization of people can be found, followed by Desmond finally waking up from the Animus, surrounded by other assassins (including his father).
This game really solidified my opinion of the series. Revelations really was a great piece of storytelling and gameplay. I would easily recommend this game to anyone, but I would hope you would play the previous games in the series first.
At the end of Assassin’s Creed II, there was some big reveals with regard to the artifacts that the Templars are chasing down. This tangent moves this series into the realm of science fiction and not just historical fiction. The end of the previous game had you fighting with the Pope, Rodrigo Borgia; each of you armed with an ancient artifact. Ezio had the “Apple of Eden” and Borgia had the Papal Staff. Escaping Ezio, Borgia was able to take the artifacts to a hidden vault inside St. Peter’s Basilica, but was unable to open it. Once Ezio found him, fought him, and defeated him (sparing his life), Ezio approached the vault to have it open before him, apparently recognizing his DNA. Inside, an ancient computer hologram greeted him, in the form of someone named Minerva, and proceeded to lay out the history behind the artifacts for Ezio.
Apparently, humans on Earth were engineered from apes by a more advanced, alien race to be their workforce, their slaves. These artifacts were tools of this race, known as the First Civilization, that they used to control the human race. Over time, the alien race either died out or mingled with humans. Some humans inherited a trait that gave them a natural immunity to those controlling artifacts. At some point, war broke out between the human slaves and the First Civilization. During this war, some artifacts were stolen by humans Adam and Eve. Because of the war, the First Civilization failed to prepare for a natural disaster (solar flare). That disaster ended up wiping out most all of the First Civilization and most humans as well.
After telling all of this to Ezio, Minerva turns directly to the game’s “camera” and speaks directly to Desmond, who is reliving these memories through the Animus. After the recorded message ended, Ezio comes out of St Peter’s Basilica to find his uncle Mario waiting for him. Together, they climb to the rooftops and escape Rome. Near a river, Ezio contemplates discarding the “Apple of Eden” into the river, just to be rid of it. In the end, he hands it over to his uncle for safe keeping.
At this point, Desmond awakens from the Animus to find that Abstergo has located their hidden warehouse. He fights with Lucy to fend off the Templar attackers and they all narrowly escape. The van opens up later to reveal that they have traveled to Italy, to the fortress Monteriggioni, the old home of Mario Auditore, Ezio’s uncle. They setup the animus and Desmond goes back into Ezio’s memories.
Back in the Renaissance, Ezio is back at Monteriggioni when the fortress is under attack by Cesare Borgia, son of Rodrigo Borgia, and head of the Papal armies. In the battle, Mario is killed and the Apple of Eden falls into the hands of Cesare. Ezio is wounded in the battle, but helps his family and townsfolk escape. After making his way to Rome, Ezio works to break down the Borgia influence in Rome and to build up the brotherhood of assassins, also recovering the “Apple of Eden”. Through reliving Ezio’s memories, Desmond learns the location of where Ezio hid the Apple away, located in a vault beneath the Colosseum in Rome. Back in modern times, Desmond and the gang travel to Rome and enter the vault, this time encountering another hologram of the First Civilization; this time of a person named Juno. Juno takes control of Desmond and forces him to stab Lucy Stillman, after which both fall to the ground unconscious. Game over.
While the game ends in quite a cliffhanger and leaves you asking many questions, overall it was still a great game. The game play did start to get a bit repetitive with the pattern of tearing down Borgia towers in Rome getting a bit old. Also, the goals to achieve “100% Synchronization” (where Desmond does essentially exactly what Ezio did) started to get really outrageous, especially the final fight once you obtained the Apple of Eden.
This game also introduces a multiplayer mode for the first time in this series. Players get to play essentially as Templars that are training to find assassins. You get to use the animus machines to go back to the Renaissance era and play as teams of assassins, hunting each other. While it can be entertaining, the multiplayer simply doesn’t have the online population to sustain it. Finding matches takes extraordinarily long amounts of time and usually isn’t worth the effort.
The sequel picks up right where the first game left off. At the end of Assassin’s Creed, you’ve played through the memories of Altaïr ibn La’Ahad, an ancestor of NYC bartender Desmond Miles. The Abstergo Corporation kidnapped Desmond and forced him to use the Animus machine to relive the memories of a crusade-era assassin. Abstergo was looking for a map to locations of other ancient artifacts that allow them to control the minds of others. In the final memory you see of Altaïr, he uses the “Apple of Eden” to display a world map with points highlighted, implying locations of other artifacts. You also learn that the ancient war between Templars and Assassin’s has been ongoing. The Abstergo Corporation is a front for modern day Templars and they are using Desmond’s ancestral knowledge in their war against the Assassins.
Assassin’s Creed II picks up in the Abstergo lab where the scientist in charge gets orders to have Desmond killed. His assistant, Lucy Stillman, is actually an undercover assassin. Before the order to eliminate Desmond is carried out, Lucy engineers a daring escape from the building for her and Desmond. During the escape, you find that Desmond has actually learned some of the abilities that his assassin ancestor had, by virtue of reliving the experiences in the Animus. Once you’re safe in a secret warehouse somewhere, Desmond learns that the assassins want to help him learn more skills. They have their own, upgraded version of an Animus, which they use to let Desmond start reliving the experiences of another assassin ancestor. This time, you get to see the life of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young man living in Florence, Italy in the late fifteenth century. They start Desmond in memories before Ezio ever became an assassin, with the hopes that as Ezio learned to be an assassin, Desmond would as well.
You start off in Ezio’s life in his late teens, when his family is betrayed by those they thought as friends. Ezio witnesses his father and brothers hanged in the city square. Ezio flees with his remaining family to his uncle’s estate, where he learns more of his family’s heritage as assassins. He trains with his uncle and works over the next few years to take down the templar behind it all, Rodrigo Borgia, as well as intercepting the ancient “Apple of Eden” artifact that Borgia was looking to acquire. The finale of the game has you going to the Vatican, where Rodrigo Borgia is now Pope, and fighting with him. The end game scene reveals more regarding these artifacts.
This game was much more cinematic than the first game in the series, focusing more on telling Ezio’s story. The changing locations and story helped this game feel much less repetitive than the first game did. You even get to meet Leonardo da Vinci in this game and he uses his genius to help engineer some new tools for you to use in your assassinations. Overall, this was a great game and really pulls you into the story of the series. Well worth the time to play.