While Ubisoft has just unveiled Assassin’s Creed Mirage, a work that smells of a return to the origins, I find myself thinking about the one that will always remain in my eyes, the best work of the franchise and even one of the best games. video: Assassin’s Creed II.
- Ezio and Italy… What more could you ask for?
- The real first Assassin’s Creed?
- 13 years later, still a reference
A story of perspective
This article is a piece of opinion, it is subjective by nature. The author’s opinion is personal and not representative of that of the rest of the JV editorial team.
Ezio and Italy… What more could you ask for?
We all have our own licenses of the heart. Mine is Assassin’s Creed. Of course, nostalgia has something to do with this. It was with the Ubisoft license that I discovered the principle of open worlds and the (certainly sometimes relative) freedom that they entail. The very fact of being able to run on walls in a 3D world and climb great cathedrals and other historical monuments had won me over, despite the unexpected falls. I have rarely enjoyed a game as much as when I climbed the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and I admit it always gives me something. Not even Notre Dame or the pyramids of Egypt could match it. And if it’s so hard to compete with beautiful Florence, it’s because Assassin’s Creed II has a very special place in my little heart, and that goes for many fans of the series.
Everyone certainly has their favorite work, but the one most often cited and recognized as the grand master of license is the first episode of Ezio’s trilogy. And the Italian killer is not there for nothing. Even if you’ve never played Assassin’s Creed, you’ve most likely heard of Ezio Auditore. The Italian has made a name for himself in the world of video games, in particular thanks to his charisma and his vengeful history, but not only. From fiery youth to wise father, Ezio was entitled to an interesting evolution and damn advanced development from Ubisoft. who dedicated three games to him (in the main storyline). Add to these particularly detestable antagonists (what a pleasure to murder the arrogant Vieri de ‘Pazzi or the vile Uberto Alberti) and you have a story that we enjoy living from start to finish. Without forgetting the moments with Desmond, an emblematic character also of the license.
And then there is the time and the place: Florence (and other Italian cities) during the Italian Renaissance. Unlike the Middle East of Assassin’s Creed, the context explored by the second work speaks to Westerners. I still remember my CM2 lessons where we talked about Francesco I and his love for the ideas of the Italian Renaissance, bringing important actors of this period such as Leonardo da Vinci to his court. In general, everyone knows the painter / inventor, at least for Mona Lisaprobably also for La Last Supper, Vitruvian Man or his many ingenious inventions. Inevitably, seeing this historical figure land in a game is pretty fun. Taking full advantage of the historical potential of the era, Ubisoft has given us a game that is both meaningful and intriguing. Exploring the mysteries of the Italian Renaissance, using Leonardo da Vinci’s creations, infiltrating the Vatican Palace … Assassin’s Creed II made us very tempting promises and the result was up to par.
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but there are few games that have given me the exhilarating feeling of traveling as much as Assassin’s Creed II. Even the vast plains of open world the modern ones have failed to produce the same effect on me. Because at the time Assassin’s Creed II was a precursor of its kind. Few games had managed to achieve this level of realism, and even fewer had devoted much of their development to research to make sure it did. Of course it was already like this in the first opus, but the beauty of Florence allowed Ezio’s adventures to stand out from their predecessor and it must be said that the reconstruction works were much more substantial (research, inspections …) Especially since with its reworked formula Assassin’s Creed II has offered us the opportunity to fully enjoy this digital journey, and it inevitably plays a huge role in the memory it has left me and certainly has left many players.
The real first Assassin’s Creed?
Surely you know the Assassin’s Creed principle. Consisting of infiltration-based action and adventure games and parkour, the license tells us about the never-ending conflict between two enemy brotherhoods: the Assassins and the Templars. Everything is done against the backdrop of significant historical periods with a list of characters to be assassinated. Broadly speaking, this is what introduced us to the first license opus, released in 2007. On many points the title was therefore already innovative. The scenery (especially with the unexpected double temporality) is amazing, the trips are pleasant and bring new sensations while the work on the reconstruction is crazy for the time. But then why isn’t he we are talking about today?
Well, because the Assassin’s Creed formula really took shape with Assassin’s Creed II. The latter has certainly picked up on the particularly promising foundations of its predecessor, but has given them another guideline. Less bossy, the title offers more freedom to players who are no longer forced to chain quests one by one. This feeling is accompanied by larger areas to explore, varied side missions, many secrets to discover, different approaches with the groups of characters to be recruited … Yes, it is with Assassin’s Creed II that comes the license to integrate the word freedom into his creed. A point that, in my opinion, is one of the most significant things about this license and is therefore essential for any good Assassin’s Creed.
More, It is with Assassin’s Creed II that Ubisoft will begin to really shape the history of its license, or rather its meta-history. Because in Assassin’s Creed there are different levels of storytelling. On the one hand we have the present with the whole plot concerning Abstergo, the past we live in the role of a murderer, but also an even more distant past with the history of the Isus. It’s scattered sporadically in most Assassin’s Creed games, and you can’t figure it out without taking a serious look at Assassin’s Creed II (and the other games in the Ezio trilogy).
The latter therefore takes on a surprising dimension that we did not really see coming and that at the time completely shocked me. Especially since Ubisoft did things damn well on this one by rewarding the little onlookers with a slideshow of their revisited genesis myth. It’s well done, it’s amazing and most of all it works and it made me want to learn more and really take an interest in this much more complex and rich franchise than it seemed. This very special DNA is therefore Assassin’s Creed II who shaped it for us, for our greatest pleasure.
13 years later, still a reference
Is that enough to give it the title of best Assassin’s Creed game? Well, it has undeniably shaped a unique formula that has been perfected over the years. And if today the license has taken a very different turn (even if we find certain notions such as the feeling of freedom), this old formula still speaks to nostalgics who have long been asking to go back to the origins for the driving license. However, it could objectively be argued that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a much better game than Assassin’s Creed II. On some points, in particular the technical ones, this is the case. But to some, myself included, it sounds like a real aberration. How come ? Well, I have to admit that there is necessarily a part of nostalgia in there, and that’s quite normal.
Assassin’s Creed II is a bit of a symbol of a distant era in which video games were in constant progression and evolution, an era in which wonder did not have the same flavor as today. The title was released 13 years ago. Many of you have surely discovered this as a child, teen or young adult. Perhaps like me, Ezio is the first character you really fell in love with, eager to follow all of his adventures and saddened when they came to an end. Maybe you’ve even discovered the license with Assassin’s Creed II (plus I can only recommend starting there if that’s not your case yet). In short, there are many reasons that can make Assassin’s Creed II a special game for you, many reasons that no one else can match it. And this very special role it has played in the lives of many players is enough to make it worthy of the title of the best game of Assassin’s Creed. And for me, Assassin’s Creed II is also a strong contender for the best game title.
If the video game has been very interventionist for a long time, over time it has learned to leave more freedom to players with open worlds and the so-called sandbox games in particular. Assassin’s Creed II doesn’t invent anything at this level. The open world offered by Ubisoft comes later open world particularly ambitious and is simply part of a particularly strong trend in the early 2000s. But the feeling of freedom that comes with it has something new. From travel to exploration, from graves to feathers, from climbing to side missions, the Italian cities of Assassin’s Creed II are your playground as they rarely were and still are.
Ambitious, Assassin’s Creed II is certainly, both on the sense of freedom, but also on the complexity of its history, on the risks taken, on the reconstitution and on this desire to make video games something that goes beyond simple entertainment (History as a playground) that over the years it has become a real belief for Ubisoft. For all these reasons, it is a must have which is still perfectly discovered today. Isn’t this enough to assign him a seat on the bench of the best video games in history?