But I was running out of options - I wasn't in the mood to take on something heavy like Nier, and I didn't have infinite dollars to go buy whatever struck my fancy (as much as I'd like to go grab Red Dead Redemption, and I will in due time). I had to go back to my own collection, and after all, there had to be a reason that I was so persistent in wanting to try Assassin's Creed. I'd always loved the premise, and how the gameplay looked.
Take #2 with AC2 went much better. When Desmond first dives into the Animus, Ezio Auditore is born in 1459 - the Renaissance period - and then you kind of spend some time in his coming-of-age days. You hang out with his brothers, get to know the beautiful Firenze, his home district in Florence, Italy, and generally end up being an errand boy with a few scuffles here and there. Needless to say, while you learn some of the gameplay aspects, the game starts out a little bit slowly.
This is about where I abandoned Assassin's Creed II for no real rhyme or reason other than my own gaming (and maybe my real) ADD. But when I got the nagging feeling to go back to it, I had no regrets. The story takes an awfully dramatic turn an hour or two into the game when the men in Ezio's family are hanged to death. Between that and Ezio discovering - and inheriting - his father's true profession, is when I became instantly hooked.
That may sound a little shallow, but the game really did take off at that point for me. And I'll have to be honest, 17-year old Ezio comes off as a... I don't want to say goofy, but it's hard to take him seriously. He sure didn't seem the assassin type at first, but then you see how he gets to that point. The rest of the game is spent following him as he goes after anyone involved in the Auditore deaths - and believe me there are a lot of targets.
Assassin's Creed II involves a lot of progression. It is often praised for being much, much improved over the first Assassin's Creed. Ezio moves around Italy - from Tuscany to the rest of Florence to Monteriggioni to Venice to Forli and eventually Rome. You get to see Ezio learn the tricks of the assassin trade, you see him reach the Brotherhood, and you see him AGE (HOLY SHIT IS THAT REAL FACIAL HAIR?) and become a lot less goofy as time wears on.
And this is where Brotherhood often fails.
Here Ezio spends pretty much all his time in Rome post-Monteriggioni invasion as he tries to bring down the Borgias. Whereas AC2 spans 1476 (let's ignore the one-minute sequence where Ezio is actually born) to roughly 1498, ACB goes from about that point to 1503. It's not just about the length of the timespan though, although four years doesn't allow for much story progression either. You don't leave Rome except for the middle of a mission. Not that Rome is an awful place, after all it makes sense when you're targeting the Borgias, one who happens to be the Pope - and it's about historical as cities come. However, it's also not the most interesting, and it often lacks the charm of the familiar Florence, Venice surrounded by water and the small, but lively Tuscany.
As a result, AC2's story advanced much better and was more intriguing, whereas in Brotherhood you really focused on weakening the Borgias, and there just wasn't much room for progression. From the getgo you knew your endgoal was Cesare and/or Rodrigo Borgia while you gained allies in the likes of Machiavelli, Copernicus and fought against the French invasion... once. 2 on the other hand had much more interesting and dramatic pursuits - masquerade, anyone? - and assassination plots.
Don't get me wrong. Brotherhood still has its moments storywise - granted, they mostly happen in the beginning and the end, but for the most part it was not quite the same. If you love the gameplay from 2, it's the same, but Ezio can execute guards right quick if you time it all right. He also gets to recruit others to become assassins, which - for better or for worse - makes things much easier when you square off against 8 or 10 guards at once. Sometimes it makes things TOO easy, but calling other assassins in really isn't required. One thing I loved about AC2 was that Ezio for the most part fought alone, which kind of appealed to the rather stoic person in me.
But it's fun to have them around. What I love about both games - and a lot of the stuff I play - is the micromanagement I get to do. Put more simply, I upgraded the Monteriggioni completely in AC2, bought all the paintings, and bought every weapon, shitty ones included, so they'd all be on display inside the Villa. ACB got my obsessive micromanagement into overdrive since it entails rebuilding all of Rome. Everything from taking down the Borgia towers to restoring all the businesses.. you bet I rebuilt Rome 100%. Needless to say my Brotherhood is pretty awesome. In fact, they're all almost at the level of Assassin.
What else is there to love? ITALY. I am not gonna lie, but I must have fallen in love with Firenze the first time Ezio walked its streets, not to mention everywhere else he travelled. You get an idea of the history and the culture, and you get to hear snippets of one of the most beautiful languages in the world. In convincing Italian accents, no less! (No seriously, has anyone watched The Borgias? They all sound English, with the exception of the French who actually sound French as they should.) Ubisoft really did their homework and it shows.
One last thing. I know people are tired of playing as Ezio. That will end with Revelations. Personally, I'm fully okay with sticking with him for one more game, after all, I've played as the guy literally since his birth. (I also need to turn his slutty ways into some kind of drinking game, but that's besides the point.) For those of you who have only played Brotherhood, it's more than worth it to play AC2 to see Ezio's beginnings and the rest of 15th-century Italy. As for me, I want to get acquainted with Altaïr and how Desmond got into this mess in the first place. After all, *I* like both beginnings and ends.