OUR LIFE IS MADE BY THE DEATH OF OTHERS
-Leonardo da vinci
Italy in 1476 is spiderweb of political intrigue ,warring families, and corrupt clergy. Even the implied unity of calling the place by a single name a simplification ? violent city-states are in a constant State of upheaval and conflict, both within and without. Assassination banishment, and grisly executions are commonplace .Life can be short and brutal, even at the very top of the social ladder. Beside this harsh world coexists a strange counterpoint.
The western world is waking up from long years of plague,famine,and conquest.
The foundations of modern science ,art ,and Literature are emerging from these same bloody streets, and the epoch that will be known as the Renaissance has begun.
Behind it all ,two forces vie for the hearts and minds of the people ,continuing a conflict that stretches back into history, from the fields of the Crusades 300years earlier to a mysterious future of conspiracy and secrets.
The Assassins and the Templar continue their ceaseless struggle, and one side is about to receive a new combatant.
A change in setting
Renaissance Italy might seem like a strange place to advance the mythology of Assassin’s Creed
”it was basically the switch between the Middle ages and modem times.”says producer Sebastien Puel “It’s a place that was talking about banking and art,and a new way of thinking ,with man at the center of his own universe, changing the way we saw cities in a very short period of time”
For most ,our perception of the time is dominated by iconic images of art and architecture-da Vinci’s Mona Lisa ,Michelangelo’s statue of David,Venice’s Rialto Bridge?
Often Overlooked is the fact that these monumental achievements emerged out of an era of incredible strife.
This tension of opposites drew the team at UbisoftMontreal to take the dramatic leap forward ,abandon a familiar,well-liked setting and start anew.
The clustered city-states of Italy serve as a entirely new game world to wander and explore.The interconnected waterways and canals of Venice make for a stinking backdrop to intrigue and assassination.The architectural marvels of Florence Became yet another obstacle to climb atop and leap across.”One of the main reasons we chose the setting was for the amazing cities.Florence and Venice are two of the most visited places in the world.It’s a fantasy for a lot of people.”Puel tells us.
Unlike in the previous game,these cities are no longer isolated bastions of civilization separated by a wide “kingdom” of gorgeous but mostly empty wilderness.
”There’ll be a lot more missions that go from one place to another.It’s not the feel of three cities,and a place to travel in between.” creative director Patrice Desilets says.”It’s a whole bunch of connected cities, and continuous game play that links them together.”
Individual cities have countryside built around them ,with mission content, story development, and hidden secrets seamlessly connecting the urban to the rural.
Like the historical record of the period, a given city was far more than its buildings and walls ,Places like Florence would extend their military and political might across broad reaches of the surrounding countryside controlling smaller towns and villages that might further the central city’s goals.
There was no Italy in the way we understand it today,but rather a squabbling collection of nobles, church officials , and merchant families vying for land and profit .
Wherever possible ,the team in Montreal has stayed true to this concept ,resulting in a far more dynamic and compelling landscape to explore.
The game opens in 1476 a far cry from the distant crusades of the Holy Land seen in the first game.Player who enjoyed that first outing with Altair might not be surprised by the change up .After all Assassin’s Creed has been presented form the beginning as the story of a family stretched across Centuries, not the individual tale of one man “Altair was only in the middle of this long timeline.”Desilets hints.The frist game opened in a strange futuristic scene,as a man named Desmond was forced to experience the memories of his ancestor Altair,a sort of warrior -monk,during the summer of 1191,As the story came to a close,many questions were left unanswered.Altair was left with a mystery about an ancient artifact he had uncovered,in the furue,Desmond was waking to some of his ancestor’s potential ,detecting the hidden messages left behind on the laboratory walls of his prison in the final scene,players were left to ponder these curiosities in empty lab.While the team is cagey about dealing with specifics, it’s abundantly clear by their silence on the topic that Desmond and his imprisonments is far from forgotten.But is’s through the memories of a new ancestor that real answers emerge.
Gamers who missed the first Assassin’s Creed may be more than a little lost amid the complex mythology .Here are the basics:
Two competing forces have been batting throughout history,The Templar seek to control humanity by hamessing powerful secrets and ancient artifacts.The more egalitarian Assassins hope to share that knowledge with the world,and they’re willing to kill the Templar to make sure that gal is met.
Desmond is a young man who has been captured by the modern-d ay version of the Templar in the year 2012.Forced to recall his Assassin ancestors memories through a machine called Animus,he is still imprisoned at the end of the first game.
Throughout the frist game,Desmond dove through the memoires of Altair,an Assassin in the Holy Land during the 12th century-Altair’s ultimate fate remains unknown.
Blvrring The Line
Ubisoft sent key members of the development team to Italy on a multi-week research trip to chronicle the modern-day architecture and art they are emulating in the game,traveling through Venice ,Florence ,Tuscany,and Rome .In many cases ,the fine workmanship has survived the passage of years.”It’s great ,because we ‘re able to work on our own references. For us,it was about capturing the crowd in Italy- the sound and the feel of the palace.” producer Sebastien Puel says.
“Plus,we took about 10000 pictures .”adds Patrice Desilets. Along with meticulous attention to historical details on the dates of creation for buildings ,bridges ,and statues ,the developers hope to vraft the most realistic representation of Renaissance Italy ever created.
A change in character
Ezio Auditore de Firenze is a nobleman of Florence when we first dive into his memories during the tumultuous year of 1476.He’s a young man with a far different background form his ancestor,Altair.The link between the two is a necessary precursor to Desmond’s ancestral memories,but the actual family ties remain a matter of unrevealed plotline.Whatever the connection,Ezio has grown up in a life of privilege.Like his distant family member,he is mysterious and well-educated with equal skill in swordplay,poetry,and art.Unlike Altair,there is a practiced charm in this new hero;seduction and wit come easily.
The Auditore family is like much of the well-to-do nobility of the time.They have alliances with other Florentine houses.They participate in the endless one-upsmanship of moving up the social ladder.And they have enemies.While Ubisoft refuses to spoil the tale of how Ezio turns from a cultured noble into an assassin,we know that he does end up alone and on a quest for vengeance against the most power-full families of the Renaissance.
Though Ezio bgins the game with a feat deal to learn about the path of the Assassins,he has a wealth of new skills that will set him apart from the first game’s protagonist. With Venice featuring so prominently in the story,the team menmbers are well aware of the riots they’d have on their hands if they didn’t include a swimming component”It’s sort of a geek joke,but since it’s a sequel ,he has to be able to swim,”Desiletes laughs.Form any rooftop,street,or bridge ,Ezio can dive into the water ,traversing the twisting waterways of Venice with the same ease that he might freee-run along its rooftops.Like bales of hay in the frist game,the water can also be used as a hiding place ,so long as Ezio’s Breath holds out.You can even pull unwary guards into a watery grave with new assassination moves.
Ezio also has new options in the more familiar arenas of running and climbing.To further aid the sort of fast-paced chases that made the first game so engaging excellent free0runing paths are now frequently marked with a white cloth.Just as the ledge-side birds highlight an appropriate place to dive into cover,the white sheets now reveal many of the most advantageous avenues to damber and swing your way through cluttered streets and past dangerous obstader.With numerous taller buildings around(many nobles would compete with their fellows by building ever taller homes and businesses),the climbing system has been reworked with a new leap and grab maneuver that allows easy traversal of seemingly sheer vertical surfaces. Once he uses these new abilities to blend in with any crowd he encounters,not just the white-garbed monks of the first game.
Ezio doesn’t live his life in a bubble.The game will feature a notoriety system that governs how enemy soldiers and even the general populace will treat you.As he sows discord and assassinates targets,Ezio’s infamy grows, causing increased suspicion and alarm form the populace.”In a given city ,you can either be incognito or notorious.”Desilets says.”when you’r notorious ,you might be asked to assassinate the witnesses,bribe the people who are talking about you,or get rid of posters of your face in the city.This will get your notoriety down to zero,and the guards won’t be actively seeking you out.
The biggest innovations have been saved for Ezio’s combat capabilities.As before,the game encourages an observation-based system pamies and counters,Unlike Altair ,Ezio can disarm an emery with the tap of a button and then use that weapon against them.On top of that, each of the dozens of weapons have theis own special move.Holding down the attack button will trigger each enhanced attack.Grab a long pike ,and you’ll attack with a wide arc that flings surrounding enemies to the ground.Snatch away a dagger from a lightly armored guard,and you ‘ll stab and filp past him onto a second target,opening up hole in the circle of enemies to alow for a quick escape.Fight with your bare hands,and Ezio will take advantage of any dirty trick to stay alive –an unarmed charged-up attack has him attackers’ eyes.”Since Ezio will not be carrying a weapon at all times, except for his hidden blade and throwing knives,he needs to be able to use his hands more efficiently when fighting”Puel explains “Therefore,Ezio will be able to fight barehanded against enemies anytime in the game and perform various punches,kicks,grabs,and head butts.”Even with all the other options,the hidden blade retains its prominence,this time in the form of an intricate device crafted by Ezio’s friend,Leonardo da Vinci.Ezio now wields two blades,which can used to swiftly take our two targets in one fierce attack.”it’s Assassin’s Creed II;let’s put two blades in.”Desilets tells us with a smile.”If you’re really goods,I’m hopeing that by then you’re mostly fighting with the hidden blades.That’s the goal.At the end ,you’re just a bad-*** assassin,without needing all the weapons.
Faces of the Renaissance
Even more so than in the first game, Assassin’s Credd II is awash in dramatic and memorable characters from the annals of history.
Leonardo do Vinci was a sculptor,scientist,painter,enginerr,and overall genius ,his tumultuous life was fractured by disappointment and images in history,In the game,Leonardo is a close ally of the Auditore family and frien to Ezio.As the adventure progresses,Leonardo becomes to Ezio what Q is to James Bond, crafting items like the hidden blades to further the Assassin’s quest for vengeance.
Machiavelli is best remembered for writing The Prince, a cynical political treatise that encouraged deceit and cunning to defeat one’s enemies. The Florentine civil servant becomes an ally to Ezio later in the game, teaching him tactics – a feature of the game the remains quietly under wraps this early in development.
Catania Sforza ,whose life was filled with true stories of betrayal and revenge,was one of the most fascinating women of Renaissance. In one astounding event ,she and her children were captured after the assassination of her husband. Escaping captivity,she fled to a nearby citadel and climbed to the wall’s battlements.There,threatened with the death of her children if she didn’t return,Caterina lifted her dress to all who could see what lay beneath,and shoured:”I have the instrument to bear more!” This even,and others in the woman’s wild life ,will be included in the game.
It’s hard not to imagine other larger-than-lifer characters of the period not making an appearance. Lorenzo de’Medici was a central figure in politics of the time. He survived an unbelievable assassination attempt that will be recounted in the game, and he becomes on of Ezio’s allies in the aftermath. Given that Medici helped to found the modern banking institution, it raises some interesting questions about what game play features his alliance might introduce. As for other, the period is filled with one colorful character after another. Even in the realm of total speculation, it’s hard not to imagine the involvement of Pope AlexanderVI,who came to power near the same time as the game timeline .History records him as one of the most heinous of the now disgraced church leaders of the period. Time tell if Ubisoft finds him worthy of inclusion.
A Change in Game
After completing Assassin’s Credd,months were spent gathering information from game critics,and more importantly ,the wider fan community.The team wanted to know what worded and what didn’t in order to make informed choices.The result is game that is being shaped to respond to voiced concerns, but without abandoning the core experience that made Assassin’s Creed the fastest selling new game property in history.The number one agreed upon change?More variety.
The first Assassin’s creed had a game play loop that was easy to grasp.Phik up a mission at the Assassin’s bureau, Investigate the tatget,report to the bureau,kill the target,and escape back to the bureau.It was an elegant and simple design that becoming increasingly repetitive as the game progressed.For some players,it was enough to turn them away,Assassin’s Creed II completely abandons that structure..”we thought,let’forget entirely about the idea of having a really strict mission design concept.”Desilets tells us “There’s no preset structure.”Instead,a branching network contacts provides hints and suggestions that move you through cities,cut into the countryside, and through constantly changing objectives.While you’re still trying to track down and isolate individual targets,there are now 16 unique mission types that you’ll encounter along the way.More than that,these missions are rarely transparent repeats of earlier event.In on exmple we were given,Ezio heads to a nearby palace where a noblewoman holds some vital clue.Upon arriving ,she informs hism that she is in grave danger, and he must defend her from assassination as they flee through the streets. Reaching a dock along the Venetian canals ,they escape by boat and Ezio must keep the craft afloat until they reach safety.
Passive mission types like eavesdropping and pick-pocketing have disappeared, replaced by more active endeavors,like tailing a woman through a crowded marketplace or chasing a fleeing man as he seamlessly moves out of the city and into the sprawling countryside.”When you add a narrative component to the mission,it becomes a different experience,”says Desilets.”Thank of how many different things you deliver in GTA-but each time it feels different. So we decided to usd the same approach. But then we ‘re also saying let’s sometimes put two missions back to back.So you start by doing a delivery, and that transforms into a chase, then you end up with a killing mission.We think of it like linked sausages, where one mission is connected to the next.” The current plan calls for a tatal of around 200 missions.Any one of them can be triggered whenever you desire,as you travel back and forth between different contacts, each of whom have their own unique requests.
Mission structure is home to perhaps the most dramatic effort at providing increased variety ,but other samller elements of the game have been fleshed out as well .Diving form a rooftop ,the default hiding place isn’t always some conveniently placed hay bale.A merchant’s pile of wool or cart filled with a local fisherman’s catch will also serve,among other.When preparing for a complex mission filled with guards,carefull plays can now scour the nearby rooftops and streets to take out excess guards ,greatly easing the approach when the time to strike finally comes ,and adding flexibility to how you approach the task.Ezio’S increased combat skill are met by a far broader array of enemy types,each of whom are susceptible to different attacks,and hunt Ezio in their own unique ways.The health system has been adjusted to allow for a more dynamic and participatory experience.Maintaining memory”sync”helos to recharge your health up to a point but grievous injuries requite a trip to one of the many street-side doctors,who can return you to full strength.
Even collectibles have been adjusted in a significant way to address an issue that was fundamentally lacking in the first game. Scattered about the world of Renaissance Italy are any number of hidden objects to uncover, but they now come with concrete ,in game bonuses that will make it worth a player’s time to hunt them down ,”It’s not only flags this time around .Now there’s flags ,plus statues ,plus gold coins, and a bunch of others.”explains Desilets,”And all of them have real rewards attached to them.”
Da Vinci’s Flying Machine
Beyond a new,less stratified approach to mission design, ubisoft is one step further by crafting several unique events that fall outside normal expectations.Certainly one of the most outlandish will be the use of Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine.Sketches of this early glider appeared in the real- life de Vinci notebooks ,but video games have a license to fictionalize to the next logical step.
A influential ally is about to be assassinated in the Ducal Palace,a nearly impenetrable fortress in Florence.To reach it ,Ezio must poilot his friend’s contraption across the city,even as his friends below light fires that help produce an updraft of heat to keep the vehicle aloft.
New Era ,New Enemies
Combat in the first game had the potential to grow tiresome,since most of the enemies fought and moved in the same way.The new game introduces a host of new enemy types,each with unique attitudes and weaknesses.
Three ranks of basic militia share similar with the enemies of the first game .whether they are archers or melee combatants,both gain better abilities and weapons as the game progresses..
New elite enemies dramatically change the playing field.Agile dagger wielders share the same free-running abilities that Ezio utilizes,and they’ll chase him tirelessly across rooftops and jutting beams.Brutish armored troops represent a different challenge;their heavy armor and two-handed swords and axes can be devastating in close combat.Finally ,the paranoid and intelligent halberd wielders are keenly aware of their surroundings ,and will go so far as to probe hiding places with their weapons if they think you’re nearby.
Knowing what not to change
The 240 person collective of developers crafting Assassin’s Creed II knows that many players had a blast with their first game.In light of its success,time second game maintains the bulk of the features that made their earlier release a hit .Movemen,combat ,and interaction with the world are still handled through the innovative marionette control mechanic,where face buttons correspond to body parts ,and triggers help to indicate the degree of internsity ot the action.Like wise ,even as the mission structure has become more nuanced,the game world still freatures familiar options,Players can still rider horses and climb high towers to get a view of the surrounding landscape.More Importantly ,the freedom results in lots of emergent gamepaly as you cause mayhem on unsuspecting soldiers.
Though the setting is new ,historical authenticity us still a cebtrak focus.As the team did last time,they’ve brought on an expert historian from the University of Notre Dame to consult on the project.Some of the astounding events of the period are presented through in game encounters.In one infamous but true event ,the leaders of the Pazzi family tried to assassinate the powerful Lorenzo de’ Medici while he was at Mass on Easter Sunday,In the Midst of communion ,Medici’s brother was stabbed and killed ,but Lorenzo escaped. The Medici and their allies struck back in a bloody and well-documented street war,which ended with the lynching of the failed Pazzi conspirators.Examining tumultuous events like these,it’s not hard to see how Ubisoft has drawn comparisons to modern day Italian mafia ,with its tales of murder and inter-family warfare.The tone of the game begins to take on a whole different feel when concepts of gangster crime families are overlaid on top of the cultures and conflicts of the Renaissance.Ultimately,the goal is to present a genuine vision of Italy in the 15th century ,albeit layered with the fiction of two etenakkt warring factions that have broght their conflict to this new land.
On that point ,the focus on the war between the Assassins and the Templar remains the overarching plotline that guides the story.”The Templar and the Assassins went underground .”Desilets reveals .“You don’t see them anymore,but they’re still there .And they’re still fighting “ Somewhere behind the conflicts of merchant families,city-states,and the papacy lie the secret organizations of the Templar and Assassins,pulling the strings from the very beginning in online forums ,conspiracy theories abounded in the wake of the mysterious images revealed at the end of the first game.Assassin’s Creed II will do nothing if not expand that cult of curiosity by broadening the cast of characters,and making it clear that there are entire generations ,yet undisclosed, that hold more keys to the mystery.
In recent years,Ubisoft Montreal has developed a tradition for innovative risk-taking ub their approach to game design .Assassin’Creed II stands to in a unique position amid that lineup.Embracing the ideas that set the franchise apart from other action/adventure games,it’s cleat that there is no fear of remaining apart from the crowd.At the same time ,the new approach to mission design reveals a willingness to explore some of the more traditionally successful methods that have been used in open world games .The marriage of innovation to more familiar conventions is one of the found amental challenges in creating a video game.If Ubisoft Montreal can strike that delicate balance,games will be ones to reap the reward come this winter.