I bought ACII during Amazonâ€™s Thanksgiving sale (fashionably late as usual) and put some playtime into it this past weekend, so I thought Iâ€™d pen down some thoughts about what I think it does (and doesnâ€™t) do better than the first game.
First off, the mission design in ACII just seems way better. Itâ€™s a bit more linear, to be sure, but ACIâ€™s attempt at nonlinearity was only a thinly-disguised mechanism to pad out the game with more boring shit. There are a few optional missions as opposed to the ten billion there were in ACI, and the game is better for it, I think.
That said, I liked the open-ended approach ACI gave you to planning the actual assassination and escape, and this doesnâ€™t seem to have carried over. I could be wrong â€“ Iâ€™m only a few missions in â€“ but so far the assassination missions havenâ€™t really lived up to the previous game.
Another thing thatâ€™s sort of confusing is the whole stronghold management mini-game. Iâ€™m not sure what role itâ€™s supposed to serve beyond getting you discounts at the store, but I guess Iâ€™ll find out once I actually start sinking some money into the thing.
I was hoping this would have changed more, but it didnâ€™t really change enough for my liking. The combat is still pretty much ruled by counter killing, although it seems like you need to input the counter a bit earlier than you had to in ACI, and it seems to have fewer active frames, both of which are welcome changes. Tougher enemies also seem to start showing up earlier (I already ran into one enemy type whose attack is too fast for my counter).
So Iâ€™m still iffy on the combat. However, there are also far fewer times when youâ€™re forced into combat (unlike the â€˜save the townspeopleâ€™ missions from ACI) so on the whole Iâ€™d say combat has gotten less annoying.
The free-running mechanics of ACI are still in place. However it seems to be harder to cause a commotion in this game than it was in ACI. Instead, you have a notoriety gauge that increases as you do tasks that make you, well, notorious (like assassinating people, causing a commotion in town or starting fights). Until the gauge is completely filled, running around on the streets below wonâ€™t cause guards to become aggressive (Rooftop guards are as aggressive as ever). This makes it easier to get around, but it also removes a lot of the challenge of moving around undetected at ground level that ACI presented. You can get away with a lot more in ACII before you get in trouble, and I think thatâ€™s a step down.
So overall so far Iâ€™m not quite sure if this is quite as big an improvement as I was promised. Itâ€™s not utterly boring me like ACI was, though, so Iâ€™m going to keep playing!
(And yes, I know I promised another Comparison Theatre entry â€“ itâ€™s coming)