In many ways, this is just Assassin’s Creed II. The fighting is the same. The moves, the same. The basic assassination techniques, the same. You still have towers to scale, and tombs to raid, and armour to upgrade and paintings to collect. There are still treasure chests left randomly across the map and guards on rooftops who tell you to get down. Even the doctors still go on about lead-based cures for things and how a weekly bleeding is good for you and prevention is the best cure, and bystanders wonder about my wall clambering being illegal or not and commenting that they should do something to stay in shape.
Yet, it’s also very different. For starters, there’s the whole Assassin’s Guild thing. You “save” people from nasty guards, and they pledge to follow you. They then become your apprentices – so you can use them in battle, trigger them like a smart bomb to blanket the guards with arrows, or send them off on missions in far off exotic locations to rough up traders, protect nobelmen, or steal stuff from Templars. Then, like it’s an RPG or something, they gain XP and level up to become more proficient and can take on harder missions. Not that you take part in these missions – they’re all done in the background and you just see the spoils at the end. Strangely, it feels like playing Championship Manager or something, and I am somehow addicted to this part of the game.
Another change is the way you can upgrade and rebuild parts of Rome. OK, so you did the same in Monteriggioni in the previous game, but here it’s essential. You can’t shop without opening shops to shop in. You can’t get at your earned cash from the bank without building a bank. And more than once I’ve been in the situation where I need money, have loads in the bank, but there’s no bank nearby except for ones I’ve not yet restored and I don’t have the money to pay to do that. Gnngh!
Perhaps more important a change to all of these is the introduction of the Borgia Towers. Whereas in ACII you could just climb to high places and synchronise in order to get the map for an area, most of these high places are now protected Borgia towers. Anything in the same region as a tower is under Borgia control, and you’re prevented from renovating buildings nearby until the tower is destroyed. To do that, you have to find and kill the captain of the tower, who is usually hidden or protected. If he sees you, he’ll run – and fail to catch him and you’ve missed your chance until the next guard shift change when you have to try again. Kill him, and you can scale the tower and torch it, releasing the region of it’s Borgia influence and opening it up to rebuilding and stuff. I hated this at first, but now I’m really enjoying the tower parts of the game.
In terms of how far into the game I am, I’ve just assassinated the French captain bloke. It’s maybe a third of the way into the game, I think, but I’ve spent so much time on side things (like the towers) that I would have completed it by now otherwise!
Really enjoying it, although perhaps not quite as much as the last game. I’m not sure yet…