EEven when it comes to talking about your favorite game, it’s impossible to forgive a complacent intro, right? The kind of paragraph a good editor deletes immediately before circling the one below with a red pen and scribbling “this is where you actually start”. But hopefully anyone can try to forgive this one because when it comes to my relationship with the Assassin’s Creed series, there is now just a part of my brain that is made up of fragments of Animus all the time.
Case in point, when I was chatting with a friend recently that I had just followed a few “things in life” on Instagram. I listed the friends, the tattoos, the food, the coffee, and “oh, Assassin’s Creed. “And it’s all Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s fault.
We’re all aging fast, Assassin’s creed 2 released twelve years ago in 2009 and has been thankfully surprised by critics. While the original had technically impressed with its journey to the Crusades via the genetic time travel device the Animus, Altair’s adventure seemed a bit flat. It was an ambitious world, and Eagle plunging into hay carts was breathtaking fun, but assassination missions and – painful memory alert – flag collecting quickly became routine.
Assassin’s creed 2The rapid advance to Renaissance Italy, however, was a game-changer. It was an introduction to the young Florentine nobleman Ezio whose reputation as a ladies’ man was far more interesting than the hooded stoicism of Altaïr. Teach us how to use hiding places while walking away from the guards of a woman’s angry father the next morning the night before? Chase races? Flying machines designed by Leonardo da Vinci? Oh go ahead then …
In tandem with this murderous action smorgasbord, Ezio’s emotional journey is masterful. Except that moment when, you know, he beats the Pope with his bare hands but we won’t talk about it… While thousands of words could be written about the allure of different Italian cities, each with its own unique soundtrack by Jesper Kyd – I know, I wrote them – it’s the story arc of Ezio that uplifts Assassin’s creed 2. As this is reflected constantly and effortlessly in our ever-growing abilities, it means that Ezio’s origin story becomes our own.
This means that whether we witness the death of his family, build a friendship with Leonardo da Vinci, modernize a home away from Florence, or gradually learn the ways of the Order of the Assassins, we were born into this world alongside Ezio. . Literally kicking and screaming if you remember. Don the Order’s traditional hooded costume before learning how to use a hidden blade for the first time is revealing in a way the original just wasn’t.
And those who remember the grim satisfaction of double assassinations might remember that it takes hours to earn that hidden second Da Vinci blade. My first dramatic aerial assassination of two guards protecting a chest was etched in my imagination in a way that has never really left me. Never mind that I’ve done it a thousand times over the decade since – don’t tell my therapist – Ezio and I really deserved this moment.
With Ezio at its heart, the vast sandbox of Renaissance Italy feels like a test of your shared abilities. Exploring wet tombs beneath Venice or reaching new heights with a hard earned climb jump, are endless delightful loops to make the most of new skills and feel like a 15th century Batman. AC2, of course, wasn’t the first game to hone a rich dopamine loop, but it was one in 2009 that delivered an emotional journey shrouded in a beautiful world that told me what games could be. As they ran over the sun-drenched rooftops of Florence, the guards hurled both projectiles and insults.
It is this emotional connection that explains why the destruction of Monteriggioni at the beginning of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood feel like someone kicked you in the teeth. Our progressive construction and modernization of the walled city of AC2 is a real happiness. Taking a look at the list – I challenge you not to hear it with that accent – and improving the mines, the church or the bank is intrinsically linked to our experience of becoming a master assassin. We gain each of these upgrades as Ezio’s star climbs over the decades. The inevitable demolition of everything we had built to redo everything in Fellowship Rome was an agonizing but necessary test for Ezio and our courage.
Ezio’s arc through fraternity and Revelations was elegantly satisfying with a kicker of an emotional conclusion tied to AC1, but we still feel the echoes of AC2 through the franchise now. More recently, there have been more subtle references like the sound of tiles under Kassandra and Alexios’ feet in OdysseyAncient Greece is no different from those of Florence or Venice, but Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is packed with much stronger ties.
The gradual improvement of Ravensthorpe, the presence of the Assassin’s Guild, and the reappearance of social stealth and masked mixing are no accidents. It’s now a full action RPG on an intimidatingly sized map, and luckily no one ever waits with an exclamation mark over their heads, but Ezio’s experiences still resonate softly in through the centuries within the Animus. The reintroduction of composer Jesper Kyd also for the first time since the Ezio trilogy is no coincidence. Head over to Spotify and listen to Silent Ambush for an explanation of why approaching an encampment with your cape on causes an immediate surge of nostalgia.
And hey, it’s not perfect going back to now. Yes, it’s a stealth series that took years to add a crouch button, and you love or hate the magical aliens subplot, but the draw of Assassin’s creed 2 is still powerful for me. I recently loaded up the newly upgraded 60fps version of the Remastered Trilogy on Xbox Series X and it wasn’t the uncomfortable freerun ‘claw’ or my apparent lack of climbing skills that kept me from playing.
I just knew that if I loaded up an incredibly smooth streak again, I would be in Italy for the long haul. Sadly, six hundred years ago, the ax of Eivor was itching for the siege of Paris and I am now on another journey. Honestly, Ezio? I still think about you all the time.
Louise Blain is a freelance writer and presenter who can be found on NME, but also on BBC Radio, Netflix and others. Read the rest of the Remastered series here