Assassin’s Creed 2: developer interview

How did we do it? How did we get a world exclusive interview with Assassin’s Creed 2 developers Ubisoft Montreal for day one of Critical Gamer? Well, we’ve got an Animus. We stole a blood sample from one of the team, and injected it into the tea boy so we could send him back in time a couple of weeks. Taking control of one of the programmers, he feigned amnesia and asked a list of questions we gave him. Sorry to say, he didn’t survive the experience. We’re all very sad.

We have to make our own tea now.

CG: What criticisms of the original have you taken on board, and what have you done to address them?

UM: Our main focus is to bring diversity and depth to the gameplay: more variety in missions and objectives, more weapons, more diverse assassinations and a deep character progression. As you probably saw in the E3 demo, alongside experiencing navigation in the new breathtaking settings that XV century Italy has to offer, the player will reach a new level of immersion: we improved the crowd interaction and the hidden blade upgrades made by Leonardo, the new weapons and combos Ezio uses, the new guard archetypes, all adding more strategic layers to the combat. The various new types of gameplay like the secret locations will break and vary the flow of the game and add intense “WOW” moments. We also added the economic system which rewards the player and adds a new layer to the game. We really want to make your experience evolve through the game as you follow Ezio’s progression.

CG: Will there be more missions, and more varied missions, than the original?

UM: The game structure and the mission system was the most central element for us to improve. We are redefining the mission game play structure to give gamers a more enjoyable & rewarding experience. Here are the three major points we will modify:

1) The variety/number of available missions

2) The number of mission givers

3) How the story and the missions unfold to the player

We are now telling a story in a way that is intended to be very unpredictable. There is no more ‘X assassinations’ to perform but a story that develops through a great amount of mission givers. Some will give you an assassination mission, others an intimidation or information-gathering mission etc… There is no limit now to the types of challenges we can give to players. We are very careful on creating a lot of variation in the types of gameplay and pace we are proposing. But we also want the player to have a real freedom and opportunity to explore and ‘use’ the world we have created, at his own pace. Cities are now filled with a great amount of missions that the player can do if he chooses so: for instance, you can now decide to get rid of witnesses if you feel you are getting too famous after a not-so-stealthy assassination, or help thieves pursued by guards. Each of these tasks are optional, but will bring you interesting rewards if you accept to fulfill them.

CG: How will the combat differ from the first Assassin’s Creed?

UM: One hidden blade is fun but two is better. This time, Ezio will have one hidden blade on each arm. The main hidden blade will be on his left arm and the secondary hidden blade on his right arm. Imagine all the possibilities in new assassination moves, counters and upgrades using two hidden blades. Finally, we added a lot of new assassination moves – Ezio is able to assassinate, with a specific move, from virtually anywhere in the city: from roofs, hiding spots, water, ledges etc …

Weapons can be separated in 4 various types: Swords, daggers, blunt weapons (maces and warhammers) and two-handed weapons (axes and swords). Each type of weapon has their own set of unique animations and let me tell you that there are a lot of animations in total. Spears and axes can’t be countered with a dagger/sword. The player either needs to get their hands on that type of weapon, change tactics against them (use the counter-Dodge for example), or fight wisely and wait for a good opening using his dagger/sword. Also, each type of weapon has its own unique custom attack. For example, you can do a 360 degrees swipe with a halberd or you can stun enemies using your axe. Each type of weapon has its own speed of attack and damage depending on its rank. Players will discover better weapons of each type as they go through the game. A dagger is lighter to wield but is also less powerful and less effective against multiple enemies. On the other hand, a halberd can be very effective against multiple enemies but maybe not the best choice against an agile guard using his dagger.

Our fight team is working very hard making the fights realistic, brutal so that players will really perceive Ezio’s harsh past and his thirst for vengeance through every kill. When fighting with a halberd against multiple enemies, you might impale an enemy and in the fire of action, you won’t be able to take out your halberd from his chest because it’ll be stuck. You will have to leave your weapon in him and find another one and pick up your sword, dagger or fight with your double hidden blades… This situation might happen to you when fighting with heavier weapons and this shows how we are trying to be more realistic and engaging in our fight system. We want every animation to give the same chill to the player every time they see it and there are a lot of animations! The numbers of animations are far superior in the second title of Assassin’s Creed. Since we have many more types of weapons, we need to produce all the unique animations for each of them. Ezio won’t have to carry them all the time: he will now be able to disarm his enemies and leave his weapons behind. Since Ezio will not be carrying a weapon at all times apart from his hidden blade and throwing knives, he needs to be able to use his hands more efficiently when fighting. Therefore, Ezio will be able to fight using his bare hands against enemies any time in the game and perform various punches, kicks, grab movements, headbutts…

These are just but a few of the new skills Ezio brings to the table; he has many more tricks up his sleeve…

CG: Will Desmond have a more active role this time?

UM: [The] Assassin’s Creed story spans over a millennium and that will allow players to experience a wide range of historical pivotal moments. The present is a key element as it is the overarching story between the games. There will be more action in the sequences that take place during the present in Assassin’s Creed II and the story will move forward as the player will get answers to his questions and make more links between what Desmond learns from the past with his ancestors’ memories and the present…

CG: Will there be a Day/Night cycle?

UM: During the night, there will be less crowds in the streets and therefore less chance to blend into groups of crowds to avoid being spotted by guards. Therefore, players will have to be doubly careful to stay undetected by guards. Also, the night and day cycle adds a lot to the ambiance of the entire game and makes the world more alive and vibrant. Furthermore, the night and day system adds a lot to the general setting of missions and helps to give a sense of progression and time to the events that are happening in the game. For example, two consecutive missions might get the player to do the following:

Mission 1: During the day, clear out guards in various key places to prepare bonfires before lighting them.

Mission 2: The following night, use the flying machine and the hot air the lit bonfires provide to infiltrate an impenetrable fortress.

CG: Why did you choose for the game to be set during 15th Century Italy?

UM: When we defined the Assassin’s Creed franchise, we knew we wanted to talk about pivotal periods in history: the moments where everything changes, that define the world in which we are living today. That was exactly the case with the first Crusade: this period defined the balance of power between Civilization and Religion for the centuries to come.

So when we started Assassin’s Creed 2, we asked ourselves the same question. What is the next defining moment in History? The answer was pretty easy to find: in a few years and in a very small place, a handful of men of genius radically changed EVERYTHING; they invented a modern vision of the world, where men were at the centre rather than God. They invented a new way of representing the world (the invention of perspective), they changed politics, architecture, the art of modern war and diplomacy – they invented the banking system as we know it and even advertising! One man even invented planes, helicopter and tanks! Those men were Botticelli, Machiavelli, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Medici. The place is Italy. The time was the end of the 15th century and it is called Renaissance, literally a Rebirth.

This is the History as we learnt it. But those were also cruel times, ruled by war, treason and murder! Of course we found [it] very interesting to picture this in an Assassin’s Creed game and cast a new light on those astonishing events.

CG: The E3 footage also shows guards flooding in when the target has been assassinated – and Ezio escaping with a minimum of confrontation. Will this be an option throughout the game?

UM: As we told you before, one of our main focuses is to give players more options whenever it comes to the way you fight, explore or even avoid fighting. So you’ll be able to use new tools and weapons such as smoke bombs to avoid a fight against heavy guard or you can still run away by diving and swimming, or use your agility and find your way through the city roofs. Keep in mind that you won’t be the only one with climbing or swimming abilities… Some guards will be able to chase you, and having some friends to help out could be another excellent option when it comes to avoiding a fight… Let’s say that you’ll have plenty of ways to approach each situation in the game.

CG: Will any buildings have accessible interiors?

UM: Yes, mainly in the form of “Secret Locations” [which] are interiors of several famous landmarks. You can discover their entrances in various regions of the game. The gameplay in these locations will challenge the player in acrobatics, puzzles and stealth. These indoor locations are not bound to the main quest but offer hours of additional gameplay, details about the story of the assassins/templars war, and a special reward as players complete each of them.

Assassin’s Creed 2 is due to be released in the UK for PS3, 360 and PC on 20th November.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

2 comments

  1. Patrick G /

    After reading this interview I really can’t wait for Assassin’s Creed 2 lets just hope it’s not all talk.

  2. Adam R /

    I now I’m late to the party, but I’m really happy we had this piece.

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