Winter!: Prepare for holiday gaming!
As a sequel, Assassin's Creed II provides a lot more material to experience than its debut franchise installment. On its own, it operates well as a semi-open platforming and combat game, in a similar mold to late-90s, early-00's scavenger games like Banjo-Kazooie, Psychonauts, and more recent titles like Arkham Asylum.
More than its predecessor, Assassin's Creed II has a competent storyline. It's less weighed down by a conspiracy theorists wet dream of a backstory, and makes up for it with much more human drama surrounding the new Assassin ancestor to the guy you're actually playing--Ezio; renaissance man come vengeful nobleman. The only detriment to the story is Ezio's seeming inherent desire to suddenly ignore his friends' wishes and plans in order to search the rooftops for feathers and treasure.
The gameplay is essentially identical to the first AC, in that you plan assassinations, stealth over to your target, stab their kidneys, maybe fight some guards, run away and hide, watch a cutscene, etc, and not necessarily in that order. Expanding on this formula is the opportunity to gather more varieties of collectibles than the first one's flags, embark on side assassination missions, get money by renovating your family villa and collecting art and gear, and chat it up with famous figures of the Italian renaissance. On the whole, the participatory experience has improved a great deal in the intervening 4 centuries.
From a technical perspective, the engine has barely changed at all, and the graphics are only slightly improved. That is not to slight the palpability of the historic authenticity, which a lot of work has gone into. The setting is very accurate, and all of the relevant historical landmarks seem cannily like the real things, if a bit simplified for the sake of processing efficiency. Sounds pass by in a realistic manner, background noises are clean and audible when close, and the sounds of combat are clear and visceral, if a bit repetitive.
AC II is a worthwhile investment, and particularly if you enjoyed, but were not particularly impressed with, the original. Improvements have been made, and the experience is a mite better than the original.
Game Traits applied to Assassin's Creed II (PC) by matrixrunner