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Combat is Choreography in Assassin's Creed 2

Combat in Assassin's Creed 2 is sometimes decried as too easy. I see it as a swashbuckling simulator that affords depth of expression.

I want to talk a little bit about why I love the combat in Assassin's Creed 2. In AC2, and to a lesser extent AC1, combat is almost entirely about expression. First and foremost, this is evident in the fact that combat is easy. It's very hard, though not impossible, to die in combat in AC2. So the combat system isn't about survival at all.

The fact that the combat system is easy also gives me time to decide how I'm going to resolve combat. I can hold down the block button and automatically block almost any attack, and often I find myself doing auto-blocking while thinking, "Given the number of enemies I'm up against and the environment I'm in, how would I like to resolve this combat situation?"

The best thing about the AC2 combat system is the number of ways I'm allowed to fight an enemy. Here are some options:

  • Use any of the many weapons provided to me in game, the basic types being the sword, the dagger, throwing knives, my fists
  • Block, counterattack, block (most common)
  • Put away my weapon and attempt to disarm my opponent
    • If I've disarmed my opponent I can use their weapon, and often this gives me access to very unusual weapon types (the spear and the ax, for instance)
  • Dodge and attack
  • Attack one enemy, then turn away and sneak attack an enemy who is not paying attention
  • Grab an enemy
    • Throw the enemy into a wall
    • Throw the enemy off a ledge
    • Throw the enemy into another enemy
    • Headbutt or knee the enemy
  • Switch weapons mid-battle as I see fit
  • Run away
  • Deploy a smoke bomb and run away
This is an incomplete list of the available actions in combat.

By giving me all these tools at my disposal, along with laughably simple artificial intelligence for the enemies, Ubisoft has done a brilliant job of simulating swashbuckling sword fights. I'm talking Errol Flynn style cheesy old movies where the hero is beset by dozens of goons but bests them all with his sword as they rush the hero one by one. The combat system in AC2 allows me to choreograph my own sword fight, which would be almost impossible if it weren't for the "dumb AI" that I've seen some people complain about.

The best part is that feeling like I'm in control of combat at all times very much evokes the aesthetic of being a capital-A Assassin and all that entails. Of course I'm invincible. Of course my opponents are stupid (relative to me). Of course I get to take my time and choose how everyone is going to fall to my blade. That's exactly the kind of character I am playing!

I suppose the combat in AC2 faces one of the same issues as the overall gameplay does in The Sims. For some people, it's a dreadfully boring casual game. For others, it's a creative outlet. Fortunately, in the case of AC2, I sit firmly in the latter camp.

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