So, you know how I just said I was still on my first legs with Assassin’s Creed 2?
Apparently there was only one mission remaining. I finished it.
So, it’s not a long game, but that’s not a bad thing. After all, there’s much more to the game than the main plot, like any good sandbox. Still, yesterday I was left with the impression that I was, at most, two-thirds done with the story, only to discover my error in a blur of exposition and a race to the final battle.
I wouldn’t mind this either, except that the developers deliberately cut out two major sections of the game to sell later as DLC (downloadable content). When I said I felt like I was only two-thirds done? Well, if I owned the DLC, I would have been. As it stands, the last hour of gameplay is extremely rushed and is paced more like an epilogue than a dramatic finale.
Whatever, I’m not going to harp about that side of things anymore. I’m really here to talk about the game’s controversial ending. I’ll skim through it, trying to help flesh it out with context derived throughout the plot:
Ezio Auditore, the player character, has successfully acquired —
No, wait, that’s not accurate. Let’s back up.
The player takes on the role of Desmond Miles, a bartender in 2012 who has been abducted by an evil corporation and forced into a DNA-reading machine called an Animus. With this machine Desmond can launch his consciousness back in time up a chain of DNA shared between each of his ancestors. Put more simply, he can jump into the mind of one of his ancestors and play their life like it was a videogame.
For most of AC2 Desmond plays out the life of Ezio (pronounced “ed-zee-oh”), his great, great, great, etc., grandfather who lived in Italy during the Renaissance.
Ezio has been assassinating people for “the greater good” while searching for a means to defeat his mortal enemies, the Templar Order. During one of his many confrontations with the Templars he manages to steal a mysterious artifact called “the Apple,” which he hides in his villa.
Years pass, until eventually Rodrigo Borgia, his most elusive foe, becomes Pope Alexander VI.
Ezio and the other Assassins learn that there’s apparently a secret chamber underneath the Vatican containing untold mysteries and/or superpowers, and they guess that Rodrigo became Pope solely to gain access to this chamber. (As it turns out, they guess correctly.)
The Assassins send Ezio to Rome to kill Rodrigo, but he fails, beaten by the invincibility-granting powers of the papal staff. Rodrigo stabs Ezio, then takes the Apple from him and uses it to enter the secret vault beneath the Vatican.
Ezio walks off his knife-wound and follows his enemy, then tosses aside all of his advanced weaponry so he can duel the Pope bare-handed. For some reason Rodrigo is totally on-board with this and sets aside his invincibility staff. He is an overweight elderly man and Ezio is a lithe killing machine, so the “fight” plays out like you would expect it to.
Anyway, Ezio pounds Rodrigo into near-unconsciousness but refrains from killing him, then seeks out the true secret inside the vault. He finds a hologram of Minerva/Athena, who was not only real, but also an alien, not a goddess. She explains that she and her brethren genetically engineered the human race thousands of years ago, dropped them off on Earth and left a legacy of advanced technology before promptly being wiped out somehow. (The game implies their sun exploded, but I’m blaming the Reapers.) She makes sure to mention that every religion is a hoax and that most are apparently lies concocted by the Templar Order.
Ezio is rather confused by all of this, but Minerva hasn’t been talking to Ezio — she’s been talking through him: her message is meant for Desmond, who unplugs from the Animus and wonders what to do with this information.
The end. To be continued.
So, yeah. As far as “offensive endings” go, this is on the list.
But it just didn’t bother me as much as the ending to the first game, which was comparatively less audacious and more grounded in reality. In fact, I think that’s the key word there: reality. AC1 actually upset me more because it took itself so seriously — it was clinical and cynical, while the sequel — as the Spoiler Warning crew have determined — is a hilariously over-the-top mess.
I can’t get too offended, since the game isn’t trying to offend me. It’s trying to entertain me.
That doesn’t excuse it, really, and I’m unlikely to play through the game again — silly or not, I couldn’t keep my stomach from doing a few barrel-rolls out of irrational outrage. But I went into this game believing it was anti-Christian — and now I don’t think that’s true. If the game developers were trying to deliver an anti-religion moral or make a political statement, that would be one thing, but their story is driven by spectacle more than anything else.
I would have preferred they went in a direction more palatable to a church-goer like me, but I can understand that they perceive the majority of their customers as left-wing atheists.
And I guess those are my two cents on AC2. Thanks for reading.