The premise is much the same as the original game, but is so much grander in scale, location & more epic in terms of sheer scale.
Originally I wasn't too sure about this as the first game passed me by & I couldn't really get my head around it. However having played Fable 2 (see herefor review) has certainly begun the concept of much more gametime & patience with RPG-style games. This is really key for AC2 - it's not an all-action stab-fest, it's far more subtle & interesting a game than that.
What first got me interested was seeing the mini movie Assassin's Creed: Lineage
"The story is a prequel to the video game Assassin's Creed II. It centres around the father of the game's main character Ezio Auditore da Firenze."It leads very nicely to the beginning of the game & starts to build the plot of the game, but let's just say that it definitely whetted my appetite to both get the game & play it!
It's a sandbox game (open world), with a strong main mission & many side missions & you can upgrade your Armour & weapons. There is also the town where your villa (i.e. base of operations) is based & it's falling to pieces & in desperate need of renovation & repaid. When you progress through the games you will earn credits (Florins) which you can use to rebuild/renovate the town, increasing its value & in turn earning you more Florins. What I thought was very interesting is that it's actually a real place - Monteriggioni...& I've been there when I went to Italy a few years ago! It's quite a famous completely-walled medieval town & provides a very realistic backdrop for your villa - I think seeing it in person & knowing it really does exist helped my immersion in the game & it's the same with Florence, Rome & Venice where they create a very beautiful cityscape.
The maps themselves, whilst they are all open, you need to climb tall structures & sync up your map (basically getting a birds-eye view of the area). Ahhh the climbing! Other games - most notably Crackdown (& for some reason Transformers) allow the player to climb building, to reach those troublesome locations on top of buildings. In AC2, it's more like the free-running/climbing of Mirrors Edge. The game is realistic enough to pretty much give me vertigo whilst climbing really high! However, this does have some seriously good platforming puzzles - trying to find the impossible jump/handhold can be a challenge.
Although you start off with no weapons (other than your fists) you quickly progress & can unlock all manner of weaponry to both defend yourself, as well as learning the assassination trade well. I quickly found that you could dispatch your targets (often with one hit) when you start to improve your technique. Also because it's open world & quite open ended, you can chose your line of attack - will you blend into the crowd & sneak up to them & get a one-hit kill, or attack them openly & directly & risk all the guards coming dunning with hammers & swords? The missions vary from simple(?) assassinations, to escorting or straight up group fights. The beauty of the attack is that when you get your timing right your opponent will be struck down fast.
I've only been playing for probably 10-12 hours so far, but there is so much left to do - it's even distracted me from CoD6 for a while! Overall I think that although this game isn't for everyone, if you like RPG's & a bit of stealth - then you're going to absolutely love it! The only slightly annoying part is the camera which can drive you a little crazy sometimes - but only sometimes. A well deserved 4/5 from me!