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Review: Assassin's Creed II - The Battle for Forlì (DLC)
by Linford Butler
DLC Information

Basic information
The Battle for Forlì
DLC for Assassin's Creed II
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: January 2010

PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
When the delectable Ezio Auditore da Firenze first graced our LCD screens in Ubisoft's 2009 release, Assassin's Creed II, no-one quite knew what to expect. Though the first game was recieved with general praise, there were a few major problems, which Ubi's failure to spot led to the original's eventual demise. Glaring problems with repetitiveness, gameplay glitches and claims that the story was unoriginal in the original Assassin's Creed lay doubt over the success of the sequel. However, the critics and gaming public alike needn't have worried, as with Assassin's Creed II, Ubisoft took on board all of the previous feedback and pulled out of the metaphorical hat a true masterpiece; a game which was to shape the series and leave it standing proud with critical acclaim, first week sales of over 1.6 million units worldwide, and a more-than-healthy Metacritic score of 91.

With the sequel, Ubisoft took a cautious step backwards to survey the situation. What they saw was an original to the series with potential, but which could be so much more than what it actually was. And so, taking the strong basis of the first game, Ubi began building upon it; adding a currency system, an RPG-style weapon shopping and healing system, improving combat and allowing more weapons and freedom, Assassin's Creed II became what the original failed to be. However, one small problem still stood, and it was one which fans of the series found irritating: there were still some major gaps in the storyline, where years passed in the plot without the player knowing what happened. But Ubisoft still had a trick up their sleeve, and it came in the form of a digital download.

The Battle for Forlì is the first downloadable extension to Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed II. Each of the two confirmed DLC take the form of the corrupted memory sequences found in the retail version of AC2, which Rebecca (assassin friend of Lucy and technology prodigy) has repaired with a little computer wizardry. Set in the year 1488, just after Ezio has recovered the illustrious Apple of Eden, four people linked to Renaissance Italy's Assassin's Order - Machiavelli, Mario Auditore, Ezio and Leonardo da Vinci - decide what the best measures are to take in order to protect the Apple, an object for which many are prepared to kill. Deciding that it should be sent to Romagna to be protected by the beautiful but strong Catarina Sforza. However, upon reaching Romagna, Ezio finds the city under attack by the Checco brothers, who capture Catarina's children and, eventually, steal the apple. As you'd expect, a fight ensues, and forms the main flesh of the DLC.

In terms of gameplay, the DLC does little to build upon what Assassin's Creed II already has, but not in a bad way - with the gameplay structure so central to the success of the original retail version of the game, making any changes in the DLC would be like writing a book and then swapping round all the chapters. The combat system is, as ever, fluid and faultless, and the massive battles which ensue throughout Romagna prove to be beautiful set-pieces with a decent balance between fighting and objective-focused gameplay - though there is an abundance of enemy guards to go toe-to-toe with, you'll find yourself only slaying maybe a few of the guards in the troops which attack you, as the feeling of urgency and excitement which the story gives will make you want to move quickly to your objective, rather than getting caught up in the action.

The plotline in Forlì is strong and immersive, if a little fast paced, and plays well on Ezio's (and your) rugged heartstrings by going some way towards inputting a little emotion into what, on release, was a game about punching passers-by, pointlessly climbing ageing buildings, and needlessly running a sword through a guard who maybe looked at you in slightly the wrong way.
Particularly touching is Catarina's prose upon losing her children, which reeks of the sort of sorrow and worry which any mother must feel at the thought of her children being in danger. The characterisations of the DLC's cast are done nicely, and the voice acting is strong too. The only improvement which could have been made is lengthening the Forlì sequence, as though the DLC does not cost a huge amount, the entirety of the sequence is over relatively quickly, and lack of a clear denoument leaves players in some uncertainty as to whether the add-on missions the DLC adds to the game are over, or whether there's still more to do. I can admit myself that I went on a trek through the Italian countryside searching for further objectives to complete, only to find (after consulting Wikipedia) that the DLC finished at the end of my last mission. Both the short length and omission of a clear ending scene or set-piece can leave you desiring more.

In terms of what Forlì does to add anything new to Assassin's Creed II, there isn't alot. Though the DLC does have a plotline which ties nicely into the story you experienced on your first playthrough of the retail version of AC2, it isn't essential to your understanding of Ezio's story as a whole; in fact, the plotline in Forlì is largely independent of the main story, with the majority of the critical events of the DLC leaving no significant mark on the rest of Assassin's Creed II's storyline. In terms of replayability, there's very little to satisfy too, with most of the quests being 'visit once, not again' territory. The only thing which has maybe any effect on AC2's aggregate is the appearance of a mysterious individual at the end of the sequence, who has one finger missing and takes the apple before making a quick disappearance, but even the significance of this is omitted from the sequence, with Ubisoft releasing the secret to this semi-cliffhanger in Bonfire of the Vanities (the next DLC release).

It is undoubtable that the Battle for Forlì is one of the better DLC releases which we've seen for triple-A titles so far. What it does, it does very well indeed, and the sense of urgency and danger which you get from the events of the extension is both thrilling and refreshing. However, it is far from without its (admittedly minor) faults, and die-hard Assassin's Creed fans may find themselves feeling a little short-changed at the short length of the add-on and the almost faliure to provide any significant storyline to the events omitted from the original release in sequences twelve and thirteen. That said, it's the perfect compliment to an already-excellent game should you wish to revisit Renaissance Italy with that most prolific of the Auditore family, but want something a little more fresh than just completing side-missions. At £3.19 or 320 MS points on the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace respectively, unless you had a real animosity towards the release candidate of Assassin's Creed II, it's a bargain. And who can resist a return to Italy to continue the experience to Ezio's charming yet dangerous ways? Precisely.



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- Linford Butler

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