Assassin’s Creed II: The Bonfire of the Vanities
Assassin’s Creed II’s first piece of downloadable content, The Battle of Forli, was a short, underwhelming effort, though it did have some redeemable features, filling in some blanks in ACII’s story and introducing a few interesting new characters. The second piece of DLC, The Bonfire of the Vanities, is short on story elements but it’s a much more substantial package overall, offering a new area to explore and a more traditional brand of Assassin’s Creed gameplay.
Following on from The Battle of Forli, Ezio is back in Florence to retrieve the Apple of Eden from evil priest, Girolamo Savanorala. History buffs will know the priest and the events of the Bonfire of the Vanities, in which he burned items that were deemed sinful, so there’s a degree of historical interest here. However, Savanorala is never really given much of a role; instead, the majority of The Bonfire of the Vanities will revolve around Ezio assassinating nine of his best lieutenants.
This set up is very similar to that of the first Assassin’s Creed, albeit contained within the city of Florence and without all of the repetitive investigative work. Instead you’re given nine targets on the map and have free reign to assassinate them in whichever order you choose. Each assassination will provide a certain challenge and a particular skill set, whether it’s fighting your way through guards, infiltrating an area undetected and so on. There’s a nice amount of variety to each target and each area is set up with multiple ways to get the job done. While The Battle of Forli focused on measly escort missions, The Bonfire of the Vanities gets back to what made ACII so good in the first place. Executing a perfect assassination is still undoubtedly satisfying.
The new area you can explore is fairly sizeable, offering new springboards that change Ezio’s freerunning to some degree, and new viewpoints and templar lairs to explore – although there are still no new Achievements. It’s not much but it’s an improvement that extends the playtime on a much more substantial piece of DLC. However, The Bonfire of the Vanities does carry some glaring presentational issues that dampen the experience somewhat. Audio regularly cuts out during cinematics both with speech and background noise, sometimes both. And some scenes seemed to be missing sound altogether.
The Bonfire of the Vanities is a definite improvement on the disappointing Battle of Forli, though it’s still difficult to call it a must-buy. The new assassination missions are a lot of fun if you’re itching to jump back into Assassin’s Creed II again, and for around two hours of gameplay you can’t argue with the price. But if you’ve had your ACII fill then there’s nothing here, or in the Battle of Forli, that will convince you otherwise.