Bonfire of the Vanities DLC Review
Less than a month ago I pondered whether this final Chapter of Ezio’s story in Assassin’s Creed II would make the previous DLC chapter Batlle of Forli make more sense. While it does resolve the plot introduced right at the end of Forli, there is pretty much nothing interesting about the plot or the way it's presented, and is hardly a tale worthy of tell in song or epic poem (oddly, it is however a plot worthy of downloadable content). Put it this way, if these two chapters had been in the game in their correct place, they would only of really served as filler that would ultimately frustrate the player trying to get on with the plot and finish the game. I also ran into a far more weird bugs during the hour and a half I spent in this DNA sequence than I ever did in the main game.
For me there are two main things that differentiate this from what Forli offered. One is that this opens up a new area of Florence south of the river, so at least you are in a new area and get to do the traditional Assassin’s Creed house-keeping activity of climbing a bunch of view points to fill in the map. The other is that the missions presented here allow you to approach the situations without any kind of time limit or NPC’s health bar weighing on your mind. The designers displayed a much better understanding of what makes their game interesting with the missions presented here. There is also a new move that can be done in this new area which involves springing of a particular type of springy flag pole only found south of the river. This can be used to get up to certain places that would be too big a jump for your regular acrobatics.
The main course of the content is nine assassinations that take place all over Florence, and can be attempted in any order. These range from just kill a guy, to kill a guy without anyone seeing, kill a guy on a boat, or perhaps kill a guy who is running the hell away from you already. Throughout these, I got about three good kills, and six messy ones that I almost certainly would of been able to do more stealthily if I'd give them another go. The mechanics are still very forgiving of failure, and even messy kills that end up with an entire regiment of soldiers dead are still pretty fun. The best one for me involved killing a guy hanging around on the roof of the Duomo, Florence’s famous Basilica. I ended up looking up pictures of the real building to see if they’d just made up all the hand-hold points, and no they hadn’t. The real dome has hand-holds on too, presumably for exactly this sort of occasion.
Just by having a newly accessible area this pack already feels worth three times more than Forli did, for all you did there in the main game they should probably of just held back that entire town back from the main game and charged more for that pack. Unfortunately, as far as a part of Assassin Creed II’s world, the new area is pretty barebones. There are no extra side missions, no treasure map, nothing new in the shops, just a few perfectly ordinary churches used as the viewpoints. There is one unique building, but you don’t go in it. The flag-pole flip move while neat isn’t particularly easy to pull off under duress as it's hard to spot and also it doesn't seem to work unless you have a straight run up.
As mentioned earlier, there were a lot of weird bugs in the cutscenes. Sounds didn’t seem to be playing correctly, some characters missing their lines entirely which made me glad I had subtitles on. There was a completely silent crowd of people jeering animatedly at one point. In a way I am glad I couldn’t here some of it, because what I did here of the voice acting was terrible. The nine people you are killing all seemed to have the same voice actor, and the main villain had a different worse voice actor. Ezio’s lines were fine however, and his scene at the end seemed like the one thing that I felt had significant value in terms of Ezio’s story arc.
The biggest missed opportunity in all of this is that they weren’t able to get a flying-machine sequence into a series of events where you actually have good reason for there to be bonfires were lit all over the city. In Forli they had that weird special memory flying-machine sequence with bonfires lit all over Forli that seemed to only exist for people who missed an achievement, but you pass up an actual legitimate opportunity this time? I can only assume that it was planned but got cut due to time or something, otherwise damn.
If you are looking for some sort of decisive judgement about whether to get these or not, I would say either get both or neither. If you get both, then know that what you are really buying is just a taste of Assassin’s Creed II if you want to remember what it was like. Remember all those weeks ago when you finished Assassin’s Creed II? Yeah, that was fun. Oh, it would also be interesting to have them inserted into the main game if you are considering a doing second playthrough.
Review Notes: Ian purchased the DLC himself, and played to it to completion on a retail Xbox 360.