Cheap, but underwhelming
Late last year when downloadable content was announced for Assassin’s Creed II I was definitely excited. The second game in the franchise was a vast improvement on the original in nearly every way, and earned its place as one of my games of the year for 2009. Both pieces of DLC, Battle of Forli and Bonfire of the Vanities, will slot into the vacant spaces for memory sequences 12 and 13, filling out blanks in Ezio’s story rather than expanding upon the events at the end of the game.
As a result, the story in Battle of Forli is difficult to understand if you haven’t played Assassin’s Creed II since its release back in November. Picking up straight after the close of memory sequence 12 it carries on as though nothing has happened, so if you don’t remember the specifics it’s going to be hard to follow. Your main task boils down to helping Caterina Sforza, who you helped on your way to Venice during the main game. Her castle is under attack due to some late story implications, so you’re tasked with helping her and her children, as well as fulfilling some of your own needs. Battle of Forli also fills in some late story blanks, such as how Ezio got a hold of the codec map, or why Leonardo da Vinci ended up at the villa. Only small details, but they at least pad out the story a little more.
The gameplay is essentially part of the main game so there’s nothing new to see here. The majority of Battle of Forli consists of large scale battles with a miniscule degree of sneaking and climbing towards the end. Anyone who’s ever played ACII before knows that crowded battles were never the game’s strong point so it’s disappointing that it’s basically all Battle of Forli consists of. Even Niccolò Machiavelli, one of the most well-known and influential men in history, is reduced to a combat-hardened sidekick. It would have been nice to give him a bigger and more respectful role, much like da Vinci, but at the moment he’s a killer just like you.
At around 40 minutes Battle of Forli is also an extremely short piece of DLC. The cheap price of 320 Microsoft Points can justify it, but for such a small amount of content and the same gameplay we’ve already spent 15 hours playing, it isn’t really worth it. Newcomers will get the most out of it since it fits in with the rest of the game as though it was always there to begin with – arguably like it should have been – and those wanting to pick up the flying machine Achievement without going back to play the rest of the game will be pleased with its involvement. But as a stand-alone piece of DLC Battle of Forli is significantly lacking in all areas. Hopefully sequence 13 can remedy things, but I have my doubts after this underwhelming effort.