In January, Ubisoft Montreal released the first piece of "Assassin's Creed II" DLC, "The Battle of Forli." It was shallow and short, giving me little hope that the next bit of content, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," could be a meaningful addition. My expectation wasn't far off the mark.
"Bonfire of the Vanities," or DNA Sequence 13, picks up nine years after Sequence 12. Bearded Ezio has awoken from his restorative slumber to find that Savonarola’s gotten his priestly paws on the Apple of Eden. In order to get the evil man to poke his head out, and hopefully bring the Apple with it, Ezio and Machiavelli decide that Florentine civil unrest is needed.
And thus the DLC's core is revealed: you'll play through nine assassination missions, that, when completed, will force Savonarola to come out of hiding. A brief escort mission, a chase, and a bonus assassination complete the package.
A Little New
Savonarola chooses to hide outside of the core game's purview, which means a swath of urban southern Florence is opened to explore for the first time. Several new viewpoints and landmark locations bolster the fresh province, while a new move, the spring-board jump, makes for some unique environmental interaction.
The spring-board jump, in a nutshell, allows Ezio to blast himself off of narrow beams instead of taking the usual dive. The catch to the move is that another piece of geometry has to be aligned with the blastoff point, so its usefulness is limited outside of the DLC's set pieces.
Still Jarring, Incomplete
You'll be thrown to the narrative's whims after receiving only a bubble of text. There's no production or orientation effort, meaning you'll be left with questions; as the story plods to its conclusion, you'll be left with even more. "Bonfire" is book-ended by years and years of unexplained gaps in time.
Stealth sections make a stomach-churning return for "Bonfire." The three or four slices of peek-a-boo action are unrefined, cluttered, and confusing. Guards sit on top of guards, filling the screen with their quick-snapping eyes. And little in the way of clear paths to execution is presented, meaning lots of trial and error is involved.
The other missions weren't worth the effort of slogging through the stealth portions: they're flawed and messy like standard sandbox efforts. At the worst end, some feel incomplete and unfocused, as if the DLC needed more time in the oven.
Riddled with Bugs
"Bonfire" has technical baggage, the worst offender being the audio. I heard only three sentences during the conclusion, despite the jawing actors on screen. You'll at least have to deal with a stream of repeated lines by assassination targets and, the worst, hear dialogue intersect. I should add that I had one game freeze and observed several animation bugs.
"Bonfire" feels incomplete and, in some spots, broken. Its missions are confusing and messy, mirroring the underplayed narrative that leaves a total of 11 years of Ezio's bearded life unexplained. Even the new mechanic and province, which is nice, left me wanting much more from this package.