Special playthrough – Assassin’s Creed
Rogue was touted as the first Templar game in Assassin’s Creed. But we’re not only a Templar, we’re an Assassin Hunter. Oh I’m looking forward to this.
Part six; Rogue
ACIII, Black Flag and Rogue make up the ‘Kenway Saga’ apparently. Mass Effect is a saga, The Witcher is a saga; a saga means an interconnected narrative, but those have only Haytham Kenway in common and we’re not him. We’re Shay Cormac. Who?
Set during the Seven Years War, before Connor’s American Revolution, Shay is an assassin training under ACIII’s Achilles. A cocksure Irish scally more interested in “busty women of Havana with their butt-ocks on display” than the Creed, you get the sense his ma sent him to the Assassins just to keep him out of trouble. He doesn’t take anything seriously and spends his time fighting with his peers and generally being a bit of a dick.
After a few Assassinations, the acts weigh on his conscience and Shay begins openly questioning the Assassins’ purpose – and has that question answered for him when he investigates an Isu object in Portugal, and triggers the devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
A distraught Shay tries to destroy a manuscript that translates the map to further earth-binding objects, but Achilles brands him a traitor; assumed dead after leaping from a cliff, Shay is rescued by a kindly Templar and agrees to help stop the Assassins before they find the next object, putting him on a collision course with his old friends.
To reach Shay turning traitor took 20% of the game, and in total barely 50% of it is actual main story. Nearly half was the build-up and the rest is a let-down. Shay throwing in with the Templars and hunting the Assassins is a stretch and the more the game stretches the premise, the thinner it all gets – the Assassins’ behaviour is convoluted, the Templars are unbelievable, the plot shies away from it’s obvious opportunities and Shay constantly regrets killing; hardly the lethal Assassin-Hunter we were promised. Shay’s not that, he’s not anything. But the game is something – it’s a reskin.
Rogue is literally Black Flag with ACIII’s assets; they barely altered the menus. This was insulting for a full-price game; it’s a DLC in story, scope, look and feel - Freedom Cry was more of a departure than this. I loved Black Flag, and to a degree I’m quietly loving this, because it lets me play more Black Flag – it’s all here but I’m not a conflicted ne'er-do-well like Edward – I’m not even Roguish.
Shay bursts into tears every time he kills a friend, screaming “I HAD TO!” Well, you didn’t have to, did you. While Shay’s motivations are clear, his reasoning is ridiculous. You had plenty of chances to set this right but the game ignores them; you keep thinking ‘you could have just …’ In the end Achilles pauses at the Isu object and goes “hang on, Shay was right” – we know! We just spent 30% of this game waiting for you to catch up.
What’s going on with the Assassins? One of the Creed’s tenants is ‘Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent’ yet Achilles sinks a boatload of NPCs to keep his journey a secret and one Assassin ex-friend is now a mafia Don, running a trans-Atlantic criminal gang. Where did all this come from? Why was it okay before, and now must be stamped out? Must be the Templars, manipulating Shay to destroy his own. No, the Templars are literally the nicest people I’ve ever gamed with.
Keeping Shay sympathetic, the Assassins misguided and the Templars charitable not controlling means we have no villains. It’s frustrating because there’s so much that could be done with this scenario. What should be a dark entry into the series just comes across as meek. Sod this, I’m off to see what the other 50% is all about.
Basically a mash-up, we have a ship, the Morrigan, which can sail inland rivers within ACIII’s Frontier, and the Atlantic, an ice-encrusted Black Flag. It looks great but almost everything in Rogue is a reworked event from Black Flag so you never shake the feeling you’ve played this before, and the world is diminished because of it – whale hunting, looting ships, take down ‘prisoner ships’ (renamed slave ships from Freedom Cry), solving reworked Mayan puzzles (which we unlock after saving natives from an attack just like in Black Flag; it’s even nicking missions now), and we have the exact same Tavern fights - even Edward's swagger and wink at the barmaid is reskinned.
We’re saving citizens held hostage (why do they join the crew?), managing an armada of ships in a mini game, chasing Sea Shanties ... why is Shay doing all this; don’t you have friends to murder?
The period-setting doesn’t help; it barely features but when it does, it feels like B-sides from ACIII. We re-enact Colonel Munro’s departure from Fort Henry, help Benjamin Franklin and kill Washington Snr., chase the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow again (he popped up in ACIII), employ explorer Christopher Gist as our drunken swot of a first mate and pal around with Capt. Cook, but it’s all filler; I’m not wishing for an ACIII level of meddling in historic events, it’s good to have a focused Assassin v Templar story; just not this one.