I’m near 100% sync on Assassin’s Creed: Rogue and having completed the story sequence, I can say this game is, in fact, Assassin’s Creed V. It continues plots began in the first game through to last year’s Black Flag, from the Pieces of Eden to the intrigues at the Templar’s public-facing Abstergo Entertainment. It also, in its odd way, leads into the next-gen Assassin’s Creed: Unity. It’s an important distinction as the entire AC series is, all business-minded decisions aside, a compelling experiment in serialized storytelling.
And because Unity seems to reset the story, but more of that later …
Rogue‘s most interesting development in terms of the ongoing plot is the switch to a Templar hero. This has huge implications in the present-day meta-narrative at Abstergo’s Montreal campus. A new team leader named Otso Berg is intent on getting an unnamed analyst (the player) to relive the life of Shay Cormac, an Assassin who sees the dark side of their plans and switches teams. It’s an interesting notion to take everything we know about the AC world and flip its perspective. Shay comes to see the Assassin’s as a dangerous band of criminals out to shake the world apart if they can’t have the “freedom” they claim to espouse. He also gets to see the Templars as a force dedicated to taming the wilds of the world. It’s a viewpoint he immediately gets. Meanwhile, in 2014 Montreal, the analyst is being groomed for induction into the Order by Berg.
Since the 2014 analyst is intentionally left as a cipher so we can role-play in the situation, let’s talk about Shay. While not as charismatic as Ezio Auditore da Firenze or Edward Kenway (or even my favorite AC character, Haytham Kenway), he grows to become a fairly compelling character. He’s close to being the Templar version of Ezio and I’d be willing to spend another game living his memories.
Although, I’ll admit part of what makes him compelling is the fact he’s at the center of the Assassins’ defeat in the New World. That means he comes in contact with people like Achilles, Adewale and Haytham. That said, he does hold his own amongst these interesting folk.
He also holds his own on the open seas. Piracy makes its return in the game and it never stops being fun. In fact, after the third sequence, I abandoned the storyline for a good six hours to let Shay become the most prosperous privateer in the North Atlantic. With boats to sack, storehouses to pillage and whole Assassin communities to raid, there’s plenty to distract you from answering Colonel Monro’s summons to Albany.
Which is probably a good thing as the main sequence is achingly short. It’s only six memories (version the usual 12-14) not including the present day sequences or the “broken”memories you encounter at the end of each excursion to Abstergo. Even in doing 99% of the side quests and collectibles (the last Legendary Battle is proving to be a beast), my total play time is just over 20 hours. That probably speaks to business issues and should annoy me more since the game costs as much as the twice-as-long Black Flag did at release last year. Still, the experience (and presumed last hurrah of the current-gen Assassin’s Creed) was worthwhile to me and will absolutely be praised by those who can wait for it to become a $20 title.
But even those Ubisoft business decisions seem to be part of the narrative. Collectables found in at Abstergo Entertainment include inter-office memos about “strong female protagonists” and “reusing assets” and other completely justifiable criticisms of Abstergo’s real-life publishing partner. It almost seems as though the writing team assigned to Rogue knew how things would play out and worked it into their goofy gaming company Easter Eggs. There’s even a handful of reference to Unity’s protagonist Arno Dorian in the inter-office chatter.
Between that and a few other spoilery things, it’s clear that Rogue is meant to be played first. The public version of the Animus, the Helix, is referenced several times in the game, as are the locked memory options the player confronts during the opening moments of Unity. Considering the meta-narrative, it’ll be interesting to see where Unity actually lands. As of now, I’ve completed six of the twelve memory sequences, but the player in Unity‘s relationship to the Templar and Assassin struggle is still vague … as is the issue with the Sages and the Precursor entity Juno. Perhaps all will become clear the closer I get to the end. Well, once I conquer all of the side missions Paris has to offer.