As a long time fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more excited than me for the release of Rogue; the finale in the “Americas” trilogy and the first chapter in which you play as a Templar. However, upon playing the game, I felt as thought I was grinding out the hours and overall, achieving nothing. Calling this game Black Flag two would have been far more appropriate, as the game felt like a quick copy-paste made to churn out profits in the wake of Unity.
This weekend, I picked up a copy of Unity, and received that crystal clear breath of fresh air that every Assassin’s Creed fan has been waiting for since AC3: innovation. So I figured I’d take a quick bit to get an eagle’s eye view at why Unity is leaps and bounds above Rogue in the AC franchise from three basic perspectives.
Weapons and Combat
Ever since Assassin’s Creed 2, you’d always had the same selection of weapons at your disposal. You get the choice of wielding a sword, a heavy weapon, or some special weapon that doesn’t fall into either category. Sure, you can collect them all, but there is always that vastly superior weapon you’ll use no matter what you’ve picked up in your travels.
Rogue made a big deal about Templar technology, which ended up amounting to an air rifle, which was a pallet swap of the blow dart in Black Flag, and the grenade launcher, which was a palette swap to… Well… Grenades from Revelations, except Revelations did it better since you built your grenades to the specs you needed them.
Unity changes this by only allowing certain load outs. You can have a Rifle if you’d like, but you have to say goodbye to your sword as you club people with your gun. I didn’t realize this at first when I left on my first special assassination and only when I alerted a set of extremists did I realize my sword was gone. Carrying a Hammer on your back might be great, but you’re getting rid of all your finesse for punishing attacks. Combat feels responsive and intuitive, and it’s a really nice improvement that you cannot accidentally wind up in a fight with your hidden blade out, due to a new mechanic where they can only be used in stealth. As well, sneaking requires a little more finesse that you’re used to, and throwing a smoke bomb doesn’t magically make your enemy forget you’re there. You need to think about how you approach a situation.
You may also upgrade your weapons once to improve their efficacy, and new armor is more than simply a paint job. You gain bonuses to your stealth, health, range, and melee by equipping different suits, and so you can prepare for various situations.
Oh, great. You get to chase another Almanca – shanty through a town hoping to add to a hopeless collection of nothing but wasted time.
That’s an actual phrase that came out of my mouth at one point playing rogue. The mechanic is taken right out of AC3 and AC4, in which you would chase a page suddenly swept up by a breeze in an effort to get your sailors to sing different tunes. It was cute in Black Flag. It was annoying to do it all over again in Rogue. I will admit the stalker mechanic was a very nice addition, though underplayed. During certain missions, you would hear whispers, telling you an enemy was lying in wait to ambush you. Sometimes you had to pick your way around carefully, and sometimes, despite hearing whispers for the whole mission, I never once came close to a stalker. I felt cheated by this, as the whispers become annoying after they stop relaying useful information.
Unity provides new missions and activities to perform. There are murder mysteries in which you need to use your real world intelligence to solve a crime and help the local police. As well there are various assassination missions in which you are tasked with the death of certain individuals, but these tasks now follow a little mini story of sorts, such as infiltrating the cult of Baphomet. The “stalker” equivalent is a group of extremists paid by the Templar to make trouble for the revolution, and you. They recognize you in a crowd, and become instantly suspicious. They can ruin a cleverly laid plan, and they are everywhere, just like the Templar’s coin. They are a true nuisance, and something you need to watch out for. Unfortunately, Unity only tells you who Extremists are many missions in, after you’ve been encountering them for a long time and wondering “Why do these people hate me?”
Every Assassin’s Creed game since Brotherhood has had the same basic control scheme; you use the trigger to run up walls, jump if you need to leap somewhere, and the other buttons mostly deal with combat, blending, or gadgets. Sadly, Rogue was no different, though I will say Shay jumps right where you need him to most of the time, which is much better than previous titles, which tend to be riddled with targeting issues. Running in Rogue never felt like a hassle, but you can hold a button down, run, and become instantly bored as it is simply a matter or steering Shay.
Unity once again brought the right concept to the table with two short phrases; “Jump up” and “jump down”. While on the ground, running at a table or stall and pressing the “jump down” button will allow you to slide under it or make a very graceful and efficient leap over it. When jumping down to a rooftop that is below you, pressing the “Jump down” button will cause you to slide your feet out from under you, making for a much smoother transition that previous titles in which you were forced to jump everywhere, causing you to miss half the areas you were aiming for. Running is now engaging, intuitive, and makes me feel like I’m being skillful in my pursuits or retreats, rather than holding a single button down and hoping for the best.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is a Nostalgia train barrelling through a frozen tundra, hoping you’ve played the previous titles and want more of the same. Too much has been copy/pasted for anyone looking for something new to get any real interest out of it, but it sticks to the same mechanics and the same formula, despite all the shine of playing a Templar. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The game is perfect for anyone who feels the formula is solid, and wants more of the same.
Unity, however, brings a fresh flavor to the franchise, standing up and declaring that change is good. More so, it’s a game that knows where it came from, and where it’s going. For me, Unity is a vastly superior title, as it breaks the monotony not only with a new character, but with what feels like the first new game since the days of Ezio Auditore de Firenze.