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[Rogue] ***Spoilers*** Story Review and Overall Rating

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Double McStab w...
San Diego, CA
Joined: 03/29/2012

Assassin’s Creed Rogue Story Review
Double McStab with Cheese

If you want to skip any story spoilers and get right to my final thoughts and buy/don't buy decisions, click here.

This review contains story spoilers from Assassin’s Creed Rogue. It covers both Shay’s story in colonial North America and the modern day. I will include a plot synopsis in spoiler tags in case you want the general feel but don’t want all the spoilers. This review assumes all information from previous AC games, including Black Flag. Discussion that follows the original post may contain specific spoilers though, so be warned. Like the gameplay review found here, categories will be ranked out of 5.

Characters, Locations and Lore previously seen
The following characters and locations that are in other games show up in this one:

  • Abstergo Entertainment
  • New York City (pre-fire)
  • Davenport Homestead
  • Achilles Davenport
  • Haytham Kenway
  • Adewale
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • George Washinton
  • William Johnson
      plus mention of pretty much every major character from every other AC game in present day memos, etc: Ezio; Altair; Robert de Sable; Daniel Cross; Warren Vidic; Desmond, Rebecca and Shaun; Cesare; Rodrigo; Mackandal; Aveline; Agate (a lot of Liberations lore was included, probably for people that didn’t play it and because it shows up in the story)

      plus future games (spoiler tags because not in scope disclaimers):

      Spoiler: Highlight to view
      Paris, France; Arno Dorian; Élise de la Serre; lots of India talk in a couple present day things

      Haytham Kenway earns this category a 5/5. Okay, not really, but as a category, I’m judging this as consistency and lore, so 4.5/5.

      Campaign Mission Archetypes - copied from other review
      All the classic AC archetypes are here: free assassination; scripted assassination (none like Haytham and Charles Lee “push X to win” though); chase (maybe 3); tail (I think one on land and one on sea); escort/protect (maybe 2); walk and talk; steal information; infiltrate/save; tutorial dump. I don’t remember any Eavesdrop or Gather Supplies missions though. Full sync objectives flash on the screen then disappear when failed (like Black Flag) so you don’t know until the end of the mission, which is frustrating. At least in AC3, the red X told you when you failed.

      I wish there were more freedom to assassinate as I saw fit. There are (I think) 8 assassination missions in 23 campaign missions though, which is high density. From memory, maybe 3 to 4 of them are scripted to the point where complete stealth isn’t an option (a chase or two, iirc). Unfortunately, as the game progresses, they begin to feel like interactive cut-scenes again.

      Because of the variation in missions there is a positive. But the restrictive nature and full sync objectives mechanics irk me. 2.5/5.

      I want it noted that this is for the main campaign only. There is a LOT of freedom in the other side content, like settlements, gang headquarters, etc, where you can assassinate as you see fit.

      Plot Synopsis
      The campaign is 6 sequences long that nicely breaks into a beginning, middle and end of 2 sequences each. The plot synopsis is in spoilers, in case you don’t want to read it, but want to only take my word for it. Not everything is in chronological order as it happens in the game. I group to plot to make sense and tell the story efficiently.

      Setup – the Assassins and impending doom

      Spoiler: Highlight to view

      Sequences 1 and 2 see Shay as a member of the Assassin Brotherhood, led by Achilles. Using information gathered from the Assassin Spy Le Chasseur (at least I think he was the spy), Shay is sent out on missions to steal a Piece of Eden (the precursor box) and a book that tells him how to run it. In this process, he assassinates 3 Templars, and gathers the required information and items (including the Air Gun). Along these missions, you meet and learn about Liam, one of Shay’s close friends in the Brotherhood. He functions as your first mate on the Morrigan in the early sequences. You also meet Kesegowaase, a native assassin that trains you in the art of the hunt and the trees. Anyway, these Templar targets are old men that can barely move and Shay begins to have doubts about the Achilles sending him to kill such men that are already near death. Hope (a female Assassin and friend to Shay) and Shay take the box and book to Benjamin Franklin to figure out how to make it work. The book has coded instructions to make the box work. Franklin gets it all to work by inventing electricity (and the battery). It shows a map of locations, one of which is in the Caribbean (I don’t remember the exact location) and one of which is in Lisbon, Portugal. The map shows Precursor Sites where it is believes Pieces of Eden (mind controlling Apples) are located. Achilles and the Assassins want to get their hands on one in a bad way.

      Adéwalé shows up to the Davenport Homestead. He is an old man, and comes with bad news from the Caribbean. There has been a massive earthquake (maybe it was Haiti? I don’t remember) and many people have died. Achilles seems upset, but not at the death of his Assassin that seemed to be at the middle of it, Mackandal.

      Achilles gives Shay the mission to go to Lisbon and find the Precursor Site and recover the PoE within. He is told that Liam cannot go with him, and is confused at the decision, but obeys reluctantly. While in Lisbon, Shay finds the site and PoE within. Upon grasping the supposed PoE, it disintegrates and the building belongs to collapse around Shay. He escapes a collapsing Lisbon to his boat and heads back to the colonies confused. On the way back, he surmises that this map Achilles has in hand is not one of Precursor Sites that contain Apples, but that literally hold the world together. The earthquake in the Caribbean that decimated the region has now occurred in Lisbon, and Shay blames Achilles and his blindness to gain possession of an Apple for putting all these people in danger after the first time.

      On arrival back at the Davenport Homestead, Shay confronts Achilles about this, but Achilles doesn’t listen (shade of Abbas at this time). Shay decides he cannot let his Mentor destroy any more cities so breaks into Achilles’s home to steal the book. Without the book, the box is worthless, he thinks. Achilles finds him, they fight, Achilles kicks ass. Shay tries to escape from the Davenport Homestead as the full force of the Brotherhood is after him (Hope, Liam, Adewale, Kesegowaase, and a couple others whose names and import escape me). He falls off the cliff into frigid water, and the Assassins assume he dies.

      The entire first two sequences are filled with memories that feel “too easy,” and not just because I’ve played the games before. Everything goes perfectly for Shay, until he learns the truth and the shit hits the fan. Ideally, there would be a little more character development in this section, but that is a common theme with a 6 sequence story. 1/3 of the story was spent with Shay in the Brotherhood. Lots of promise, the set-up to the story gets 4.5/5.

      Journey – Shay, a man for the people

      Spoiler: Highlight to view

      Shay wakes to find himself in New York City. He was apparently rescued from the water and placed into the care of an elderly couple that recently lost their own son about Shay’s age. Criminals loyal to the French cause come to the door to demand payment and rough up the couple, Shay puts an end to that by taking out the gang headquarters neat the nice couples’ house.

      Shay meets Colonel George Monro of the British Army, who seems to be a friend to the couple caring for him, and they discuss this terrorist activity in NYC and wish to put it to a stop. An ally to the British cause is being put to death by the gangs / French terrorists. Shay rescues Christopher Gist from hanging killing criminals along the way. Shay quickly discovers that the criminals have a ship moored, and when he sees it, he knows immediately that it is the Morrigan. Confused at this time of how his ship ended up in the hands of criminals and terrorists, Shay steals his ship back and makes Christopher Gist (and his goofy hat) his first mate.

      The French are getting closer to New York City and have built a fort just up the river. In order to strike a blow against the French fortifications and personnel, Shay is then charged with taking down a French storehouse then this fort. When he gets there, he is surprised to find the Assassin loyalist Le Chasseur as the forts commanding officer. Shay realizes that he must kill Le Chasseur else word of his survival gets back to Achilles and the Assassins. (He left them and only wants to fight for what’s right for the people at this point). He reluctantly does so.

      Back in New York, it appears the gangs are gearing up for a massive terrorist attack on the city, and are manufacturing HUGE amounts of poison, with the unwitting help of Ben Franklin. Shay meets up with Franklin, who is under the impression that Shay and Hope still work together, gives Shay some information to take to Hope and tells him where the work is going on. Shay rushes to the manufacturing plant and puts an end to the gang’s plot.

      At some point in Monro and Shay’s relationship, it is revealed that Monro has the book that Shay had stolen from the Assassins when he left them. He was the one that saved him from the ocean and the book was with him. It’s kind of funny that the Monro and Shay constantly pass the book back and forth between themselves so that it stays safe, as they both know it’s important. Shay stays with Monro helping prepare for other fort defenses they are ambushed by natives, and Kesegowaase. They manage to escape, but not without Kesegowaase recognizing Shay working with Monro. Somewhere in here, it’s revealed that Monro is a Templar and Shay had no idea. Even worse, the Assassins have teamed up with the French and the gangs and have been behind everything! Shay keeps his Assassin past from Monro, for now. Finally, Kesegowaase and his allies storm the Monro at Fort William Henry. If you know your history, you know what happens. [from Wikipedia: Lieutenant-Colonel George Monro was a Scottish-Irish soldier. He was an officer in the British Army best remembered for his resolute but ultimately unsuccessful defense of Fort William Henry in 1757.] Shay kills Kesegowaase and knows now that the Assassins have not only sided with the French, but are after him as well, thinking he’s turned full Templar.

      Somewhere in here, Shay’s Assassin past finally comes out to Monro, who is not surprised. He knew all along. The family he placed them with recently lost their son, a Templar. Additionally, Monro, and the Templars, are fine with the transition from Assassin to Templar and trust him fully at the end of the sequence; as they tell Shay, their Grandmaster’s father was an Assassin, afterall. Also, somewhere in here Monro dies. I think he had the book on him at the time so it fell back into the hands of Achilles and the Assassins, who did not heed the warnings of Shay and are again on the lookout for an Apple at a new precursor site.

      The next two sequences have Shay transitioning from past-Assassin to near Templar. I have major problems with this section of the game, primarily because Shay seems dumber than a sack of rocks. He doesn’t know the gangs are loyal to the Assassins until near the end of sequence 4, despite the fact that the first memory of sequence 3 finds him taking out a gang HQ. That’s fine, but one of the things he must do is cut down a flag… a flag that is clearly a modified Assassin symbol. And worse, he must take down the flag on the Morrigan, which is an Assassin symbol without modification from when Shay had the ship last! So you either have to believe the story (Shay didn’t know), which is a good story, but makes Shay look like an idiot, or you have to believe the gameplay which has shay hunting Assassin loyal gangs and Assassin stalkers that are after him immediately on waking up. On a first playthrough, I assumed Shay would recognize the imagery and his transition to Templar felt really rushed, and really clunky. Upon further reflection, maybe the gangs shouldn’t have the Assassin symbol, then it wouldn’t feel as odd. Shay (and the player) is supposed to learn over time that these terrorists he’s trying to stop are loyal to the Assassins, which should make him question the Brotherhood further. Instead, it’s more like he’s just dumb and when he was in the water he forgot what an Assassin symbol looked like. Additionally, the loaner clothes he gets from the couple at the beginning of the sequence are fully emblazoned with the Templar Cross! As are Monro’s clothes, Gist’s clothes, and everyone elses they hang out with this sequence. I cannot overlook this oversight because it made the game and transition feel weird on a first play through. 2.5/5.

      Payoff – time to save the world
      Haytham FINALLY shows up, and you have many joint missions with him.

      Spoiler: Highlight to view

      Teaming up with Haytham, Gist, and another guy named Weeks, or maybe Banks (so unimportant to the plot it doesn’t really matter), Shay learns of a massive French Fleet bringing in reinforcements to Louisbourg. Taking hold of a Man o’ War, Shay prevents this from occurring, all while protecting the Royal Navy. Louisbourg is an English Victory, but the Assassin Captain Adéwalé was present and leading the combined French/Assassin forces. Predictably, he escaped. After hearing through a network of spies where Adéwalé has escaped to, Shay tracks him down, triggers a boat-chase-board-assassinate similar to Benjamin Church in Black Flag. It turns out that Adéwalé did not have the information they sought, but that an explorer named Chevalier de la Verendrye has been commissioned by the Assassins to go on a voyage. It must be to a new precursor site and Shay must stop them.

      Assassins/Gangs seem to be overrunning New York and Hope is leading them. In order to get the British Army to fully devote resources to snuff them out, Shay and Weeks (I think it was Weeks) dress as French Criminals and wreak havoc. Somewhere in here, Shay learns where Hope’s center of operations is and hunts here down. It turns out that even though Shay destroyed their outdoor poison manufacturing, they did not stop and still have a lot. Upon confrontation, Hope drinks something, then releases a poison and triggers an annoying chase. Shay is poisoned and must get the antidote from Hope. Upon assassination, Hope reveals that de la Verendrye (and the other Assassins, presumably) are well on their way. Hope and her operations gave them enough time to get out.

      Upon infiltrating a camp for information, Shay finally learns where de la Verendrye is headed, north. Shay, Haytham, Gist and Weeks finally track down de la Verendrye and Shay kills him… but Liam and Achilles are not with him. He was just ANOTHER distraction. Good thing for Shay, he discovers where they are headed anyway. In the far north, Shay and the gang find the Assassin expedition, and the precursor site. Haytham and Shay go in after Achilles and Liam to see this to the end. As Achilles and Liam approach the artifact, it becomes clear to Achilles that Shay was right. This is not what they were looking for, and need not be touched. During this conversation, Shay and Haytham approach them and catch them off guard. Achilles apologizes for not listening to Shay, but Liam isn’t so quick to welcome these Templars and pulls out a gun. Achilles knocks the gun so Liam doesn’t shoot Shay, but knocks Liam’s arm right into the artifact. It disintegrates, and triggers a chase/escape. Haytham takes off after Achilles, and Shay after Liam. In something straight out of American Gladiator, Shay strategically uses cover to avoid Liam’s gunshots and finally gets him.

      Upon leaving the ice caves, Shay stops Haytham from killing Achilles. Achilles is without a Brotherhood now, and wouldn’t dare leave the Homestead. Another reason to keep Achilles alive is that now he knows the truth of these precursor sites. Without Achilles, it would just be a matter of time before another Assassin tries to find them. Haytham agrees to show some mercy toward Achilles, and shoots him in the leg, creating the limp we all know and love from AC3.

      The payoff felt kind of rushed. There wasn’t a lot of build to everything that was going on, but without “eavesdrop” missions there’s difficulty in showing how and why certain things are important. Additionally, the final assassinations were all more or less scripted chase assassinations - Adéwalé, Hope, de la Verendrye, Liam – however, I think de La Verendrye might not be a triggered chase. I think I screwed that one up and was spotted not from scripting but poor play. Hope and Liam, however, are definitely scripted chases. And I would be shocked if someone could get Adéwalé before he gets on his ship, I think that’s scripted too. The payoff only gets a 3.5/5.

      Character Development

      Spoiler: Highlight to view

      Shay was the only character with any sort of character development in this game, and even his felt clunky due to the lack of symbol recognition. We already knew Adéwalé, Haytham and Achilles, so their development wasn’t as crucial as learning more about Hope, Liam, and de La Verendrye. This, I think, is all because the game was too short – 23 memories and 6 sequences. They cut the fat (copious tail missions, eavesdrops, etc) but sometimes when you cut the fat out, out goes the flavor. The best character in the game was the North Atlantic ocean environment, complete with polar bears, narwhals and icebergs.

      The best game in recent times to do character development right, was AC3… except the protagonist. It was the game that made you learn about and understand the antagonists and I was hoping Rogue would do the same. Perhaps some more time with the Assassins, one more sequence, would have done it. Maybe a mission that actually kills the old couple’s son rather than 3 old Templars that are dying anyway… 3 dying old men and a kid who was just a boy and didn’t understand what he was a part of would have had the same feel for the distrust of the Assassins.

      You only really get introduced to Hope, Liam and Kesegowaase in the tutorial dump mission – one teaches you shooting, one teaches you stabbing and one teaches you hunting. Perhaps a mission (of importance!) with each of them would have fleshed out the characters more. Maybe the best thing would have been for each of them to be a part of the initial Assassination missions… have Kesegowaase help you tail and kill one of them from the trees; have hope give you the poison grenade to help you access another that is heavily guarded in a settlement (which would also introduce settlements AND introduce Hope as the poison lady); have de La Verendrye help you on the open ocean to track down another and Liam help you achieve the assassination. I feel breaking up the tutorials into meaningful assassination missions would have developed the characters more than a “Davenport Homestead – get back to training” tutorial dump.

      Character development was poorly executed on the whole. Shay’s transition was good, however. He went from blindly following a man who himself is blinded by potential power, to fighting for the people and figuring out the Assassins are pretty much harming everyone in their path, to believing that order was more important for the safety of the people than freedom. Character development, and lack thereof, gets a 2.5/5.

      Modern Day
      I’ll put this ALL in spoilers, because some people would rather NOT be spoiled about anything in the present day.

      Spoiler: Highlight to view

      You work as an Abstergo Entertainment employee. Melanie Lemay has taken over Olivier’s job (as Olivier was killed in Watch_Dogs) as CCO. There has been a virus attack on the servers that was triggered by your Animus session with Shay. Otso Berg, Violet de Costa and their team shows up and puts the place on lockdown for now. For some reason they send you to fix the servers and unlock more of Shay’s memories as you go. Otso is clearly looking for something in Shay’s memories. Turns out Otso is protecting Abstergo from a perceived Assassin threat. As you go, you hack into computers and unlock data on many Assassins that turned Templar: Al Mualim, Baptiste, Duncan Walpole, Daniel Cross, Lucy Stillman… At the end, you are given a choice by Berg, de Costa and Lemay: the Templar ring, or a bullet from Berg’s gun.

      Not much about the impending Juno conflict, sadly, but there are things to that end in the game, I’m just not going to tell you where. Lots of talk about the singularity of man and machine… perhaps this is where Juno manifests herself eventually.

      Some things don’t make sense… why send YOU to fix the servers with so many other competent people running around? But I love me some Assassins vs Templar lore.

      Modern day: 4/5

      Overall Story
      The story was short and restrictive. The plot is there, the characters just need to be fleshed out better. I give the overall story, in all regards, a 3.5/5.

      Overall Game Rating - should you buy
      If it were longer and the characters were developed, it’s a fantastic story and a fantastic game. The story, the thing that made me fall in love with Assassin’s Creed at the beginning, is the part of the game holding it back at this point. The gameplay and immersive world save this game… but how many times can this be the case before it’s no longer worth it to buy a new game for a new immersive world without a great new plot or set of characters? Overall, 4 stabs out of 5.

      If you liked Black Flag, and want a game that builds on it with ideas that feel like blasts from the past, get this game and don’t feel bad about spending $50 on it. It truly feels like an homage to the series, and in that regard it’s a 5/5, and the one I’ll find myself playing again over Black Flag for that reason. But as a stand-alone game, the plot and characters just isn’t up to par and there are no revolutionary gameplay advances so it’s at best a 3/5; wait for the bargain bin.

“Force has no place where there is need of skill." Herodotus