I've already reviewed the game here but it's one of those which benefits from having its story analyzed in detail. Assassin's Creed: Rogue is, in my opinion, one of the three best video games in the franchise. It, Assassins Creed 2 and Black Flag, are my "holy trinity" of stabbing dudes. I say this as a massive fan of Assassins Creed 3 and Brotherhood.
Rogue follows Shay Cormac as he goes from being a French-aligned privateer in the service of the Assassins to an English-aligned privateer in the service of the Templars. Shay Cormac is the ultimate enemy of the Assassins and the Templar's version of Darth Vader, showing the game's traditional enemy has teeth. This is already a good premise as seeing things from the Templar side of things has long been a request of fans.
How this comes about is why the story is awesome.
|The ever-present cold symbolizes Shay's emotional devastation. There is no peace of traitors, even when treason is the moral good.|
The game deconstructs video game morality by taking apart the blind self-righteousness of the Assassins. They are good, the Templars are evil. The Assassins never question this fundamental truth and tirelessly pursue their eternal war with the Templars regardless of how many people die in the process. This is not a new idea as, in Brotherhood, Lucrezia Borgia points out Lorenzo de Medici was a monster. The novels mention Caterina Sforza, one of Ezio's love interests, was a murderer of children.
Shay is a rough and tumble guy, having spent most of his life on the streets. He, more than most Assassins, is the kind of guy who is aware of the ambiguities which define life. It's ironic that for a group which has its motto, "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" they are blind to the nuances of morality.
|Achilles lecturing Shay is a tragedy because he never imagines he has not the power nor the wisdom to handle the beast he's about to unleash.|
Then it pulls the rug out from under you.
Some reviewers have called the event which separates Shay from the Brotherhood as cheap. The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake is an event caused by the Assassins playing with the Pieces of Eden but isn't something they could have foreseen.
I think this is missing the point as it's not the Lisbon Earthquake which causes Shay to leave the Assassins but their reaction to it. Achilles blames Shay for doing something wrong then says they have a responsibility to continue pursuing the Pieces of Eden no matter what. In other words, he cannot accept the possibility the Assassins were behind the deaths of innocents. They're the good guys, after all. When Achilles orders Shay to be killed, no one questions the Mentor.
Not even the entire town.
At a word, Shay is to die.
|The Assassins call Shay a monster for turning against them. But, really, they're just mad because he won't die like other Templars.|
Lovable fanatics, but fanatics.
Even so, why join the Templars? Why turn against your former friends and allies before hunting them down like a dog? The Templars, after all, are after many of the things the Assassins are, including the Pieces of Eden. Here, I think its ambiguous as Shay doesn't so much join the Templars as slip into them.
Shay starts waging war against their agents because they're behind the gangs menacing the people of New York, which is a Devil's bargain that makes them no better than the Borgia, before they start hunting him. The Templars win Shay over with their urban renewal project and the fact the Assassins hunt him first. Shay can't take five steps in New York without someone jumping out of the bushes to try and gut him.
In that respect, the Assassins bit off more than they could chew. In the end, the destruction of the Colonial Assassins is a tragedy but it's an escalating one. To protect his new friends, men who'd stand by him, Shay turned against the Assassins. It's no coincidence the Assassination contracts are defensive ones. Shay doesn't hunt the Assassins for much of the game, he protects Templars against them. By the end of the game, he IS hunting Assassins and seeking Pieces of Eden. So has he fallen from grace or does he feel now, this is the only way?
The answer is left to the player.
The depiction of the Templars in Rogue is fascinating because, like the Assassins, we don't see them changed from their usual way. The Templars are still arrogant, power hungry, manipulative, and privileged. The thing is, we also get a good dose of how those qualities make them qualified leaders. With the exception of the Borgia, Vidic, and WW2 Templars; one thing has always united the Templars and that's their belief they are working for the greater good. They claim to use their power to benefit others.
The thing is, Rogue shows they actually do. It's possible Colonel Monro and Shay are the exceptions rather than he rule but there's no reason to assume so. When compared to so many corrupt and ruthless monsters throughout history, the fact the Templars bother to make sure the masses are fed puts them above most.
|Heroes or villains?|
Food for thought.
I think all fans of the series will love the game these issues. It's a very human story with a lot going on for it. What's the best summary for it? I believe The Dark Knight says it best: You either die a hero or live long to become the villain. The question is whether it's Shay or the Assassins who became such.
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