It’s no secret that Assassin’s Creed has evolved into a franchise that carries the perception of being the “third-person Call of Duty” by a lot of video game fans. Yearly releases have become the norm for a franchise that I was initially fascinated by during E3 in 2006.
I was a big fan of Ubisoft’s prior work with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and while I was let down by Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, the studio was able to rope me back in with a sense of new-found excitement for a fresh (then) Next-Gen franchise in Assassin’s Creed.
In fact, I’ll take it one step further and say I liked Altair more than Ezio Auditore as a protagonist.
The release came and went and while there were a lot of mixed reactions, I enjoyed the game a lot. In fact, I am one of probably very few that liked the original more than Assassin’s Creed II (gasp!). In fact, I’ll take it one step further and say I liked Altair more than Ezio Auditore as a protagonist (bigger gasp!). To add insult to injury, I didn’t like Ezio’s character at all. I found him to be loud, obnoxious and he reaked of the writers trying too hard to make a likeable character, where I found Altair’s quiet and subtle persona unintrusive rather than bland and boring (Go home Dan, you’re drunk).
No, I’m not really drunk. I just think Altair was a different kind of character and the original Assassin’s Creed had what is called a “World-Driven Narrative”, one that let the events of the world shape the narrative with the characters reacting instead of enacting.
I suppose the general public responded better to Ezio because games are fundamentally about giving the player control, and Ezio was the star of the show, dictating his own terms and destiny. Altair was on the opposite end of the spectrum. He acted as the world demanded, and I suppose on some level, players felt like they weren’t as in control as they wanted to be.
Now after all of that, what do Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2 have to do with my feelings on Rogue? One word: characterization. My favorite type of character in any kind of story, is the good guy gone bad, which is exactly what Rogue’s Shay Cormac is. He is in many ways reminiscent of the ultimate good guy gone bad, Star Wars’ Darth Vader.
What is so compelling about this type of character is two fold. For one, they (generally) know everything that there is to know about the good guys. Who they are, what they do, how they operate, where they sleep, and even where they poop.
Most common struggles between the typical good guys and bad guys generally boil down to a guessing game of trying to anticipate the other’s move. With a character like Cormac, there is no guessing game. It just gets right to the point and introduces the most compelling kind of drama that can befall a hero.
With Rogue there is no escape for the heroes’ lives. Why? Because YOU are the one taking the heroes’ lives.
Every story is all about seeing how the hero escapes peril. We are kept on the edge of our seats, fearing for the hero’s lives as danger lurks around every corner but they always overcome, thus robbing a sense of authenticity in that fear. With Rogue, there is no escape for the heroes. There is a genuine sense of fear for the heroes’ lives. Why? Because YOU are the one taking the heroes’ lives.
But then that brings up an interesting question. Are the Assassins really the heroes? Genuinely compelling conflicts aren’t so predictably black and white as a simple Good Vs. Evil, which is what the series has been to date. Rogue seems to be striving to show its fans just that. Game Writer, Susan Patrick notes this herself in a recent blog post from Ubisoft’s website saying, “Despite becoming a successful Assassin, Shay will start to question the motivations of the Brotherhood and eventually, seek redemption by hunting the Assassins down.” If what Patrick says is indeed true, Rogue, not Unity, may end up being the game that gives the Assassin’s Creed series a much needed and long overdue shake up.