The world of Assassin’s Creed has never been black and white. Both the Assassins and the Templars have always resolutely resided in a gray area. Yet, they are two polar opposites, wholly devoted to their causes. This has perhaps never been clearer than it is in Assassin’s Creed Rogue, which the developers are referring to as the darkest chapter in the franchise. But who is our new main character Shay? What caused him to turn away from his former brothers? Producers Karl van der Luhe and Ivan Balabanov discuss Shay’s journey and the familiar faces he encounters.
Living in Shades of Gray
After a mission for the Brotherhood goes horribly wrong, Assassin Shay Patrick Cormac questions his allegiance to his order. But much like the Templars, the Assassins demand unflinching obedience. As a result of his shaken faith, the Assassins turn their backs on him and try to kill him. He is nursed back to health by a family and given their son’s old clothes – Templar robes. As he works to pay them back for their kindness, he finds himself falling in line with the Templars’ ideals and is set on a path of vengeance. Shay takes it upon himself to destroy the Assassin Brotherhood in North America and the Templars provide him with the means to do so.
“Eventually he realizes these Templars’ motives are more in-line with what he believes is right,” Producer Karl van der Luhe says. “It’s not a case of I’m going to the dark side. It’s a case of I’m more aligned with their approach. The Templars and Assassins essentially want the same things, they just have very different ways of getting there.”
But at the very core of this revenge tale is a man driven by grief and betrayal. Shay is not some bloodthirsty killer. He’s brutal and efficient and good at his job, but he finds no joy in hunting down his formers brothers and sisters. Shay sees it as something that must be done to set things right.
“We wanted Shay to be a proper human being who understands the consequences of his actions,” explains Producer Ivan Balabanov. “Killing comes with a heavy emotional price, especially when it comes to killing your former comrades. It is certainly not something Shay does with a light heart. You see him carry the weight of his actions.”
“It might be troubling for some players to be taking on Assassins,” adds Luhe. “But once they learn more and see who Shay is and really get involved with his story, I think they’re going to question who is in the right. Are the Assassins really the good guys? Are all the Templars evil? I think they’ll see it’s all quite gray.”
Shay may be a newcomer to the series, but you’ll encounter many familiar faces on your journey with him. Rogue is set between Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed III, and it fills in the major gaps between these two stories. At the end of AC4, the Assassin Brotherhood is on the rise. However, when we see the Brotherhood in Assassin’s Creed III, it’s shattered – almost nonexistent. Achilles is on his own, his order completely decimated, and Connor must rebuild from scratch. “So what happened between those two games?” Balabanov asks. “Shay happened. With the help of Haytham Kenway and the other Templars, he wrested control of North America away from the Assassins.”
That’s right, Haytham is back. In our recent hands-on time with Rogue, we also met up with William Johnson, so it’s safe to assume a few other familiar Templars from Assassin’s Creed III will make appearances.
But what about old acquaintances from Shay’s days as an Assassin? We already know Adéwalé will make a grand return. At this point in time he is much older, and still captaining the Experto Crede from Freedom Cry. Achilles will also appear, though obviously as a younger man than when we meet him in Assassin’s Creed III. Will we see other familiar Assassins? Or – the question you are perhaps more concerned by – will we have to face off against some of these familiar faces? Who to include in Rogue was not a decision the development team took lightly.
First, the team obviously had to take into account the chronological series of events. Would it make sense for certain people to be around and active when Rogue takes place? But perhaps the most important element to consider was: Is this person a worthy opponent? Can he or she help tell the story Rogue is trying to tell?
“They need to be able to help demonstrate the strength of Shay’s convictions. His loyalty to the Templars must be truly tested. We also need to ensure we don’t go down the cartoonish path of easily vilifying one side and creating this shallow conflict between good and evil,” Balabanov tells us. “In order to have the emotional reaction from the player, they need to be good, strong characters. Some of them come from the already-existing set of games, and some of them are brand new in Rogue.”
Because in the end, Shay’s story is your story. You should feel as invested and weighed down by your choices as Shay does. Balabanov goes so far as to call the game heartbreaking at times, both for you and for Shay. “With Rogue, we wanted the players to question everything they thought they knew about the Assassins and the Templars,” Balabanov explains. “We didn’t want to say one side is good and one side is bad. We wanted to portray this gray area and ask questions without necessarily providing answers. It’s up to you to find your own answers.”
For more on Assassin’s Creed Rogue, take a look at these posts: