While working with his fellow assassins Shay Cormac is assigned a mission to recover a relic in Lisbon, Portugal. The entire enterprise goes wrong, and the destruction is cataclysmic. Filled with moral outrage, the idealistic assassin attempts to stop his comrades from committing another atrocity. As a friend of mine likes to say “this is where things got interesting.”
Suddenly, Shay is a “law and order sheriff”, looking to take down gang members. The system is similar to other AC games, of course, but the gang leader is more difficult to deal with than other enemies, using stealth to sneak up on you. Each leader taken down, in addition to your removing the flag over their headquarters, opens a new building for renovation. Each of these sectors is classified as an “Economic Zone”, meaning you get money over time when you open one up. As with the Ezio games, the properties you renovate will offer increased income over time. The viewpoints are spread throughout the city, and you must also “open” those to see each part of town on your map.
More than once I slid off of a sloped New York building and died, there being no visible chance to save myself. I simply slid to the edge, and down to my death. Again, this happened with more than one renaissance period cupola during the Ezio games. A desynchronization or two caused by plummeting to your demise and you’ll be more cautious. I suppose it’s just par for the course in an AC game.
More important than the controls is Shay’s transformation, which is at once on a grand scale as he moves to the other side, yet also slight, as his personality seems to remain consistent. Deep down, perhaps he has always been one who believes in preventing the dangers of the unexpected, and has simply found his proper place in the natural order of things. Regardless, the man certainly changes.
Befriending a Colonel who assists him in finding a purpose during his convalescent stay in New York City, the former assassin begins to find meaning in the work of the Templars, even before he knows their names.
A passionate, already moral and upright man, Shay is already leaning toward the group which espouses order through control (held by them of course.)
But just as we saw with Ben Hornigold in Black Flag, the propensity was there. Shay doesn’t so much vault toward the other side as he seems to return in natural fashion toward it, and it comes as less than a surprise because of this.
Which brings us to an important point: All of this once again makes clear that Ubisoft, and in particular the crew which produces the AC games, has mastered the art of character development in their games. You’re not so much playing a game as participating in a story. And the characters, particularly the protagonists, are full and fleshed out, with their own sets of clearly visible beliefs.
The settings of these games, all beautiful, more importantly exist during times of conflict, allows us to quickly gain insight as the characters in the game deal with the details of that conflict. Their inner struggles allows us to see inside their minds, and that is most definitely true with Shay . Instead of loathing him as he changes sides, we understand, and in my case accept it as a logical choice.
It’s smart, and the game becomes immersive in large part because of this. Shay seems a logical choice for a Templar, not because we see him suddenly become some evil, fascist style monster, but because the qualities he possesses, especially his belief that innocents should never be harmed in the carrying out of one’s duties, are already there when we meet him.
The story itself is probably the major strength of this game. In my opinion it’s exceptionally well told, and in the now classic Assassin’s Creed style. It works, and I found myself immersive more and more as our “hero” became the man we already believed him to be.