The Inevitable Head to Head: Unity Vs. Rogue

I find the naming of this year's two Assassin's Creed games to be somewhat ironic. In fact it almost seems to that the titles should be reversed. Allow me to explain:

Assassin's Creed: Unity represents a bold, if somewhat faltering new step for the series. With a new engine, a new set of platforms, a new time period, and a newly minimized focus on the "present time" storyline the series has always contained; Unity is very much the wild card of the series so far. Whether these changes worked or didn't have been the subject of much debate (I for one was saddened by the lack of present-day segments) but the fact remains that Unity is a drastic departure from what has come before.

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Meanwhile in Rogue we find a transition more akin to the changes made between phases of the Ezio story arc in AC II, Brotherhood, and Revelations. The core gameplay is almost unchanged from last year's Black Flag with some minor additions and tweaks. Also, while Unity changes settings and leaves familiar characters behind, Rogue acts as a nice capstone to the most recent set of games set in the colonial Americas. It brings together returning characters like Haytham Kenway and Adewale and wraps up loose ends from the previous installments.

So we're left with a game called Unity that in fact goes rather rogue from the series' past and a game called Rogue that does a remarkable job of unifying gameplay and story elements from previous games into something comfortingly familiar. Here lies the obvious question: when comparing this year's offerings, which is better overall?

That's a bit of a difficult question to answer. While Unity's launch has been plagued with criticisms and technical issues, it's easy to look at that games failings and just declare Rogue the victor by default. I feel that that does Unity a disservice, however. It took the big risks this year and went for the big changes, so obviously it's a bit of a grab bag as far as what worked and what didn't. When working, the visuals are stunning and far outstrip anything Rogue has to offer. The customization options and opening up of the interiors to city structures make the Parisian adventure feel more alive and reinforce the suspension of disbelief crucial to true game immersion.

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But for every step forward, Unity takes a step back. It's graphical prowess is hobbled by spotty performance, even on consoles it was specifically developed for. And despite opening up the city to increase the feeling of really being in revolutionary Paris, the addition of "Creed Points" and constant reminders of the more "social" aspects of the game keep popping up to pull me out of Paris and remind me Ubisoft needs to meet its bottom line.

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On the other hand, in taking such big risks Unity leaves the field open for a Rogue to take advantage of the tried and true mechanics of the previous series games and create an experience that is polished, consistent, and fun. Though it's caution sometimes holds it back on the gameplay front, with existing complaints about the series' interface and navigation largely remaining un-addressed, the developers make up for this by taking us through the storyline into uncharted waters. Even more damning for Unity, Rogue keeps the present day story moving along and gives more to fans of the story's overall progression something to enjoy this year, which Unity nearly entirely fails to do.

For all of its innovation and fresh ideas, Unity introduces concepts that need refinement to live up to the standards set by the franchise in the past, while Rogue represents a more cautious, and to me ultimately more successful step forward.

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Sorry Arno, but my vote goes to the Templar.

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