Assassin’s Creed ‘Rogue’ vs ‘Unity’
If you are a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, this is a very good year for you. Not only is there a new entry made exclusively for the new generation of consoles, there is a separate, stand alone title for the previous generation of systems. But which is better? The answer is not as simple as you might think when you compare Assassins Creed Unity vs Rogue.
To begin with, Unity is a far more visually impressive game. The hardware is more powerful, so naturally the graphics are better. But is Paris more fun to explore than the 18th century shipping lanes from New York to the North Atlantic? Unity also offers co-op play, but does that make the story better?
After spending close to 60 hours in both games, we have opinions. So many opinions. Read on for a breakdown of each category as we compare the two games head-to-head.
About Both Games
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Unity takes place during the bloody and violent French Revolution, and features a new character in assassin Arno Dorian. Unity is designed exclusively for the new gen PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and PC), it features co-op play, and lets you roam through a fully realized version of late 18th century Paris. And Paris is not just a big city, it is one of the most technically impressive landscapes ever created in gaming.
Paris is broken up into multiple districts, each with its own architecture, style, and types of people – and the citizens don’t just have on different clothes, they move and interact in a way unique to that district. From a tech standpoint, Unity is utterly amazing.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue
Released with far less attention than its new gen sibling, Rogue takes place during the Seven Years War between the French and English; specifically, it focuses on the French and Indian War, which took place in North America during the mid-1700s. Like Unity, it also features a new protagonist in Shay Cormac, an assassin turned Templar.
Rogue appears exclusively on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (and soon the PC), and it is essentially a reskin of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, with a chunk of Assassin’s Creed III thrown in for good measure. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. While you may be familiar with the menus, gameplay, and setting (to a degree), the developers have put a clever twist on everything. Rogue is also a direct continuation of the storyline featuring the Kenway bloodline.
Assassin’s Creed Lore
The Assassin’s Creed story has grown fairly massive, and continues to threaten to veer towards convoluted, but it is also intricately connected and well thought out. If you have played the previous games and are hoping to see more about the characters you already know, then there is a clear winner here.
By contrast, Unity is jumping on point for new fans. The character of Arno has no direct connection to Altair, Ezio, Conner, or the Kenways, and the epic struggle between the Templars and Assassins is kept to a minimum. Arno’s story is self-contained, and even the modern day conceit of the story-within-the-story is kept to a minimum. If that is what you want, Unity is the game for you.
If, however, you want to learn more about the story you’ve already been introduced to, Rogue is very much a game you want to play. You don’t need to know the lengthy AC history to enjoy it, but you will appreciate it far more if you do.
The combat in the Assassin’s Creed games can be fairly simplistic, even with new weapons and tweaks to each new iteration. Basically, you attack, you break the guard of enemies, and you counter when you are fighting multiple enemies. Despite fine tuning, the series hasn’t changed much in this regard, but of the two, Unity is far and away the better in terms of combat.
Rogue’s combat is taken directly from Black Flag with only a few minor tweaks, right down to the animations. If you’ve seen them once, you’ve seen them 50 times. Unity is much more fluid in this since, and it also offers the ability to change weapon types, which changes your fighting style. It’s still familiar, but compared to Rogue it feels fresh and original.
Rogue is set during the French and Indian War, an important, but often overlooked conflict in North American history that cleared the way for the American Revolution. That said, if you were playing a fantasy football-like game with global historical events instead of players, the French Revolution would be owned by something like 98-percent of players, while the Seven Years War would be on the bench.
One of the maddening things about Unity is how little the game uses the period to its advantage. Still, it makes for an incredible setting as you cruise past a group of French people shouting “rabble rabble rabble” in front of a guillotine.
The Assassin’s Creed games are built around the parkour-like abilities of the assassins, and this can make for some incredible scenes as you zip around the worlds you inhabit. It can also lead to some frustrating moments as your assassin suddenly decides to fling themselves off a roof to their death, or they try to climb a lamp post as enemies shoot them.
Black Flag took some big steps in making this less frustrating, and Rogue uses that exact mechanic. Black Flag was far from perfect though, and Rogue shares the same issues. Unity polishes that gameplay a bit. It isn’t a massive change, but play the two games together and you will appreciate the improvements.
Ok, this category is a bit unfair since Rogue doesn’t have a multiplayer component while Unity has an addictive co-op offering. So not only does this category go to Unity, it is minus 1 against Rogue. Black Flag featured the continuation of the original Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, so there’s no reason Rogue couldn’t. That said, Unity would probably have won this category anyway. The co-op compelling, and no two games are exactly alike. Whether you plot out attacks with your friends or just jump in a random game and stab away, the inclusion of a second assassin is memorable.
Both games feature new protagonists, but one is clearly more memorable than the other. Unity’s star, Arno, starts off strong. He is roguish in the Han Solo mold, and he is driven by a star-crossed love story. Soon enough though, he becomes dull and one dimensional. Rogue’s Templar-aligned Shay, on the other hand, is a well developed and complex character. You know what he is doing and why, and the story is a twist on the entire series. Shay isn’t just the better character this year, he’s arguably the best character in the series next to Ezio.
This is easily the most difficult category to judge, because the criteria is difficult to define. Both games are packed with side missions and things to do beyond the main story, but Rogue’s numerous side quests are mostly taken directly from Black Flag and just reskinned. They are varied and the sea combat means there is always something to do, but they are nothing you haven’t seen before, with only a few, slight difference. On the other hand, Unity’s side quests are repetitive and frequently dull. You are given a mission, and you can typically complete it by stabbing people.
If you haven’t played Black Flag, you will probably be impressed by all you can do in Rogue. If you did though, you probably already got your fill. Black Flag’s side quests were expansive and varied, but they have been done. Unity’s missions may be similar, but the co-op is a saving grace. The objectives are frequently simple, but completing missions with other, real people means every match is potentially different.
This is similar to the protagonist category. Arno’s story is frequently dull, but more than that, it is frustrating. You have an assassin operating during one of the most turbulent, bloody, and important moments in human history, and the entire Reign of Terror is little more than an afterthought. It comes up only a handful of times, and even when it does, it has almost no impact on the story. It goes beyond a missed opportunity, it’s maddening. The story missions are also mostly unimaginative and uninspired to boot, and the incredible city becomes a backdrop rather than a character as it should be.
Rogue, however, is elevated by the story. The gameplay is the same as its predecessors, the locations are just reskins and repeats, and the multiplayer was removed, but the story is compelling. It’s about half the length of Unity’s, and yet it is still far more engrossing as the series is turned on its head thanks to the Templar point of view. Beyond that, the missions are clever and inventive. They put you on the opposite side of many AC missions, and have you watching for enemies to jump out of hay carts, just as you might. It twists the familiar, and each story mission is unique.
Which is Better?
This might seem like a cop out, but which game is better is entirely down to personal preference. Both games have things that work and things that don’t, and your past experience with the series is a major factor.
If you didn’t play Black Flag, Rogue’s side quests, locations, and naval battles are a highlight. Of course, you will be missing out on some of the story’s most important points. Rogue’s missions are original and play against the conventions of the game, while Unity’s are almost the exact opposite. They are repetitive and frequently require the exact same strategy. Unity’s Paris, however, is an absolute marvel.
Paris is alive and vibrant, and the different districts are distinct. Rogue’s world is not just familiar, one section of it – New York – is just lifted from Assassin’s Creed III. It is a little different, but not much. The other sections are basically just a slightly modified version of the Caribbean from Black Flag. That isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t a highlight either, while Unity’s Paris is almost reason enough to play the game.
So really, it comes down to a few deciding factors, and what is most important to you. Unity has an addictive co-op mode set in an incredible city, and features a movement and combat system that is the best of the series to date. Rogue has one of the best stories of the series, and the elements that worked in Black Flag continue to shine here.
If you are a huge fan of the series, you will probably want to play both games – but if you do, play Rogue first; the gameplay is a step forward, even if the trappings aren’t. If you don’t like AC at all, neither game will convince you otherwise. So maybe the better question is, which should you play first?