Shay Patrick Cormac

Shay Patrick Cormac is a fictional character in Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed video game franchise. He first appears as the protagonist of Assassin's Creed: Rogue, originally released in 2014. Within the series, Shay is depicted as an Irish American member of the Colonial American branch of the Assassin Brotherhood, an organization inspired by the real-life Order of Assassins, who at the onset of the French and Indian War defects to the Templar Order, in turn inspired by the real-life Knights Templar military order. He is responsible for facilitating the extermination of the Colonial Brotherhood in the ensuing years when the war expands into the American theatre of the worldwide Seven Years' War, as well as the murder of the father of Assassin's Creed Unity protagonist Arno Dorian at the Palace of Versailles years later. He is portrayed by Canadian actor Steven Piovesan through performance capture.

Shay Patrick Cormac
Assassin's Creed character
ShayCormac.png
Shay's design as a Templar, as presented in Assassin's Creed: Rogue
First appearanceAssassin's Creed: Rogue (2014)
Created byUbisoft Sofia
Portrayed bySteven Piovesan
In-universe information
OccupationAssassin
Privateer
AffiliationAssassin Brotherhood
Templar Order
NationalityIrish-American

The character has received a mostly positive reception, with critical commentary focusing on his nuanced characterization as well as his unique status as a protagonist from the Templar faction, which is considered to be a departure from series tradition.

Creation and conceptionEdit

"Shay, he doesn’t forfeit his humanity when he becomes a Templar. He simply decides to follow another cause. It does not turn him into a callous, mindless killer. Shay remains Shay. He has an emotional evolution throughout the game, but it’s still him, he’s simply changes his outlook. His loyalties remain the same."

Mitch Dyer, "Assassin's Creed Rogue's Templar Anti-Hero Is Fascinating."[1]

Shay Patrick Cormac is concepted based on the idea of a member of the Assassins who have a change of heart and leaves as a result of a traumatic act of betrayal. Shay joined the Brotherhood as a brash young man, and is depicted at the beginning of the narrative as a somewhat frivolous personality who does not take his role seriously due to his youth and lack of wisdom, though he is full of inner conflict as he questions the motivations of his leaders. A writer for Rogue, Richard Farrese, explained that the character is prompted to rethink his whole philosophy and his allegiance to the Assassins as a result of a cataclysmic event, and realizes that the Templars' goals and methods are much more in line with his own beliefs. Ivan Balabanov, producer and general manager of Ubisoft Sofia, describes his character arc as a "transformation into this very somber, dedicated character who is pursuing his former comrades for something he genuinely believes is the better road.” Ivan Balabanov further noted that "there are not many lines which Shay doesn’t cross. It’s a dark story. It’s probably the most tragic of AC games so far. You see that Shay is not somebody who, once he’s made up his mind, he’s forgotten what it’s like to know these people. He knows who they are. He’s regretful when he kills them."

Ubisoft staff have emphasized that Shay is not evil or ruthless at any point in the game's narrative, but rather the narrative focuses on Shay "as a human being, his story, why he’s doing what he’s doing, all in the context of demonstrating these gray areas".[2] The development team wanted to create a relatable character whose actions create room for understanding, and that they deliberately avoid creating a "monodimensional, very flat character, a stereotypical bad guy who kills the good guys".[1] Producer Karl van der Luhe explains that from Shay's perspective, it is not about "going to the dark side", but rather a case of him finding himself being aligned with the Templars' approach as he comes to a realization that their motives and strategy are more in-line with what he believes is right, and he joins to help push it further. Van der Luhe noted that the Templars and Assassins essentially want the same things and that their point of difference is their approach into getting there. Writer Susan Patrick suggested that by hunting down his former comrades, Shay is in fact seeking redemption.[3]

Writer Richard Farrese suggested that one of the exciting things about playing a Templar is that the player experienced "all of that from the other side", and now that they are part of the order as Shay, the game places the player in direct opposition against the chaos wrought by the Assassins.[4] One of the key differences between both organizations, besides their philosophical differences, comes down to resources: Farrese explained that the Templars are well-heeled compared to the Assassins, and while they are not in control of the Colonial authorities at the onset of the French and Indian War, they are actively trying to manipulate them. The Templar Order's access to a wealth of resources is manifested through Shay’s arsenal of rare and exotic weapons that either existed as prototypes during the era or were actually in use at the time.[4] A notable example is his air rifle, which allows him to silently take out enemies at a distance, which utilizes a variety of different projectiles like darts or firecracker rounds that distract enemies or help him complete objectives.[4] At a predetermined point in the narrative, he is also given a grenade launcher attachment for his rifle by a fictionalized version of Benjamin Franklin, which could fire off shrapnel grenades and other loads.[1]

Rogue incorporates the naval battles and exploration which is a core gameplay mechanic for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, thus Shay is also the captain of his own ship. Patrick noted that there is a thematic link between Shay and his ship, as Cormac is a Gaelic name that means "raven" and his ship is named after The Morrigan, a goddess from Irish mythology associated with war and fate who often appeared as a raven.[3] The Morrigan is smaller than Black Flag protagonist Edward Kenway’s Jackdaw, allowing it to navigate the rivers and bays in the North Atlantic region which would be inaccessible for a larger vessel. The Morrigan is outfitted with the Puckle gun, described as an "early version of a machine gun" due to its rapid fire capability.

There is some conflicting information as to Shay's place of birth. Mitch Dyer from IGN described him as the Dublin-born son of a fisherman,[1] and the character's speech is punctuated with a noticeable Irish accent. On the other hand, Patrick explained in a developer's blog post on the Ubisoft website that he is born to Irish immigrants in New York.[3]

AppearancesEdit

Shay Patrick Cormac is the protagonist of Assassin's Creed: Rogue, which is set between the events of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin's Creed III. The player experiences Shay's life as part of a simulation played by another in-game protagonist, a research analyst who works for Abstergo Entertainment, a corporate front of the Templar Order in the modern era. The game's plot is primarily focused on the time period between the years 1752 and 1760, when British North America experiences the French and Indian War between the United Kingdom and France. This is a crucial time period for both the Assassins and Templars in Colonial America, as each faction seeks to extend their influence over the colonies of the New World.

Shay is first seen in the game as a 21-year-old recent initiate into the Assassin Brotherhood. His skill in combat earns him a place in the organization, but he is also prone to questioning why the Assassins operate as they do. As a member of the Assassins, Shay is depicted as playing an instrumental role in the alternate version of historical events presented by Rogue, beginning with the assassination of a terminally ill Lawrence Washington who is secretly a high ranking member of the Templars, and culminating in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which is triggered by Shay's activation of a mysterious artifact beneath the Lisbon Cathedral as part of a direct order from the leader of the Colonial Brotherhood, Achilles Davenport. The aftermath of the Great Lisbon Earthquake became a turning point for Shay, who realize how many civilians the Assassins have put in jeopardy and killed in pursuit of their goals, and rebelled against Achilles' leadership; he is presumed dead after he falls off a cliff in an escape attempt. A set of memories recovered by the unnamed Abstergo researcher reveal that Shay survived his fall, and that he is nursed back to health in New York City by an elderly couple associated with Lieutenant-Colonel George Monro, who is aware of Shay's identity as an Assassin as well as his hidden potential.

After working for a time as a vigilante opposing gang members who extort the citizenry of New York City, Monro reveals himself as a Templar and convinces Shay that he can improve the lives of others if they work together. Shay retakes his ship The Morrigan from the Assassins, and agrees to assist his new allies, which includes historical figures such as Christopher Gist and James Cook. Following Monro's death at the hands of the Assassins, Shay is formally inducted by Grand Master Haytham Kenway into the Templar Order. Realizing that the Assassins have not given up their search for the Precursor artifacts, a box and a manuscript, Shay comes to believe that they are a threat to the world and commits himself to hunt them and their allies down, while paving the way for British dominance in the American colonies. Among the notable Assassins killed by Shay during this time period include Kesegowaase, Adéwalé, Hope Jensen, Chevalier de La Vérendrye, and Shay's former best friend Liam O'Brien. Towards the end of Rogue, Shay pleads with Haytham to spare Achilles as the latter had acknowledged that Shay was right all along about the dangerous nature of the Precursor artifacts, and that the Colonial Brotherhood is all but destroyed by that point. Haytham acquieses to Shay's request and orders him to search for the missing Precursor box, though the manuscript has already been recovered from Liam.

At the ending of Rogue, which chronologically takes place decades after Achilles is spared by the Templars, Shay is revealed to have traveled to Paris to infiltrate the Palace of Versailles in search of the Precursor box. Shay locates and murders Charles Dorian, a French Assassin and the father of Arno Dorian, and claims the box which had been in his possession.

Other appearancesEdit

The character makes no further appearances in the Assassin's Creed series, though Shay is referenced in the 2016 novel Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants through his grandson Cudgel Cormac, a professional Assassin hunter who continued his grandfather's legacy in protecting the Templar cause during the American Civil War.[5]

Promotion and merchandiseEdit

In 2019 DAMTOYS released a figure of Shay Cormac, which stands at just over 12 inches tall and dressed in the character's signature robed outfit, with accessories such as pistol bags, bracers, and pouches. The action figure features nearly a dozen interchangeable hands, which allows for poses with different types of weapons.[6]

ReceptionEdit

Shay Patrick Cormac has been well received by video game journalists, with favorable placements on several "top character" ranking lists of Assassin's Creed series protagonists.[7][8] Andy Kelly from PC Gamer praised Shay as a "tough and ruthless" character who refuses to prey on the weak and occasionally shows mercy, and that more "nuanced and flawed" lead characters like him should appear in the Assassin's Creed series.[9] Ewan Moore described Shay as "brutal yet conflicted", a compelling character who is always willing to be kind when he can, and expressed a desire to see another full game with him as a lead.[10] Andrew Carroll from Headstuff included Shay in his list of 6 great Irish video game characters in commemoration of St Patrick's Day 2019. [11]

Critical commentary have focused on the characterization of Shay's humanity. Mitch Dyer from IGN commented that while Rogue is the darkest, most brutal game in the entire series, its main character is not the villainous sociopath he had expected, but rather has goals, regrets, fears, and a grounded personality that makes him a fascinating character.[1] Dyer observed that Shay is more relatable compared to previous series protagonists, and that his fall from grace happens slower than he had anticipated, which contributes to making his change of allegiance more convincing. He concludes that it is discomforting that the assassin he finds the most interesting is the one who hunts down and slays his former comrades, though the narrative's grim tone is balanced by what he considered to be one of the most preposterous, hilarious events in the entire series: Benjamin Franklin giving Shay a grenade launcher, a "fun tool for sending enemies into a rage, blowing up walls, or gassing groups of bad guys into unconsciousness".[1] Stephen Totilo from Kotaku considered him to be one of the most interesting protagonists in the series whose character arc, from Assassin to Templar is satisfyingly told through playable missions.[12] Softpedia's review of Rogue praised Shay is probably one of the most complex characters in the series who has an actual personality and deep moral dilemmas, and claimed that one could not find fault with his actions even though the series have predominantly depicted the Assassin and Templar conflict from the perspective of the former.[13] In a retrospective review of Rogue, Shubhankar Parijat from Gamingbolt said Shay’s transformation from young Assassin to Master Templar remains "fascinating to see". Parijat said Rogue's storyline, which revolves around Shay's personal conflict with his former friends and allies, seeing him being forced to view things in different ways, watching him interact with and form closer bonds with his newfound comrades in the Templars, deserves a special place in the Assassin’s Creed series.[14] [12]

Steven Piovesan's performance as Shay Patrick Cormac have received mixed reviews. Marshall Honorof from Tom's Guide thought Piovesan convincingly portrays Shay as thoughtful and conflicted.[15] The Irish accent Piovesan uses for the character on the other hand have attracted criticism, particularly from Irish publications.[16][17][18]

AnalysisEdit

"You did that kind of thing before to someone like the character you’re controlling now and felt good about it. You feel righteous now. Maybe you weren’t the good guys before, after all."

Stephen Totilo , "Games Let You Become Your Own Worst Enemy" [19]

Writing for the New York Times, Totilo commented that while Shay "theoretically turns full-on bad guy" when he joins the Templars, who are the overarching antagonists in the majority of the Assassin's Creed media franchise, he noted that Rogue still allow players to feel like the "good guy". To Totilo, the creators of Rogue have provided a clear signal to players on the issue of morality, and noted that the opportunity to play as a bona fide "bad guy" in a video game is a rare perspective, much less asking players to consider that they’re wrong or to feel good about what they’re doing while identifying with an unsavory group.[19] Shay's status as one of the few Templar characters who is portrayed sympathetically in the series is discussed by Lars de Wildt in the 2019 book Playing Utopia: Futures in Digital Games. Shay's tampering of a Precursor artifact as directed by the Assassin leadership, which inadvertently triggers The Great Lisbon Earthquake event in Rogue's narrative, is cited as an example of the exploration of the theme of theodicy in popular media by author Frank G. Bosman.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Mitch Dyer (October 14, 2014). "Assassin's Creed Rogue's Templar Anti-Hero Is Fascinating". IGN. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  2. ^ Andrei Dobra (October 14, 2014). "Assassin's Creed Rogue Protagonist Isn't a Ruthless Killer, Ubisoft SaysOct 14, 2014". Softpedia. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Makuch, Eddie (August 20, 2014). "Assassin's Creed Rogue's Hero Is "Brash and Arrogant," But Also Has a Conscience". GameSpot. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Cork, Jeff (August 6, 2014). "Get To Know Shay From Assassin's Creed Rogue". Game Informer. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  5. ^ Kirby, Matthew J. (September 1, 2016). Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants. Scholastic UK. p. 106. ISBN 9781407167978.
  6. ^ https://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2019/08/22/assassins-creed-rogue-statue-damtoys/#/slide/1
  7. ^ https://screenrant.com/assassins-creed-every-assassin-ranked-worst-best/
  8. ^ https://www.thegamer.com/assassins-creed-best-assassins/
  9. ^ Andy Kelly (October 23, 2018). "The assassins of Assassin's Creed, ranked from worst to best". PC Gamer. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  10. ^ Ewan Moore (April 30, 2020). "Assassin's Creed: All Assassins Ranked From Worst To Best". LADBible. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  11. ^ https://www.headstuff.org/entertainment/gaming/st-patricks-day-irish-video-game-characters/
  12. ^ a b Totilo, Stephen (March 10, 2015). "Assassin's Creed Rogue: The Kotaku Review". Kotaku. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  13. ^ Andrei Dobra (November 13, 2014). "Assassin's Creed Rogue Review (PS3)". Softpedia. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  14. ^ Parijat, Shubhankar (September 24, 2020). "Assassin's Creed Rogue Retrospective – 6 Years Later". Gamingbolt. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  15. ^ Honorof, Marshall (November 18, 2014). "Assassin's Creed Rogue Review – Out of Time". Tom's Guide. Archived from the original on March 25, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  16. ^ https://www.dailyedge.ie/assassins-creed-rogue-irish-shay-1605834-Aug2014/
  17. ^ https://extra.ie/2019/01/22/sport/gaming/release-date-leaked-assassins-creed-iii
  18. ^ Louise Blain (June 27, 2017). "Wave hello and learn some sea shanties in last gen's forgotten Assassin's Creed Rogue". Gamesradar. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Totilo, Stephen (January 27, 2014). "Games Let You Become Your Own Worst Enemy". New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2020.