Rocksmith has been around since 2011, starting as an alternative to the 5-knob rhythm guitar craze, characterized by allowing players to use their own real six strings as controllers, turning actually playing a guitar into a rhythm game. Over the years it’s been touted more for its success as a guitar learning instrument than as an actual competitor to other rhythm games, and that’s really what Rocksmith+ leans towards. Rocksmith+ is a subscription service that costs either $14.99 a month, $39.99 for three months, and $99.99 for a full year, and along with that cost comes a library of more than 5,000 songs, a comprehensive set of Lectures to teach you how to play guitar at almost any level and an amazing array of tools to help you reach your guitar level and hone it from there.
And it all works! After testing it out for a few weeks and coming back with just a handful of teenage guitar lessons and a few hours of playing around with previous Rocksmith iterations as a base, I certainly improved my knowledge of chords, improved my finger dexterity and learned proper guitar playing form .
E3 2021 Screens – Rocksmith Plus
I can’t speak to what Rocksmith+ will be worth to someone who is already good at playing guitar, but what really makes Rocksmith+ worth its subscription cost for me is its lesson plan. They are divided into four learning paths: Basic, Intermediate Lead Guitar, Intermediate Rhythm Guitar and Advanced, with each learning path containing a series of lessons punctuated with a practice track that will test your understanding of the lesson. You’re challenged to get a score of 80% of notes hit at 100% speed to complete a lesson, which gave me a nice playful incentive and made me really practice until I really mastered the technique before I moved on to the next.
My only slight disappointment here is that the lessons are completely separate from the song library. It would have been nice to find out which songs or even parts of songs I could play using the chords I was learning. Although I’ve gone through a fair chunk of the basics learning path, I felt disoriented when it came to navigating Rocksmith+’s massive song library and trying to find something to play comfortably without getting caught in a sea of I was still taught to feel lost in unknown chords and techniques that hadn’t.
Fortunately, Rocksmith+’s adaptive difficulty works quite well. Each time you select a song, you’ll be given a recommended difficulty target that sets the grade table to what the game feels like for your current skill level. If you play well, some extra notes will be added, maybe single notes will be turned into chords, or maybe some slides will be added. Like the lessons, playing the process of learning songs does a great job as I play certain ones over and over again to try to increase the difficulty and build my mastery. You’ll be rewarded with customizable guitar necks and fretboards, but honestly, the feeling of improvement is reward enough in itself.
Oddly enough, Rocksmith+’s weakest area was its song selection of more than 5,000 songs. Although this is just an insane number of songs in a single game, I’ve struggled to find songs that even fit my own basic taste in rock music. Sure, that’s a subjective criticism, but if you were to do a Google search for the top ten rock bands of all time, most if not all of them would probably be completely absent from Rocksmith+’s song library. There is no Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, Queen, Rush, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, Kiss, I could go on. It’s not just the classics either. Even relatively more modern and active rock bands like The Foo Fighters, Muse, The Killers and Queens of the Stone Age are conspicuously absent. Not only that, some of the bands that have songs in the game are missing out on their greatest hits. It was an absolute shock to see that Deep Purple has eleven songs in the game and none of them are Smoke on the Water.
Rocksmith+ makes up for that by having an exceptionally wide variety of different genres, and to be fair, it’s an impressive range. There’s everything from reggae to hip-hop, blues, Latin music to nursery rhymes, and heck, there’s even a handful of anime opening and ending songs, like Kesenai Tsumi from the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime. It’s cool to see such hidden gems while browsing the song list, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that for a game so focused on teaching you how to play guitar, the actual number of all-time classical guitar songs, you can learn is, at least for the moment, exceedingly small.
And therein lies the value of Rocksmith+: as a way to teach you how to play guitar, it’s awesome. The interface is wonderful, the lessons are straightforward and easy to follow, and there are great skill tests at all levels to ensure you understand and are able to repeat what you have learned. But as a game that you launch to play along with your favorite songs, it’s not there yet. Of course, this is a glimpse of a subscription service in its infancy, and more songs will surely be added throughout its lifecycle, with even a number of community creations already on the service.
As someone who wants to learn how to play the guitar basically, but doesn’t have the schedule to facilitate true in-person lessons, and has already seen progress and improvement in the few weeks that I’ve been using Rocksmith+, I’m inclined to stay tuned and see how the service evolves over time. But to keep my attention, Ubisoft definitely needs to spice up its song library with some heavyweights from the rock world.
In any case, if you have an electric guitar, a Real Tone cable to connect it to your platform of choice, you can try it out for yourself when Rocksmith+ opens its doors for PC starting today.