Assassin's Creed Rogue
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC (2015)
Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
With the mixed reception of Assassin’s Creed Unity, it would be all too easy to make assumptions about the other offering from the franchise released on the same day. Released for last generation consoles and with limited marketing, it appears as an optional side quest for those looking to get the full Assassin’s Creed experience. Yet it’s so much more than that. Let me tell you why Rogue is the quiet achiever in all this.
The game opens on protagonist Shay Cormac and his friend Liam running through a wintery scene in North America. Set after the events of Black Flag but before Assassin’s Creed III, Shay is a newly established assassin who, like many of his predecessors in the series, doesn’t take his role very seriously. Thanks to some slightly unethical decisions of his superiors and after witnessing the power of the Pieces of Eden, he begins to question the assassin order and whether it’s something he wants to be part of. He is then contacted by the Templars to work with them to stop the assassins from destroying the world.
By this point, we’ve played out the story of a guy who joins the assassin order four times in the main games. None of that here. Shay is already an assassin, albeit not a very respected one. He knows how to do his job and thought he knew what the order was about. This is the story of his realisation that the world isn’t as black and white as he believed. It isn’t just a case of changing sides for a lark. It runs perfectly with events in previous games and incorporates the setting very well.
This all comes once again through a first person silent player character in the present working for Abstergo. Call me crazy, but I actually like this link and would prefer to see more of it. I miss wandering around in the present day and learning more about what the constantly warring groups are doing now.
To me, it’s weird that this game didn’t get more publicity since it really turns the whole series on its head. Rogue is, after all, part of Ubisoft’s apparent commitment to creating experiences for those who can’t afford to upgrade to the latest console or don’t want to. As it stands, it feels almost like a waste to relegate such an interesting twist to last generation platforms. They could revisit the idea of playing a Templar at another point but it would be less of a shock.
Part of that sense of waste comes from the main plot being so short. There are only six sequences (or chapters, if you will) to the game. That’s half the length of previous titles in the series. It’s surprising that Shay feels as fleshed out as he does in that time and that it’s possible to be genuinely invested in the story. The plot is extremely tight but it doesn’t feel too rushed. Of course, it would be better to have more sequences in there and extra character development, especially considering this is a full price release.
Playing through the story and exploring the world, there is a huge sense of familiarity. This all comes down to the amount of recycling with assets from Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed III. It’d be crazy to expect that nothing would be reused, particularly in such a short development cycle (why redesign areas that already exist?) but it does cross a line sometimes. The series has featured some extraordinary landscapes in the past and while Rogue is still lovely, it just feels a bit… off.
That said, I had no objection to sailing around again. You still get to break new ground in the frosty northern seas and deal with other ships trying to board yours instead of just attacking others, as in Black Flag. There’s still that sense of freedom where you’re forging your own future and can take your ship and crew anywhere you want to go.
It’s clear that there wasn’t a lot of room for innovation during development but that doesn’t mean everything is the same. Most of the changes centre on the fact that Shay left the order. The assassins aren’t too pleased with him abandoning the cause and make attempts on his life in all ways the player would use on their targets. Using eagle vision, you can spot assassins hiding in hay carts, in bushes, up trees, etc. It’s best not to ignore these threats lest you end up in combat at a really awkward point. Having to out-stealth your old friends is an excellent addition.
Shay also utilises an air rifle as a silent long-range weapon for various darts and grenades. This is a new delivery method for these and it’s incredibly handy for creating distractions or just laughing as enemies turn on each other when hit with the classic berserker darts.
Perhaps best of all is that although the accents in the voice acting sometimes slip a bit, they actually make sense. There are French characters with French accents, English with English, and Irish with Irish. It’s just that simple.
I consider Assassin’s Creed Rogue to be an important part of the AC experience. Every other console release had so much marketing force behind it but Rogue was sort of left by the wayside when it shouldn’t have been. If you’re a fan of Black Flag (and popular opinion seems to indicate that many people are), Rogue could be the AC game for you this year. Templar or assassin, piracy is enjoyable either way.
- More fun on the high seas
- Tight story also fills in gaps in Assassin’s Creed lore
- Playing as a Templar changes how you engage enemies
- Recycled environments and animations aren’t as interesting
- Campaign slightly short with too many bit players