Assassin's Creed Rogue - Review
It says a lot about last year's double bill of Assassin's Creed releases, that the one running on last generation hardware is significantly more fun than the Xbox One/PS4 game. It's clear right from the start of Assassin's Creed Rogue that this is where the majority of the development time was spent. Despite plenty of rehashed assets from Assassin's Creed 3 & 4, there's an impressive amount of stuff packed in here.
The big gimmick that Rogue brings to the table is that, for the first time, you play as a Templar. One of the series' best bait and switch moments was when you played through the tutorial of Assassin's Creed 3, only to realize you'd been playing as a Templar all along. Here, there's no need for a twist and so the game instead takes its time setting up its story.
Protagonist Shay Cormac starts the game as a young Assassin in training, and its only after a particular event during the game's introductory chapters that he turns against his former mentors. It's something of a refreshing move story-wise. As the series has progressed, the characters have continued to get more and more dull, spouting off lines about the Assassin's code and yammering on about gibberish. Edward Kenway in last year's instalment was a step in the right direction, and, overall, Shay is a decent lead too.
Still, it doesn't manage to nail everything right. Whilst Rogue clearly still frames the Templars as the clear bad guys, it has the Assassins behave incredibly stupid in order to justify Shay's disillusionment with the order. Shay himself is written surprisingly well, being genuinely conflicted throughout the entire game and trying to "do the right thing" despite not knowing what the right thing really is. It's a nice change of pace from the pompous stab-happy murderers that Assassin's Creed usually has, it's just a shame that a lot of the supporting Assassin cast come across as little more than pantomime villains.
Whilst the story might seem a little different, the gameplay is very much familiar territory. One of the biggest problems of the annualization of Assassin's Creed is that many aspects are simply rehashes of previous games, with any new elements feeling like little more than DLC expansions, and contributing to the growing sense of feature creep.
Overall, Assassin's Creed Rogue works as a mash-up of the third and fourth installments, which is fitting considering that it is set between those two games. Two areas are devoted to sailing; the North Atlantic Ocean and the River Valley, which has remained relatively unchanged from last year's game. You can upgrade your ship from similar acts of piracy, attacking ships and capturing them, or looting them for money. Upgrades remain the same, although they're not quite as hard to get now as they previously were, reducing a lot of the tedium and repetition that occurred during Assassin's Creed IV's grindier moments.
The other half of the game takes place on dry land, in New York. Similar to earlier Assassin games, you unlock different portions of the city by freeing them from enemy control. This time it means taking on the local gangs; picking off their leaders and sabotaging their weaponry. It all adds up to the overly familiar Assassin's Creed formula that we've become used to; incredibly addictive at times but in desperate need of some new ideas.
Additions this time around are few and far between. The blowpipe from last year is replaced with the rifle, which, bar one new ammo type, the firecracker; a harmless projectile that lures enemies, is little more than a cosmetic alteration. The grenade launcher is a bit more exciting, and fits in with the Templars tendency to not be as stealthy as their Assassin adversaries. Sadly it still isn't all that original, with all of its ammo types being little more than area-of-effect versions of your rifle.
There's a few other changes this time round in regards to the enemies. Since you're facing Assassins this time, many will hide in bushes and above buildings, waiting for you to let your guard down and stab you in the back. A tell-whisper lets you know when they're close, and eagle version will point you in the direction of the nearest threat. In general, it works like a single player version of the previous game's multiplayer, rewarding you for being sharp-eyed and cautious.
It's a shame then, that it isn't built on in any meaningful way, and in some missions, becomes an annoyance. There's nothing more irritating than just getting the drop on your target and then getting shanked in the back by the fifth ninja that's been hiding out in the nearby well.
All of the side quests are also lifted from previous installments too. Crafting items still uses the Far Cry 3 model and can be ignored entirely if you wish, with the option to buy all that different animal pelts needed for crafting, provided you don't mind parting with the money.
Assassin interventions are the only new quests, and whilst the idea makes sense, their execution is somewhat lacking. Rather than taking out a target like in the previous games, here, you have to protect a target from incoming Assassin attacks. In reality, it means running around an area searching for seven or eight figures that politely stand still as you stab or shoot them, with the nearby populace seemingly oblivious to your rampant murder spree.
And that's the major issue with Assassin's Creed Rogue; it's never particularly bad, but, provided you've played Black Flag, there's very little here that you haven't already played through. Its plot meanwhile, suffers from silly villains and wastes a potentially interesting tale about conflicting loyalties, not to mention that it's over far too quickly It simply dumps you back at New York, leaving you to mop up the rest of the abundant side quests once you're done.
Rogue is certainly better than Assassin's Creed Unity, there's no denying that. And it's impressive just how much Ubisoft have managed to cram onto one disc. This is the broadest, most epic Assassin's Creed game so far in terms of scope. Yet the year on year releases of these games is taking its toll; they're becoming repetitive and tiring, and are starved of new ideas.
As a swansong Creed title for the 360/PS3 generation, Rogue doesn't embarrass itself too much, but as a new addition to the series, this is still disappointing.
Assassin's Creed Rogue was released on November 13th for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.