A rogue entry
Assassin’s Creed had an odd 2014. It was the first time the series decided to split itself in two, focusing on two very different eras, with different play styles, and ultimately two drastically different games.
While Assassin’s Creed: Unity was a downright buggy disappointment, and not what anyone expected from a next-generation flagship title, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue ends the last-generation on a pleasing high. The issue is that, while Rogue is comparatively brilliant next to the likes of Unity, stood aside 2013’s absolutely brilliant Black Flag, it’s hard to become too enamoured by sailing the seas and revisiting locations of Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag again. Still, Ubisoft tries hard and, in what I can only believe is an attempt to make reused assets interesting again, Rogue‘s Templar-twist changes the pace of play pleasingly.
Stepping into the boots of Shay Patrick Cormac, an Irish pirate boasting – quite possibly – the worst Irish accent you’ll ever hear, things really start to get interesting after Shay is sent off in pursuit of known Templars to eliminate. However, with Shay’s rebellious streak and his desire to question authority, he begins to feel less and less connected to the Assassin cause and – through a series of events that will undoubtedly spoil the story – finds himself on the side of the Templars.
It’s from here that things really start to pick up. Heading out and working towards assassinating Assassins is an interesting concept, especially as Shay essentially has all the same tools at his disposal. It also helps explain the situation at the start of Assassin’s Creed III rather nicely, tying up the second trilogy in the Assassin’s Creed series – even if it played out in a weirdly ham-fisted way. And, in regards to story, that’s practically all you’re going to get from me as it’s interesting enough to warrant playing.
The trouble with Rogue really stems from a problem with the series as a whole. Because Ubisoft seemingly divided its resources to create two titles at the same time, the innovations from Unity, which kept gameplay fresh, are sorely missed here. At least Ubisoft has looked to Black Flag instead of Assassin’s Creed III for inspiration, meaning there’s plenty of seafaring going on, and a return of the enjoyable trade route mini-game. It’s also lifted across the multiplayer Assassin hunting feature of using Eagle Vision and sound cues to track down Assassins hiding in plain sight waiting to kill you. You also loose health when swimming for too long in icy waters, which is a nice touch and definitely makes some of the quieter moments that little bit more interesting when sneaking up on ships or infiltrating forts.
The trouble is, Black Flag felt refreshing because of new additions and departure from the land-locked and rather dull Assassin’s Creed III. Rogue, however, already feels somewhat tired from the moment you step into a boat. It’s a setting that’s been done before, with a mechanism that’s largely the same as something from the year before. It also doesn’t help that the world map is split into two separate regions, making for some rather annoying pacing as you essentially clear two game maps and flit between the North Atlantic and North American East coast.
But, despite the game’s foibles, it’s a wonderfully enjoyable experience and one of the general highs in the Assassin’s series. It’s also quite the looker, at least in terms of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 standards. It attempts to do a lot, and for the most part it does create some lush scenes with wonderful expanses and dense vegetation. Of course there’s some less impressive areas about the place, and if you get too close to some surfaces you’ll see some very muddy textures. But that’s about it really, the rest just comes with the issues of an underpowered console. If anything, I’d have quite liked to see what Ubisoft could have done with this if it had been released across all formats at the same time, instead of being sidelined to old hardware.
It’s also rather strange how Ubisoft have been treating Rogue like Unity’s deformed twin, hiding it away from the likes of marketing campaigns and really only supplying review copies a day or so before launch. However, perhaps they only hid it from the limelight so fewer people questioned why Unity was so drastically broken in comparison to the enjoyable and polished release that is Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.
+ Welcome return to sailing the seas
+ It's not broken like Unity
+ Sea shanties are back!
- Rote mission structure still features
- Lack of really fresh ideas
- What Irishman sounds like that?