written by Salazar S. (@NoviceSalazar)
Ubisoft has been pumping out Assassin's Creed games with all the strength and fury of a devoutly Catholic family popping out hundreds of children. Since Assassin's Creed I Ubisoft has managed to keep a one game a year schedule that astounds and alarms me. It made sense at first, their original “trilogy” (of five games) had a 2012 deadline. Now they just seem to be doing it because...??? Regardless, this year we got TWO Assassin's Creed games. How do they do this? Ubisoft I am worried about you.
Assassin's Creed Rogue probably didn't take all that long to develop, no doubt most of their time and resources went into Unity. Rogue tells the tale of Shay Cormac, an assassin turned Templar who now hunts assassins. The very beginning of the game plays exactly like Assassin's Creed 4 with emphasis on naval battles and leveling your ship to traverse the oceans blue. It was such an uncanny resemblance I assumed all they had done was re-skin Edward into an angry Irishman and call it a day.
Once you make it to New York, a fresh traitor to the Assassin Order, it looks and feels a lot like Assassin's Creed III. Recent Assassin's Creed games feel much heavier than their predecessors. With every new game comes a new ability or collectable, but no skimming of extra fat. AC: Rogue has more collectables and side quests than you could potentially shake a hidden blade at. It's getting a little ridiculous, Ubisoft. I like collecting probably more than most people and even I am getting a little exhausted by the sheer amount of things that need grabbing.
Story-wise I was mostly baffled and sardonically amused by Shay's about-face in allegiance. For the past several years gamers have been immersed in the world of the Assassins, told that the Templars are a bunch of evil people-repressing monsters. Many times before I have taken Templar forts to free the repressed people under them. Now that Shay is a Templar it is the ASSASSINS who are a bunch of child-shoving bullies. I am on the fence as to whether or not this is bad storytelling, or if Shay is just an incredibly unreliable narrator. Ubisoft, a word to the wise, you can't just pretend the last several years haven't happened. Templars have been our enemies since day one and now we're expected to believe they're all hugging puppies?
Okay, that might be an exaggeration. The game is clearly trying to bulk out the “there's no right side” argument they tried to present with Haythem in ACIII, but Ubisoft fails at the required subtlety to enforce such a message. It leaves me feeling a bit sorry for everyone involved, and makes Shay seem kind of like a whiny baby child. Yeah Shay, sorry a whole city collapsed and you killed thousands of people, how about instead of turning immediately to the Templars and killing your brothers and sisters, you just retire to a farm somewhere, ya psychopath.
So the story is a bit weak, not too much of a surprise. How about the gameplay? Alright I'll make this easy for you. Have you played ACIII? Have you played ACIV? Congrats, you have played Rogue. There is nothing different about gameplay, the only difference is who you are stabbing. The game does have some interesting quarks, no doubt brought on by an insane production time. For example, I lost all sound in caves, it was weird. And Shay still makes the “pulling up your hood” animation movements despite no longer having a hood (Templars ban hoods apparently?). Sometimes the game would freeze completely, but to be honest I have had every singe AC game since the beginning of time do that to me, it's not a feature unique to Rogue.
Should you buy this game? That really depends? Do you still enjoy Assassin's Creed games? Many have grown lukewarm towards the series since the end of ACIII and if you're in that camp I don't think AC:Rogue is going to light any fires under you. If you still find yourself loving the gameplay of the AC franchise then Rogue does not mess with the formula and you'll find yourself having a grand ol' time killing and sneaking to your hearts desire. I admit I fall into the latter category.
+ AC formula still works. Sneaking+stabbing=fun
+ Shay is Irish and has a sexy accent
+ Shay is pretty hot once he gets to be a Templar
+ Fills in the story of what happens to turn the Brotherhood into shambles before Connor arrives
+ Environments are still gorgeous and fun to explore
- Maybe a few less glitches next time, Ubisoft
- Doesn't bring anything new to the table
- Storyline is disjointed and awkward
Story 3/5: it fills in important blanks to the AC timeline, but fails to do so in a way that makes it seamless. The transition from Assassin to Templar feels forced. Still can't tell if the flip in Assassin behavior is due to Shay's unreliability as a narrator or not.
Graphics 4/5: the game looks great, the locations are all unique and expansive. None of the character models looked like they were melting which is a plus. I'd tap Shay.
Audio 3/5: Sometimes sound cuts out, but otherwise the soundtrack is beautiful as always. Hearing your sailors sing the same five songs is still just as horrible and grating as it was in ACIV so enjoy feeling forced to collect new Shanties.
Level Design 4/5: I feel like Assassin's Creed games have always excelled in level design for the most part. Climbing and traversing levels has always felt very natural and this game is no different.
Set Pieces 3/5: While I sometimes got invested in Shay's moral dilemmas to the point where his drama excited me, I usually did not find anything ground breaking or emotional to be had in this game. I mostly got excited when they referenced characters from other games like Shaun, Rebecca, Achilles ect. I am very attached to them and feel invested in their well being, what can I say. It's nothing special, but it never dropped the ball.
Polish 2/5: is there such a thing as a polished AC game? Maybe AC II? Glitches! Glitches for EVERYONE!
Controls 4/5: My favorite part of controlling an AC character is the part where they fling themselves to their own horrible deaths when I am trying to do something completely differently. Like not die a horrible death. This is not all controls, it's sometimes my own impatience. None-the-less I have had Shay fly into many an abyss in my attempts to climb cliffs and buildings, seemingly without provocation. Again, this is not a feature unique to Rogue, as I have been jumping to my death since Altair.
Overall gameplay 3/5: I really like Assassin's Creed as a franchise and Rogue didn't do anything so wrong that I didn't enjoy it. It was fun, the story was enough to keep me playing, and I am a sucker for parkour/assassin gameplay. It's not a great edition to the franchise, but it's not a terrible one either. Rogue is perfectly mediocre.
Extras 5/5: Wow there is just so much extra junk in this game it could keep you busy for hours just doing irrelevant nonsense. Kudos I guess.
TL;DR: Play it if you enjoyed III and IV, don't bother if you're already not a fan of the series, it's not going to change your opinion.