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Just over seven years ago Assassin’s Creed launched and became an explosively successful franchise, having since spawned more than twenty sequels, spin-offs, and side stories, the most recent being Unity on the current generation of consoles, and Rogue on last-gen. Throughout those seven years and twenty-something games, I have now played… one. This one. Assassin’s Creed Rogue. So how does the game fare in the eyes of a novice, unfamiliar with the apparently deep lore and multitude of prior games? Actually, incredibly well.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue follows the story of Shay Patrick Cormac, a Templar and apparent new addition to the series – fitting, I think. Wikipedia tells me that chronologically, Rogue comes between Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and also connects to its current-gen partner, Unity. Whatever ties it shares to those games, be they characters or locales, do not matter to me. What matters is whether or not this game could stand on its own, and it does so marvelously.

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Admittedly I was intensely confused by a lot at the beginning. I kept unlocking all these logs and videos explaining time periods and prominent people from those times, which I am led to believe is Ubisoft‘s way of cluing in newcomers like myself as to what some past titles have focused on. Much of it was more confusing than helpful, however, and I could have gone without quite happily.

In addition I was completely surprised by the sudden transition to the modern-day office setting of Abstergo Entertainment less than an hour into Rogue, which is apparently common retread for familiar fans. Nevertheless I found it to be a unique and interesting twist to the gameplay, knowing that I wasn’t actually controlling Shay, but rather playing an office “numskull” whose job it was to research the lives of past assassins by way of living their memories in virtual reality. I don’t know if this has been around since the first game or if it was introduced later on, but it is a pretty brilliant way of tying everything together in a new way.

Plus, it’s great fun to wander around Abstergo and see various books, posters, and magazines advertising such things as Far Cry 3, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and the plethora of past Assassin’s Creed titles, as if this fictional company made them instead of Ubisoft. Very meta and entertaining.

While living the life of Shay Cormac, it is easy to deviate from plot progression in favour of collectible-hunting. It’s like Ubisoft took the secret treasure maps from Wind Waker, the wanted system (more stars = more foes trying to kill you) from Grand Theft Auto, and the constant raiding of tombs and coves from, well, Tomb Raider, and bundles it all into a wonderfully enriching world.

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I admit to not having finished the game at the time of this review, but between the water battles versus enemy fleets, game hunting from harmless rabbits to killer whales, and chasing down melodic shanties for your crew to learn, it really is difficult to keep your eyes on the prize. After all, there are so many spoils to be won in this world, and I’m a huge sucker for collectibles.

Even if you’re happy to pass up 100% completion, the story is definitely engaging enough to keep you interested and wanting more. Stealth games have never been my forte, but the variety of gameplay featured in Rogue made it so that the stealth portions were completely bearable, and even quite fun most of the time. One mission would may be the simple task of tracking down a particular person, followed up with the mission to protect him from oncoming enemies. No stealth here; just straight up battles.

That hand-to-hand combat felt intuitive as well, seemingly ripped right out of the recent Batman Arkham games, but with swords and guns instead of Batarangs and rope. Definitely a fun change-up.

Now it’s not all perfect, but the glitches present in Rogue are nowhere near the broken and disastrous levels of Unity. No, these hiccups were more entertaining than anything. Example: I hide in a bush, whistle to get this guy’s attention, silently fell him, and drag him into said bush. As soon as I drop his body, he stands back up. He does not walk, he takes no notice of me; he merely stands idly by, looking around. The foe is most definitely dead, yet he rises to his feet anyway.

This was not a common occurrence, nor was it particularly uncommon. It happened a good five or six times throughout my fifteen to twenty hours of gameplay. No missing textures or models in Rogue; just corpses coming back to life… sort of.

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Now some people may not be happy with a brand new game releasing on consoles supposedly nearing the end of their lives, but I insist that Assassin’s Creed Rogue looks every bit as gorgeous as Grand Theft Auto V on past-gen, thought to be the pinnacle of the past-gen’s capabilities. Having since been playing Far Cry 4 on the Xbox One, Rogue’s Xbox 360 graphics definitely fall short. Still, there’s no denying that the colourful landscapes, the ripples of flags in the wind and disturbed water, and the action throughout are all beautifully animated.

What should be the best part of this game actually quickly became the most annoying. In order to run (and let’s be honest – most of the time, you want to run) or climb or parkour your way here and there, you must hold down the right trigger. In doing so, however, you end up trying to climb up and jump over everything you come in contact with. Even if I’m just trying to hastily make my way on-foot through a crowded city, I find myself unintentionally stumbling over crates instead of rushing past them, which ends up taking so much more time than it should.

Sure, climbing trees and jumping from rooftop to rooftop works well, and is fun to boot, but when I can’t walk a straight line without tripping over the smallest of objects, I feel more drunk than agile.

Regardless of this minor gripe, Assassin’s Creed Rogue is an absolute blast to play. It may have been my first Assassin’s Creed, but it certainly won’t be my last. While Unity may have put many players off of the series, Rogue has introduced me to a franchise I feel I’ve been a fool to have passed up before now.

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Assassin’s Creed Rogue was developed and published by Ubisoft for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. An Xbox 360 copy of the game was provided to Save/Continue for review purposes.

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