Assassin’s Creed Rogue is an anomaly in Ubisoft’s popular Assassin’s Creed franchise for multiple reasons. The first being the fact that the game is only available for last-generation consoles (Xbox 360 and Playstation 3), and PC. The game seems to be a swan song of sorts for Ubisoft’s support of those consoles with this particular franchise. Rogue may be overlooked by many as it’s released exclusively for consoles rendered obsolete by a new generation at the same time as Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ubisoft’s first next-gen exclusive title in the series.
Rogue has you playing a new character by the name of Shay Cormac, an assassin of Irish descent who, after a traumatic experience while on a mission for the brotherhood, becomes involved with the Templars he was sworn to oppose, and embarks on a mission to hunt down the other members of the Assassin order. This marks the first time an entire game in the series revolves around a character who is a Templar. This would be an interesting new perspective on the overall plot of the series if Ubisoft hadn’t tried to so hard to make Shay’s actions seem just and correct. His reasons for leaving the order and joining the Templars are illogical, as is the way the other Assassins handle his betrayal at the start. Other games in the series have blurred the lines between good and bad before, but Rogue seems to reverse the polarity entirely, resulting in a plot that seems forced and unnatural when compared to other entries in the series.
Aside from the story, the gameplay is largely the same as previous titles. Especially Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Most of the mechanics and activities were seen in the previous game, though they have slight changes and differences in Rogue. For instance, the naval piracy aspect of Black Flag returns with a few changes. Instead of one large map to explore in Shay’s ship, the Morrigan, there are two. A southern American River Valley, which is reminiscent of Black Flag’s map, as well as the North Atlantic, which includes the biggest changes to the naval aspect. You’ll use the Morrigan’s ram to break through sheets of ice, allowing access to hidden areas. Ice bergs also make an appearance, which can be used as cover during ship combat, or broken to damage or even sink smaller ships. Swimming in the Northern Atlantic is also dangerous for Shay, damaging him over time. Another upgrade that the Morrigan has over Black Flag’s Jackdaw, is fire oil, which leaves blazing trails of fire in the water behind you, instead of explosive barrels. Smaller changes include Puckle Guns, which remind you of a Gatling version of the Jackdaw’s swivel guns, as well as new tricks employed by your enemies, such as assassin-crewed enemy ships capable of boarding you.
In addition to the naval aspect, you’ve likely participated in most of the other activities, missions, and events. There’s really nothing new here. When you’re at sea, you’ll be boarding enemy ships and adding them to your fleet or simply salvaging their cargo, you’ll seize enemy forts, allowing you to make your travels a little safer, you’ll harpoon whales and sharks, and you’ll once again be able to exit your ship at any time for any reason. The stuff you’ll do on the ground is also mostly the usual Assassin’s Creed fare. New York is the major city you’ll visit in the game (because every Assassin’s Creed game needs one), and you’ll spend most of your time there completing story missions, scaling view points, finding collectibles, and participating in various retooled side missions. Such as Assassination Interception missions, where instead of using the series’ usual Pigeons to accept contracts on various characters in the world, you intercept an assassin’s pigeon instead, and then attempt to prevent the target from being assassinated. Most of the missions in the game have this kind of simple twist.
Ultimately, I never felt as though Shay’s motivations were believable. His reasons for abandoning the Brotherhood required a leap in logic that I wasn’t capable of forcing my mind to make. as did the Assassins’ reactions to his decision. It feels as though Ubisoft tried to make Shay seem like the typical good guy, to the point of confusing the lore they’ve established time and time again throughout the series. Shay feels like an attempt at making a Templar version of Ezio Auditore, which results in a character who just comes off as confused and unbelievable in the universe they’ve created.
Among the issues presented by the story and characters themselves, there are also many gameplay bugs. Some of them even break the game to the point of requiring you to reload a save to fix them. I had targets that I was supposed to kill simply refuse to spawn on various occasions, as well as one point where I became stuck in one of the series’ signature piles of hay, unable to exit and progress. On top of that, Shay seems to be one of the least adept climbers among all of the characters in the series, refusing to climb certain objects or buildings unless you begin your ascent in very specific spots, as well as moving in the exact opposite direction of which you tell him. As someone who has played every other main entry in the series, I believe I can claim with a high level of confidence that Shay Cormac is the least responsive of all of the previous characters in this franchise.
At the end of the day, Assassin’s Creed Rogue is a decently fun game. If you enjoyed Black Flag, and are looking for more of the same, or if you need an Assassin’s Creed fix and don’t have a next-gen console or powerful PC capable of playing Unity, then Rogue could serve to fill that void. Those who can’t look past a lackluster story, an unreasonable lead character, and a few game-breaking bugs sprinkled in for good measure, need not apply.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has had great audio since the first release, and Rogue is no different. Plus, it has more Sea Shanties. Who doesn’t love Sea Shanties?
Most of them are copied from Assassin’s Creed 4, though New York and the North Atlantic look great. Don’t expect character models as nice as Unity, but the game doesn’t look bad at all. Especially for a game made specifically for last-gen.
One of the worst in the series to date. The story doesn’t match the lore previously established in the series, and the characters make little sense in the world based on that lore.
The game plays like any other installment in the franchise, especially Black Flag. The presence of a number of game breaking bugs, as well as some of the sloppiest climbing/free running in the series will have you wonder how much time Ubisoft spent testing and polishing the game as opposed to barreling head-first into a deadline that matched the release of Unity.
If this is your first Assassin’s Creed game, it could spoil your appetite for more. In terms of what the game is supposed to be, anyone who has played Black Flag has already been there, and done that. There is no multiplayer, and the story leaves you scratching your head when compared to the main themes established in previous entries in the series. By all means, an installment you can skip and not regret the decision. However, there is some fun to be had if you couldn’t get enough of Black Flag and are thirsty for more.