Assassin's Creed Rogue Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360 and PC
Assassin’s Creed Rogue is well-named inside Ubisoft’s universe, but also in the real world. You see, it’s really quite surprising this game exists at all. Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the big one, the first real current generation hidden blade-athon. But Rogue exists too, finishing off the story arc played out through Connor and Edward Kenway, to date. It’s more pirating then - which is fun, of course - but also fits into the slot which Ezio’s Revelations did previously. Old characters are remembered, the best bits are repeated and the bad bits supposedly thrown away. There’s some novelty but most is left for the next big cycle over in Paris. Nothing shatters the earth but everything works very well, treading a well-trodden path. The fact it’s only on the last generation of consoles needn’t cause concern; the fun to be had is as good as you’ve got up to this point.
You play Shay Patrick Cormac, a son of New York born to Irish parents, and a member of the Brotherhood. Brilliantly his mentor is Achilles, the same as Connor in Assassin’s Creed III, and you find yourself on the Davenport Homestead in the early game. The focus of the Assassini this time around is to locate First Civilisation areas similar to that which Edward Kenway found at Black Flag’s conclusion and obtain any Pieces of Eden found safely within. Things don’t exactly go smoothly, though.
You start out as a trainee Assassin and young Captain which enables the game to deliver its usual tutorial type missions without breaking the fourth wall too much. Mission-wise you’ll know what to expect if you have played the third and fourth Creed games, but you’ll be glad to hear there are no eavesdropping missions. Finally Ubisoft has seen sense. The missions are actually well varied and perhaps the best balanced in the Kenway trio. There’s the usual amount of parkour, killing, investigating and naval warfare that you’ve come to expect but very rarely does one mission overstay its welcome, spike in difficulty or lack variety within its multiple objectives. You still get frustrated by the optional tasks if you’re trying to get to that one hundred percent synchronisation. No matter how many times you’re asked to achieve goal X without alerting anyone to your presence you’ll always find it much easier to just head straight for your target and kill. Not least because finding the one path which ensures no-one is alerted is beyond all but the most able savants.
In between missions there is plenty to do. Obviously you have your own ship, The Morrigan, to fix, upgrade and use. You can go around the two out of three maps which are water-based conquering forts or searching out Man o’ Wars for a real challenge. Pretty much everything you could do in Black Flag is present and correct (no diving bell missions alas) and often times can entertain more than the main storyline. Nothing compares to the tomb-raiding levels in Ezio’s adventures, mind. Thankfully when you are on ground, and despite the absence of such fun playgrounds, you still get to climb high points, synchronise and perform a leap of faith. The best bit in any Assassin‘s Creed game. It never gets old.
The storyline here is a good one. It’s over in half the time you’d expect from a Creed game, but it benefits by having little to no exposition. You’re straight into the meat of the story and each mission has a real purpose. In your six or so hours you’ll meet various folk you’ve come across in the past - real or in-game - and spend the rest of the time taking them out. It’s all very focussed. The six hours can extend to ten or more if you choose to do all the optional activities. There is some background to Shay provided by the modern day interludes a la Black Flag, which sees you back at Abstergo Entertainment, a side division of the Templar’s modern day presence. These sections will provide varying degrees of joy depending on how much you want to go back into the rabbit hole of lore after the debacle that was III’s ending. We enjoyed it and it makes for a nice change of pace to running around inside the animus.
If you are a fan of the Assassin's series you’ll want to play Rogue and will not regret doing so. There are some caveats to be wary of, mind. The two key ones lead to the same conclusion - play it before Unity or don’t play it at all. Firstly, the tech and mechanics are aging. The control of the character is past its sell by date. So many times you will still find yourself looking to climb upwards but end up jumping to your death; or trying to move in a particular way and doing the exact opposite. Coming back to this after time with Arno would be a show-stopper. The fighting with its ‘press O to counter-attack; repeat ad infinitum and the press X to skin actions - as examples - are all old hat and things you’ve been doing for many games and years up to now, and really it’s getting tedious. The time is ripe for an upgrade and with Unity you have it - so get this one out of the way beforehand. Equally, the second major reason to play in this order or not at all is the nod to Unity during your playthrough here. It’ll make you smile and set you on your way when you finally get to Paris for real.
With Assassin’s Creed: Rogue Ubisoft have delivered the equivalent of Revelations. They’ve concluded a story arc and a group of characters have been consigned for good to the history books. Within that conclusion the best bits have been retained, the worst bits thrown away and a couple of new things added just to keep things spicy (grenade launcher anyone?). We have a charismatic lead (he isn’t Ezio but then, who is?), a taut storyline with a twist and a fun set of missions which don’t overstay their welcome. It’s a fine end then, before the new beginning which is already available. Rogue may seem an odd release but it is a worthwhile one that any Assassin completionist will want to play and won’t regret doing.