Assassin’s Creed Rogue Review: The Other Side

I’m willing to wager that Ubisoft had no idea what it had when it first released Assassin’s Creed to the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2007. A silly, convoluted tale of assassins and templars fighting each other over a computer simulation during an actual historical time period. Even that sentence doesn’t make sense. But it did work, and Assassin’s Creed became a juggernaut annual franchise and multi-million dollar cash cow for the Montreal-based publisher.

But each Assassin’s Creed game has focused on only one side of the story: The Assassins (hence the name). Now, in the ninth iteration of the franchise, Ubisoft has changed things up by telling a story about the other side: The Templars. And the results are very, very interesting.

Assassin's Creed Rogue review

Rogue takes players from the icy North Atlantic to the swampy river basins of North America.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue tells the story of Shay Patrick Cormac, a young assassin who, while on a mission given to him by his superiors, causes a catastrophe that forces him to stop and question his actions and the actions of the brotherhood he serves. His crisis of conscience leads to him steal an important artifact, which in turn forces the brotherhood to act against their brother. Shay’s betrayal — and subsequent death — ends his story with the Assassins. But, of course, Shay survives and is quickly brought into the fold of his once-hated enemies. And then the real game begins.

Shay’s story is unique, not only because it’s from the Templar’s perspective, but because he never really sides with either faction, seeing the good and bad in both. When he’s forced to hunt down and stop his former friends, it pains him, and the player feels that. It makes Assassin’s Creed Rogue one of the better games in the pantheon of AC games.

As for the gameplay, Rogue is set after Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but before AC III, so there are some characters that pop in that players will be familiar with. Seeing as this is the game that follows Black Flag commercially, the influences from the pirate-themed masterpiece are everywhere. Naval battles, travel, and upkeep are nearly identical to Black Flag. The crew even sings the same shanties. The world of Rogue isn’t as large as Black Flag, but there is not a drop in things to collect and missions to pull off. As an example, instead of going to a pigeon coop to acquire assassination contracts, Shay actually catches the pigeons in the wild (on rooftops) and intercepts the missions, and is then tasked with stopping the assassin from killing the intended target. These missions are frantic and fun, and one mistake can lead to the death of an ally, causing the entire mission to be replayed — including catching the pigeon again.

There are also different items to collect in the fetch quests (this is still an Assassin’s Creed game), including Templar maps (which are just like the treasure maps from Black Flag0, and pieces of viking’s swords, which unlocks a cool armor set. Rift crystals, Shanties, and treasure chests also litter the land. Again, borrowing from Black Flag, there are sea creatures to harpoon and animals to hunt and special legendary ships to sink with the naval battles — including the side mini game, which is nearly identical to Black Flag’s — working to tell the historical story of the Seven Years War, or the French and Indian War is it was known here in the states.

Shay also has some new weapons, including an air-powered rifle (yes, it’s an anachronism, but this is a video game we’re talking about) that even fires grenades once upgraded.

Assassin's Creed Rogue Review

Historically speaking, this gun should not exist.

The best parts of Assassin’s Creed Rogue come in the fact that as Shay is experiencing his story, he is being hunted by assassins. The tale-tell whispers usually reserved for AC multiplayer matches indicate when Shay is being hunted. And Ubisoft added these little episodes in some of the worst times, like during sneaking missions. It adds a level of complexity — and coolness —  not seen in previous Assassin’s Creed games.

With the inclusion of the whispers and the whole Shay being hunted thing, online multiplayer was left out of Rogue. Seeing as how Assassin’s Creed Unity has had myriad issues with their co-op/multiplayer component since launch, the loss of a working AC multiplayer experience this year is definitely felt.

There is a “real world” component in Rogue that is the flip side of the first-person stuff from Black Flag. In the previous game, the player was a new employee at Abstergo, who worked as a spy within the course of the story, for the brotherhood. The Abstergo folks had no idea. In Rogue, the bosses and co-workers are decidedly jerks who call the player “knucklehead” and insult him as he or she is reliving Shay’s memories. The layout of Abstergo is identical in almost every way, as are the missions of messing with coworkers computers, though instead of hacking for the brotherhood, here you are restoring after an attack. It’s a nice distraction from the main game, but I cannot shake the feeling that I’ve done it all before.

Assassin's Creed Rogue review

Make no mistake; this is an Assassin’s Creed game, even if you are playing from the templar’s point of view.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue is also a shorter game than the most recent AC titles, with only seven sequences for the main story, but the side quests and items to fetch give Rogue a longer shelf life. While I spent over 120 hours playing Black Flag (don’t ask), Rogue is a much shorter experience on all fronts. I also have a hunch that we’ll see an Assassin’s Creed Rogue game in true 1080p for the PS4 and Xbox One sometime this summer, and that one may very well include some kind of multiplayer. This isn’t a rumor, more of a hope based on Ubisoft’s previous history.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue is like the “greatest hits” of recent AC games. It takes mostly from AC III and Black Flag, and adds just enough new content to make it its own title. Luckily for us, the games it borrows from happen to be two of the finest Assassin’s Creed games in the franchise, so Rogue feels less like it’s name sake and more like an old friend. It’s a unique perspective on a story that is kind of growing tired, and that, in and of itself, saves the game and the franchise here in the twilight of the previous console generation. With Assassin’s Creed Victory already leaked (and confirmed by Ubisoft), Rogue represents that last of the original-style Assassin’s Creed games. And even with the heavy feeling of deja vu, it still goes out with a bang.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue was reviewed on PS3 and purchased at retail. It is available for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Assassin's Creed Rogue Review
out of 5

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