Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC (2015)
Publisher Ubisoft Developer Ubisoft Sofia
Genre Action-Adventure Platform Played PlayStation 3
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was highly regarded by many, due its beloved main character, its recreation of the pirate life and the excellence of ship combat. In many ways Assassin’s Creed Rogue is an inspired sequel to Black Flag, with many features, animations and sounds ripped directly out of the 2013 release. Though Rogue could be mistaken as a forgettable last hurrah for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners, Rogue provides one of the most intriguing and interesting narratives the series has ever produced.
This is all due to Rogue’s lead protagonist Shay Patrick Cormac. We join Shay as he is slowly rising through the assassin ranks to become a prominent member of the Brotherhood, these moments not only showcase Shay’s lovable free spirit but it also allows us to invest in his fellow assassin’s. After a catastrophic event Shay turns on the Brotherhood, eventually becoming a member of the Templar organisation. Due to Shay’s shift in allegiance we spend a majority of Rogue’s story hunting down our former friends. Assassin’s Creed has always struggled to provide meaningful assassination targets within their campaigns, but because we have had time to invest in these assassin members each target feels important.
Though promotional materials leading up to Rogue’s release showcased Shay as a brutal killer, hunting down his former assassin friends with a fiery hatred, this could not be further from the truth. Shay is conflicted throughout most of Rogue’s 15 hour story and although he believes stopping the assassins will save lives, slaying those former friends is one of the hardest things he has ever done. Rogue also further strengthens the morally grey area of both the Templar and Assassin orders which have built over the last few years. Within Rogue it is almost impossible to find out which organisation is right, leaving us to invest in individuals such as a Shay to make the right decision despite what their creed entails.
Rogue’s narrative is created for Assassin’s Creed fans, with many call-backs to past instalments, cameos throughout and an ending that will shock those who love the series. Experiencing Shay’s conflicted story is Rogue’s most prominent and rewarding quality.
Those who invested an extensive amount of time in Black Flag will see a great deal of similarities within Rogue. There are a multitude of aspects that were simply ripped from Black Flag. From the Naval Campaign mini-game within your Captain’s Quarters, to the exact same shanties that were sung aboard your pirate vessel, all the way to the eerily similar animations that Shay possesses that would make Edward Kenway scream afoul. Even Rogue’s adventure outside of the Animus brings us back to the exact same location experience in Black Flag. Rogue suffers to find its own identity due to the reliance on Black Flag’s framework. Instead of innovating on Black Flag’s best points, Rogue simply feels like Black Flag with a new coat of paint.
Rogue’s blatant Black Flag similarities are also included for the worst. The same parkour problems that were experienced last year still exist. Shay will constantly find himself running up non-climbable surfaces, jumping to the wrong desired ledge, and despite Unity including a climb down feature for next generation owners, it is sadly absent from Rogue. More than ever I felt environments were inconsistent when it came to what was climbable and what was not. One of the main culprits was the riverbanks, which seem to be a complete struggle for Shay to comprehend. Small riverbanks that seem like they should easily be climbed are not designed as such. This problem also occurs on many other surfaces throughout Rogue and was a constant frustration.
Players will once again find themselves behind the wheel of a ship, as Shay is in charge of his own vessel, The Morrigan, which offers some unique sea elements. Visiting the North Atlantic for example will offer a new frozen landscape to utilise to your own advantage. Destroying icebergs will cause a large wave that will take down small enemy ships, but can also be used as cover. These areas also offer the most visually diverse difference to Black Flag’s open waters, with frequent blizzards creating a beautiful ocean display.
While boarding ships in Assassin’s Creed has become common place, Rogue allows your enemies to turn the tides and try to board your ship. It is a simple introduction, but definitely made ocean-dwelling combatants more lethal.
On land, combat has also received a fresh batch of equipment. Shay is able to utilise an air rifle to silently send darts into his enemies from a long distance, which is basically a replacement for the blow dart. I was also given the new grenade launcher which is able to deal the same elements as the air rifle, only with a greater range and more damage. Unfortunately, even though Shay is a Templar for most of the experience, due to his assassin training there is not much that differentiates Shay’s gameplay experience to any other assassin we have experienced previously.
One of the most challenging combat additions is the ability to face off against assassin leaders, who occupy forts around the land. Facing off against these enemies is no easy task and those who expect to run in and take them out with ease will be cut down in seconds. These opponents have the same attributes as Shay, with the ability to blind the player with smoke bombs and conduct a hidden blade kill. Utilising a strong strategy and all of your assassin techniques is key to victory. Shay is also forever being stalked by hidden assassins who can take to the rooftops, haystacks and high grass in order to get the jump on you. When these stalkers are near, an uneasy whisper can be heard and the closer they get, the louder it becomes. These moments constantly left me feeling a grand sense of unease, knowing you were being followed but had no idea where your possible killer could be.
Rogue replicates the same upgrade features as Black Flag, with a handful of new animals to slaughter located in the new Arctic environments. Players also have the chance to gain economy from renovating key locations throughout the world, interestingly these locales also require materials that can be used to upgrade your ship. It is only a minor decision, but I found myself juggling whether or not to increase my income or increase my ships abilities multiple times. Though none of these new additions feel drastic, the slight changes are better than a straight copy of Black Flag’s features.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue is also no slouch in the visual department, so while it certainly doesn’t rival next generation visuals, it is a beautiful game in its own right. Some shadows can look very blurry and there is an added layer of fog across the ocean, but Rogue barely stutters from a visual standpoint. Though I did not experience as many technical problems as Unity, Rogue did suffer from at least half a dozen game freezes across my play time. It is also worth noting that Rogue does not offer a multiplayer component, this is strictly a single player experience.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue is a fine instalment in the franchise, but the blatant copied features from Black Flag diminish Rogue’s ability to find its own identity. Despite this problem Shay Cormac is one of the best characters the series has seen, and his journey throughout Rogue was excellent. This was one of the few times in the series I wanted the story to continue, I wanted to keep exploring the Templar order and continue to see Shay deal with conflicted ideals.
Rogue could have been a truly memorable Assassin’s Creed experience if the Black Flag features had been improved upon, or at least altered. However, due to the copied features bringing the same elements of Black Flag, they sadly also bring with it the same problems.
- One of the best narratives in series history.
- Shay Cormac is an interesting lead.
- Challenging Assassin encounters.
- Many features copied directly from Black Flag.
- Parkour problems still present.
The Score: 7.2