For the first time in the franchises history Ubisoft have this year released two fully fledged independent Assassin’s Creed games on two separate console generations simultaneously; Assassin’s Creed: Unity on the newer machines and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue on the last-gen consoles.
Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Also Available On: Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: Out Now, Coming Early 2015 to PC
Now while Unity has been grabbing the spotlight, not always for the best reasons, it’s sister game has had a little less media exposure and quietly sold well on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Well it’s been out for a month now and I’ve finally made the generational jump backwards to rejoin the Creed in their 18th Century American adventures.
The story of Rogue serves as a intermediary between the timelines of Assassin’s Creed IV, Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation while also directly connecting to the new story-line in Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Rogue turns out to be the lynch-pin that holds them all together, whether it was needed or not becomes a moot point at this stage.
Set during the Seven Years’ War, several years after the closing events of Assassin’s Creed IV, we are introduced to a new Assassin, Shay Patrick Cormac. A new recruit of the Brotherhood and working under the mentor Achilles Davenport (Assassin’s Creed III), Shay is sent on a mission to recover a Precursor artifact from the Templar Order. With the help of Benjamin Franklin, Shay learns that the artifact shows the location of Piece’s of Eden around the world, one of which he learns is located in Lisbon, Portugal.
Sent to find the Piece of Eden, Shay inadvertently triggers an earthquake which razes Lisbon. Horrified to learn that this isn’t the first time such an event has occurred as a result of the Assassin’s pursuit for Precursor technology, he decides to turn his back on the Brotherhood and steals a manuscript necessary to locate the Piece’s of Eden. All does not according to plan though and during the heist our rogue is seriously wounded and left for dead in the ocean.
Rescued and taken to New York to recover from his injuries, Shay uses his particular skill-set to drive the city’s gangs out of their strongholds and return order to a city full of crime. In doing so he attracts the attention of George Monro, the city’s governor. On discovering that Achilles and his assassin’s are supporting the French war effort, Monro reveals himself to be a Templar, and despite knowing about Shay’s prior commitment to the Brotherhood, offers him a place in the Order.
Following Monro’s death at the hand of the Brotherhood, the Templar Grandmaster, Haytham Kenway (Assassin’s Creed III), son of an assassin himself, takes Shay under his wing as part of his quest to stop the Assassin’s from triggering more earthquakes on their pursuit for ancient power.
Like Assassin’s Creed IV, Rogue also has a story to tell in the real modern day world. Set one year after the events of Black Flag, you play an unnamed worker at Abstergo Entertainment who has unfortunately let loose a hidden memory file which corrupts their servers. Working with the modern day version of the Templar Order you must repair the servers in order to unlock the full story of Shay and prove to the Assassin Order that their own ancestors nearly destroyed the world.
The story has everything you’d want from an Assassin’s Creed game, a connection to other games in the series, a campaign long quest, a twist or two and a substantial amount of killing. Sadly though it lacks length, only six memory sequences compared to the now standard twelve so it feels like more of an add-on then full game in it’s own right, Assassin’s Creed 4.5 some might say.
While providing hardcore fans with background stories on some of the supporting characters from the series and setting up a nice prologue for Unity, the story offers nothing to the more casual fan or newbie to the franchise. It becomes a lot less relevant when you look at this from the view of a game on it’s own without the rest of the series to bolster it. This is mainly because Ubisoft have decided that only series veterans are going to play the game and so no detailed explanation is ever required.
This is by no means a bad story though, it’s interesting, it’s fun to play through, it’s just not needed. It’s very much like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, yes we learnt a bit more about the story but ultimately we were given an intermediary that wasn’t ever asked for, Revelations was the story continuation in the same way that Unity further progresses the story this time.
While the environments and locations in Rogue are new to the series for the most part, there are a few open-world locations lifted straight out of Assassin’s Creed III and IV. Many of the gaming environments though offer little more than re-runs of what we found in Black Flag, just with less pirates.
The main selling point for this game is that, with the exception of the first couple of missions in Assassin’s Creed III, this is the first time we as the player have been able to play as a Templar, to work with franchise’s bad guys against the Brotherhood. Of course in reality this means absolutely nothing, your allegiance may be different but the clothing and armory is almost identical, the missions and the objectives also don’t differ much.
While the plot may be significantly different from those that have come before the structure and gameplay mechanics are identical to Black Flag. Replace Pirate with Templar, the Jackdaw with the Morrigan and you’ve essentially got the same game, just with a much more restricted ocean based open-world.
Unlike Unity, Rogue retains the naval combat first introduced in Assassin’s Creed III and fully adopted in Black Flag and where the latter made this an important part of the game as a whole, Kenway was a pirate after all, Rogue seems to have thrown it in there purely for the sake of it. Yes there are times when travel is required from mission to mission but there is never the urgency or need to take on enemy ships for resources that there was in Black Flag.
Rogue takes place much further north than the previous games, edging into the Arctic wastelands, meaning ice cold waters and no underwater missions this time. With the only major populated location being a barely built 18th century New York, underwater missions aren’t the only thing lacking from Rogues predecessor. Outside of the story there are very few real side-missions to do, instead Ubisoft have opted to open up their vault of forgotten ideas and thrown in things we’ve not seen in the series for long time. Renovating buildings in New York and clearing out the gang strongholds, both familiar objectives to anyone that’s played Ezio’s story.
Rogue isn’t lacking in things to do though, there’s the now obligatory optional mission objectives aimed at making the main story a little more difficult, there’s assassination missions which are still as annoying and disappointing as ever (let’s ignore the fact that you’re no longer an Assassin) and then there’s the collectibles and hunting requirements for upgrades, both equally as boring as they were in Assassin’s Creed III, especially given the sparsely populated world of Rogue.
While the ambient soundtrack is everything we’ve come to expect from the franchise, the less said about the voice-over work the better. The returning characters are presented as well as they were in previous games but our lead character sounds interested then Peter Dinklage being asked to do a Destiny sequel. This is made worse by the appallingly dodgey Irish accent which seems to fade in and out as the game progresses, I’ll take the vocal talents of TVs Constantine and Kenway any day over this lazy effort.
Overall this is a game for the hardcore fans of the Assassin’s Creed series, those that want more from the franchise’s lore. Rogue offers those elite group this, it’s one of the more genuine positive things this game offers.
To the rest of the gaming community this game will come across as nothing more than a unnecessary rehash to maintain Ubisoft’s yearly release quota and cash in on the franchise as a whole. The developers intentions may have been to expand the Assassin’s Creed universe but ultimately they’ve done an EA and just released last years game with a few modifications.
That said it is still a fun game, it’s got everything a good Assassin’s Creed game should have but having not benefited from the advances we’ve seen in this years other release Assassin’s Creed: Unity and instead opting to create an extended DLC of Black Flag does take a lot of joy away from the experience.
This isn’t a game to buy brand new at full price but one to enjoy when it’s a little older and cheaper.