Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first; Assassin’s Creed: Rogue isn’t so much a fresh, new experience as it is effectively an expansion pack to 2013’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. There, now that’s out of the way, we’re golden. Assuming you take note of that fact, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue can still be a lot of fun, especially for fans of the series. Just don’t expect to find anything different from what you’ve seen before, because, well, you won’t.
Where the game does change things up a bit though, is in its plot and how it approaches the now well established Assassin and Templar narrative. Casting players as Irish-born assassin Shay Patrick Cormac, Rogue weaves a tale that diverges from the perspective that the series has fostered which typically casts the Assassins and Templars as mostly straight-laced heroes and villains respectively.
Though not as beautiful as Assassin’s Creed Unity, Rogue still certainly has its fair share of visually-pleasing moments
With just enough grey on each side of the conflict, Rogue’s plot is one element of the game in particular that will appeal to long-term fans of the series. If the plot and the events which are encompassed within Rogue’s narrative are intriguing, the main character Shay, by comparison, can often feel like anything but. Not exactly aided by a somewhat lacklustre voice acting performance, Shay can seem ineffective and, at times, overly cringeworthy to the point that you almost fracture your spine.
Much like Connor in Assassin’s Creed III, playing as Shay often feels underwhelming and when you’re surrounded by a much more attractive and entertaining cast, the disappointment finds itself unfortunately magnified; especially coming after the excellent Edward Kenway who so ably anchored the events glimpsed in Black Flag.
Ironically Haytham Kenway, one of the most intriguing characters in the entire saga who made players wish they were playing as him instead of Connor in Assassin’s Creed III, returns in Rogue to do the same again to Shay, thus raising the timely question as to when the charismatic templar will get a game of his own.
Still, if Rogue’s central character doesn’t inspire much in the way of confidence, the game’s wholesale adoption of Black Flag’s gameplay systems fare in a better, albeit familiar capacity. Rogue treads familiar ground by returning to Black Flag’s deft mixture of stabby shenanigans and sailing pursuits and in doing so, provides an interesting counterpoint to the recent Assassin’s Creed: Unity which, in the eyes of many, took a step back from the strides the series made in Black Flag.
As before, the game allows players to get stuck straight into the privateer lifestyle and just like 2013’s game, it’s here that Rogue offers a whole heap of stuff to get stuck into. Shay can engage in ship-to-ship warfare, board other ships, loot resources, rob abandoned ships and stop off anywhere he likes on the map and in doing so, such activities provide a nice change of pace from the main story missions.
Rogue recalls Black Flag’s naval shenanigans with aplomb
Elsewhere, shifting from the tropical climes of Black Flag to more frigid and crisply cold environments, Rogue boasts a look that is really quite lovely at times with the Northern Lights especially proving to be a particular highlight. More than just cosmetic, the change to a frostier climate also brings with it a tangible effect on the gameplay too. When swimming in such bitterly cold waters for example, Shay will slowly take damage over a period of time meaning that quite unlike his playable counterpart in Black Flag, he cannot stay in the water indefinitely.
Whether you’re off hunting whales like they’re going out of fashion or digging for treasure on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue always has piles of stuff to do. Of course, your mileage on the appeal of such activities will vary depending on what esteem you held all the extra-curricular fluff that was present in Black Flag. Primarily, this is because Rogue effectively recycles all the side activities from that game in wholesale fashion, so players going into this latest entry in the series expecting a meaningful progression over Black Flag simply won’t get that.
Regardless though, setting sail, upgrading Shay’s ship The Morrigan and roaming the high seas in Assassin’s Creed: Rogue continues to prove an enticing prospect and makes the absence of naval elements in last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity to be quite painfully clear indeed.
Move away from all that sailing about however and things sadly return to a dull normality with Rogue lapsing back into the series typical habits. Combat is still as hilariously effortless as before with the player simply timing counters and returning strikes with little challenge, while the series’ problematic traversal remains disappointingly intact too with Shay getting stuck on walls and jumping off in odd directions that weren’t originally intended.
Again, once more taking cues from Black Flag before it, Rogue also boasts a real-life, first-person perspective meta-game where the player stalks about the offices of Templar-front corporation Abstergo Entertainment to further the overall plot. Here, our protagonist (not-so-charmingly referred to as ‘numbskull’, for the most part), bumbles about the building unlocking servers and accessing PDA’s to provide additional exposition on the events and characters of the Assassin’s Creed franchise at large.
As before though, such sequences feel as bland and contrived as ever, further reinforcing the notion that the franchise does it best work within the confines of history rather than in its interpretation of the present. The fact that real-life sections in Rogue heavily recycle many of the assets and locations seen in Black Flag does little to help its case either.
Combat, for better or worse, remains the same as it always has. Hope you like to counter
Speaking of assets, while Assassin’s Creed: Rogue doesn’t look anywhere near as grandiose as last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity, owing in no small part to Rogue’s inherently last-generation console DNA, developer Ubisoft Sofia have nonetheless managed to produce some fine visuals from the game that place it in a similar ballpark to 2013’s Black Flag.
When it comes to the question of longevity, Rogue is a far more brisk affair than many of the Assassin’s Creed games that have come before it. With just six sequences, compared to the thirteen seen in Black Flag, the fact that Rogue doesn’t outstay its welcome is a blessing of sorts considering how little in the way of fresh content it introduces.
ASSASSIN'S CREED ROGUE VERDICT
In plundering Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag practically wholesale, Rogue proves to be a double-edged sword. As much as Rogue succeeds in servicing those who were disappointed that Unity eschewed Black Flag’s naval shenanigans, the game also serves as a timely reminder just how little the franchise has evolved in recent years, in spite of its relatively novel take on the series’ narrative.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Fully upgrading The Morrigan and going on a ship sinking spree.
Naval encounters return and are still a lot of fun.
Interesting spin on the traditional Assassin’s Creed narrative.
Doesn’t advance Black Flag’s formula at all and real-life sections still feel bland.