Assassin’s Creed: Rogue – PlayStation 3
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date (NA): November 11, 2014
Genre: Action-Adventure, Open World
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Cloud3514
The second and far less marketed of this year’s Assassin’s Creed games, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is a surprisingly good game. While inferior to last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the closing chapter of the series’ adventures in 18th century North America is a fitting end of the story arc and a great twist on the usual formula.
In the mid 18th century, Shay Patrick Cormac is a young Assassin operating in the North Atlantic. When a mission to retrieve a First Civilization artifact assigned to him by Achilles Davenport, the mentor of the Colonial Assassins (who previously appeared as a major supporting character in Assassin’s Creed III), results in the accidental destruction of a city, Shay abandons the Assassins. Disgusted by Achilles and the Assassins, Shay offers his services to the British to assist them during the Seven Years War and eventually joins the Assassins’ sworn enemies, the Templar Knights, to stop Achilles’ schemes.
Assassin’s Creed fans will likely come back the same feeling that I did through the entire game. Rogue feels like a sort of dark reprise of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. In Brotherhood, the player was tasked in rebuilding the Assassin Brotherhood to liberate Rome from the Templars. Rogue has the player taking down the Assassins and their allies to help the Templars gain power in New York and the North Atlantic. Everything about the game is a fascinating reversal of the typical Assassin’s Creed formula, without abandoning the core of the game.
Typical Assassin’s Creed elements are turned on their heads. Instead of taking assassination missions, Shay intercepts messenger pigeons to find and protect the Assassins’ targets. Instead of fighting city guards, Shay works with them. Instead of clearing out Templar bases, Shay takes down Assassin dens. Instead of assassinating key Templars, Shay hunts down key Assassins.
Gameplay is almost identical to last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. There is both naval and on-foot gameplay. On top of that, there is a modern day storyline that puts the player in the shoes of an anonymous researcher at Abstergo Entertainment, the games division of the Templar front, Abstergo Industries.
Whereas in Black Flag, the modern day sections were an interesting way to break up Edward’s story with the player able to go out of their way to figure out exactly what’s going on at Abstergo Entertainment, Rogue’s modern day sections don’t really add anything to plot since all of the questions about the company were answered in the previous game. All the player does is explore the Abstergo Entertainment offices (with the exact same map as Black Flag) and reset servers to undo the damage done by a virus that is implied to have been planted by the Assassins.
Naval combat is mostly the same as Black Flag. The only changes are two new weapons, the Puckle gun, a small rapid fire cannon and oil barrels that create a wall of fire behind Shay’s ship, the Morrigan. These replace the swivel gun and the fire barrels, respectively.
The Puckle gun is a great change. It is far more versatile than the swivel gun because it can be fired without needing a weak spot to hit and fires rapidly. The oil barrels actually manage to be less useful than the fire barrels. At least those could be reliably dropped on enemy ships as they passed by behind the Jackdaw. The oil barrels are only good for creating walls of fire, which are impossible to aim because it’s impossible to predict where enemy ships are going to be far enough ahead for them to matter. It’s the same problem the fire barrels suffered from only worse.
On foot, the game is mostly unchanged. The blow gun is replaced by the air rifle, but that makes pretty much no difference in terms of actual gameplay, at least until the air rifle is upgraded to have an underslung grenade launcher, which gives Shay access to three types of explosives, shrapnel grenades, sleep grenades and berserk grenades. The grenade launcher is an incredibly fun tool to use. It makes it easy to take out large groups of enemies in multiple ways. There are also many chances to uncover hidden chests by blowing up weak walls and it’s a strange pleasure to get large groups of enemies to go berserk and start attacking each other.
Where the on-foot gameplay does change, however, is that some enemies will use the same Assassin tactics and techniques that players have been using since the series began against Shay. They will hide in the same hiding spots Shay can use, they will attack from above and they will run away after striking. To compensate for this, activating Eagle Vision allows Shay to track and find these enemies before they strike, which is a must because it hurts like hell when their hidden blades hit.
The combat is the same, to the point that many of Edward’s animations were simply reused, but the addition of enemies that hunt and attempt to assassinate Shay is a great way to mix things up and, until they’re dealt with, Assassin enemies can be pretty tenacious.
The side missions are a mix of old and new. Recruiting sailors for the Morrigan has far less focus than recruiting pirates for the Jackdaw. There is a much smaller variety of recruitment opportunities and if the player flubs them, the potential recruits are killed and lost. This is likely because of there being less focus on naval combat than there was in Black Flag.
Other returning side missions include whaling, which is completely unchanged, and plantation raids, which are now raids on French military outposts and can be partially and completely failed if the guard carrying a key escapes (there are also usually three keys as opposed to one), as opposed to Black Flag, where raids can only be failed on death.
The big new side mission is clearing out gang hideouts. Because one of the three areas to explore is the city of New York (which is smaller than it’s previous appearance in Assassin’s Creed III, but still bigger than any of the cities in Black Flag), while another is a river valley with limited space to move the Morrigan around, these allow for a way to lower the danger levels of the sections of the maps without relying on only attacking fortresses, which do return for the North Atlantic and a few areas in the river valley.
The gang hideouts are one of the big reasons I describe Rogue as a dark reprise of Brotherhood. In Brotherhood, Ezio invades Templar hideouts and repurposes them for the Assassins. In Rogue, Shay invades gang hideouts run by the Assassins and repurposes them for the Templars and the British.
In terms of gameplay the hideouts are more of the same as the story missions. Shay goes in, completes two or three objectives, then cuts down a flag. This isn’t a bad thing and should be expected, but players who weren’t impressed with Black Flag’s on-foot sections won’t be impressed by these.
In fact, players who weren’t impressed with Black Flag’s on-foot sections should probably just give the game a pass. There is far less focus on the naval combat this time around. If I had to guess, I’d say about a third of Black Flag’s story missions were on the ocean, plus the vast majority of the world, while Rogue has only about half of the world on the ocean and maybe half as much focus on the naval combat.
Narratively, Rogue explores a story that has only been a story device up to this point. Assassin turncoats have appeared at a few points in previous games, most notably Duncan Walpol’s encounter with Edward Kenway kicking off the events of Black Flag. It helps that Shay, despite starting out with a slight tendency to complain, is a likable and sympathetic character.
The exploration of Shay’s betrayal of the Assassins and his efforts to hunt down his former comrades for the Templars is very interesting. It’s the first and, as far as I can tell, only game in the series that doesn’t treat the Assassins as right 100% of the time and, while not the only time the Templars have been portrayed as complex or sympathetic, it is the only time they haven’t played an outright villainous role.
The story isn’t perfect. Shay is a good character and his relationships with his former comrades are established well, but, with the exception of Liam O’Brien, none of them are taken much further than established. Shay’s character development is pretty weak. His growth as a character is there, but it isn’t very deep. There is occasional mention of Shay becoming everything that he fought against and the story’s primary theme is very much “he who fights monsters,” but we are told about it more than we’re shown it.
Rogue also doesn’t explore the personal motivations of anyone except Shay and, outside of the beginning of the story, none of the Assassins are particularly well developed with the exceptions of Achilles and Adewale, who was Edward’s quartermaster and the star of Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry.
Though it is fun to interact with characters that had appeared in other games, namely the aforementioned Achilles and Adewale, as well as Haytham, Edward’s son, Conner’s father and the Grand Master of the Colonial Templars.
I would highly recommend newcomers to the series pick up Black Flag instead. While a very good game, Rogue is not a game for people who aren’t already interested in the series. Much of the characterization of the returning characters relies on the player knowing who they are from their earlier appearances, plus the game is entirely about the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars, with the Seven Years War only there to establish scale and stakes. This leaves a lot for fans of the series to enjoy, but will leave newcomers lost on why they should care about these two secret organizations.
Despite the suspicious lack of marketing to the point where review copies were never sent out, Assassin’s Creed Rogue turned out very well. It’s certainly not Black Flag, but it wholeheartedly embraces the trappings of the Assassin’s Creed series, while still giving a refreshing twist on the story by simply exploring an idea that usually resulted in stabbing the traitor. It should not be missed by fans of the series, despite being in many ways largely a reskin of Black Flag.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is also available on Xbox 360 and is set for release on March 10 on PC.
Share This Post