ssassin’s Creed: Rogue had the potential to be one of the most interesting games in the series since Assassin’s Creed 2, which I would argue is the best in the series along with the original Assassin’s Creed. Shay Cormac is the assassin turned templar due to a disagreement with the way in which the assassins follow their creed and go about their lives.
It’s the Anakin Skywalker story without the over-emotional Hayden Christensen and his tendency for limb dismemberment. But the less said about that movie the better. Safe to say the story is fairly well written but sloppy voice-overs and uninteresting side characters that fail to hold any importance let the game down.
There are however a few returning characters from previous games, ones that fans may be happy to see and would like to know about their involvement within the game. And while it’s just fan service to see their faces again it’s clear that the spotlight here is on the Rogue assassin.
Shay Cormac is without a doubt an interesting character and his doubts, thoughts, and personal feelings on the situation as a whole between the templars and assassins, is really one that gives the game some strength as well as a possible turning point for the series. He’s the first assassin in the entire series who’s motivations and reasoning for joining the brotherhood aren’t decided by purely revenge, ignorance, or dogma.
"Shay Cormac is the assassin turned templar due to a disagreement with the way in which the assassins follow their creed and go about their lives."
He’s a man who knows how to think for himself rather than following blind allegiance to a cause that no previous character has really dared to question, and this makes him relatable. The story itself takes place shortly after the events of Assassin’s Creed IV which fans will no doubt have guessed thanks to the trailers, screenshots, and early leaked footage. Shout out to the Interweb.
One thing in particular that AC: Rogue helps to close is the muddled up storyline of when and where things are actually taking place during the events of AC:3, Liberation, and Black Flag. And although it doesn’t quite fully accomplish this it does give the impression of a missing puzzle piece that players have been scurrying after as they make brainstorms and mind maps, trying to find some sort of relation between the three.
However…despite the interesting deck of cards that Shay Cormac brings to the table it also brings up a much more interesting and a much more larger question in regards to the series a whole. And to add to that it’s more of a problematic one that I don’t feel can ever be fixed. The problem with Assassin’s Creed, is that Ubisoft have dug themselves a hole they’re not able to climb out from in regards to the game’s branching story lines.
To sum it all up in as few words as possible. Nothing makes any sense! Assassin’s Creed has got to the point now where each game is just a geographical time machine simulator and everything that takes place outside of the Animus feels like a tacked-on package of nonsense, that should have never been there in the first place.
"He's a man who knows how to think for himself rather than following blind allegiance to a cause that no previous character has really dared to question. And this makes him relatable. "
The first game introduced Desmond Miles as the main character living through the lives of other characters. And the moment Assassin’s Creed 3 came to an end this held no relevance nor any importance to the series whatsoever. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t played the game. Desmond is dead. D.E.A.D. six foot under.
And if you didn’t know that already then it’s safe to say Assassin’s Creed: Rogue isn’t a good starting point for you to jump on board with the series. Now with the main character deceased and all that conflict behind us, why is the Animus still even relevant?
This idea of Abstergo industries using genetic memories to sell digital experiences and entertainment products as a cover up for templar conspiracy motivations, would have worked a whole lot better had Desmond never been introduced in the first place. Assassin’s Creed would be a lot more simple and a lot more interesting had the Animus and the modern day conflict between the assassins and the templars had never been introduced.
Nothing that takes place outside the Animus has any real relevance or even any real interest towards the player anymore. Frankly it became largely irrelevant the moment Ezio’s trilogy ended. There’s a certain sense of irony here that only a few will be able to relate to in regards to how each of the different games branch out to each other, yet the convoluted involvement of the modern day sequences destroy any possible hope of any character being important, since he or she is going to fall of the tree the moment the next game in the series is revealed anyway.
"Nothing that takes place outside the Animus has any real relevance or even any real interest towards the player anymore. "
I mean Shay Cormac is a great addition to the series, he’s the one who went rogue and questioned the perception of good versus evil. But as entertaining and interesting as the character is when it boils down to it he’s no more interesting then Edward, Haytham, Conner, and Aveline. Looking back on the series as a whole as well as looking forward to what may possibly come.
Will there ever be a character who was as interesting as Altair or Ezio? Assassin’s Creed: Rogue feels like an episodic-slice of what the series used to be when it reached the peak of it’s power back in 2010. It reminds me of a blockbuster movie that reached the pinnacle of it’s success, and upon the failure of poorly regarded sequel, trickled it’s way down to a Thursday night television show that relies on failed actors and actresses to loosely portray that which it once had.
The real kicker here is that Shay Cormac’s introduction to the series had the opportunity to turn this around. A potential for future games based purely on Shay excites me. But given that the game only released on last-generation consoles and the likelihood of PC gamers chancing another Ubisoft game dictates that lightning has a better chance of striking the same spot twice, I can’t really see it happening.
Coupled by the fact that it released alongside Assassin’s Creed: Unity which is aimed to mark the next step towards a “Next-Gen only” focus of that being the Xbox One, PC, and PS4. The sad fact is that Assassin’s Creed: Rogue will likely find it’s way to a dusty top shelf next to a stack of unread books and a one-armed Cowboy doll. With that being said and for all the observations I’ve made with the game, the story itself is infact worthwhile, it’s just the larger picture that concerns me.
"Assassin's Creed: Rogue feels like an episodic-slice of what the series used to be when it reached the peak of it's power back in 2010. "
Gameplay on the other hand is a mixed bag. Did you enjoy the naval combat that Assassin’s Creed 3 touched on which Black Flag made a staple element of in it’s gameplay? If so then step aboard. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is a goodbye love letter to the last-gen systems, sailing in to the distance both literally and figuratively.
It’s clear the positive feedback that Ubisoft received from the naval combat and the ship exploration of a Pirate’s fantasy, from AC4: Black Flag is clearly what the gameplay here is built upon. Environments on land are bland to the say the least and with the exception of sailing your own ship, every other visual element of the game has more in common with Assassin’s Creed 3 then it does with Black Flag.
Much like AC4: Black Flag players can upgrade their ship by experiment with different armoury and it’s visual appearance. This reflects the player’s customizability with Shay as there’s a small variety of new weapons and gadgets to play with. Since the player is now taking on the assassins and in the same way that players would have done so to their own victims in the previous games. It’s highly advised to upgrade your blades, keep your ammo stocked, and keep your eye on the bushes. Everything the player is used to doing is now going against them. Shay may be a predator but now he’s also the prey.
The level design in general looks greatly scaled back in regards to how visually stunning Black Flag was with it’s use of tropical landscapes, blue ocean waves, and dense vegetated jungles. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue takes you back to icy America and if that’s what gets your juices flowing then you’ll be pleased to know there’s a one way ticket to the North Atlantic. Alongside the game’s main story missions there’s plenty to do involve yourself within thanks to it’s variety of side missions such as templar contracts and raids.
Much like previous AC games people demand your attention and will keep you busy with side quests that may or may not have anything in relation it’s main campaign. These are the sections of the game that reminds the player that AC: Rogue is still Assassin’s Creed and it’s more of the same. While some of these side missions did just feel like errand runs as common to open world games, there are a few noticeable exceptions to keep the player entertained.
"Assassin's Creed: Rogue is a goodbye love letter to the last-gen systems sailing in to the distance both literally and figuratively. "
But given that the primary focus in regards to it’s gameplay is clearly the naval combat, I can’t imagine much players taking part in what’s available on land unless required to for the sake of campaign’s progression. Traversing the large and open landscapes of what’s available on land isn’t that much appealing when taking in to account how past games have emphasized and promoted what the player can expect to receive once the shackles have been loosened from boring and mediocre tutorials.
As said previously this is the icy America of AC:3 although be it with a few alterations and additions, along with other lands to explore. The spark the series once had for it’s interesting environments is largely absent here and I feel this is due to the focus being given to the naval sections of the game which emphasizes combat.
Amongst the well written story and vast number of side activities that the game likes to keep the player busy with there is one thing I do have a personal gripe, and whether it’s just me nitpicking or something others have taken notice off as well, I feel it needs to be addressed. It’s the amount of unnecessary time the game spends holding the player’s hand.
Even when the game’s not directly giving the player a tutorial it’s doing it almost subliminally. Why are the controls always present on the screen? I’ve played the previous games all eight of them, I know how they play. And for the most part none of them have actually changed with the exception of refining what’s already there, such as the speed and transitioning of the free-running elements when traversing different types of structures.
"Why are the controls always present on the screen? I've played the previous games all eight of them, I know how they play. "
Players don’t need and for the most part don’t actually want a fistful of HUD elements particularly the game’s control scheme, blocking the environments and impressive pieces of architecture and geographical locations that the studio seems to boast so hard about recreating.
The game functions on the basis of “Hold down the top bumper to switch to a free-running stance, and let go off the bumper to remain casual”. Okay got it. So why does this need to remain on the actual screen breaking the player’s immersion of exploring the game’s world and taking in the sights? It would appear that the studio seems to spend more time ticking off the internet, working with Nvidia to release tech demos that never actually see the true light of day, then they do working on the simple things that actually create a truly immersive world.
There’s too much arbitrary or “Gamey” mechanics present that don’t really need to be there and this extends in to other elements of the screen. Objectives litter the left portion of the screen, notifications run rampant, NPCs have status indicators above their heads signifying danger when I can clearly see them waving their swords. Since my character’s clearly overpowered these status indicators mean nothing anyway. As long as I play by the rules of the game and counter when spoken to but don’t attack otherwise, it’s a sure bet that I’ll win.
While this seemed to work great for the first two games as the second fixed what was wrong with the first, the series as a whole hasn’t changed nor even progressed any element of the combat mechanics aside from creating new finishers. It’s fatality without the Kombat. And in a game that focuses on giving the player the fantasy of murder hence the name of the game, it would do well to add actual combos to the game and have that mask the top right of my screen for the next three to eight games.
"It's fatality without the Kombat. "
Perhaps the studio could learn a thing or two from their older games such as the original Prince of Persia trilogy, more specifically the Warrior Within. And adapt certain combat mechanics so that the player isn’t left playing a game of chess formed on the foundation of “You move, I counter, sword takes throat”.
Given the original Assassin’s Creed was said to have been another addition to the Prince of Persia series, I would argue that a set of combat mechanics designed for the purpose of making the player feel like an assassin has actually taken a step backwards. And for those that would disagree I would urge them to take a good long look at Monolith’s Shadow of Mordor, and take note of how it fixes everything that’s wrong with Assassin’s Creed.
It would appear that the only thing the series has going for it is it’s impressive use of diverse character design, fairly descent storytelling, and geographical recreations of locations in history. I would like to say the visuals are a looker but since that seems to change with every press event, screenshot, and trailer that’s released, I’m not sure it’s even worth discussing anymore.
What would be the more sensible thing to do is assess how well the functionality of the game holds up in regards to it’s visuals. It’s no secret that AC3 performed like a frog on crutches for those who experienced the game on last-generation consoles. And ninety percent of the Assassin’s Creed titles released on PC contained more performance issues than a drug-riddled athlete chocking on RedBull. But how does Assassin’s Creed: Rogue hold up?
Well here’s what I simply can’t understand. Why would a development studio be willing to compromise the playability of a game in favour for a visual dominance that it clearly does not have? Visually it’s on par with Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. But in terms of it’s playability it’s a jerky mess. While the frame rate doesn’t imitate a Yo-yo, it’s the random jerkyness that occurs when the character is in movement. It’s by no means game breaking nor is it enough to ruin the excellent story of Shay Cormac, and in comparison to AC3 it’s tolerable.
"I would like to say the visuals are a looker but since that seems to change with every press event, screenshot, and trailer that's released, I'm not sure it's even worth discussing anymore. "
While it’s expected to run at thirty frames per second given that it’s running on eight year-old hardware, I refuse to give in to these false ideals that “Pushing the hardware to it’s limits” as developers so gracefully throw out, should be accepted as a valid excuse for what is clearly an unplayable game.
It’s full of jaggies, okay I forgive that. But reducing other graphical elements of the game so it doesn’t perform so “Jerky” would have at least made things a tad more pleasant. Develop the game to the capabilities of the hardware, not to the compromise of the actual software.
If the player is able to live with the fact it’s running on older systems and they’re not quite ready to move on to a PC or one of the next-generation systems, then my advice to them would to not to have any high expectations.
Unfortunately enough the saggy performance of the game extends in to it’s audio department as well. Should players without an internet connection attempt to play the game due to the unfortunate miss of the day one patch, they will be experiencing the first few sections of the game in an utter mess. More precisely, character dialogue is a broken mess. There’s just no pleasant way to put it. Voice acting is completely out of sync during cut scenes and this ruins the experiences when attempting to introduce new characters in to the game.
I would like to know who these people are and what they have to say but since there’s a common case of the Freaky Friday scenario going on whenever they open their mouths, it eventually got to a point where I didn’t even care anymore. This issue also extends in to some of it’s gameplay. During a sequence involving gun-play where the main character was required to shoot down puppets as a means for target practice.
"I refuse to give in to these false ideals that "Pushing the hardware to it's limits" as developers so gracefully throw out, should be accepted as a valid excuse for what is clearly an unplayable game. "
Audio fell five seconds behind from when the character fired the gun and when the sound was actually processed. While I would like to say this was just a one-off occurrence I think the dears, elks, and other species of dead wildlife would disagree with me as they scream ten seconds after the event of their deaths.
Many instances did I find my character running, climbing and dashing along the beaches only to have the game fool me that I was being chased by an NPC, when it was just in fact the audio playing catch-up. While this only lasted for the first few missions of the main campaign, it’s highly not recommended to play without the patch. If there’s one thing in Assassin’s Creed: Rogue that says “Last-Gen” is done and dusted it’s the absence of multiplayer.
While it’s easy to see there won’t be much people playing AC: Rogue due to the overshadowing of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, I can’t imagine it would have worked out so well anyway. The environments just don’t support it. Looking back on past titles such as AC:2 and AC: Brotherhood, these titles made use of more dense surroundings via the buildings, bushes, NPC interactions, and hiding spots amongst roofs, shelters, and benches.
AC: Rogue isn’t set in a suitable environment for this and had the game included such, it would have came across as a tacked-on multiplayer. Personally I prefer the direction towards Shay Cormac’s story as it’s where the game excels the most. And although this kills the replay value of the game, single-player has always been this franchise’s biggest strength.
There’s no getting around it Shay Cormac is the most interesting addition to the series in a very long time. It’s the first time players get to experience things from a different perspective that didn’t come in the form of a tacked-on multiplayer or an unworthy slice of DLC. And it gives the series a new found strength as well the potential to take a different route for future games. It’s just a shame it’s become so incredibly convoluted and spawned out of control by hanging on to things that should have been abandoned years ago.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
An interesting character, enjoyable instances of gameplay, and a well written story.
Game breaking audio bugs can ruin the experience, an uninteresting setting, and jerky frame rates.