Assassin’s Creed: Rogue might be one of the most confusing games I have ever reviewed. Released in the shadow of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, solely for last-gen consoles it was pretty much doomed before it ever started; it’s almost like Ubisoft wanted to see it fail.
Having said that, the game actually has a very interesting premise that promises to explore an unexplored side of the Assassins / Templar conflict. You play as Shay Cormac, an assassin turned Templar who changed sides after accidentally blowing up a city while on an assassin mission.
This sets Shay on a course of vengeance against his former brethren, vowing to stop the Assassins meddling in the course of history. Although the fact that he automatically sides with the Templars is a bit odd, seeing as they are all about meddling in history and have shown nothing but contempt for the concept of free will.
The gameplay is very reminiscent of Black Flag, with some recycled set pieces from AC3 thrown in there and a few elements of Ezio’s trilogy thrown in there as well.
The sailing and naval combat controls well and is basically the same as Black Flag. It adds depth to the game world while keeping the player in total and relatively intuitive control of their ship.
There are a few new toys to play around with as well; instead of the swivel guns of the Jackdaw, Shays vessel, the Morrigan, is equipped with “puckle guns”, fully automatic small cannons which allow you to decimate gunboats and fire on multiple weak points of larger ships. The mines have been replaced as well, now Cormac can literally ignite the ocean behind him with burning oil, deterring would-be rammers and leading to immense satisfaction as you watch your pursuer’s burn.
You are no longer the only captain who has figured out boarding now either, at any time in conflict, an enemy ship can ram and board your ship. This basically works the same as if you had boarded their ship, except the fighting takes place on yours, and although it’s a good concept and adds a lot of tension to the naval battles I think it could have been expanded a bit more. Maybe adding the risk of being captured, or the enemy igniting your powder magazine or something along those lines; rather than merely being a shortcut to something you were going to do anyway.
The non-naval elements of the game are pretty much what you’d expect from an Assassin’s Creed game. You have what is quite quickly becoming a ludicrously diverse arrangement of tools with which to stealthily achieve your goals; including the addition of a silenced rifle and an under-barrel grenade launcher of all things. Or if that doesn’t work you can just counter-stab until everyone in the immediate area is dead.
My main annoyance, though, was in the sheer amount of side activities there is. I’m the type of gamer that feels the need to have a completely clean map before doing any of the story missions. But between all the collectibles, the synchronization points and the gang hideout missions you could easily spend an hour in each settlement; making it extremely difficult to keep track of what’s actually going on in the story.
All in all though, Rogue is an interesting take on the Assassin’s Creed series, plays well and has an intriguing story which I hope Ubisoft pursues further. Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, however, it baffles me as to why the developers released it so close to Unity and restricted it only to last-gen consoles.
If they wanted to continue with the naval-centric gameplay, then why not wait until the next inevitable installment of the franchise or why not push Unity back a year? With the already crowded marketplace for triple-A games, why would you want your franchise competing with itself?