While the Assassin’s Creed series has already moved on from the colonial America setting introduced in AC3, it’s a shame that one of the strongest titles in that bunch didn’t get a whole lot of attention. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue was released alongside the next-generation installment Assassin’s Creed: Unity and was largely considered to be the superior title…but it was only available on Xbox 360 and PS3, so many players passed it by in favor of the newer, shinier Unity. Well, no more; there’s now a PC version of Rogue and it’s the definitive version of an already impressive game.
The big paradigm shift in this iteration of Assassin’s Creed is that you’re playing as a Templar…eventually, anyway, as new hero Shay Patrick Cormac isn’t inducted for a good five hours or so. The change really affects the opposition more than your own character. Shay was originally an Assassin, so he plays pretty much like the heroes in other AC games. He’s sneaky, he does parkour, he’s got his arsenal of weapons like the hidden blades, a sword-and-dagger set, a silent dart rifle and…uh, a grenade launcher invented by Ben Franklin, which is actually pretty cool.
However, the enemies you face now include stealthy types that will employ tactics similar to your own. Hunting down stalkers and Assassins is a great time, since they’ll hide in plain sight and you’ll need to keep your guard up or risk getting stabbed. It’s similar in execution to the competitive multiplayer modes seen in previous titles, though Rogue is single-player only.
The Templar thing also weighs heavily on the plot. As I told a friend previously, Rogue is basically a game about how you’ve spent every other Assassin’s Creed killing the nicest people on the planet. Shay comes off as a good man trying to do the right thing and the Templars he works with are generally pretty endearing folks rather than the faceless menace you battled in previous titles. In particular, Shay’s first mate Christopher Gist is probably the most memorable character in the game thanks to his fantastically hammy voice acting. Think Zapp Brannigan from Futurama or Disney’s Gaston and you’ve got the idea. Gist needs his own game.
Aside from that, the gameplay is largely similar to AC4: Black Flag, right down to the emphasis on naval exploration and combat. You’ll do a lot of the stuff you did in that game, like sailing between ports, fighting other ships, landing to do sneaky Assass–er, Templar nonsense and so on. AC4’s largely considered to be the high point of the series, so Rogue’s similarities are a boon, and all the series mainstay features like huge amounts of side diversions and collectibles are here. Honestly, the two are so similar that Rogue could feasibly be considered a standalone expansion to Black Flag. It’s not a bad thing.
Also like AC4, the modern day framing story bits are kind of lame, as we’ve come to expect since the Desmond Miles story arc ended with AC3. One highlight is that the scraps of lore you can gather during these segments are Templar-centric, providing a perspective that the series hasn’t offered until now. Even if you can’t stand the annoying new NPC assistants, it’s worth enduring them to check out some new tidbits about the Templar Order.
When we talk about presentation, the first thing that needs to be said is that it runs like a dream. The framerate is smooth and everything looks great. There’s the odd physics glitch here or there, but those have been a mainstay of the series since the first title so that’s nothing unusual. It’s certainly a nice contrast with the initial state of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, though that title is also pretty acceptable months later with major patch work.
If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan than you really need to give Assassin’s Creed Rogue a chance. It’s definitely one of the best titles in the series, an accolade it shares with the excellent AC4: Black Flag. The shifted perspective on the series’ lore is a welcome change from the norm and the solid gameplay we came to expect from AC4 is present and accounted for. If you feel like you got burned with Unity, it’s time to forgive, forget and give Assassin’s Creed another shot.