STAFF REVIEW of Assassin's Creed Rogue (Xbox 360)

Friday, November 21, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Assassin's Creed Rogue Box art I love Assassin’s Creed. Heck, I even enjoyed III once you got passed the tutorial that felt like it took ten hours. That being said, I didn’t know how to feel knowing that two Assassin’s Creed games were not only coming out in the same year, but the same day. Unity and Rogue, and to make things more confusing, Unity is for current gen only where Rogue is relegated to the last gen hardware of Xbox 360. If you’re simply reading this review to figure out which Assassin’s Creed to play first, I would highly suggest Rogue as it’s essentially the setup for Unity which takes place later in the timeline.

When a franchise has a game release every single year, it can become stale quite quickly unless it innovates and brings new ideas to the table to keep the audience interested. Assassin’s Creed III started this by bringing naval warfare to the series, but last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is what really made the series fresh once again. Black Flag introduced many new mechanics and settings for the series, and now a year later, we have its direct sequel, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.

Rogue ties up all the loose ends from the previous two Assassin’s Creed games (III and Black Flag) and if you’re not up to date on your Assassin’s Creed timeline and want to play them in order, as it’s essentially its own trilogy, you’ll want to play Black Flag, Rogue, and then III to have events unfold sequentially. If you’ve played the previous games, Rogue contains a lot of really interesting perspectives, not only of what happens during its own game, but why certain things are the way they are in III. For example, you’ll find out exactly why Achilles has a limp in III.

I normally try and steer away from referencing other games in deep detail in reviews, but it’s near impossible for Rogue as it borrows immensely from its prequel, Black Flag. Does that mean Rogue is essentially a re-skin of Black Flag with a new story thrown overtop to mask its roots? It’s not a simple yes or no, as the story is nothing like any of the other Assassin’s Creed titles and actually gives a completely new perspective, not just with the new protagonist, but the Assassin and Templar conflict as a whole. Black Flag was fantastic mechanically and Rogue plays almost exactly the same, though it does have its own few nuances you’ll learn, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because the groundwork has already been laid and proven, it’s clear more time has been taken to craft an interesting story and adding a few tweaks to make the title better as a whole.

Even though Rogue is the third new protagonist in the America’s trilogy, the story of Shay Cormac is one that is like no other Assassin’s Creed game to date. Rogue starts years after Black Flag and centers around an assassin, Shay, during the Seven Years War. Right from the beginning you can tell that Shay isn’t one to always follow the rules blindly, even if direct orders from master assassins. I don’t want to give away too much about the story, but the whole premise is that for specific reasons, Shay turns his back on the brotherhood and fights against them, eventually becoming a Templar. If you’re a true Assassin’s Creed fan, this just blew your mind. Yes, you get to play an Assassin’s Creed game but as a Templar.

To be quite honest, at first I didn’t think I would enjoy it, as I’ve always wanted to be the noble assassin’s that are trying to save the world, but Rogue will let you peek behind the Templar curtains and possibly change your mind. It’s an odd feeling to kill assassins whenever possible after so many years of aiding them, but this turmoil, for Shay and as a player, is what made me really enjoy Rogue. Seeing the Templar side of specific conflicts really starts to open your eyes and Shay needs to deal with all of his emotions and betrayal to the brotherhood. I don’t want to spoil much more, but know that playing in this moral grey area was refreshing, even if the gameplay is vastly unchanged.

My only complaint with this new perspective, is that the confrontations you have with the other assassins that wronged you never really feels powerful enough. I was expecting some epic showdowns with my former masters, but aside from the final sequence, it simply plays out like any other mission you’d find in the game. For how strongly Shay feels, especially since switching allegiances, I simply expected more drama and turmoil when there was a confrontation, but it doesn’t really ever materialize in that respect.

Gameplay may be a clone of Black Flag, but the fundamentals are solid and if you enjoyed Black Flag for whatever reason, you’ll enjoy Rogue for similar reasons. That being said, if you didn’t like Black Flag, aside from the story change and a few new additions, it’s going to feel extremely familiar. Sailing the waters in our ship as a captain still plays a large role on Rogue, but the backdrops are different, as you’ll also be sailing in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic and have to deal with icebergs as well. There are plenty of small islands, coves, and other aspects to explore and uncover, so if you’re a completionist or put dozens of hours into Black Flag, you’ll be happy to know it’s just as expansive.

Ship combat returns as well (along with new sea shanties), though the story didn’t have as many of the strict restrictions on ship missions that Black Flag had. Controlling your vessel feels smoother this time around and there are even some new weapons for you to learn and take advantage of in Rogue. You’re ship, the Morrigan, can be upgraded and you’ll eventually get two new arsenal options such as being able to lay oil slicks behind your ship in a path and the new Puckle Guns which turned out to be my favorite. Much like the canons you can before but these now act as chain guns and can make quick work of smaller enemy ships when upgraded. You’ll still be boarding ships to steal their resources, repair your ship, add to your fleet for the mini-game, but now you’ll have to be aware of other ships that can board you as well. This took me by surprised the first time it happened but is a welcome feature, knowing that I’m not the only captain that knows how to take over enemy ships.

Combat on foot play the same mechanically, but Shay does have some new gadgets to work with, and will need to use as assassins are much harder prey than your standard soldier or Templar. You’ll need to your Eagle Vision quite often to see through objects and find the nearby assassin waiting to take you out. You’re given a visual and audible queue when one is nearby and it can be stressful to try and find them when you’re already hunting down another enemy. Shay has access to some new weaponry, most importantly, a grenade-like launcher that can disperse shrapnel, berserk, or sleeping bombs for an area attack rather than a single blow dart that we’re used to. I didn’t end up relying on it very often, but it most certainly made some sections quite easier, as getting a pack of guards to attack each other with one shot was amusing to watch.

Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t have a link to the modern world outside of the Animus, and it’s no different in Rogue. Since this is a direct sequel to Black Flag, the ‘real world’ aspect is also unchanged and has you as another Abstergo Entertainment employee. The minigames needed to unlock the computers have changed, and can be a pain at times, but aside from that, you’re left wandering the exact same halls, so it’ll feel very familiar.

I really started to like Shay about the time he was starting to turn on his former brothers. He’s very brash and Edward-like in the beginning, but once I saw why he turned, and started becoming more bad ass, he’s definitely up there for one of my favorite assassins, er, Templars. I didn’t think that there would be any way rogue would be able to make me sympathize for the Templars, given what we’ve learned in every previous Assassin’s Creed game, but I have to hand it to the writers, as I am totally on board with Shay and his motives. I wish we saw more of his internal conflict of having to abandon everything he’s previously known and being a betrayer, but by the time the credits rolled, I want to learn more about Shay and will slightly question the brotherhood going forward.

Now, for all the great things I have to say about Rogue, I do have to delve into a few major and problematic issues I ran into in my twenty hour playthrough. Firstly, there’s a ton of small bugs such as constant clipping issues, many rocks and surfaces that look like they could be scaled, but can’t, and it still seems silly that Shay is camouflaged when he’s in a small field or bush that in no way would actually conceal him (this was much better on the Xbox One version of Black Flag, so it’s probably just a hardware limitation). Lastly, there’s a section at the end where you need to stay inconspicuous, and you see Shay lift up the bandana over his mouth like he does in the rest of the game once he’s a Templar, but in this section he isn’t wearing a bandana, so it looks completely silly and out of place. Not major issues, but lots of little ones.

I did have some severe problems though as my game progressed though that almost had me not able to complete it. Somehow, about 15 hours through the game, my game slightly froze and the audio was no longer in sync and would sporadically pop in and out. Not a big deal I initially thought, just another small glitch I thought would fix itself as I made it to the next section in the story. Sadly, it did not fix itself, but it progressively become much worse, almost to the point of unplayable. Eventually the game would freeze but the background audio would still be playing, but the game wasn’t really hard locked, as I could see the ocean water moving, but everything else was still.

I first thought it might be a hardware issue with my Xbox 360, but after testing other games I had no problems at all. When I was an hour from completing Rogue it was literally crashing on me every 30 seconds, and when you see how long it takes to go from dash to back in game, it became very frustrating after an hour of trying to progress. I even got “dirty disc error” messages even though it’s a digital game; that’s how bad it was crashing. I was actually on the final mission and was so frustrated with not being able to progress that I had to watch the ending cutscenes online. Eventually I tried again and again and slowly made progress from one checkpoint to the next, but playing in two minute bursts before crashing over and over was a sad way to end my Rogue gameplay. Now to be fair, I looked online and was unable to find anyone else with the same issues I had, both on forums and reviews, so I’m sure it was an isolated incident, but I have had to dock the overall score severely because of my technical problems with the game even though I think it has one of the strongest stories in the series.

As mentioned above, if you’re deciding between this and Unity for which to play first, start here, not only because it directly leads ties into Unity, but playing a sequel to Black Flag was immensely fun (disregarding my technical issues) even only after a year. Rogue’s story is fascinating and will truly open your eyes about the assassin and Templar conflict. Regardless of which side you fall upon after you complete Rogue, it will have you look at things differently in any other Assassin’s Creed games going forward.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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