Back in my old school days History was not one of my favorite subjects. It could never really hold my attention. If only there was a way to make it more interactive and entertaining then I would have been all in. Much like a history lesson, Assassin’s Creed skillfully weaves tales that mix historical events with its own fiction in an engrossing fashion. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue does more of the same as it puts you in the role of a new lead character with new toys at your disposal in a wide assortment of new locales. It also ties into previous AC games and AC: Unity, which is slated for release at the same time as Rogue. Did I get straight A’s in Rogue’s History class or did I end up sleeping through it?
Let’s start from the beginning. You play the role of Shay Patrick Cormac, a member of the Brotherhood of Assassins in the mid-18th century, during the start of the Seven Years War. Poor Shay has started to grow tired of the Brotherhood’s methods and ideology over the years. Eventually events in his journey turn to betrayal, abandonment, and a quest for revenge. This then turns the story into one told from the Templar’s perspective. I had trouble trying to describe how the story plays out without spoiling much. What I can tell you is that you will be venturing into a good selection of locations, from the Appalachian River Valley, New York, Quebec, and Lisbon, and various places in between. Much of the action is around the Northern Atlantic, where freezing waters will be the death of you if you take a too long a swim.
In terms of the controls, navigating the world and the combat felt very similar to AC: Black Flag. Being able to parkour through various environments ranging from jungles, villages, and caves remains silky smooth. I really enjoyed the puzzle-like elements and the amount of collectibles in the game is staggering. There are so many things to collect that I just had to get everything. Yes I am OCD that way.
Hand-to-hand combat is fast and deadly, with some killing animations that had me thinking, “Oh that had to hurt!” My only gripe is I found combat just way too easy at times, even early on with just basic weapons. As such, my most enjoyable moments were always when it came to stealth and trying not to be detected. Then when the enemy is not looking I attack with a quick stab in their backs. I admit I found myself enjoying this deadly craft way too much.
Ship combat is also back, but your ship this time is a bit more user-friendly. It controls a lot better, and is more responsive, compared to the beast you had in Black Flag. You get control of your ship (the “Morrigan”) pretty early on in the game, equipped with normal ship-to-ship weapons that you will be using during battle, and a few new features. Your new ride can be upgraded with some pretty cool toys, like being able to lay oil slicks behind it as you sail, then lighting it ablaze. Along with your normal cannons you will be eventually able to add “Puckle guns” which looked a lot like chain guns, but more “pirate-y”. The ship will also be equipped with ice breakers because you will be sailing seas with huge icebergs and don’t want to end up like the Titanic… or at least, like the Titanic would about 160 later. After just a few hours of play, my ship was already kicking ass on the high seas. Boarding other ships after disabling them is still as fun as before, but be warned your ship can be taken over. It really surprised me the first time it happened, and I found myself and my crew fighting for our lives.
Your ship is not the only thing with new toys to play with. Along with your normal assortment of pistols, swords and knives to take people down with, there are some deadly new additions. Not too long into the game, you are given an air rifle which is silent and deadly. This air rifle can shoot various kinds of darts to take out your targets, ranging from ones to put them to sleep temporarily, or send them into fits of rage. The rage darts were very interesting because I found enraging an enemy near your intended target could cause them to take the target out themselves. I wasn’t sure if this was the intended purpose, but it sure came in handy a few times and a few times by accident. My favorite new weapon is the knife on a rope which is able to impale a target before you yank them back towards you. I felt a lot like Scorpion from the Mortal Kombat series after getting this weapon. It’s particularly handy for taking down people above you.
Crafting is still a large part of the game too, with the ability to upgrade your character’s health, weapons, outfit, and ship. Most the materials for crafting is still found by taking over enemy ships, supply boxes placed around various environments, and by hunting the local wildlife. If there is something to pick up, do so, because you will probably need it sooner or later. There is already some DLC you can purchase if you want which unlocks all the hidden stuff on the map if you did not want to spend the time hunting for it – which seems to be unnecessary in a game like this. Half the fun is finding and hunting down items and exploring locations. However, the option is there.
There’s also the “modern world” aspect too, where you navigate the halls of Abstergo Entertainment (also from Black Flag), unlocking memories and solving puzzles (this time in the form of spheres you need to “light up” with beams of light from rings you rotate around it – the rings can obstruct other beams, or deflect or split beams, which can make these puzzles quite tricky). It feels a bit weird to drop out of the time period of the main story, but it did serve as an effective way of telling the main narrative as it jumped around in time.
The game is not completely perfect, with the odd bug popping up where I ended up getting stuck in a doorway, railing, or even in a tree. Occasionally I was going for a normal jump, just to pass through where I was supposed to grip, and falling to my death – but it would work the next time I tried after reloading. There were a few amusing AI oddities too, where I watched an NPC get stuck, trying to walk into a wall continuously.
After playing Black Flag on the Xbox One, then moving to Rogue on the 360, there is definitely a graphical step down of course. That said, Rogue still looks really good, but you can tell that the developers were really pushing the 360 hardware to get the best they could out of it. The mini-map in the corner had a very slight lag as you turned the camera, and there were occasional clipping issues, but for the most part I was very impressed. The world has a wide range of environments that spare no detail. Lush forests, winter environments, and large cities still look and work great. The winter environments were my favorite because it reminded me of some Canadian winters here when I was young. The character models are well done, but for some reason Shay reminded me of a young Charles Bronson.
As expected in an Assassin’s Creed game, the soundtrack and audio work are outstanding. There are some really great tracks to be found, with some sweeping orchestral work. Voice work and writing is also top notch, and all the sound effects of the environments work well.
After the dust settles, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is a good addition to the series. Sure, it doesn’t break new ground and the main character is yet another one of those stereotypical brooding males out for revenge but there is no question the game delivered in the entertainment department. If you are a fan of the series and still clinging on to one of those last generation consoles, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue has plenty to offer. Just don’t expect an innovative piece of Assassin’s Creed here.
***This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 and a code was provided by the publisher***