Assassin’s Creed Rogue finds itself squarely between the glimmer of Unity and the Caribbean sun of Black Flag, but its mix of refreshing sandbox gameplay and interconnected storytelling makes it worth playing
Much like the several discoverable secrets in Assassin’s Creed Rogue’s shipwrecks all over the North Atlantic, the game was Ubisoft’s forgotten expedition last year. Not only was its release (exclusively on previous generation consoles, no less) overshadowed by its bigger brother, Assassin’s Creed Unity, it certainly didn’t help when said bigger brother had a billion issues at launch. The PC version of Rogue is now available for the modest price of `999 (at retail) in the country, and this is a version that’s not going to change your mind if you didn’t quite fancy its predecessor, Black Flag. However, if you enjoyed Black Flag, Rogue offers more of the same great open world gameplay—one that is both a refreshing change of pace from the dense, beautiful urban landscape of Unity, as well as a return to form in terms of storytelling.
A tale worth telling
Rogue sees you playing as smart-talking Irish jack-of-all-trades, Shea Patrick Cormac, first as an assassin recruit, and subsequently as the most important person alive in the Assassin’s Creed universe (I’m not kidding). It’s not as much a spoiler as it is one of the game’s key marketing pitches: Cormac is an Assassin-turned-Templar. Unlike Unity protagonist Arno Dorian’s tale of love and revenge during the French Revolution, Cormac’s tale takes us back to the New World, or more specifically, River Valley, New York and the beautiful icy waters of the North Atlantic. There’s the occasional detour to Lisbon and Paris as well, but saying any more will give away some of the more interesting parts of Rogue’s story. We get to experience Shea’s rise to fame, moral conflicts and journey to set things right first-hand—all while sailing, plundering, assassinating, liberating and discovering, ships, loot, bad guys, prisoners and cool stuff respectively.
Developers Ubisoft Sofia might have crafted a world that is in every way an improvement over Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s, but it’s not much of a secret that Black Flag’s core mechanics serve as the basis for Rogue. Ubisoft’s sandbox design must be given credit here—there are lots of new activities which offer variety, while the recognized strength of Black Flag, the sailing, ship exploration and combat have been tweaked enough to make them feel almost perfect. Land based activities, however, can feel repetitive—with a limited pool of assassination and infiltration missions offering a diversion from the infinitely more interesting sailing activities.
With lots of collectibles, secrets and treasure to discover in addition to progression, being tied this time around to not just grinding upgrade materials, but treasure maps and blueprints, there’s good mileage to be got from Rogue even after completing the game’s story, particularly if you enjoyed gallivanting around the Caribbean in Black Flag. On the other hand, if that wasn’t your cup of tea, this isn’t going to be either.
Pushed to the limit
There’s no doubt that the PC version of Assassin’s Creed Rogue is the best looking version of the game by far. With better textures, no frame-rate cap (although turning V-Sync on is recommended) and support for higher resolutions, Rogue on PC is certainly a looker particularly when you’re sailing—it’s no Unity, but there’s enough immersive quality from a gameplay standpoint to make you forget this fact. However, there’s no question that this will be the last outing for the game’s ageing graphics engine which has been pushed to its limits.
Be it exploring the icy waters of the North Atlantic or pursuing an assassination target through the rooftops of Halifax, it’s clear that 60 frames per second gameplay (which can be achieved even on midrange PCs) makes playing an Assassin’s Creed game feel so much better than at lower frame rates. The traversal/free running system still has issues (amazingly so, given that there have been no major improvements to it since 2008), and these issues feel less like problems when the game is not chugging around at 30fps. It’s inevitable that environments in upcoming Assassin’s Creed games are only going to get more complex, so let’s hope Ubisoft is able to refine the parkour system as well as seriously consider optimizing future games to run at higher frame rates.
Surprisingly, playing two Assassin’s Creed games in a year didn’t feel as monotonous as I had expected. Both Rogue and Unity offer different, varied experiences. Unity might have gone back to what can be argued as the roots of the series while brandishing its beautiful new graphics engine, while Rogue cashes in on the successful Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag formula. This is a game for those who enjoyed Black Flag and want more—it’s as simple as that.
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