While the more anticipated release of the Assassin’s Creed franchise was released exclusively for the newest generations of consoles, for all of us still holding on our previous ones Ubisoft decided to release not actually a new game but a spin-off; this game is (somewhat) a direct sequel from the successful game from last year Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. I have been a fan of this series since the first time I played Assassin’s Creed on my Xbox 360, and there is some enjoyment to be found with this spin-off.
If you have seen the official game trailer you should know that in this game you’ll be playing the role of Shay Cormac, an Assassin from the 1700’s who found his way away from Assassin’s Brotherhood, that he ended up enrolled by their sworn enemies: The Templars. The story sets you through a two act structure: during the first one you’ll be playing the role of an assassin’s apprentice, as the game walks you through a lengthy tutorial; while the second one is the actual game, as you’re introduced to the ways of the Templar order.
The first few hours of gameplay were painful for someone who has previous experience with the series. Assassin’s Creed Rogue walks you through everything you did back in Black Flag, but at the same time it gives you access to everything right from the start: your sword, both hidden blades, most of the items. It even gives you command of your ship very early in the game. Unfortunately this is all a taste of what is to come, because Assassin’s Creed Rogue does an exceptional job of keeping most of the game features hostage until you’ve reached a certain point in the story.
Even with that, the game kept enticing me of how great the game will get later on to the point of annoyance. Countless times I tried to interact with something on the towns, and I was met with a message saying something like “progress through the game to interact with this”; in other words “keep moving, stupid!” The point is, everyone approaching this title knows it gets better. This whole chunk was added in order to not alienate any newcomer to the series, but not only the whole idea of someone trying this game before Black Flag (or any other game of the series) is utterly ridiculous, but also a newcomer won’t possibly have the chance of assimilating everything being thrown at them from the beginning.
Rogue doesn’t appear to understand its target audience so it waddles between introducing anyone new to the series, and giving its core audience an early access to everything found in its previous entry just to let them know it’s still there. When you get down to it, everything will feel awfully familiar to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Once you get to this part both fans of the series and newcomers will easily enjoy the exploration-oriented gameplay either on land or sea.
While the story is a little vague and the main character isn’t as outstanding as previous ones in the franchise, though there is a certain uniqueness in playing the “other side” of the story. It is the first time we are fully introduced to the ways of the Templars, and they aren’t depicted as necessarily evil like in previous games; it’s quite interesting how the plot takes you to counter you’ve been doing as an Assassin in previous games: instead of assassination missions, you’ll be boycotting them; instead of liberating areas, you’ll be securing them for the British army; at the same time, you’ll be targeted and stalked by local assassins tasked to put an end on you.
Of course sailing remains the most enjoyable part of the game, and to that sense the game doesn’t disappoint. The naval battles are still exciting and you’ll be spending a lot time upgrading your ship—the Morrigan—in order to battle against larger ships and fortresses. Smaller additions are in place this time around, and the most notable one are the Arctic environments found on the North Atlantic, which more than just a new visual setting it offers new mechanics worth witnessing; like being wary about icebergs, opening your way through ice sheets, and the addition of snowstorms that clouds your sight in a pretty daunting way.
If you’re a fan of the series, nothing will stop you from playing Assassin’s Creed Rogue—you certainly will, but it’s hardly a game to go crazy about; it’s long enough to qualify as a complete game, but it relies too much on its previous entry that doesn’t make it a “new” game.
If you’re new to Assassin’s Creed, I’d recommend playing Black Flag first; it does everything Rogue does but a lot better in every way. And if you really haven’t played any game of the series, any other title would be a better start since there are a lot of characters and references you just won’t be getting along the way.