Assassin’s Creed Rogue PC Review
It seemed like a good idea at the time; utilizing the power of their worldwide offices and development teams, Ubisoft had planned to release two Assassin’s Creed games in one year to accommodate owners of the previous console generation (PS3 and 360) and the newest one (PS4 and XB1). The intent was to keep the largest market happy for the holidays while also showing off their first foray into the new generation with a new engine and dramatically improved visuals.
But then Assassin’s Creed Unity ended up a huge disappointment with an uncountable (and still unfixable) number of technical issues in addition to a ho-hum main quest. Ubisoft’s debut into the new generation got all of the attention out of the two games, but not for the reasons they wanted, while Assassin’s Creed Rogue went mostly ignored during all the commotion. Now that the game has been re-released on PC, this is the second chance for Rogue to make an impression, though scorned fans are undoubtedly approaching it with a cautious gaze. The good news is that you can lower your guard somewhat; while Rogue may be a generation behind with its engine, it also has the benefit of being a significantly more stable release compared to its technically-ambitious twin. By all accounts, this is a proper Assassin’s Creed game…which can be a good or bad thing, depending on where you are with this series.
The story of Rogue takes place historically in the mid-18th century during The Seven Years’ War. The main Assassin of this tale is Shay Cormac, a new recruit tasked with the Assassin’s usual duty of killing Templars and stealing their excavated artifacts, which point the way to the Pieces of Eden (powerful relics left behind by the precursors of humanity…explaining any further would turn this into an AC wiki page). While the first few missions move the plot along in the usual manner, a sudden twist shakes things up (similar to ACIII’s big reveal, which also involved Templars) and forces Shay to rethink his allegiances while attempting to discern friend from foe. As AC plots go it’s one of the more interesting premises, which is a good thing as the segments taking place outside of the Animus are as dull and unimportant as the rest of the post-ACIII storylines; once more you are a faceless nobody who must engage in annoying mini-games and even more annoying people, though thankfully these segments are few and far in-between the actual meat of the story.
From the moment the game starts up, it’s easy to see just how vastly different the teams behind Unity and Rogue were; the former spent several hours unlocking its content bit-by-bit as well as its plodding storyline, while the latter immediately opens up with a dozen collectibles spread out by the player’s feet as well as an established arsenal of weaponry and a sturdy ship minutes later. Rejoice, Black Flag fans, for Rogue takes the immensely popular pirating simulation from that game and revisits it for the third time in a row. All of the blueprints of Black Flag are available here: the ship serves as a traveling vessel between islands and can be upgraded to take down stronger enemy ships for their cargo, unmarked locations can be discovered and visited for hidden treasure, whales and sharks can be hunted in addition to many other land-based animals…if you could do it in Black Flag, you can do it here.
But Black Flag is hardly the only source that Rogue is taking its mechanics from. The Scorpion-like rope dart makes a return from Freedom Cry as well as the random events where players can assist NPCs in peril for a reward (and possible addition to their crew). The building renovation mechanic also makes its return after three games, allowing players to rebuild certain landmarks for increased wages in their bank account. Even an element typically found in the online multiplayer modes has found its way onto the singleplayer campaign; certain enemies will try to ambush players, hiding in hay, shacks and other spots typically reserved for incognito Assassins. Using a combination of Eagle Vision and a visible cone meter, players must identify the killer-in-wait and find a way to turn the tables on them. This is barely scratching the surface with the insane number of collectibles and challenges to be found in the world, making Rogue the most content-filled Assasin’s Creed game to date.
And therein lies the problem; after several years of slightly-updated games, now is the time where Ubisoft’s series is beginning to grow stale. For all of the tried-and-true features that Rogue has, so too does it have the same basic mission structure (tail a person, chase another person, cause a distraction so you can kill this additional person, use this new weapon against yet another person, and so on) as well as the now-antiquated control scheme that guarantees that players will accidentally miss a jump or latch onto something they didn’t mean to. The extra amount of things to collect also feel like an overstuffed amount of busywork, essentially turning Rogue into the Donkey Kong Country 64 of AC games. For completionist-driven players, or anyone who is making this their first AC experience, Rogue will no doubt look like a Skyrim-style epic with unlimited content, but anyone who has tuned into this series from the start will undoubtedly feel fatigued by this point.
To answer what may be the biggest concern from fans soured by Unity, rest assured that Rogue runs perfectly on the PC, almost alarmingly so. Even on the highest settings, the game never dropped below 60 frames per second, resulting in a visual package that may not have the complex lighting and facial detail as its next-gen cousin, but is nonetheless a far superior-looking game thanks to its consistency. No doubt Ubisoft wanted to keep Rogue exclusive to previous-gen systems in order to give Unity more attention; considering how things backfired on them, don’t be surprised if they decide to bring this game out for the PS4 and XB1 next.
In the end, Assassin’s Creed Rogue feels like a multi-colored blanket stitched together by years of older materials. It will still keep you warm for the night, but the mismatched patterns and holes in the fabric may leave you wanting to trade up for a fresh new blanket that still carries the same comfort.