Ubisoft is releasing a PS4 and Xbox One version of one of my favorite Assassin’s Creed games on Tuesday. Back in late 2014, I raved about the marvelous Assassin’s Creed Rogue. Then, I’d recommend it to anyone. Today? It depends.
The game features Shay Cormac, an Assassin who becomes a Templar over the course of the game as he switches sides in the series-long factional fight. Rogue mixes action on land and combat on the water. Shay runs and fights through 18th century New York City as well as myriad towns and forests in the Hudson River valley and in snowy settlements and icy shipwreck in the north Atlantic. He also sails through the later two areas on an upgradeable combat ship.. The game has a short main campaign but has an enormous overall map filled with things to do (read: things to find and people to kill).
The game was originally released for PS3 and Xbox 360 and later for PC. It hasn’t been changed much for the PS4 and Xbox One. The graphics have been shined up, but the gameplay is the same. It’s a $30 port that’s under 10GB to download.
So, is it for you?
If you want to see development studios flexing creatively, check it out. Assassin’s Creed Rogue has the benefits of being a game released late in a console generation, allowing its creators to build on technology and gameplay systems made for preceding franchise games on consoles they were already familiar with. Late-gen games often sparkle with extra creativity applied to story, spectacle, interactivity and setting. (See also such late-gen gems like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, God of War 2, and GTA V.) This one apes the acclaimed pirate-centric Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, what with its sailing across not one but two huge maps designed for land-based exploration and naval combat. It also flips many of the series’ gameplay systems over. In previous AC games, for example, you’re an assassin who might hide in a hay cart and then jump a Templar who passes by. In this one, you’re the Templar walking down the street, wary of assassins in hay carts or dropping down from rooftops.
If you sympathize with the Decepticons, the Sith or other fictional bad guy factions, you’d probably like it. Not only do you play Rogue as a Templar who kills Assassins, but you get to see how entirely reasonable it may have been for an Assassin to become a Templar. Ample time is spent in the game exploring Assassin hypocrisy, flaws with Assassin philosophy and so on. The game’s writers seems to have a lot of fun with this.
If you’re into the AC games as an interlocking series, it is essential. The recent Assassin’s Creed Origins includes few overt mentions to other Assassin’s Creed games. Rogue is a parade of cameos of characters from Assassin’s Creed III, IV and Freedom Cry—both in its main historical missions but also in its modern day moments. There are even interesting connections to Assassin’s Creed Unity and shout-outs to other games in the series. The remaster nods to the two newer games in the series, Syndicate and Origins, with bonus outfits, but that’s a gimmick. Rogue’s connections to the aforementioned other Creed games are meaningful (matters of life and death, at times!) and integral to the series’ overall narrative.
If you prefer games where you can climb anywhere, probably avoid.
Horizon Zero Dawn notwithstanding, 2017 was the year of open-world games that let you climb any damn surface you please. You could scale anything in the overworld of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and can do nearly the same in Assassin’s Creed Origins. You can’t in earlier AC games like Rogue, which is frustrating. Bright side: it forces you to play the game a little like it is a puzzle platformer, looking for the climbing lanes that the game’s creators have hidden into its abundant wilderness. Many of those lanes are cleverly laid out and fun to scramble through.
If you don’t like the modern day stuff, avoid. The more extensive an Assassin’s Creed game’s modern day sequences, the happier I am. Don’t hold it against me and take solace that Ubisoft doesn’t seem to co-sign. Ubisoft nearly zeroed out the modern day stuff for 2014’s Unity and 2015’s Syndicate and only offered about an Assassin’s Creed 1’s worth of modern day gameplay in last year’s Origins. Rogue, however, is stuffed with modern day. Within a half hour of starting, you’re warped out to the modern day part of the game. As in Black Flag, you play the modern sequences in first-person as an employee who works for Abstergo Entertainment, the Ubisoft-like game development studio overseen by the Templars. Abstergo turns the historical adventures of the AC series into video games, allowing for lots of references to the other games. You don’t have to spend a lot of time in the modern day. You can quickly leap back into the main action of the past, but lingering in the modern day in order to hack computers, read e-mails and find audio logs will provide new story developments and also provide the Templar perspective on many of the major characters from past franchise games.
If you haven’t 100%ed the game but are hungry for more Assassin’s Creed, you should give it a shot: I’ve logged some 38 hours in the game. That’s about two dozen hours after I finished the game’s short main story. There’s that much other stuff to do in it, from ship battles, to finding cave paintings, to optional hunts, to exploration of shipwrecks, fort sieges, and a whole lot of turning the tables on assassins. It’s a very fun game made by deft designers who even hide the game’s collectibles in places that are usually interesting to access.
If you 100%ed it already, probably skip: I really, really like Rogue. I recommend it to everyone who hasn’t played it. But those 38 hours were enough. Remastered doesn’t add much, from what I could tell from the first couple of hours. A revisit to Assassin’s Creed II or III might make me nostalgic and not mind that I’d be replaying stuff, but Rogue wasn’t out that long ago. Some of us might still be busy trying to do every sidequest and find every collectible in Origins.