Assassin’s Creed Rogue may be a title you’ve never heard of. It’s not a mobile port or any other oddity, but rather the game Ubisoft brought to Xbox 360 & PS3 the same year the much-maligned Unity came out. Does it play second fiddle to its French cousin?
Rogue was built as a ‘B’ game to Unity, so shares the rough timeline as the previous year’s effort, Black Flag, so that assets can be re-used from a gameplay perspective.
However, from a story perspective, the Conway family are out, replaced by a (surprisingly strong, and very Irish) new protagonist, Shay Patrick Cormac. It’s no surprise from the game’s title, but after the opening act, Shay falls out with the Assassins, and turns into a hunter of them. It’s mostly interesting because every other game in the series has held the pretty simple concept that Assassin = good, and Templar = bad.
Rogue challenges those preconceptions pretty well, with a number of the early characters turning out to be complete douchebags, and Shay, despite some clear intentions, also displays some pretty nuanced conflict over his situation. It’s actually one of the best plots of any AC games, despite the somewhat shorter running length (expect this to be more a 10-20 hour game, rather than a 20-40 hour one) when compared to other series entries.
However, where the game won’t blow you away (especially if you played any of the last 3 main entries) is the gameplay, which suffers from many legacy issues, especially with the free running. AC 3 introduced the ability to jump around trees, but it never really worked properly, and in the exposed new frontier of America there are as many trees as buildings.
Too often you’ll fall out of a tree or jump off at an odd right angle, causing immense frustration. The mission design still include a number of dull (and too hard) follow missions, which require you to keep a specific distance to a target. It’s a shame that there’s little innovation here, considering the premise of the plot.
Thankfully much of the game is set at sea, and the pirate ship gameplay still holds up really well, whilst the upgrade system is easy to use but also provides meaningful choices. These sections are by far and away the best parts of the game, and returning to land always left me sighing and hoping it wouldn’t be too long before I returned to the ocean with my crew.
Rogue uses the older AC engine, so those expecting it to hold up to the superlative Origins, or even the more recent Syndicate or Unity may end up disappointed. However, on Xbox One X, the game runs at a very crisp 4K, with a rock-solid 30fps cap, and graphics options turned up above what the PC was capable of at maximum. The land-based sequences do feature some rough textures and lack some detail compared to the most modern games, but at sea, the game looks pretty fabulous still, especially at 4K. If you are on an older console though, don’t expect the game to look much if any better than the previous year’s AC IV: Black Flag.
Not much has been done with the sound (don’t expect Atmos or any serious remastering here, despite the new Dolby format being supported by Origins), but the voice acting, background noise and music has always been pretty good in the AC series, so it all holds up just fine after 4 years.
“Assassin’s Creed Rogue” was, and still is, an above-average entry into the series that was sorely overlooked at the time that series fatigue had severely hampered the franchise. It might not be the biggest, flashiest or most innovative Assassin’s game, but it has a certain Irish charm to it, like the lead protagonist. And with the pirate-ship gameplay and graphics still holding up, and little competition (especially on Sea of Thieves-less PlayStation), Rogue is well worth considering, especially at the price Ubisoft are asking.