Has Ubisoft’s forgotten entry to the Assassin’s Creed franchise stood the test of time or is it now showing its age?
While there is still something inherently fun about Ubisoft’s now aged open world formula, the flurry of glitches and persistent janky controls plague the experience and bring down its entertainment value.
Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Platform: PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One, Xbox One X
Release Date: 20th March 2018.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue is a game that suffers from being compared to its more successful siblings. Back in 2014, when AC Rogue released alongside AC Unity, it came off looking the better of the two. This was because despite not being the most ambitious game, it was technically competent. AC Unity, for all it tried to do, was a bit of a mess.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the most recent entry is AC Origins – Ubisoft’s return to form for the franchise. Not only does it run pretty well but, as a soft reboot, it takes the franchise in a new direction by trialling a different approach to the open world formula. Having recently finished Origins and feeling refreshed on the franchise, it makes sense to pick up a copy of the remastered edition of Rogue, especially if you missed out back in 2014.
AC Rogue tells the story of Shay Patrick Cormac. In the AC timeline, it’s positioned between AC Black Flag and AC III, and features many characters from both. Where it differs and stands out from other entries to the Assassin’s Creed franchise is that this time around, you play as a Templar. *Cue shocked faces and dramatic music* Shay becomes disenfranchised with the Assassin Order in the game’s opening chapters and defects, becoming an infamous Assassin hunter. Rogue tells that story and puts a full stop on the Kenway era of the Assassin’s Creed games, just in case you felt closure was needed.
It’s maybe one of the best stories in the Assassin’s Creed series. Its unique perspective into how ‘the other side’ sees the world and the wrongs of the assassin order is interesting. It shows us that the rivalry between the Templars and Assassin’s Order is not a black and white, good vs. bad affair and that there are shades of grey to the story. As Donald Trump said (I hate myself right now), there are good people on both sides.
For all of these technical fancies, seemingly little has been done to address the glitches and tetchy controls that plagued the last generation of Assassin’s Creed games. Tolerable at the time, but AC Origins has since spoilt us with just how much Ubisoft has done to address these areas.
The biggest draw for Rogue Remastered is the resolution bump – 1080p on base hardware and 4K on enhanced consoles – and it looks stunning. Draw distances are significantly increased, making for impressive visuals when the camera swoops over your surroundings while synchronising a viewpoint. Textures, particle and water effects have also been revamped and god rays are now in use. When combining these upgrades, sailing and getting into naval battles is a real treat, especially as the game runs at a locked 30 FPS. While not the ideal frame rate, it provides a level of smoothness to the gameplay that the original version of Rogue just didn’t provide.
For all of these technical fancies, seemingly little has been done to address the glitches and tetchy controls that plagued the last generation of Assassin’s Creed games. Tolerable at the time, but AC Origins has since spoilt us with just how much Ubisoft has done to address these areas. Rogue has reminded me how awful climbing could be in these games, with Shay gripping to surfaces when I want him to jump off or even when I have commanded him to climb. It also reminds me of just how nonsensical it is to have a game with such emphasis on stealth but doesn’t have an option to make Shay crouch and how enemy AI could track you behind walls. It’s disappointing that this remaster has been released without these issues having been addressed and they do hurt the experience. In that sense, Rogue feels left behind and shows good reason why it was forgotten, despite having one of the better storylines in the series. It also shows just how far Ubisoft have come since the disaster of Unity and the sizable improvements they made with Syndicate and Origins.
Exploring the open world also feels dated. In essence, you have two large spaces of ocean – the River Valley and North Atlantic – both are dotted with landmasses and islands to explore and you have a large, city space to explore in New York. In typical AC style, each area is dotted with viewpoints to activate which show you different collectables and activities you can do in each area. The collectables and activities are the same in each area which lends a repetitive feeling after several lengthy play sessions. While each map is diverse, the locations within feel samey and there are no real stand out locations like the shark infested, underwater temples of AC Black Flag.
That said, Rogue does introduce new activities and the most notable are the assassin interceptions. These interceptions are a twist on the assassin contracts of previous AC games, which sees you identify a target of the Assassins and then, using your eagle vision, you have to scout each assassin in the area and kill them before the timer runs out. While not the most exciting task, it fits thematically with the story Rogue is trying to tell.
Despite these shortcomings, I have found AC Rogue to be an entertaining game nearly four years after its original release. This is in part to the visual boosts which just make Rogue a nicer game to look at this time around. Sailing the open seas and engaging in naval warfare is also just as fun as it was when AC Black Flag debuted in 2013. The climbing and parkour is still a blast too – when it works, that is.
Still, the frustration that AC Rogue Remastered brought about has been enough to make me consider whether it is worth my time. It’s rare that I have those thoughts about a game and even rarer that I will continue to play when I do. AC Rogue is a huge game though (don’t be mistaken for thinking this is a side-project by Ubisoft – it’s a fall-fat AC game) and I don’t know how much the core gameplay loop will keep me invested, no matter how good the story is. There are only so many towers I can climb and chests I can open before it starts to take its toll. Perhaps a race to the finish line is the way forward with AC Rogue with the risk that I may miss out on some truly extraordinary locations to explore or items to unlock. From what I’ve seen so far though, it is a risk I am willing to take.