I didn’t intend on writing about another Assassin’s Creed game. This isn’t because I don’t like the series. It’s pretty obvious that I have a certain fondness for it. I wasn’t going to write about it again because I thought I had said pretty much everything I needed to about it. I thought that, to be quite frank, the series didn’t have any surprises left for me anymore. I thought that playing through new games in the series was going to continue to be a seasonal comfort food for me: something I could rely upon to be a constant experience that was continually refined in each new game in the series. And while that’s a nice thing to play, it’s a relatively boring thing to write about.
Well, I was proven wrong, and not for the reason you’d probably think. While everyone has been talking about how much of a mess Assassin’s Creed: Unity has been, what with all its bugs and various parts of the experience not living up to expectations, I’m going to write about the other game in the series that came out at the same time, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.
I haven’t heard anything about Rogue. Why is that?: I don’t know. Everyone has been focused on Unity, likely because it is the first game in the series completely built for the latest generation of console hardware. Rogue, on the other hand, is purely a last-gen experience, and so I can only imagine that it wasn’t perceived as ‘worth marketing’. More was relying on Unity, after all.
So what is it about?: Rogue follows the assassin Shay Cormac, an Irishman living in Colonial America during the Seven Years’ War between Britain and France. After a mission to retrieve an artifact in Europe goes horribly wrong, Shay questions the motives of the Brotherhood and, as a result, leaves them and begins to work against them.
That… sounds really, really interesting.: Right? Not only does it give a person insight into the other ‘side’ of the conflict that we’ve been playing through for the past six games or so, its placement in the timeline brings a sort of completeness to the story of the Kenway family, even though Shay is not related to them at all.
So… what’s different about being a Templar?: Mechanically, not very much. Shay was still trained as an Assassin, so he retains their trademark weapons and abilities. Additionally, he has access to a ship and, as a result, large stretches of the northeast coast of North America. As a result of hostilities between Britain and France, there is no shortage of ships to pillage and plunder under the facade of war.
But what about, uh, resources? Technology? Superior numbers?: If you think that being on the winning side would give you any sort of advantage here, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the series at all so far. Sure, Shay is a Templar and develops connections the Assassins don’t have, but the flip side of that is that the Assassins are hunting him. As a result, Shay has to be constantly on the lookout for ambushes by quick, well-trained enemies that can slaughter him in one or two hard-to-dodge attacks.
The Assassins also control various gangs around New York City and various other settlements around the Northeast. These work sort of like a combination of Brotherhood‘s Templar bases and Black Flag‘s nautical fortresses, depending on where you are encountering them at. The difference, again, is the presence of a few highly skilled Assassin operatives that must be flushed out and killed before you can claim each base as your own.
That sounds horrifying.: It’s really hard, actually. The weird thing is that I have to think about my approach to stealth tactics a lot more now that I’m not playing an Assassin than I ever had to when I was. Sure, the game doesn’t actually give you a game over immediately if you’re caught, which is better than past entries, but if you’re caught by the wrong enemy you probably won’t be lasting very long anyway. It reminds me a whole lot of Metal Gear games in that sense.
I’m understanding that it combines aspects from other games in the series?: It really kind of plays like a ‘greatest hits’ collection of features from pretty much every game so far. It has Black Flag‘s open-area naval combat and piracy. It has Assassin’s Creed III‘s wilderness and hunting challenges. It has Brotherhood‘s economy and renovation aspects. It has the various fortress and base assault missions from all the games they have appeared in. And to top it off, when the Assassins start hunting you, various aspects of the multiplayer modes are pulled in (such as the whispering and the need to pick out the right civilian who could be an Assassin). Each of these features is polished, and while I won’t say the game is bug-free by any means, it is definitely a bit more refined than previous games and definitely more complete than Unity apparently was.
So then.. why release Unity at all?: I don’t know. It boggles my mind. With a game like Rogue, they could have easily taken another year to polish up Unity and been none the worse for it. The only thing I can figure is that they needed a game that was built specifically for new hardware because there haven’t been that many of them yet. Seriously, though, Rogue is the game that, it seems, Unity should have been. It offers an interesting take on the plot, an inversion of player role in the main conflict in the series, and the adaptation of old mechanics in new ways to support that role. And the real tragedy is that nobody, not even Ubisoft themselves, were really talking about Rogue at all before its release.
So what you’re saying is, you’d recommend it.: Yeah. Definitely. Sure, it won’t get the series any new fans, but for people who have been following the series up to now and who might have been disillusioned and disappointed by what was offered in Unity. The gameplay is on par with Black Flag‘s, and while there is the odd glitch or bug sometimes, the parkour mechanics seem a bit tighter in this one. The plot directly continues plot threads from ACIII and Black Flag, and the visuals and music are quite good. The only complaint I have is the odd audio glitch during dialogue, but that has only happened once or twice so far.
Honestly, I think that Unity was a definite example of over-reaching, and one that should be learned from. The series could probably do with a break, and some time put into making a truly great entry. However, for what we have, Rogue is a solid game and one that should have been given a spotlight.