It may have been overshadowed by the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, but Assassin’s Creed Rogue proves to be a competent entry to the series, and possible farewell to the current-gen saga.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue (360)
Platform: 360, PS3 (Coming to PC in 2015)
Release Date: 11/11/2014 (USA)
Developed by Ubisoft Sofia
Published by Ubisoft
The events of Assassin’s Creed Rogue occur one year after the previous title, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Like every other game in the series, the plot is divided between modern day events in Abstergo (or outside the Animus) and the digital memories of past Assassins:
An unnamed Abstergo Entertainment employee is tasked with investigating the digitized memories of assassin Shay Patric Cormac. It’s revealed that a significant portion of Shay’s memories were hidden deep within Abstergo’s servers; by accessing them, a virus is released and corrupts all of Abstergo. The player- under the guidance of employees Melanie Lemay and Otso Berg- is forced to continue venturing through Shay Cormac’s memories, in hopes of restoring Abstergo’s servers.
Shay Cormac is the newest member of the Brotherhood of Assassins, working alongside Achilles Davenport during the Seven Years War. While he’s a trusted and capable member by the standards of Achilles and other advisers, Cormac tends to act on his own terms, which only results in frustration from the rest of the Brotherhood. After learning that a Templar group is in possession of a Precursor artifact capable of locating the Pieces of Eden, Achilles gives Cormac the task of reclaiming the sacred relic. Upon completing his mission, Cormac begins to question the morality of the Brotherhood, as he killed an already-dying Templar commander in the process.
What appears to be no more than a wooden box, Cormac discovers that the artifact was in the possession of Assassins once, but was stolen during an earthquake in Haiti. With the assistance of scientist Benjamin Franklin, the wooden box is charged with electricity; a global map is projected, revealing the location of the nearest Piece of Eden- beneath the streets of Lisbon. Shay reaches the Piece of Eden, hidden within an underground passage of a Precursor Temple, only to have it disintegrate between his hands. This leads to another catastrophic earthquake, which leaves all of Lisbon in a fiery ruin. After learning that the Brotherhood plans to pursue the remaining Pieces of Eden, Cormac steals the manuscript required to decipher the Precursor artifact, only to be hunted down and left for dead. Cormac is rescued and taken to New York City, where he helps drive gangs out of community-based strongholds. His actions garner attention from George Monro, Governor of New York City- and a Templar. Cormac helps Monro to rebuild the city, along with assisting the British Army in their war against the French. Cormac learns that his former Assassins are funding the French war efforts; upon discovering this, Shay willingly accepts Monro’s offer of becoming a Templar, in hopes of stopping the Brotherhood from acquiring the remaining Pieces of Eden.
While the Assassin’s Creed II trilogy (ACII, Brotherhood, Revelations) is considered to be the only direct-continuation saga in the main series thus far, Shay’s path from talented Assassin to outmatched Templar intertwines with several immediate family members or associates of Connor Kenway from Assassin’s Creed III, and Arno Victor Dorian of Assassin’s Creed Unity. While it isn’t considered a direct prequel, it should be noted that the events of Rogue influence the story of Assassin’s Creed Unity.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue should be a familiar experience to fans of the series; the core gameplay only features minor- if any- changes since the last installment. One of the original selling-points of the series was its take on environmental movement; players could traverse across almost any terrain with the use of various parkour techniques. While the early Assassin’s Creed games had moments where characters missed ledges or would spontaneously jump in a completely wrong direction, the parkour mechanics have since been refined into a capable system, as shown with Rogue. The series has yet to perfect its usage of parkour, but there is a clear difference in how smoothly Cormac can traverse between rooftops, trees and other structures. Apart from the marquee feature of parkour, many of Rogue‘s elements are borrowed from Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed III. A large portion of the game is spent sailing between cities and regions on the Morrigan; when Cormac isn’t on water, he’s often running through trees, as much of the on-land moments are spent in woodland areas. While Black Flag included the ability to dive and swim underwater, that mechanic is nowhere to be seen, as a stamina meter will appear when Cormac dives into frigid waters; once the meter is depleted, Cormac will freeze to death.
A new weapon for the series, the “Air Rifle” serves as one of Cormac’s primary long-range weapons. The pneumatic rifle can fire several categories of projectiles, each with their own perks: Berserk darts cause enemy solders to attack civilians and other soldiers; Sleep darts will tranquilize enemies for a brief period of time; Firecracker darts will cause loud diversions, but will not damage enemies. The Air Rifle can also double-over as a grenade launcher, capable of firing Sleep and Berserk Grenades, along with the Shrapnel Grenade, powerful enough to destroy doors and take down multiple enemies. If players need more ammunition or to increase their ammo capacity, Shay can craft accessories from the pelts of hunted animals. Ammunition and certain upgrades can be purchased through various shops, but a handful of specific weapons and outfits can only be acquired through crafting.
Cormac and his crew may find themselves in a skirmish with a French naval fleet between missions. Over the course of the game, the Morrigan’s firepower and capabilities are expanded; in the early-game phases, the Morrigan can fire side and forward cannons; it can be upgraded to include turrets on both sides, fire long-range mortar rounds, create oil streaks which can then be ignited, and even charge other ships with its ice-breaking ram. “The Naval Campaign” is a completely separate mode which can be accessed from within the ship’s cabin; The Naval Campaign is an RPG-inspired side campaign that requires players to select various ships to battle against French naval forces. Each ship has a different attack strength and travel time; some travel times exceed upwards of 20 min. Fortunately, once the player begins a mission in The Naval Campaign, he/she can leave the mode and continue with the main game; all missions are carried out as real-time background tasks.
It may be overshadowed by its next-gen counterpart, but Assassin’s Creed Rogue is one of the best-looking titles in the current-gen series. Each city has its own unique architectural design, down to the minute details of posters and flyers on the walls of buildings and street-benches. The foliage on some trees may be incredibly stiff, but patches of grass and overgrown plants sway with the breeze. Rogue‘s stunning visual presentation isn’t without its nuances, as closer inspection reveals a few technical shortcomings; much of the character model shading is done using an inconsistent stippling technique; textures on animals tend to load incorrectly; while the water physics are dynamic, the surface itself is [understandably] drab when calm, lacking detailed reflections outside of the pixelated environmental reflections.
Strangely, the world of Shay Cormac is astoundingly superior compared to the offices of Abstergo Entertainment. While the architecture goes for a modern, near-future look, it comes off looking like an early current-gen title. Most of the lighting and shading is “blocky”, with no dynamic coloring in the furniture or walls. A close example of this can be found within Deus Ex: Human Revolution, only there it was for intentional purposes.
While the player has control over the camera, more often than not, the game will override the player and thrust the view into an undesired angle. After climbing up some rock-faces and cliffs, the camera will lock onto the ground behind Cormac for a few seconds; after picking up a body, the camera will often swivel in the entirely opposite direction, forcing the player to turn around. (This resulted in several cases where I was “detected” during my playthrough.)
It may not feature a robust soundtrack, but Assassin’s Creed Rogue includes fantastic sound-design. From the ambient wildlife to the casual chatter of the townsfolk, the sound design does a marvelous job at immersing the player within the world of the mid-1700’s. Hearing the waves crack against the hull of the Morrigan, especially during a storm, can add a subtle hint of excitement to what is otherwise a mundane activity.
Those who are unable to play Assassin’s Creed Unity– whether it’s due to the current instability of the game, or the lack of a next-gen console- should consider investing in Assassin’s Creed Rogue. While it may have some technical shortcomings and a lack of new and inventive gameplay, it’s a fantastic entry into the series. At the very least, it blends the best elements of Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and mixes them with an interesting protagonist to deliver a memorable plot-driven experience.
Images courtesy of Ubisoft, Ubisoft Sofia