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Assassin's Creed Rogue review: The best Assassin's Creed you'll never need to play

Hayden Dingman | April 7, 2015
I talked a lot of trash about Assassin's Creed: Unity this year. On release it was buggy and broken, sure, but it also just wasn't much fun. Protagonist Arno was just a bland retread of series-favorite Ezio, the story managed to make even the French Revolution feel sort of boring, the overhauled free-running was too sticky and cumbersome, and I just overall felt it lacked the panache of the previous year's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

And yet it's given short shrift in Rogue, as a "budget" title. Rather than the dozen or so chapters of a normal Assassin's Creed game, Cormac is given a scant six chapters of story to cover both his upbringing in the Assassins, his turn, and then the whole rest of the game.

It's too fast. Cormac isn't given nearly enough character development to handle all that weight, nor are the other characters given enough time for you to learn to care about them. It's probably good that you'll recognize most of the characters from previous Assassin's Creed games because otherwise they'd just be nameless caricatures. Adewale, for instance, has probably two dozen lines in the entire game. That's not enough to do anything meaningful.

I'm left with the impression that Rogue is the most ambitious Assassin's Creed story — in terms of character, in terms of information on the two factions, in terms of First Civilization lore — but it just never clicks. There's a guy working for Abstergo Industries in the modern-day part of the game who continually tells you that Shay Cormac is "the most important Assassin to ever live" or something along those lines, but at the end of the day...why? Because he killed some other Assassins?

I don't know. I just don't buy it, and that's a shame because I think in a full-fledged game Cormac could be that important. He just got screwed by playing B-side to Unity this year.

On the other hand, it plays like Black Flag: sail your ship around, listen to pirate shanties, discover little coastal towns, dig for treasure, beat people up in bars, blow up other ships. Rather than one large Caribbean map, the sailing section of the game is now split between the River Valley (a part of New York that looks strangely like a retextured Caribbean) and the North Atlantic up by Halifax (which also looks strangely similar to the Caribbean, albeit with snow and icebergs).

There's also a third, fairly large New York City/Manhattan map repurposed from Assassin's Creed III. This map plays more like traditional Assassin's Creed, with you running around and unlocking zones. It's also the most boring of the areas, because there's surprisingly little character to such a large city area. And the game seems aware of this, rarely bringing you back to Manhattan.

In fact, the game is generally terrible about making you explore. Because the story is so condensed, missions only touch on a handful of locations. Your only impetus to go and discover the rest of the map is "I want to."

And I mean, I did want to. I went to every location. I collected 100 percent of all the collectibles, because I really love sailing around. But Rogue never feels as tight or well-designed as Black Flag. There's a lot of space here, between the three maps, and very little reason to engage with any of it.

 

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