Reviewed on Playstation 3
Though many players have upgraded to PS4 or Xbox One by now, Ubisoft has decided to give the PS3 and Xbox 360 one more entry, Assassin's Creed: Rogue. Flipping the script on the central conflict of the series, Rogue puts players in the shoes of an Assassin-turned-Templar tasked with hunting down his former allies in the American colonies against the backdrop of the French and Indian War.
Shay Patrick Cormac is a young and hotheaded member of the Assassin Brotherhood, who, over a series of dramatic incidents I dare not spoil, winds up in the employ of the Templar Order. The cast features many characters from earlier games, mostly from AC3 and AC4. Special mention goes to the fan favorite Mentor, Achilles Davenport. While it takes a while to get used to his booming baritone voice (versus the weak and breathy cadence of his older years, as depicted in AC3), his subtle and heartbreaking character development stands in contrast to the more overt and obvious arc displayed by Shay, who sometimes seems more like a blunt object than an interesting character on his own. In turn, however, this lends the narrative a sense of momentum lacking in past titles in the series. I mostly just zipped from story mission to story mission, happily bypassing most of the side content.
Like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag before it, the entire open world is available to freely explore from very early on. Most of the side content is borrowed wholesale from that title, for better or worse. Harpooning sharks is as engaging (and guilt-inducing) as in Black Flag, but it, and mostly everything else in the title, is functionally identical to last year's game, minus any compelling narrative reason to wander the open world. There are collectables to gather and treasures to loot, but side missions are few and repetitive in nature. Hunting and exploring are still entertaining on their own and are crucial to upgrading Shay's abilities and those of his boat, The Morrigan (naval combat is as explosive and downright awesome as ever), but the story missions are the main draw here.
The critical path through the story is shorter than previous titles, but the missions are full of variety, from chase sequences, to naval battles, stealth infiltration, and more. The missions play like a greatest hits collection of every mechanic from the past few years of Assassin's Creed, and, while the stealth mechanics had always left room for improvement, they're as polished as they're going to get, and the development team was wise enough to build the stealth sections around the game's weaknesses. There's plenty of hay stacks to hide in, enemy placement is generous enough to leave holes for Shay to sneak through, and there are usually enough tall trees to bypass the guards entirely. Combat is as fast and exploitatively brutal as ever; though I've warmed up to Unity's focus on a precise and methodical approach to swordplay, it's empowering to go back to chaining kills like an unstoppable god of war.
What Rogue lacks in originality, it makes up for in fanservice and the comfort of its tried-and-true mechanics. The story is full of nods to practically every Assassin's Creed project ever. Further, there's nothing in any other series that can compete with the naval portions of the game, even if, barring an iceberg or two, there's nothing separating it from last year's entry. There's no denying that Rogue does little more than rest on its laurels, but the engaging story elevates what could have been a boring rehash into a solid sendoff for the series on last-gen platforms.
Final Score: 7/10