Rogue is the is tied for the seventh full console title in the series in order of release (it and Unity released the same day) if you include the incredible PSP title now also on PC Assassin’s Creed Liberation it clocks in at the eighth full length title! Chronologically it spans the time between Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed III. An interesting tidbit was, the confidence in this title was so low that if you bought it and Unity at the same time you got a 50% discount on Rogue at many retailers.
Even with these problems the game itself is sprawling, you are able to explore much of the North Atlantic visiting small villages and towns along the coast and up the Saint Laurence. Having completed the game and finished every out of Animus experience I was still only hitting 59% completion due to the hundreds of locations yet to visit, dozens of collectables and plethora of crafting and hunting challenges I’ve yet to tackle. This is a game rich with options and opportunity for exploration as well as emergent gameplay.
Some elements are broken or missing, there is no multiplayer element in the game. This has been excised entirely, further integration to the Assassin’s Creed Initiates systems are at best light with some tracking of progress but only minimally so. This is not that big a deal since Initiates was so flawed at re-launch it has been down since mid-December with no communication coming from Ubisoft. This is a shame as it used to contain a great deal of fiction continuing the story of Shaun and Rebecca and all of that has been yanked and is now nowhere to be found. Dozens of features went unimplemented due to Ubisoft’s shoddy servers and poor testing. Initiates had been in “beta” for years before being brought down and returning for Unity and Rogue changed and now broken. Even the link to Initiates within Rogue simply brought up a url where you could pull it up. There was no integration at all with the site aside from pulling your uPlay stats. The DLC itself was a joke, aside from a couple of minor content components it was all junk. Given there was no multi-player component this left “Convenience” DLC so you could get packs of DLC that would “speed up your progress” but why? The leaderboards were screwed up and you were paying to basically compete with nameless strangers by expediting things you could get in game.
This is especially true for Shay Patrick Cormac your Wild Goose Irishman who starts with his catch phrase of “I make my own luck” within the first five minutes of the game and relentlessly plows that “witticism” home over and over throughout the game. As mentioned this bridges the era between Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed III. As such we get cameos from both games, Adéwalé makes a return with a little nod towards Edward but mainly Edward’s son Haytham makes young Achilles’s life miserable and we get to see how he ran the New World’s Brotherhood in to the ground. Let me make a long story short, he was a pig headed arrogant jerk who basically ignored the facts in front of his nose and was more intent on shooting people than listening to feedback from his pupils. Essentially the exact opposite of the character he played in Assassin’s Creed III instead of being a Yoda like character he was later on he was a Yo-Duh like character basically destroying cities by pulling out artifacts that caused earth quakes and gassing entire populations.
Yup, you read me right, gassing entire populations. The “trick” here in the main narrative is that Shay flips sides and joins the Templar Order because he has an attack of guilt after causing the Lisbon earthquake at Achilles command. This ties in to the meta-narrative in a couple of ways but I’ll get in to that in a minute. Up until this point the Freedom loving Assassin’s had always been about the good of the people now it seems they suddenly traded in their white hats for black and were about achieving power at all costs. The Templar Order on the other hand were “misunderstood” and were trying to just “make people safe”. This line between Good and Evil has always been an intriguing one. Like many people today the Templar and the Assassin’s basic principles were not in essence at odds. They both want people to be safe, the difference is in the underlying structure. The Assassins feel liberty will bring power to the people while the Order feels just that, order will ensure security and prosperity. They both want the same thing; they are just taking different paths. This could be a really interesting story to tell and is something that has been underlying my observations of the narrative for years now. It’s always been a shame how the Templar were portrayed as cartoon characters twirling moustaches and I thought this was going to be the chance for change. I was wrong.
Yeah there was a flip of the hat, but all this translated in to was the cartoonish behaviour being imposed on the Assassin’s instead of the Templars. In short it was insulting to the intelligence of the fans. Characters were acting out of type, cutting down Adéwalé felt like an insult and just rang hollow, and while it was interesting to see Haytham from a slightly different angel it didn’t add any depth to his character.
The story is just a mess, between the fourth iteration and this episode of Assassin’s Creed the “Instruments of the First Will” have become subservient to the Order (this is the new third faction serving Juno who apparently is out in the wilds of the Internet having escaped). We have the same historical cameos with a young George Washington and his older brother, a young Ben Franklin before he went off to whore it up in France, and a variety of figures from Colonial American and Canadian history. Set in the Seven Years War visiting places in Canada and the Colonial United States this game SHOULD have resonated with me. The history buff in me should have been ecstatic when I got to tiny villages that I had passed through in real life on my way to visit family friends in Quebec. Even the little tweaks like the Assassins being aligned with the French during the war and the Order with the English were interesting but in the end it became contrived hell even the “Gangs of New York” ended up being different elements of the Assassin order! There is a world beyond the Order and the Brotherhood and when we try to pin every historical hiccup on these two forces it becomes trite and over played. Even the “twist” at the end with Shay being at some very formative moments of Assassin’s Creed Unity and meeting some of the characters from that game should have been exciting but lost all impact.
The addition of a third faction adds a lot of potential and the reframing of the narrative to highlight the similarities between the two factions also adds a lot of potential but the dependence on comics, facebook or web based mini-games, movies, and novels to deepen the universe and a failure to expand the story in game has weakened it to the point it feels not nearly engaging. To tease out a precursor cult for two games is just maddening and to add to this the frustration is the insult of “convenience” DLC packs just to speed up the game atop of broken elements that remain unfixed months after release. In the end the game feels like it could have been so much more, spotty voice acting, poor pacing, contrived story lines all become bearable when placed on the foundation of strong gameplay but if they had only spent a little more time fleshing out this world and not just padding it with fetch quests of no import (and also cast someone else as Christopher Gist a real life badass) this could have gone from a game where I buckled down and got through it to something that redefined the series.
- Strong time honed gameplay mechanics
- Interesting and underexplored setting of Colonial Canada
- Well optimized for play on last gen consoles showing they still have a lot to offer
- HUGE open world
- Broken systems still non-functional months after release
- Spotty voice acting
- Uneven plotting
- Unsympathetic characters
- Implausible twists causing a break in suspension of disbelief
- Gouging DLC
- Lack of multiplayer that had become a cornerstone of the series