There's something to be said about the yearly Call of Duty titles that use recycled animations, visuals and game mechanics, but more than just a few people love them. It looks like that's going to be the same scenario for the Assassin's Creed series now that Ubisoft has decided to launch yearly titles.
This year they got especially lazy, considering they launched their first next-gen title Unity alongside a last-gen title for the console stragglers, Assassin's Creed Rogue. What transpires is perhaps one of the most insulting, and cash-cow style moves that Ubisoft has ever made - and that's pushing it because they've certainly made quite a few lately.
Assassin's Creed Rogue – At a Glance
For all intents and purposes, Assassin's Creed Rogue is a reskin of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. That is not an exaggeration, sadly. This is not coming from some insufferable reviewer who hates the Creed series either. I'm an adoring fan. Unfortunately, it appears that Ubisoft has really dropped the ball this year. If you haven't already, go take a look at some of the Unity reviews out there.
The gameplay in Rogue is nearly identical to Black Flag, the scenery and environments are eerily similar, and even many of the characters you encounter are the very same. But it's not just Black Flag Ubisoft borrowed from, they also took elements from Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood. Remember the areas that you were forced to liberate from the Borgia? What about the reparation side mechanics that saw you fixing up various buildings and locations? It's all here in full.
The biggest benefit from this is that the naval battles make a comeback in Rogue, and they're just as good as ever. However, the recycled elements just highlight the real problem with this game, and the series at this point - it's wholly uninspiring. Ubisoft didn't bring anything new to the table to change and innovate the way you play. Instead, it ends up unfolding like much of the same - if "same" entails things you've been used to for four or five games now.
Assassin's Creed Rogue follows Shay Cormac, a wannabe Templar who betrays his Assassin brothers to change sides - hence the "Rogue" in the game title. He does this after one of his missions goes horribly wrong, hurting many innocent and leaving him to question his faith in the brotherhood. With his change of heart, he finds that his new beliefs align with those of the Templars, so naturally he joins up. From there, he embarks on an adventure to stop the dastardly assassins at all costs.
Long story short, you have a chance to play the other side of the beloved tale now. Ubisoft really had the opportunity to shine here, but they squandered it. It's not that Shay isn't sympathetic in a way, because he is. The tale gives you plenty of time to become familiar with him and really understand his actions and decisions. It's the fact that it's all so bland. When you get right down to the bone, through all the meat and the sinew, you realize this is just Black Flag with a new protagonist - or antagonist if you side with the Assassins.
By the time the betrayal scenario plays out before you, several hours into the game, you've begun to realize that you just don't really care anymore. The sad thing about that is, I
want to care, and I want to love these games. I love how each title in the series visits another historic era and allows me to explore the hell out of it. I love the over-the-top conspiracy theories that plague each game. I love the mix of modern and historic gameplay environments allowing me to uncover various things about the plot and lore.
Luckily, Rogue does allow you to jump into the modern-day like previous titles except you play as the same genetic memory researcher from Black Flag. Your task in this game mode is to locate various notes, letters and memos spaced around Abstergo that fill in some of the blanks in the lore. This is perhaps one of the best parts of Rogue, simply because it helps you piece together a greater understanding of the entire series. That said, you could definitely live without it and continue playing future titles if you felt so inclined.
Assassin's Creed Rogue might be an excellent game for those who never had the privilege to play Black Flag. Even so, if you're in the market for an AC game, I'd definitely recommend picking up BF instead. The characters in Rogue aren't as fleshed out, and a lot of previous faces make some comebacks but the nostalgia of seeing them again is the only thing that makes a reunion exciting.
Furthermore, the gameplay mechanics are the same as other titles in the series and everything you know from Black Flag is here. The story - which should be one of the sole reasons you play Rogue - is bland and uninspiring and the missions are, well, they're nothing new at all.
If this review sounds like one big long gripe with the fact that Rogue is recycled content, that's because it is. The sad part about it is that it's not even a good example of recycled content; Ubisoft, you can do better.
About the author: Jesse Aaron is a freelance writer with a passion for PC games, e-Sports, and homebrewing.