“Never go back”. Those were the wise words my Nan said to me before she passed away.
She was referring to her visit a few months earlier to a bakery in Croydon that she remembered had the best hot cross buns in south London. Sadly that wasn’t the case when she revisited it and she was left to come away with just a steak bake.
However, I like to think she was also talking about all the remastered versions of older console games. You know the ones – those which have had a bit of spit and polish thrown on before being released back into the wild. One of the latest remasters is of a game that most Xbox One players would have missed entirely, because as Assassin’s Creed Rogue rocked up on the previous generation of consoles, it’s better looking, deeper thinking cousin, Assassin’s Creed Unity, was released at the same time. But now we get the chance to play the missing game in the AC franchise. But was it worth the wait and should you really go back?
Assassin’s Creed Rogue instantly feels like the add-on to Assassin’s Creed 2, adding some extra bits of gameplay and different locations, and a bit of a hybrid between Assassin’s Creed 3 and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Using the North America and Atlantic locations as a backdrop, as well as the odd vacation to Lisbon and Paris, the game follows a different protagonist and his adventures.
It is set just before Assassin’s Creed 3 and we follow the Irish assassin, Shay Patrick Cormac and his apprenticeship, training and mentorship in the same location as Connor from AC3. He does everything we’ve seen before; captains his own ship, jumps across buildings, hides in the bushes and falls into haystacks from very high places. He’s an assassin alright, but then something terrible happens in Lisbon that changes his perspective of the assassin’s role in the world, as he switches sides. We then get to follow his journey with the Templars as you begin to see the series from a different angle, all as he tries to bring down the assassins one by one.
The narrative and story arc found in Rogue is a dark one. Much removed from the jolly shenanigans of Black Flag and much improved from the not so exciting world of Assassin’s Creed 3. There are familiar characters making appearances, and it’s a nice link between the two. However, it’s both strange and interesting to bat for the other side and see the perspective of your worst enemy. I didn’t warm to Shay very much though and maybe that’s to do with the performance, but it could also be down to the strong characters found in the most recent games in the Assassin’s Creed series. And that is where the overall problem with Rogue lies.
Since Unity, through Syndicate and concluding, for now, with Origins, the Assassin’s franchise has gone from strength to strength. Visually, they are now utterly stunning, with an amazing use of lighting, colour, and locations. But the gameplay has also changed so much. Jumping and climbing are much more fluid and easy, combat is more detailed and complex – no more so than with Origins. Playing Assassin’s Creed Rogue after taking those in is a bit like putting on your old analogue TV after spending your most recent time in 4K. There is a lot of sea combat included as well, which can be great if you love that part of the gameplay, but I didn’t and it really started to grate. Some of the missions are fairly boring as well with awful ‘follow the target from the shadows until they reach their target’ missions. The majority of the locations are quite dreary as well, with a selection of identical settlements and outposts.
In a more positive train of thought, there are some great locations away from the outposts including an old New York, a brilliant escape from Lisbon mission and the chance to head off on a nice day trip to Paris. There are loads of activities to get involved in and that will see Rogue eat up many hours indeed, as is the case with most Assassin’s Creed games. New features include a brilliant portable cannon that can make people and objects explode, or sleep or go mad, and there are of course secrets to find, naval mini missions to partake in and countless other activities. It’s a big package and if you were a fan of the series before it all went super fancy with the newer games, then this will be well worth the small price.
There is of course a visual upgrade and in the remastered looks department everything is clean and crisp. The characters still look a bit old gen, as do some of the textures, but the water, lighting, and skies look great throughout, especially in the arctic regions. The sound score is rather good too, with some brilliant shanties which are always a pleasure to listen to, and a great cinematic score throughout. But it does still have the problem of comparing it to the latest stunning games.
I am a huge Assassin’s Creed fan and was very excited to be able to play the game that I missed the first time around. Going back to the old playstyle was very hard though and using the old control system was tricky to master again. Aside from that, the mission levels can range from the poor to the exciting, and the overall world can get a bit generic; there is nothing new to be seen that hasn’t been shown before. Gameplay wise it’s much the same, with some neat extra features and so forth.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered is a good game, there is a lot to do, and it comes with a decent price tag, but it feels like a ghost of the past compared to the excellent newer games and whilst that leaves it as a must try for Assassin’s Creed completionists, those brought up on Unity, Syndicate and Origins may disagree