Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered on PlayStation 4
Releasing for last generation consoles at the time the much maligned Unity did for PS4 and Xbox One, Rogue saw the conclusion of the series’ American-based story and gave those that played it a another chance to sail the high seas as they did in Black Flag. Since a lot of Assassin’s Creed fans missed it when it first released, Ubisoft has released a Remastered version so that people can catch up. However, while the visual upgrade is appreciated, the re-release only serves to accentuate the issues the game had nearly four years ago.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue tells the story of Shay Patrick Cormac, a once loyal Assassin who turned to the Templars after being betrayed by his brotherhood. Now, during the time of the Seven Years’ War, he sets out to kill the assassins who are causing the deaths of thousands of people. The tale is one of the best in the Assassin’s Creed series, which is due in no small part to the lead character. Shay isn’t the cold-blooded killer he and many of the other assassins are portrayed as, his story instead being more nuanced. It’s refreshing to play a character who has a different viewpoint – one that he is willing to act upon – making him more mature than the likes of Ezio. His motivation comes from sympathy and the desire to do what is right, no matter the cost to himself. While a good portion of game sees Shay without any clear allegiances, the relationships he forms and the reasons he does so make him more enjoyable to play as than many of the series’ other assassins, and makes the general story more engaging.
That same story is wrapped up in a different looking world, however. Rogue is undeniably prettier than it was in 2014. In the locations you get the chance to explore, whether they be the expansive cities of New York and Lisbon, or the small towns built into woodland areas, the visuals look great. The greenery that envelops many of the settings is noticeably denser than before and the lighting has seen a significant improvement. Catch a wave in the Morrigan at the perfect time of day and Rogue can look as good as last year’s Origins. In cutscenes, however, the last-gen origins of the game are more noticeable. Faces are poorly textured and move awkwardly, characters move clumsily and often look like they’ve been superimposed into a scene, rather than being part of it. None of that is helped by the voice acting, which is wooden throughout, even by Assassin’s Creed’s usual standards.
More than anything else, however, it is Rogue’s gameplay that the remaster doesn’t help. In 2014, fans of the series were already frustrated with the familiar issues of a clunky and unresponsive combat system, as well as climbing and general movement that were frustratingly imprecise. None of that has changed here. Shay will still dive into the icy seas of the North Atlantic instead of leaping onto a town’s pier. He’ll still clamber over the cannons on his ship, knocking into crew, because it’s seemingly impossible to get him to walk like a normal human. And you’ll still die now and again because he hasn’t countered an enemy attack when you’ve prompted him to. When the game originally released, those issues would have been something you wanted changing, but you’d be okay with them because they’d be what you’re used to. Now, however, just five months after the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins – a game that reinvented the series from a gameplay and progression system perspective – Rogue’s issues are more pronounced and frustrating than ever.
The game’s differing perspective, seeing you play a member of the ‘villains’ of the series, doesn’t have an impact on the gameplay, unfortunately. Since Shay is trained by the Assassin Brotherhood, he has access to the same hidden blades, smoke bombs, and swords that any other character has before him. He still climbs in the same way, leaps into hay bales, and pulls off impressive combos in combat. If it weren’t for the story explicitly telling you that you weren’t officially an assassin, you wouldn’t know any different, which feels like a missed opportunity.
Other unwanted series staples also make their return. Rogue has its fair share of follow and escort missions, as well as infiltration missions that see you insta-fail whenever Shay does something you didn’t ask him to do. There’s also some Rogue-exclusive design choices that can frustrate throughout. Enemies called Stalkers that hide in tall grass or lurk in the shadows aren’t fun to take on. You can only spot them in Eagle Vision, which can only be activated when moving slowly, and they’re difficult to counter, making them more an unwanted distraction during sequences than an additional challenge. Tutorials are also poorly integrated, often interrupting at strange points. You will be introduced to the game’s many weapons or side activities in the middle of conversations, as you’re fleeing some enemies, or even, right in the middle of a fight, giving you no chance to actually implement what’s being introduced. These things only add to the sense of imprecision that the gameplay creates.
If you adored the naval combat gameplay of Black Flag, however, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Rogue. Since it acts as a sequel to that game – many of the assets and and gameplay elements being taken directly from it – battling other ships is as fun as before, but without the learning curve. Positioning and choice of attack are vital to success, but nothing is much of a challenge. Also, much like Black Flag, there’s plenty of places to go and things to do in Rogue’s world. Unlike games like Origins, however, there’s little reason to do any of it. You can speed through the story in little more than ten hours, with upgrading either Shay himself or the Morrigan not being necessary. There’s no benefit to collecting any of the items that litter the world or to liberating any of the forts you come across as you sail between destinations, because upgrades aren’t at all necessary. Busy work has been a staple of Assassin’s Creed games, maybe even all Ubisoft open world games, but there’s often a reason for it beyond simple exploration.
When Assassin’s Creed Rogue originally released, there was a feeling among fans that the series was in need of reinvention. The gameplay frustrations had been present long enough and it was time for something new. Now that Ubisoft has taken a break from the series, returning with the refreshing Origins late last year, the issues that Rogue has are more pronounced than ever before. Shay is an interesting character, offering a maturity we haven’t seen much of in the series, his story is engaging, and the naval combat is still great fun, but none of it is enough to counter the frustrations that we thought the Assassin’s Creed series had left behind.
Score: 3/5 – Fair
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