Go against everything you know and hunt down the Assassins you once called friends
With Ubisoft churning out Assassin’s Creed titles every year, it’s easy to get sick of playing them but the Assassin Creed games although keeping the same staple gameplay features are evolving and changing direction as the series go on. It started with the Assassin not even being able to swim, instant death if you entered water, now you are sailing your very own ship, swimming in the freezing cold ocean, hiding from Sharks and participating in epic battles on the open sea, boarding enemy ships.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue is essentially Black Flag with a few tweaked gameplay elements. The story however, goes against everything you’ve ever known. You may feel like you are betraying the Assassin’s or you may not care, either way the Assassin’s are now your enemy.
The story takes place a year after Black Flag and the game ties the characters in very well. You are Shay Patrick Cormac, a new Assassin recruit with ideas of your own. After stumbling onto this memory, all the servers in Abstergo stop working and become corrupt. Like Black Flag, you are the person going into the Animus, there is no longer a dominant controllable character, although your name seems to be Numbskull, you get called that frequently, which can be quite annoying. You are recruited by Melanie Lemay to continue finding out more about Shay’s life and why he is so important, after you fix the servers in the building of course, with a series of puzzles which progressively get harder as the game goes on.
As you re-enter the Animus, the Assassins goal becomes clear. Shay is tasked with finding Templars, who have acquired a Precursor Artifact, a box when coupled with the Manuscript reveals pieces of the Apple of Eden. The Apple of Eden has been in Assassin’s Creed since the very first game. It is technology made by the very first civilization, it allows the wielder to enslave and manipulate humanity.
Shay doesn’t understand the Assassin’s inability to talk with the Templars, instead of the need for war and bloodshed. He takes little joy in killing an already dying man on the Assassin’s orders and when one of his missions ends in tragedy, he confronts Achilles, the leader of the Assassins who shows no remorse in the events and plans to continue searching for the pieces of Eden.
Shay steals the Manuscript hoping to slow down the Assassin’s and runs from the Homestead with the Assassins in tow, he gets hurt and falls into the ocean, soon rescued by a couple from New York, the Finnegans. Here Shay vows to hunt down the Assassin’s and stop them, with the help from the Templars. If you played all the Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll be used to hunting down and killing Templars, not working with them so it may seem a little strange.
The gameplay in general has had some tweaks, naval battles are pretty much the same except you can now be reverse boarded! If a ship rams you, you will have to defend yourself and your crew and kill a select number of enemies, also you can no longer use the captured ship to get rid of your wanted level or pay for your wanted level to be removed, this was a feature I wasn’t overly fond of. Instead, you have to escape the area which you fought the ships, marked with a red circle and just sail around or go on land until your wanted level is reset, fighting the urge to blow everything up on the way.
There are two huge maps to explore, when you don’t feel like progressing with the story. One which is a frozen landscape, if you stay swimming in the water you will lose health and freeze to death and you have to shoot or avoid Icebergs to stop them sinking your ship. You can fire your ships cannon at them and the ripple effect can destroy small enemy ships and expose the hidden magical loot which hides inside Icebergs. It’s possible to literally get lost for hours exploring and collecting the many collectibles of the game, there are activities like taking over settlements and gang territories, and plundering the many outhouses and supply camps that provide valuable materials and resources which help upgrade your ship and renovate various buildings around the world, the more you renovate the more income you receive.
There is a smaller area to explore which is New York, there are many gang territories to take over and you get stalked by female gang members. Remember that whispering sound in the previous games multiplayer when an enemy is near, well you hear that all around the city. There are women everywhere just waiting to pounce you. You can counter their attack and perform a pretty brutal takedown on them leaving dozens of dead bodies all over the city. They will tactically hide near treasure chests and blueprints you need to kill you, and they would have gotten away with it too had it not been for that pesky whispering.
Combat is fun, you can choose to blend in amongst citizens or hide in dense bushes and take your enemy by surprise, whistling to attract them to their demise and they will always come because whistling bushes are very suspicious and need to be checked out immediately. Berserk and sleep darts play a big part in being stealthy, although shooting a berserk dart at an enemy will not only make them attempt to slaughter their comrades but will make them cut down waves of innocent people standing around them. There is a welcome addition to your array of weapons, a grenade launcher which shoots out Shrapnel, sleep and berserk grenades, you can now enrage multiple enemies and it makes bed time a lot easier, knocking a bunch of enemies out at a time, without that pesky stray enemy to come over and wake up your hard work. While that’s fun, Shrapnel grenades totally obliterate anything it hits, with upgrades to make these fun weapons even more effective via crafting.
Crafting returns and is a feature in many Ubisoft games, slaughter innocent animals going about their business to make your stuff better. Need to carry more ammunition? No problem, there’s a bunch of Arctic Hares over there that don’t mind making a sacrifice so you can be more efficient.
If you are feeling particularly lazy you can go to a shop and use your well earned blood money to buy skins which have been hunted by someone else from the shop, with money being quite easy to obtain, this is the quickest way to fully upgrade Shay, but then you miss the sad faces and squeals of butchered prey. Especially the Beaver, it dies with an extra helping of guilt.
Overall I really enjoyed the twist in the story, with the Assassin’s becoming your enemy, although I found the amount of collectibles overwhelming, it’s something I have come to expect in games and they appear on the map once you have synced the viewpoint. I loved having a lot of stuff to do other than the story, including the mini naval battles accessed via your cabin in the ship. Replacing sending your Assassin’s out, you can use captured ships to add to your fleet to take on missions around the world with various rewards. As usual using RT as the sole button for climbing and freerunning can become slightly frustrating sometimes when you are going somewhere and Shay starts randomly climbing a building or pole and you get shot off or killed. If you were a fan of the other games especially Black Flag, this is the game for you.