Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag Rogue 2.0 is quite the experience. It’s got pirating, islands, ship combat, and of course being an assassin! Wait…did I say Black Flag Rogue 2.0? I just meant the new Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, Ubisoft’s last foray on the last generation systems and perhaps one of their most polished titles to date.
Sneaking under the radar onto shelves, Rogue is an absolute delight. The game feels robust, open, and just as engrossing as the last title, Black Flag, was in everything it accomplishes. The reason I describe it as Black Flag 2.0 is because Rogue uses everything Ubisoft created and made shine with their last title, building upon its success. Much like Revelations and Brotherhood capitalized on the greatness of Assassin’s Creed 2, Rogue follows suit and not only delivers everything that Ubisoft quietly promised with this hidden gem, but it outclasses Black Flag in every aspect.
Those familiar with the series will finally see the other side of the long standing war between the assassins and Templars, as the main protagonist Shay Cormac is an assassin turned Templar. Set between the events of Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag, it follows Shay’s exploits in Colonial America and the north Atlantic, as he stabs his way through the assassin menace threatening the peace of the colonies. His adventure will take him from New York to Nova Scotia and even across the pond to Portugal, but along the way he meets and interacts with a number of notables from both the third and fourth games in the series, tying everything together nicely.
Shay’s descent into Templar-dom feels rushed, but once the big revelation is made the game quickly makes up for it with enjoyment. Almost immediately after the first major sequence, I went from assassinating Templar cronies to taking down assassins and their ilk. The buildup to the turncoat adventure is not exactly spectacular, but it definitely puts Shay on the “positive” side. Ubisoft does an excellent job at making Shay feel like the protagonist and hero, especially as a Templar, after we have spent so many games slaughtering his friends. It’s an interesting view of the world from the other side that AC fans have sorely missed for the last 10 games and hopefully something Ubisoft may capitalize on once again for future titles.
And hopefully they do.
Rogue feels like the mash-up of all of the previous titles’ best pieces and aspects. The ability to buy and renovate buildings returns, as does the ability to secure hideouts and sections of the map from the Assassins. New missions also make their way into the game that turn some previous ones on their heads, like the ability to intercept carrier pigeons and protect Templar targets. And of course,Assassin’s Creed would not be complete without a plethora of collectible items strewn about the map. And there are quite a few as the map is incredibly large with a North Atlantic sea map, a River Valley sea map, and then New York island (Manhattan) itself. Between the different spots to stop and browse, the world goes from lush forests to frozen islands, all teeming with wildlife to kill and skin. Oh, yeah, the crafting aspect from III and IV returns, so be prepared to hunt down animals for hours until your spirit breaks and you go buy all of the needed pelts.
One of the neatest things to hit the game are Assassin Stalkers. These are assassins who actively hunt for Shay, hiding around the map and attempt to ambush him. The game will notify you with visual and audio cues that a stalker is nearby, giving you a chance to defend yourself. Turning on Eagle Vision allows Shay to pinpoint their location with a radar similar to the older title’s online gameplay, allowing you to zero in on the stalker’s location. It’s a blast to turn the ambush hiding assassins, mercilessly ending them before they end you.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about Rogue is Ubisoft’s refusal to release the game across multiple generations. I understand the need to get as much out of the previous system they built for the last gen Assassin’s Creed titles, but they completely failed to take advantage here. With Black Flag already existing on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it only makes sense to do the same with Rogue. The game is the pinnacle of the series, and Ubisoft completely failed to take advantage of this.
There are other issues as well that pop up, but they are now considered standard with the Assassin’s Creed series. These include Shay randomly forgetting how to free-run, odd ragdoll or ship physics, and even the occasional mission glitch. However, as I stated, these feel pretty much expected with the series now and you either learn to live with them or stop playing because either way, Ubisoft is going to continue allowing them to exist.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is certainly my favorite of the last generation of Assassin’s Creed games and arguably the best of them all. It brings so many new things to the table, relying wholeheartedly on the mainstays of previous titles. It’s got the best aspects of everything, a larger world to explore, and you still get to be a pirate. What’s not to love?Note: Assassin's Creed: Rogue was reviewed on Xbox 360. A physical copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.