Review – Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (Switch)

Do we really play as the good guys? It’s a question people who over-analyze video game mechanics like to ask. In RPG’s for example, are we still the hero even after we slaughter countless creatures just to get a better drop? After gunning down enemy after enemy without hesitation in shooters, are we still on the right side? Is anything you do in a racing game even sort of legal? Most of the time it’s just overthinking things, with no reflection or value in the narrative. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, however, takes this tired concept and builds a serious narrative around it.

Sailing

Sailing is just so peaceful, I don’t know how Ubisoft managed to nail it so well.

You play as Shay Patrick Cormac, a member of the Assassin’s Colonial Brotherhood. In the beginning at least, because as events unfold he loses faith in the Creed and defects to their most hated enemy. He then enacts an extermination campaign against his former brothers, and dedicates himself to furthering the goals of the Templar Order. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue was marketed on this heel-turn, as the game where we finally get to play the bad guys. Nothing did this game more of a disservice than that.

Shay is certainly not a good guy, but he doesn’t feel like the bad guy either. The way he  turns from Assassin to Assassin Hunter is one of the most satisfying character turns I’ve seen. This is no Anakin randomly murdering children after being the hero a scene ago, but a gradual series of events that slowly erode his core faith. When that betrayal comes, you are fully invested, as it doesn’t feel cheap or artificial. His actions may not be excusable, but they feel justified. You’re no mustache twirling villain, simply a man with a strong sense of right and wrong.

He's not Wrong...

I mean, he’s definitely not wrong.

The core gameplay systems are ripped straight from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Sailing, combat, and the minimal stealth systems are all functionally the same, but with some tweaks that improve them dramatically. For example, unlike the Jackdaw, Shay’s ship, the Morrigan, is a much leaner and faster beast. She still hits just as hard too, making for faster battles that don’t lose their punch. She comes with a stronger ram too, which is also used with sailing’s other new mechanic. With the new open sea being the northern Atlantic ocean, icebergs and sheets are a new obstacle. Ice sheets slow you down and have to be mowed through with the ram. Icebergs, on the other hand, are just as much opportunities as obstacles. Hitting one with an explosive shot causes it to explode, dealing massive damage to any enemies nearby. They don’t change the game, but they sure spice it up.

Combat and stealth are treated much the same. Both remain functionally the same, but there’s a few additions that deincentivize the former while making the latter more viable. For example, the brand new rifle, a long-range silenced weapon, is stealth’s best friend. Picking off annoying snipers, causing groups of enemies to go berserk and kill each other, or using firecrackers to lure enemies to their death, it’s a multipurpose stealth weapon. It along makes playing stealthily much more fun, because you actually have something to do. This is important because like Assassin’s Creed: Unityand unlike the franchise up to this point, open combat is something you want to avoid. Enemies hit harder, move faster, and have a whole bunch of tricks to take you out. So you need to be able to stay a few steps ahead. The poster children for this concept and play style are the new enemy types, Stalkers.

The Beginning

I wonder how this will end.

Remember those Assassinss you could order around in previous games to hide in certain places, assassinate chosen targets, or cause distractions? Now they’re controlled by the AI and they are coming for you. They have access to all of your tricks, hiding places, and most importantly, that high damage hidden blade. One gets too close, they will slice you up and you’re as good as dead. You have to use the compass that used to be in multiplayer games to detect other players to keep track of any nearby stalkers. It’s now a part of the Eagle Vision hud, and works quite well. It’s my favorite new thing in this game, because the AI is surprisingly impressive with the maneuvers they pull off. They can do everything you can do, and they are capable of chaining actions together like a player would. It’s a level of difficulty that requires you to play cautious and smart, something previous AC titles did not stress at all.

Given this is the Switch, performance is a factor. Assassin’s Creed III’s port wasn’t that bad, all things considered, but it still wasn’t exactly good. Rogue’s, on the other hand, is great. I didn’t see any drops, no matter how frantic the fights got. Pop-in was present, but not distracting. The game overall  looked great, which is impressive given both the hardware and the age of the game. Anyone looking for an open-world experience on the Switch has an easy buy right here.

Damamge Done.jpg

Sometimes meddling with ancient unknown technology is not the smart thing to do.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is one of my favorites in the franchise. The strong narrative, the interesting protagonist, the careful execution of the heel-turn, there’s so much this game does well. Even most of what it does poorly is simply a reflection of the times. While I certainly miss the smooth combat and stealth systems recent entries have introduced, it’s not really a problem while playing the game. It’s a shame so many people overlooked it the first time due to the whole AC: Unity controversy, but the Rebel Collection for Switch is the perfect opportunity to give it a chance now.

Graphics: 7.0

It may be a last gen game, but it still looks pretty good, even on Switch. Performance is solid as well.

Gameplay: 8.5

It’s classic Assassin’s Creed with some interesting twists, like the Stalker enemy type and iceberg infested water.

Sound: 9.0

Rogue, hands down, has one of the best soundtracks in the franchise. The main theme is especially fantastic. Voice acting work is similarly well done.

Fun Factor: 9.0

This was classic AC at its best. Short well-paced story, dense tightly designed world, with a fantastic narrative driven by a truly complicated protagonist.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is available now on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

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