Going Rogue - Assassin's Creed Rogue tries to stray from the usual path and ends up getting lost along the way

In this blog I will be talking about spoilers, but I will try to shine away from the gory details as much as possible. That said, you have been warned!

Ah, Assassin's Creed. How I love thee, let me count the ways. Many already know the history of the series so I don't need to tread any well-worn territory, but what I will do is explain to you my love for Assassin's Creed: Rogue, and then I will explain why I hate Assassin's Creed: Rogue.

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? The announcement trailer.

Holy. Fuck. Right guys!? We're playing as a TEMPLAR!?!? IN ASSASSIN'S CREED!?!?!? Yep. I was right there. On the proverbial ten yard line. Pumping my fists, yelling at my computer screen, waking my neighbors. For once, I was that guy. Yeah, that's right pal, I get excited by pointless video game trailers, come at me bro.

Ubisoft had done it, they had actually made a game where we play as a Templar. In a world of color, all we're able to see for the first time, is gray. Because we have the power now, we have the resources, we are the Templar's, and we will not stop until the world is under control, until they feel our wrath and remember that we, and all our brethren, are better. Right? Wrong.

 The game, a prequel to Assassin's Creed III, but sequel to Assassin's Creed IV(and also mentioned as the game that links them all together) starts off and you are Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin.

If looks could kill, he'd be an Assassin! Oh wait...

You are palling around with your buddy Liam O'Brien who, with a name like that, may or may not be a voice actor. In the opening mission you rescue some prisoners and then steal a ship named The Morrigan and encounter a cast of characters. You then go to the Davenport Homestead which people who played Assassin's Creed 3 should be familiar with. Once you arrive, you see two old faces in the form of Adewale, your first-mate partner-in-crime black-best-friend from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and also Achilles Davenport, the mentor and trainer of Connor Kenway in Assassin's Creed III. Adewale in his old age reminds me a lot of Big Boss, in that he's a seasoned veteran killer with no regards for giving a shit. It was great to see him, I was very excited to see what he would be up to after so many years since the end of Black Flag. And as for Achilles, well anyone who played AC3 knew that he had a family at one point so I was excited to see them as well. Basically, as a fan of the previous games, I expected this game to pray off of the history of these characters and do something with the knowledge I already have. Fanservice, in a way. But Ubisoft shows their hand all too soon and you get nothing.

The Man himself! Adewale! Hmmm, wait a second...

Something doesn't seem quite right here...

Oh no... oh nooo....

2SPOOKY FOR ME!!!!! Or maybe he played Assassin's Creed: Rogue.
Ubisoft had mentioned in the past that when Rogue begins you are an Assassin, but after some devastating event not far into the game, you switch allegiances and become a Templar. Problem: You spend a little under half of the game as an Assassin. Another problem: You only interact with terrible characters that aren't and will never manage to flesh themselves out enough for us to actually care about. I wanted to go pal around with my old buddy Ade and hear stories of his life after Edward Kenway retired. I wanted to see Achilles and his young son Connor(He would later rename Rahtonhakaton "Connor" because he had no idea how to pronounce his native name name) having a day out on the Homestead. I wanted to love these characters and become attached to them all over again before turning into this big bad monster who wants nothing but to kill them. And I didn't get that, but for more reasons than you might think.

  1. Adewale fucks off at the beginning of the game and doesn't even show up until somewhere near the end-ish of the game.
  2. Achilles loses his family not too long into the game but you are only told this in passing while piloting your ship and absolutely nothing comes out of this.
  3. Shay is not a bad person. 

I may have raised plenty of eyebrows with that last point. "Not a bad person? But he's a fucking Templar! This is what we have been waiting for! Goddamnit!" Yes, goddamnit indeed. The plot in the beginning is that there's a book - a manuscript that can locate "First Civilization" temples hidden around the world. The Assassin's are using this to try and find an Apple Of Eden, which is a long tenured "piece of Eden" in Assassin's Creed lore. The problem is, these fucking Assassin's don't know what an Apple of Eden looks like, so they go to these temples and pick up the object - which is actually a device used to hold together tectonic plates - and then remove them, causing catastrophic damage to pretty much everything in sight. I mean fucking fire and brimstone, man, death and carnage everywhere. 2012, the movie. The thing is, Shay has no idea about this. Why Achilles or any other character doesn't mention this to him I don't fucking know. You use Benjamin Franklin's help to find one of these temples somewhere in Lisbon. Long story short, shit goes bad.

Guest starring: Benjamin Franklin, because fuck you we've still got his model on file

The city commits sudoku and Shay is really sad about this. So he goes back to the Assassin's and very calmly explains his issues with them in a warm and open environment. Oh, wait, no... that, that doesn't happen at all. He flips the fuck out and yells at everyone and it's really, really dramatic. No doubt. He is told on the spot that they won't stop using this manuscript to find pieces of eden and that he should probably go fuck off. He doesn't like this answer so he breaks into the Davenport Homestead mansion and steals the manuscript. This, in my opinion, is where the game begins to go downhill. One: The characters may be terrible and generic(Teehee, I'm the sexy girl assassin I flirt with everyone (: / I am the stoic native American Assassin, I am a rock, I am an island. A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries / I am the french Assassin so I'm a fucking cunt all the time and no one likes me), they are generally nice people. They seem to be passionate and compassionate about what they do and I could imagine they would help you if you needed help. Problem: They do a total 180 on their own characters and become really toxic and fucked up.

 As you make your escape from the mansion with the manuscript, they taunt you and berate you and INSTANTLY accuse you of some great betrayal. There is maybe a minute or two gone by and already you are the greatest evil in the room. It makes no sense, even for "dramatic purposes". I mean, I get that they wanted to turn on your Assassin friends, but... it's your Assassin friends that turn on you. Shortly after this, you fall into the ocean and get rescued by Templar's. The thing is: These Templar's are super nice and cheery and friendly and good. They are GOOD. GUYS. This is, in my opinion, where it was locked firmly into a downhill position that it could never turn upright from.

Some AC games backstory: The Templar's are the bad guys. Assassin's? Good guys. There have been bad Assassin's and good Templar's, but at the end of the day, that's the alinement we have in our universe. Templar's bad, Assassin's good. It started with Assassin's Creed III, it was the first installment of the series to actually feature deep and textured characters. For the first time in the series, villains were no longer cookie cutter cartoon villains who only want to do *insert evil thing here* and only live for *insert other evil thing here*. No, this was the game of villains who truly believe in themselves and their order, and want to do right. It just so happens that they were wrong, but that's all a part of the journey! And it was the same with Black Flag, this time even breaking from the mold more-so by having a main character that was, by all intents and purposes, a cunt. It wasn't until later in the game that he realized being a cunt cost him all of his friends so he stopped being a cunt and it was one of the most emotional journeys I have seen in a video game. With Rogue, we went into another direction. We went into: Friends of Shay are great people, heart and soul, whereas people indifferent to him are TOTAL EVIL AND BAAAAAD!!! BAAAAD!!! It got to the point sometime in the game where you are talking to your first-mate Gist and they were talking about how they just want to help their common man, and that all they live for is to better the lives of people and free them from evil and it's like, dude, come the fuck on, YOU ARE A TEMPLAR. I'VE PLAYED THIS FUCKING GAME'S SEQUEL, I KNOW THAT YOU ARE ALL CUNTS. Truly, I feel like this game was written for people who have never experienced the Assassin/Templar conflict before, because it was subverting the most basic of expectations.

Try as you might, Adewale, you will never be able to run from Say Patrick Cormac's lack of personality!!

 In doing so it created, in my opinion, one of the most boring stories I've seen and definitely the number one most terrible Assassin's Creed narrative.

Throughout the series Templar were always the evil mastermind, up to no good with plans of world domination in play somewhere. Instead, after becoming a Templar yourself, the rest of the game is about you and your Templar cronies playing second fiddle to the Assassin's. You are constantly catching up to them, you are constantly running after them, you are constantly chasing after. Point being: They are always ahead and you are always behind.

The bigger issue is the fact that this game was supposed to link together the "Kenway Saga" of Assassin's Creed 3 and 4 and even link us into Unity. It was supposed to close out the previous games and send us on our way forward, but the way that it does that is so half-assed. There was nothing about seeing Achilles in his prime(Which, you really don't see Achilles much at all, truthfully), nor Adewale in his old battle hardened years that truly stood out. It wasn't fun. I know Adewale deserved better, hell, they all did. They all deserved a fighting chance at having "character", but if Rogue has anything to say, at all, it's "Rogue has nothing to say". Now how's that for meta commentary.

That's not even taking into account the fact that you really don't even fight Assassin's. In the other games, they have things like Templar forts and hideouts and all that, so when you get in there busting faces, you fight REAL. LIVE. TEMPLARS. In Rogue? You fight "gangs". You go to "gang hideouts" and fight them in their "settlements" and it's so lame. I wanted to fight Assassin's! I'm a fucking Templar and I'm fighting the gangs of New York? What? Give me my shiv and let me uh uh uh a fucking Assassin Knight or whatever they call themselves, not some stupid fucking lame ass shitty looking generic goddamn "gang leader". It's all just so lazy.

And that's just the narrative!

If you would have me what I thought of Rogue yesterday, I would have told you it's fucking incredible. Not up to snuff compared to Black Flag but close enough that I could love it tenderly. Today? I've beaten the game, I've unlocked a bunch of unlockables and I've spent a lot of time doing stuff. See, that's the thing about Assassin's Creed: The world is so big, yet there is nothing to do. Oh, wait a second, that's not entirely true anymore!

Rogue claims to offer up a dramatic change from the series Asassin-centric origins. It was supposed to be you, playing a Templar, doing Templar shit. What actually ends up happening is you play an Assassin doing Assassin's Creed shit while you wear Templar logos and plot world domination. But it does try, it surely does.

It's a good thing he looks so cool because as a character he fucking sucks

One interesting change is the near-constant threat of Assassin stalkers in the area. They hide in the environment in places such as bushes, hay, on benches, on rooftops, hiding against walls and basically in any sort of way you could hide. If you hear a spooky whispering sound effect that means there is a stalker nearby and if you go into eagle vision, you get a locator ring that fills up in proximity to your would-be assassin.

You might imagine it would get boring after a while, but truthfully I thought it was fun all the way through. It's a decent change up in the tried-and-true nothing is happening anywhere any time oh god kill me that Assassin's Creed is known for. You need to keep your wits about you as you explore the city of New York as an Assassin could jump out and severely injure you at a moments notice. Leaping out of their hiding spot, the game goes into slight slow-mo and you have an opportunity to counter their attack just as you would any other enemy in the game. Once you do so you can kill the Assassin and move on about your day. The best thing about this mechanic is that the Assassin's aren't entirely stupid. They will wait for you to engage combat with other people before making their move and injuring you and that makes it a little more exciting knowing that I am not truly safe. You get to learn what it's like being an Assassin target, first hand.

It doesn't stop there. Out on the open seas of naval gameplay you also have some Assassin worries in the form of Bounty Hunters. Bounty Hunters made an appearance in Black Flag where they would come after you in some sort of GTA-Like wanted system where the more you kill and plunder, the more they want to kill you. It's not exactly the same this time, however, as these "bounty hunter assassin's" have the ability to board you this time around.

Once they board you, they use their own form of swivel guns and start gunning down your crew. My first boarding was almost a very tense situation as I had a bunch of Assassin's all around me attacking me and my crew while subsequently gunning us down from their ship. It was a nice change from Black Flag's bounty hunters and it added to every naval exchanged, where I knew that if I don't sink this ship now, he will probably board me and fuck my shit up.

Unfortunately, while this mechanic is a well appreciated change of pace, it doesn't happen very often at all. As they are "bounty hunters" you have to become "wanted" before they will appear. It seems to take a lot to get wanted in this case because I spent hours and hours plundering and pillaging ships in the arctic without seeing a single bounty hunter ship. Not only that, but your wanted level will reset sometimes for no clear reason, resulting in you losing all of your wanted progress that you have built up, further lessening the amount of bounty hunting ships you will see.

When it comes to the traditional Assassin's Creed gameplay, I think the game falls apart. One, the combat seems really disjointed now and two, the free-running navigational stuff is the least reliable it's been in years. I had trouble attacking enemies because I was in "combat mode" but the enemy wasn't, so I had to wait for him to ready up before we could fight. That happened a lot. Often times I would have issues where Shay wouldn't fight. I would press a button to hit enemies and nothing would happen. It felt really sluggish and unresponsive. While I had issues with the combat from Black Flag, it was absolutely responsive. What they had to do to get that to happen boggles my mind.

When it comes to the navigation, Shay falls all the time. He's constantly failing to grab some ledge as I hurdle to my demise, or running up the side of a tree and then dropping instead of reaching up and grabbing the ledge. I have experienced first-hand just how terrible the free-running can be in Assassin's Creed past, but with Black Flag I thought it was incredibly refined. I was jumping where I wanted to 90% of the time. With Rogue, I don't have that certainty. In fact, I am certain that I won't be able to climb correctly or jump correctly to or even jump off of things correctly. It got really annoying really quickly.

Now, I talk a lot about things I don't like, so let me take a change and talk about things I do like.

  • The game opens up a lot earlier than other Assassin's Creed games, probably because it's so short, but it was a welcome change. I felt like I was able to get right into the open world and side mission activities as soon as I became a Templar somewhere around Sequence 3. To put it in perspective, before I had beaten the game, I had beaten all legendary ship battles, found all viking sword pieces and finished all of the Assassination Interception missions.
  • The side missions. With the new missions they have introduced a new side mission that is quite clever. It's the exact opposite of the usual "assassination missions", in which you intercept a carrier pigeon  and then protect someone who has been targeted for assassination by using eagle vision to scan hidden Assassin's and then kill them. It was really fun and exciting when coupled with the fact that Assassin's are so deadly.

Speaking of Legendary Ship Battles, I actually like what they did here. In Black Flag, Legendary Ship Battles were you going toe-to-toe with a massively over-powered enemy ship. It was really challenging and it pushes you to the limits of your piloting abilities. In Rogue, they are almost like missions. Almost. You enter the area and there is one gigantic and overpowered ship, surrounded by other ships that you must destroy or else it's going to be even more difficult. The interesting thing is, though, you have allies of your own. Your own little NPC buddies float around and help you out. Except they don't. Often times all they did was get in my way and I'd end up killing them by accident. The Big Bad legendary ship doesn't even shoot at them, so they aren't used for a distraction.

I liked that they fleshed the idea out and actually got something meaningful out of it. It's a shame that they didn't do that for many other facets of the game because I really wanted to enjoy Rogue. I truly wanted to enjoy being a badass badguy who killed Assassin's and didn't give a shit. In the end, I didn't get that. I got "Almost Black Flag 2 but not really". A contrived cast of characters that we are supposed to care about because they "were Shay's most trusted friends" when you see exactly no information that would make them friends nor would they care about each other. In the end, it's just a bunch of people just happening to die who are Assassin's from Shay's hand, who just happens to be a Templar. I truly didn't feel the Assassin/Templar conflict in this game and whatever the fuck story I did get felt like someone with no understanding of the series, or basic human emotions, wrote it.

If this was a review, which I'm not sure if it is, I would rate the game. And since I'm rating the game, I'd probably give it a whopping:

Ultimately, even though I did not care for Rogue, I don't think it's terrible. I just think they did enough wrong that I can't really enjoy myself. I don't like the characters, I don't like the gameplay, I don't really even care about the "modern day story" anymore. If Ubisoft can get it right next time and get us back to the days of Edward Kenway and Connor. Back when characters had character and I cared about the shit they did. With Rogue, I really did find myself just not caring. I wanted to see Adewale fuck shit up with his cool giant ship. I wanted to see Achilles beating the fuck out of some Templar's in his prime. And most of all, I wanted Shay to be a badass Templar who erred on the grayer side of morality. I did not get this from Rogue. All I got was disappointment.

Oh well. There's always next year...

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

    Post Your Comments


Post a Comment