So how does the gameplay hold up? It’s not the game changer that Assassin’s Creed: Unity promises to be, but we didn’t really expect that did we. We all knew that Rogue was more or less going to be a chop-shop job done on the cheap, but you’ll be fairly surprised at how well it plays out, despite being handled by Ubisoft Sofia, a studio usually handed the task of porting the console games to the PC platform.
In a sense Rogue is a bit of a chop-shop job, but not in a bad way. If you played through Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag then you’ll feel instantly at home with the control scheme, nothing has changed drastically and why should it? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Plus it was probably cheaper to continue using the same engine…
Features from the aforementioned titles are presented within Rogue; there’s naval combat, New York shows her cheeky face once again and there’s the now standard renovations for you to manage. I’ve always been a fan of the mini-management that first started in Brotherhood and the appeal of re-building Rome has left a lasting desire for Assassin’s Creed to let me turn a city from ruin into a metropolis. Alas, Rogue doesn’t manage it on the scale of Brotherhood, but it’s still a nifty feature that’s enjoyable for those who like to make sure they’ve got the revenue coming in on the regular. Upgrades don’t buy themselves you know…
As a Templar you’re gifted with a slight advantage over the Assassin’s, the people who were once you’re allies but are now you’re sworn enemies. Upgrades are plentiful and seeing as you now rub shoulders with the Templar crowd you’re afforded more in the way of weaponary and upgrades, the Templars really do have the best toys. Upgrading your vessel and kitting it out with the baddest cannons blood-money can buy is still as engaging as it was back in Black Flag, it’s just that you’re now doing it all under the guise of a Templar.
Shay’s turn to the ‘dark side,’ as it were, does seem a little rushed and once you’ve made the transition from Assassin to Templar, you’ll find that not much really changes in the way the game plays out. Of course the story is what gets an adrenaline boost by the turn of events, but gameplay wise you’re doing pretty much what you’ve been doing for the last five games, or the last two in terms of naval play.
Once again naval combat is pushed to the forefront and expanded upon, though barely. Sailing the seas is still just as fun with combat getting a kick up the bum thanks to some new tactical options to consider. Where previous game literally just pitted you and your sea-faring opponents against each other with nothing but the wind to separate you, Rogue adds some tactics to the combat with floating islands providing cover from enemy fire. It’s not a huge addition but it does make the buccaneering exploits a little more challenging and induces some brain activity, rather than have you simply fire off shots against opponents.
The side-missions scattered around, the collectibles, upgrades and buildings to renovate, it’s all the same as what we’ve seen in previous games and it does get you questioning why the Templars are doing all of this, well, it had me questioning it until I realised that where the Assassin’s carried out these tasks to instill peace in the cities, the Templars do it to create organisations and order. Makes sense really. Can’t go around being a total arsehole and expect people to succumb to the will of the Order, so you’re forever running around doing noble deeds.
That’s not to say you can’t get into a little bit of trouble…
One major improvement, in my eyes at least, is the fact that we’re finally given formidable opponents – the Assassin’s. They’ve got all the tricks and tools to turn us players into fools and as we already know how cunning the Assassin’s are there’s a quaint sense of fear when a posse of parkour ninjas try to cut you up.
You’re not a defenseless doll though, you can give as good as you get. With the vast array of weapons made available to you you’re well equipped to fend off your foes. Combat is more or less the same deal as Black Flag, but that’s probably a good thing seeing as the rest of the game plays out to the strenghts of it’s predecessor, it wouldn’t make sense to change one of the integral features that made Black Flag so accessible.
You have your counter, kick and grab buttons as expected, as well as firearms which can be shot with the tap of a button. All very familiar… One thing I should point out is that if you’ve pre-ordered both Rogue and Unity and intend to split your time between them then Rogues mechanics will start to feel a little clunky and at times, dated. Otherwise, if you dive head on into Rogue without looking at Unity then you’ll have no problems with the combat or movement, it’ll be the best you know.
Missions play out more in line with Assassin’s Creed III in that you’re introduced to characters, situations and locations with goals to pursue and the same tried and tested mission structure that we’ve come to expect from the series. It works well for the most part, but a few escapades do fall short and some of the sequences are over far too quickly, leading to a game that runs a narrative that can be completed in just over 7 hours. Of course there’s a lot along way to distract you from completing the narrative.
Some new locations are explorable, though the sense of familiarity does make its way to the foreground. New York is once again a playable city, though it’s a little different being that it’s a younger city and Ubisoft Sofia has seen fit to add a few new locations to the future Big Apple. Unfortunately it’s not enough to make 1700’s New York all that more exciting from the one in Assassin’s Creed III. It’s the same old city, but the dressings have been changed and there’s new music in the background, but the reality is that nothing has really changed.
New York is just a part of the story though, the real fun is within the frozen Caribbean, er, I mean North Atlantic. Yes, it’s very similar to Black Flags open-waters, but it’s different enough to be fantastic on its own merit.
The icey waters of the Northen Atlantic play host to some ferocious naval battles with huge glacial land-masses and roaming ice-bergs setting the scene for what becomes the watery grave of many enemies. In short, I loved the North Atlantic sections of the game, if not just for their gameplay, but for their stunning visual treats, but more on that below.
One thing that does hinder the gameplay is the unstable frame-rate. For the most part the game plays pretty stable, but once you hit the denser areas of the game where a lot of action is happening on-screen it plummets to a slideshow. Thankfully the stutters are few and far between and within Rogue’s equivalent of Assassin’s Creed III’s frontier the frame-rate is steady and doesn’t distract from the gameplay.
I’m not normally a stickler for frame-rates and resolutions (despite Unity’s occasional drops I found it very enjoyable,) but even my tired eyes pick up on it with ease with Rogue. Something to think about if you’re holding out for the PC version, which hopefully gets proper optimisation from Ubisoft.