For many early adopters of the current console generation, Assassin’s Creed Rogue was the one that got away. Rogue was the last Assassin’s Creed game to be released on the PS3 or Xbox 360. By the time it released, many gamers had moved on to Xbox One or PS4 and missed its critical connection to other games in the series.
As a prequel in two branching directions, setting up narratives in both Assassin’s Creed III and Unity, and as a sequel to the groundbreaking Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, it is easier to get a little hazy on Rogue’s place in the timeline than it was four years ago. Focusing on Shay Patrick Cormac, the story tells the tale of an Irish-American assassin turned templar who was active during the events of the Seven Years’ War in the mid eighteenth century. Early in the game Shay encounters master Assassin mentor Achilles Davenport. His training facility, the Davenport Homestead, is instantly recognisable from the run down house that young assassin Connor finds in the much later Assassin’s Creed III. Shay’s story is one of betrayal, and these scenes with fellow assassins serve as the personal connections that will haunt his actions later on throughout the game. Rogue is a unique Assassins game in that you get to play as a templar for an extended period, and it ties together certain events of other games. Shay is as cocky as he is annoying and lacks the charm and sophistication of other assassins or indeed templars. I always expected to come to like his abrasive ways but that never really happened. His arc from assassin, to persona non grata to all sides, to something close to a templar is very well paced however. The relationship between Assassin’s Creed Rogue and Assassin's Creed III is an ever present, given that it is set in the same area albeit a generation apart. In the very last moments of the game, Shay connects himself to Arno Dorian’s story in the very beginning of Assassin’s Creed Unity.
Assassin's Creed Rogue is an action-adventure stealth game in what I would now call the old style of Assassins games. The controls are noticeably worse than the newer Unity, Syndicate or Origins games and the remaster does not address those deficits. This is almost a deal breaker as you try to force yourself back into the constraints of those older controls. It is less Rogue's fault for its control scheme, and more that later Assassins games have upped the controls bar significantly. For most of the game it is a constant mixture of clunky third person exploration in open areas not unlike those in Assassin’s Creed III and then moments of pure naval combat. The full suite of naval gameplay does make a much welcome return after its last proper outing in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. As the new captain of the Morrigan, a captured British ship, Shay is able to sail freely in the North American region and complete missions for the Assassins Brotherhood. The Morrigan is lighter than the Jackdaw from Black Flag and can navigate up certain rivers. This allows for interesting inland gameplay and to cover the earliest American settler efforts to move westward. Ship to ship combat has had a few upgrades too, allowing for more projectiles and flammable objects to be used against enemies. All in all, the remaster is technically very well done in terms of textures and frame rate and it totally boosts the old code in both gameplay arenas.
If you enjoyed Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and I am aware that many did, then this is very much more of the same. That is not a bad thing. If you are a historian of the Assassin's Creed franchise, Rogue does have some interesting tales to add. Rogue did not reinvent the wheel in any way however, and updates to visuals paste over serious control issues. In many ways Rogue is made up of ideas that did not make the Black Flag cut or ship date. Controls aside, the remaster does a fine job of making an older game relevant in today’s gaming market.