Assassin’s Creed Unity was a mess. The first release on a new generation of consoles, Unity was broken, buggy, and thankfully only mentioned so that I can pivot to the other Assassin’s Creed game released that same year. A generation behind, Assassin’s Creed Rogue proved to be not only the better Ubisoft release that year, but one of the best iterations on the AC formula. And we get to talk about this because Assassin’s Creed Rogue has been Remastered.
I like to think of Rogue as Assassin’s Creed’s first true lore story. Set between Black Flag and the woeful Assassin’s Creed 3, Rogue tells the story of Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin turned Templar who turns against his former allies in a desperate bid to save the world. One of the shortest main storylines in the whole series, Shay’s journey wastes no time engaging in most of the standard AC tropes like tailing/eavesdropping, and gets right to the good stuff, which means pirating and skulking about in a very dramatic coat.
The reason I call it a lore story though, is because of who and what Shay does during our time with him. This is the first time that players get to see the Templar’s side of this conflict, not counting our brief time in control of Haytham Kenway during the memorable twist at the beginning of Assassin's Creed 3. Not only that, but Shay’s reasoning for switching sides makes sense, as its a choice borne out of compassion. He even does the utterly unthinkable and tries to talk some sense into Achilles and the American Brotherhood before they force his hand and his blade.
Shay’s back and forth across the Atlantic Northeast is like a greatest hits journey, catching important moments like what happens to the American Brotherhood before Connor Kenway arrives, as well filling in answers to questions I didn’t think to ask but should have. There are a ton of these moments, and it’s impressive not only the breadth that Shay’s travels cover, but that none of it feels forced or flat, which is a feat for a series that routinely deals in forced coincidence.
The story is spread over North America’s Northeast Coast as well as the city of New York, Rogue is built quite similarly to Black Flag, which means that unlike most other Assassin’s Creed games, you spend more time sailing the seas on board Shay’s ship, the Morrigan, then scaling lofty heights. Thankfully, time on the high seas is time well spent, and all of Black Flag’s engaging labors, like harpoon fishing, materials hunting, and general boat exploding all make their way over.
Action wise, Shay's fighting style directly mimics the dual weapon style of noted pirate Edward Kenway, only I think Eddy was able to get off more shots with his pistols. What Rogue added to the arsenal was an air rifle that fired darts of the sleep and beserk variety, and a GRENADE LAUNCHER that attached to the bottom of it ala Rambo. Used occasionally during missions to destory a random assortment of items, I used it for deploying an area of effect sleep bomb that could knock out a whole battalion. Certainly not necessary, given every AC characters virtual indestructive nature during the melee combat dance, but a great tool when you just needed to slide past a small group or wanted to meet a no-kill challenge for memory completion percentage.
Rogue does have its own share of weirdness to deal with. As the majority of Shay’s story is from the Templar side of things, he has to deal with Assassin henchmen that hide as well as he does. Finding them functions much like the Assassin hunts in multiplayer, with a circle showing up in Eagle Vision that shows where they are hiding within a certain proximity. The first time someone pops up and stabs you out of seemingly nowhere, it novel. The 19th time a simple collectible hunt through New York is interrupted because you missed the signs that a killer was around, it's annoying. Yes, I see the irony of that, considering how many hundreds of days I ruined tearing through French military encampments, but I’m the protagonist here people.
Along the same lines, there are three to four “boss” fights where Shay faces off against one of his old Assassin buddies, and each and every one of them is an exercise in frustration. All were doable with adjustments and planning, but in Assassin’s Creed terms, that means about 15 minutes of load screens as I go back and forth with ideas before throwing my hands in the air, yelling some form of obscenity, and brute forcing my way to victory. The majority also ended with a chase of some kind, which has NEVER been a thing that Assassin’s Creed has excelled at, despite trying to make it a thing since time immemorial.
As a Remastered edition, the visuals have been updated over last generations good but not amazing look. While I don’t have a PS4 Pro to experience the full 4K wonderment, the game still looks great on an HDR set. Colors pop as they should, the differences between lights and darks, especially when Shay is shadowed while hiding in bushes, is great, and the ocean looks amazing. Icebergs floating through the cold Atlantic water stand out as almost fake because of the downright pure electric blue of the ice, but nothing else shows as out of place.
Considering that Assassin’s Creed as a series allows us to visit the past, Rogue Remastered ends up achieving the series’ purpose. It’s a romp through time, a showcase of some of the best that Assassin's Creedhas to offer in both gameplay and story, and now visually matches its successors. While not everything about the game is perfect, I have no trouble recommending it, especially to someone that has not experienced it yet. Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered tops my list of worthy re-releases.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!