In retrospect, 2014 has to be considered as one of the most important years for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. As Assassin’s Creed Unity was lighting up message boards for all the wrong reasons, which in turn provided the catalyst for Ubisoft to take a year out and develop last year’s fantastic Assassin’s Creed Origins, another entry in the series was quietly released for the PlayStation 3. Assassin’s Creed Rogue continued to build upon the foundations laid down by its predecessors, but in a world where Bayek’s adventure across ancient Egypt already exists, can this remaster hold up despite sticking to the very formula that Ubisoft did away with?
Assassin’s Creed Rogue wraps up the story told by Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, as protagonist Shay Patrick Cormac transitions from Assassin to Templar following a betrayal from his own brotherhood. After a piece of advanced Precursor technology is used to bring death and destruction to innocent lives, Shay takes it upon himself to wipe out those he once fought alongside.
This is a genuinely interesting twist for the series, as every other instalment has celebrated the spillage of Templar blood rather than pitching the Assassins as the problem. It feels like a deconstruction of all our expectations, as the game asks tough questions about the Assassin order and its notions of loyalty and trust, and then takes things even further. It’s a risky narrative that pays off in the greatest fashion, with a concluding 30 minutes that you need to experience for yourself.
Alongside the historical dealings is, of course, the present day storyline. Once again we’re an employee of Abstergo Entertainment, as a virus takes out the majority of the office’s servers. It’s our job to get them back online, as well as interacting with the Animus in order to explore Cormac’s memories. In series tradition, this component is completely throwaway, as Ubisoft continue to insist on linking everything back to the real world.
Probably the biggest hurdle standing in Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered’s path is the existence of Assassin’s Creed Origins. The latest entry overhauled the combat system as well as redefined its open-world and how you interact with it, and because this remaster obviously hasn’t received those improvements, it feels dated in the gameplay department. This is very much an Assassin’s Creed game of old, with an unfathomable amount of collectibles to pick up, eagle vision to assist you, territory to take over, and synchronization points to climb up to. It follows the original gameplay formula to a tee, with combat leveraging the more traditional method of waiting for the right moment to strike while dodging and parrying attacks.
But its defining feature is the ship navigation and combat, which feels like a culmination of everything that came before it. This has to be the best implementation of the naval elements in any Assassin’s Creed yet, even trumping Black Flag, as small additions make the experience feel almost new again. Shay’s ship, The Morrigan, brings with it an expanded upgrade path. Now taking place in the Arctic, there’s much harsher winds to deal with that could potentially blow you off course, or into one of the many icebergs found within the region. Ice sheets also pose a threat, but they can be destroyed by some well-placed cannonball shots. Boarding an enemy ship in order to take its plunder was a regular occurrence in previous titles, but now that same thing can happen to you. It usually just requires you to take out a certain number of enemies, but it’s still a neat twist that makes you a lot more protective of your own supplies, rather than simply focusing on stealing everybody else’s.
On land, gameplay sticks to the tried and tested formula. You’ll stalk your targets in tailing missions, hide in the bushes as your victims pass by you, air assassinate enemies, and use your hidden blades to bring death to any that deserve it. It’s here where gameplay feels the most dated, as we even struggled to adapt to the game’s climbing mechanics. There just isn’t anywhere near as much freedom in what you can scale as Shay when compared to Bayek, who can climb a sheer cliff face with ease.
As a remaster, the experience manages to hold a rock solid 30 frames-per-second with no drops, as well as a graphical upgrade that brings it about on par with a PS4 launch game. Environments and landscapes look nice, but the drawbacks can be found in character models, particularly their faces. They tend to look a bit too bold and blocky as little detail makes them look rather emotionless at times. PS4 Pro owners will receive a clean 4K image, but besides that, the upgrades are minimal at best.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered sits in a bit of an odd place. It’s a good game on its own, but after the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins and the major improvements it brought to the series, Shay Patrick Cormac’s trek across the ocean feels outdated only four years after its original release. If you can stomach a return to the franchise’s original formula, then the experience will be worth your while thanks to a compelling plot and excellent naval mechanics. But if you’ve grown tired of that recipe, Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered won’t do anything to draw you back in.