When Assassin’s Creed Rogue originally release on PS3 and X360 in 2014, I had already moved onto the Playstation 4 and people were focussed on the hysterically broken Assassin’s Creed Unity. It was a shame, as it meant that I never got to experience the Assassin, Shay Patrick Cormac defecting to the Templars, in what sounded like a more even-handed telling of the clash between the two orders. Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered is a welcome chance for those who, like me, missed the opportunity to see Shay’s fall from grace, even though it does feel like it might be a little late after last year’s Origins.
As it is a remaster of a last gen game, you shouldn’t be going into the game expecting current gen graphics. It has been updated to full 1080p on PS4 and Xbox One, 4K on the Pro and One X, but is locked at 30 frames per second on all of these. It’s clear from the occasional stretched-looking ground texture and lack of current gen sheen that Rogue is a game for older hardware, but it has an ace up its sleeve. Much, if not most of the game is spent looking at your ship and crew as you sail about shooting other ships and boarding them, and the character models and ships themselves look pretty great. Barring some aliasing, the ships still look impressively detailed, every plank of wood distinct and every cannon shiny. The sea might be a good few paces behind Sea of Thieves, but it’s still just as imposing when things start to get dangerous.
Rogue is designed in the same way as Black Flag, complete with all the piracy and swashbuckling that entails. There is a lot of sea to cover, from North America to the frozen Pacific, complete with new challenges such as icebergs and freezing water to contend with. Obviously, this sea is full of ships for you to plunder so you can gather materials to upgrade your own ship. If you played Black Flag for the piracy, it’s alive and well in Rogue, even if Ubisoft seem to have left the best part of ACIV behind since Rogue’s release.
It also means a return to the old way of doing things that have changed a lot in the series’ most recent outing, specifically in regard to combat and missions. A fight in Rogue uses the old, Arkham-style combat system with its counters, ripostes, and stuns automatically directed at the nearest enemy. AC’s old style of combat was good and it’s just as good here as ever, though the inclusion of much of that fighting being on ships certainly doesn’t hurt. Once you get back into the stab of things you quickly become the whirlwind of death that assassins used to be before Ancient Egypt – or after Ancient Egypt, I forget which.
The missions are less of a welcome return, however. You find yourself in a stealthy boat section quite quickly, a holdover from Black Flag where you have to “sneak” your huge floating structure between the sight lines of enemy huge floating structures. It still doesn’t make sense and the missions themselves are somehow equal parts frustrating and dull. Then there’s the side content, like countless chests dotted about the place and now cave paintings and Templar crosses to find, not to mention chasing floating manuscripts with sea shanties on them. The collectables are another aspect that has since been toned down in the series and, whilst collecting them can be fun for a while, the sheer amount of them does feel like busy work after a while.
Despite the occasionally obnoxious quest design, the game’s qualities shine through. Combat, whilst it can be argued that it’s still a little too easy, is great fun and taking out eight guys at a time does feel like a thing an assassin would do from time to time. The storyline is probably better told here than many of other games in the series, adding some depth to the Templar order, which has been exclusively viewed as the overarching antagonist before and since this game.
Naturally, it’s the piracy that shines brightest though. The way water crashes across the deck and the ropes all swing around in the wind in unison during bad weather, or in a calm and serene sunset when your crew start singing a shanty, or during ship combat when the smoke of your cannons hangs briefly around your ship before it’s taken by the wind, it all looks fantastic. It is steeped in atmosphere that really sells the naval aspect of the game to an extent that I still don’t think has been matched elsewhere.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered can still hold up pretty well today, but whether or not you should it pick up depends on a few factors. Whether you played the game when it first released, whether you want to see Shay’s relatively unique story for the series, and whether the sometimes frustrating mission design is enough to you you off. Most importantly, your answer to these considerations must be weighed against how much you want to plunder ships on the high seas.