I played the first Assassin’s Creed game in September of 2014. Now, a year and a half later, I have played six of the sequels. It’s safe to say I’ve become a fan. While I was skeptical before I began (hence starting seven years late) I would now argue that it’s one of the most successful yet simultaneously under rated modern franchises. This is because the games do so much right, but the minor issues present in all of them distract from just how impressive everything else is. This holds true in Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, which I just finished playing on my quest to complete all the main entries in the series.
The story, short though it may be, is solid. Rogue is a welcome change of pace from the previous installments and offers a new perspective on the villainous Templars. The story focuses on the assassin Shay Patrick Cormac, who after completing a mission that results in some considerable collateral damage, decides his creed is misguided and becomes a Templar.
While working for the Templars doesn’t substantially change the gameplay, for the first time there are random people trying to assassinate me and for the first time my Eagle Vison ability becomes an essential tool. At first I’ll hear mysterious whispers, then I’ll switch to Eagle Vision which will help me zero in on my would be assassin, and finally I’ll see her in shimmering gold trying to get the jump on me. If I fail to sneak up on her she’ll leap out and I’ll have a split second to counter her attack or suffer a hidden blade to the neck. Beyond this and a few other Templar related quests Rogue is very similar to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which should not be seen as a negative as Black Flag is one of the best games in the series.
When the credits rolled on Assassin’s Creed: Rogue I was told I was 65% finished. I was so happy with my experience in the game that I wasn’t ready to part with it. Fortunately, like all Assassin’s Creed games, Rogue has a tremendous volume of locations and quest items. I decided to go back into the Animus and keep exploring. There are achievements for visiting every location, finding every Animus fragment, fully upgrading the ship, fully renovating every possible building and a plethora of others. Pursuing these achievements seemed like a good excuse to keep playing.
As I sailed from town to town, pillaging ships and forts along the way, I started to see just how massive this game is and how little of it is used in the story. I took my time during the main campaign, exploring and upgrading along the way, and I still only experienced a fraction of the world. It’s only necessary to visit a fraction of the available locations in order to finish the game. This means that if I were to just focus on completing the story I would easily miss at least half of the locations. That’s a shame because the game has a tremendous variety of beautiful locations. I found myself exploring them just because I wanted to see and run around on them. I always feel a chill as I sail past ice bergs and climb snow covered hills, I smile every time I go ashore and a group of penguins leaps into the sea, and I feel exhilarated every time I find a Native pillar and unlock its secrets. Exploring for the sake of exploring is fun, but not as compelling as it would be if there were more objectives tied to the main story.
Rogue does maintain the unfortunate tradition of minor control issues. I think this because the game has to be a little psychic to determine exactly what I want to do and sometimes it guesses incorrectly. Occasional I’ll leap off a building in the wrong direction and sometimes I’ll find myself being chased by a crowed of angry officers because I failed to land in the hiding place I was aiming for. It’s frustrating, but it’s understandable. The sheer number of abilities the game offers are impressive and the number of unintended actions is so minor as to be trivial, but ideally every mistake I make should be indisputably my fault and not the result of the game misinterpreting my intent.
I’m not entirely sure why I’m still playing. Obviously I enjoy it, but now that the main quest is done there’s no meaning behind any of my actions. I’m just wandering the earth for the sake of wandering the earth. Yes, there are a few achievements to slightly boost my Gamerscore, but really I’m just roaming for the sake of roaming. In real life this kind of exploration would be impossible, but in the game I can travel across a vast land and try to see everything without worrying about consequences. There are so many wondrous places hidden throughout the game I feel obligated to see them all. While I do feel an urge to move on to a new game I just can’t escape the appeal of running through old growth forests and discovering new settlements. That is Rogue’s greatest accomplishment: creating a world I want to inhabit.