James Thursfield explores how Assassins Creed Rogue is currently superior to its next-generation counterpart Assassins Creed Unity
It was a dark and cold evening in November. I was leaving Sainsbury’s with my orange-labelled gin in one hand, with the other occupying a cloudy lemonade mixer. My evening was sorted, yet I was troubled by something. Upon reaching the meal-deal section, I noticed a video game that shocked me. As a games editor, I like to think that I have a decent knowledge of video games, particularly those that are soon-to-be-released. However, standing on a shelf next to the newly-released Assassins Creed Unity, was a title that had, until now, eluded my radar. It was called Assassins Creed Rogue.
Assassins Creed Rogue is a title currently living in the shadows of its next-generation counterpart, Unity. Early reviews have emphasised the superiority of the latter, which gives the impression that Assassins Creed Rogue is merely filler for the franchise and is a form of appeasement for last-generation owners. However, from some limited time playing the game and gauging criticisms vocalised by reviewers and the online community, it appears that there are some aspects where Rogue is in fact the superior of the two games.
One of Rogue’s superior characteristics over Unity exists in the game’s storyline. Rogue presents a story set in the mid-18th century during the Seven Years’ War. It follows an assassin called Shay Patrick Cormac. What makes this story more interesting than the usual Assassins Creed affair, is that Shay begins as an assassin, yet becomes disillusioned with the Order’s endeavours after a series of scarring events, which result in him betraying them and joining the Templars. Not only does this create an interesting character due to his conflicting loyalties, but it also provides a rare Templar perspective on events that take place in the Assassin Creed universe.
At this point in time the Assassins Creed franchise’s story is a convoluted mess. I will give a medal to any fan who can recount the entire story of all eight major games and the numerous others in a concise fashion. Whilst Rogue does little to alleviate this problem, it embraces and celebrates all the confusing interconnected story-lines and consequently links them in a way that makes the story meaningful. In contrast, Assassins Creed Unity presents a generic story of a Frenchman called Arno Dorian, who is adopted into an assassin family and ends up embarking on a quest of redemption. Similar to Assassins Creed III, Unity appears to prioritise its focus on an individual storyline that ends up fitting into the broader scheme of the franchise, whilst with Rogue, the interconnected stories are woven in on a more fundamental level.
Not only does Assassin Creed Rogue have a more interesting story, but it is currently a more polished and technically stable game. Due to the wide-ranging glitches, including players falling through the map, gamers have accused Ubisoft of releasing an unfinished game. The significance of the problem is reflected in how Ubisoft shares dipped by as much as 12.8 per cent following the launch of Unity. In contrast, although Rogue only touts presentable last-generation graphics, they are far more stable and the game is far less susceptible to game glitches and crashes.
From a game play perspective, whilst not innovative in any form, Rogue is also a reliable and fun game. Game play wise, the game is unquestionably a sequel to Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. Naval combat from Black Flag carries over practically unchanged and the combat system presented is also untouched from the previous game. Consequently, in terms of game play, there is nothing new here—but is that a problem? Black Flag was very popular amongst a large number of gamers and, if you are a fan of the franchise and naval combat, and what you crave most is an engaging story, Rogue is the game for you.
However, despite what may appear to be glowing praise, in reality Rogue is not worth the £40 price of admission. There is not enough new content to warrant the cost of a brand-new game. However, the good news is that Assassin Creed games, particularly the spin-off ones, are renowned for plummeting in price after a few months from release. To the extent that Assassins Creed Unity is currently an unplayable glitch-ridden mess, it could be worth waiting a few months and purchasing Rogue first. Not only will the superior story of Rogue enrich the story of Unity, but the lack of innovation in Rogue may make you appreciate the changes which are on display in the next-generation release.
Ultimately, Assassins Creed Rogue is very much like buying Sainsbury’s Basics alcohol. It may be coarse, it may make your head spin and leave you aspiring for something greater. But ultimately, it is reliable, fun, and at the right price, you could do a lot worse.