Developed by Ubisoft Sofia. Published by Ubisoft. Released November 11, 2014. Available on Xbox 360 (Reviewed) and PS3. Review copy provided by publisher.
Despite its launch being almost completely obscured behind the next-gen-only Assassin's Creed Unity, the Rogue experience deserves a bit of recognition. While it's nothing new, the Black Flag formula worked once, and it'll work again, even if it does suffer some diminishing returns. A compelling story line and seemingly endless side activities to engage with make Assassin's Creed Rogue a strong follow-up to last year's hit Black Flag, but it falls behind its predecessor a bit in the relatable characters department, and suffers from repetitive combat.
Rogue puts you under the hood of Shay Cormac, a distinctly Irish member of the Assassin brotherhood. He's a bit unorthodox in how he follows instructions, but he does aim to get the job done. As you no doubt know if you've seen any of the pre-release info about the game, something happens to Shay which causes him to reconsider his allegiances and, eventually, completely abandon the Assassins. While it was seemingly an effort to humanize the protagonist, the abrupt about face in loyalty was a little jarring all the same. An elite assassin whining about people dying just seems a tad peculiar. It does at the least help propel the story forward into more interesting territory.
While Black Flag had a Caribbean flair, North America is the setting for much of Rogue. The French and British forces are engaged in the Seven Years' War as you set about your mission of hunting your forsaken brothers, and preventing the Assassins from committing further atrocities. One of the steps backward that Rogue seems to have taken is a lack of identity for many of the locations. In Black Flag, most of the bigger locations were somewhat memorable, having been tied in some way to major story or character developments. Rogue's locales are more of a mixed bag and, while you may remember your time in New York City, that may well be the only place that really sticks with you.
Despite being more or less the same game with new characters and maps, Rogue is also somewhat less polished than its predecessor. Watching an enemy fall down dead mid-fight, only to realize a moment later that Shay is now stuck in the middle of an attack animation on a set of stairs, is obviously frustrating, but at least with the autosave system, you won't stand to lose that much progress when it happens. You'll also likely encounter various objects scattered throughout the game that don't seem to have been properly programmed to jive with free running mechanic, offering you an impassable hurdle that must be skirted before you can resume your pursuit. It's fairly minor, admittedly, but Black Flag set a high precedent for polish that Rogue doesn't quite live up to.