The eighth installment in Ubisoft’s historic franchise, nineteenth overall, takes us back for a third round of good old Assassin and Templer violence in the 18th century. Tragically it doesn’t reach past any of the shortcomings of the last two entries. Bringing nothing new to the table isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they’d used the old elements to present something good but charging premium price for what’s basically a standalone expansion pack is regardless of quality.
Trying to still make up for the blunder of Assassin’s Creed 3 abandoning the fascinating Assassin turned Templar Haythem Kenway after the opening missions to force his boring and painfully stupid son Ratonhnhaké:ton (or Connor) into the lead role. Ubisoft gives us Shay Cormac a young apprentice Assassin who is given an insanely important mission after we’re told several times that he’s still learning and not really ready for something this serious. Shay quickly gets himself a ship, the Morrigan, and sets off to recover two artifacts of dire importance from those evil nasty Templars. When he succeeds he accidentally triggers an event that kills hundreds of innocent people and disillusioned finds himself with those nasty Templars against his former brothers… the really just as fucking bad Assassins.
The voice cast is mostly terrible. All their accents are amped up to 11. Did you forget for a moment that a character is, say, French? That’s ok because soon a voice actor channeling Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau will be insulting you. It’s lazy and annoying. These are keywords for pretty much every aspect of this game.
While Rougue’s story could easily be one of the most interesting in a while again Ubisoft goes as lazy as they could for it. After seven entries all about how evil the Templars are, despite all the evidence that they are really exactly like the Assassins but use a different flag and phrase things a bit differently, here it’s all flipped. The Assassins are painted as overaggressive assholes who will stop at nothing, not ever the complete destruction of a city and all those lost lives will even cause them to blind. The Templars are shown exactly like the Assassins have been in every other entry. They’re more thoughtful and concerned for the people, they’re more thoughtful about the consequences of their actions. But that’s only in the Animus segments, once in modern day they’re back to the nasty evil world domination driven fucks we have always been told they are. Instead of taking the opportunity to really explore the two sides differences it’s so glazed over and so extremely opposite a view that it wastes all it’s potential. More since Shay is the first character in a recent entry to even passingly consider what’s going on around him and has a moral view on it beyond “Those guys are bad, ‘mkay? We gotta stop them.”
I find it lazy, though I have been guilty of it myself, to just reference similar titles when discussing gameplay it is impossible to avoid here. So I’ll give as much thought to it as Ubisoft did. The sailing and naval action is directly out of Black Flag but with icebergs. Do you remember the hostile territory takeovers from Brotherhood? That’s back as well but now they fly Assassin flags. The endless grinding for creatures to hunt so you could use their pelts to craft better equipment from AC3? That’s back and twice as grindy. The only new addition to gameplay is lifted right out of the previous installments online play. The new stalker enemies blend in with the normal NPCs and wait for you to pass so they can spring out and deliver a telegram of pain should be a great addition. Unfortunately, we’re going back to the keywords from earlier, it’s integrated lazily and it annoyingly slows down the action at times when it should be ramping up. The stalkers don’t have any motion, they just hid in their spot and loudly talk to themselves. At no point do they ever feel like a threat or as more than an after thought added late in development so they wouldn’t waste some easy to plug in features. While the stalking and hiding in plain site was a fantastic and fresh multiplayer style, when scripted like this it’s more of a chore that’s slowing down and padding out the thin gameplay.
Assassin’s Creed Rouge is a dubious farewell to the console generation that birthed this series. Bringing back every possible mechanic that was praised in earlier entries and giving a story that desperately tried to win back the favor of those annoyed with the last two. I just can’t recommend it to most people. If you are in real need of more Black Flag? Go for it. This was made just for you. If you haven’t been keeping detailed notes on every Assassin’s Creed title, skip it and pick up the Ezio Trilogy collection and Black Flag.
Assassin’s Creed Rouge- 5/10 Lazy, repetitive and poorly done. The biggest missed opportunity from the series so far.