Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (PS3) Review

Assassin's Creed: Rogue (PS3) Review

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up an Assassin’s Creed game but I have been annually informed that I would love the newest addition to Ubisoft’s yearly franchise. It finally caught my attention with Black Flag, the first one that seemed to break the AC mold. When I got the chance to sit down with Rogue, a game that flew under the radar in a bizarre dual release marketing campaign, I was really looking forward to being won back to the series. While Rogue may not have accomplished this lofty goal, it turned out to be an enjoyable experience nonetheless.

Set during the Seven Years’ War in the 18th century, Rogue follows Shay Patrick Cormac, a decidedly brash assassin in North America who is tasked with hunting down the ‘Pieces of Eden’ because of his ability to sail a ship. The pieces are spread around the world, taking us to exotic and familiar locales alike. During the hunt, Shay learns that the Pieces of Eden have been causing devastating earthquakes and despite this, the Assassins plan to continue to look for them. Disenfranchised, Shay abandons the Assassins, but is nearly killed in the process. After sometime alone he is recruited by the Templars where he begins to hunt his former brothers as he tries to stop the Assassin’s from getting their hands on the device.

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Simultaneously, you are researching Cormac’s memories for Ubisoft—I mean, Abstergo Entertainment—when the Animus mainframe is corrupted. You have to clean up computers, collect data and play out more memories to clear the corrupted files and eventually tie Rogue to Unity.

The gameplay is pretty much exactly what you expect from an AC game. While on land, you sneak through settlements as you hunt for pick-ups, chests, Animus fragments, panoramic views etc. while getting the drop on unsuspecting soldiers. When moving between settlements, you take the high seas in your ship Morrigan and navigate the enemy laden waters. If you don’t manage to sneak around them you’ll find yourself pulled into some pretty cool naval battles.

The naval front is where I had the most fun with the game. The sailing itself was pretty basic and yet somehow relaxing while the encounters you have with enemy ships can range from comically easy to strategically difficult, depending on the level of the opposing vessel and how many you decide to take on. You can also pick up spilled cargo along the way that you can use to upgrade the Morrigan for a tougher hull, bigger guns, more crew, while sailing you have to endure the non-stop singing of the crew who also loudly cheer every single time you re-board your ship, so it’s not all pleasant. All of this was taken from AC4, but it still works here.

On land, where you’re the actual assassin that the franchise title indicates, is where I had the least fun. What turned me off the franchise in the first place was how repetitious playing it became. All of that is still present as you have to find items that are sprinkled across areas and for a trophy hunter/ mild OCD case like myself, I can’t leave until I’ve discovered and claimed all of it. To hinder the player from completing these tasks is clunky controls that seemed almost designed to annoy. While the Crouching Tiger-esque treetop running and building scaling is as simple as holding a button and jumping, actually pointing Shay where you want him to go is such an arduous task that it I had to wonder how the controls where still this aggravating so many iterations into the franchise. Also, your ability to hide seems to be completely random as you will get sporadically spotted no matter how clever the hiding spot or, you could be in plain sight and no one will acknowledge you at all.

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There was some fun to be had in the inventive and very violent ways to kill people, but even that was often taken away from me as my swords would often just disappear, leaving me scrambling to find my weapons from the menu while soldiers skewered and shot me. The places you visited did have some entertaining mini-games that you can wager on that range in difficulty from place to place and game to game. This may or may not have offset a lot of my killing time while on land.

Overall, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is going to be a good addition to fans of the franchise who don’t mind playing what is essentially a roll together of Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed III. All of the familiar sneaking and stabbing and item hunting are all there and the naval sections seems directly lifted from Black Flag with entertaining results. While I enjoyed my first foray into the AC universe in sometime, there really wasn’t enough here to bring me back to the fold. There’s always next-gen, Assassin’s Creed.

 

Love Assassin’s Creed? Read our review of Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

 

X-Men #1 Review

X-Men #1 Review

There is no shortage of X-Men titles coming out of Marvel, and so, at first glance the release of yet another mutant-centric book may seem like a bit like overkill. That’s understandable until you take a closer look at the concept and team behind X-Men #1. The newest X-title comes from the mind of indie-darling Brian Wood (The Massive, DMZ, Mara, Star Wars) and superstar artist Olivier Coipel who bring together an all-female team of Xavier’s former students.

The previews for the book have featured an intriguing group of characters including Storm, Psylocke, Rogue, Rachel Grey, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee – many of whom have been redesigned in tasteful and decidedly uncomicbook ways – and all the advanced interviews with Mr. Wood seem to promise a respectful take on these much-maligned female protagonists. But marketing and good will can only take a book so far, so the question is, does X-Men #1 deliver on all the lofty promises it has made? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

Writer Brian Wood has crafted a wonderful piece of pop art, one that eschews the potential gimmicky nature of an all-female X-Men book. He gives the reader a rollicking, high-action, mystery story that renders the gender of its characters immaterial to its enjoyment. This is a Marvel team book at its best, as Wood wastes no time showing off his team’s varied power set.

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It was exhilarating to see Rogue flying at high speeds and to watch Psylocke attempt to subdue a threat with a psionic bow and arrow. You usually don’t get this kind of action in a first issue, and its inclusion was a welcome change. Because of this there isn’t a lot of chill out time in the issue, but Wood effectively conveys a lot of our heroes’ most dominant traits through the aforementioned brisk action beats. I’m especially excited to see how he handles Psylocke, whose attitude and abilities render her unique in the X-Men universe. He also introduces to a villain whom I don’t know, but who has the potential to bring a whole new wrinkle to the Jean Grey School. The writer also proves that you don’t need Wolverine and Cyclops in the mix to construct an awesome team of mutants.

The other half of this blockbuster debut is artist Olivier Coipel. His work in X-Men #1 is as stunning as ever. Coipel is one of those pencilers able to render realistic, emotional faces while still bringing a sense of fun and style to every panel. From an action scene aboard a runaway train, to a simple conversation between old friends, the art in this first issue is simply stellar. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the gorgeous color work from Laura Martin, whose rich, diverse pallet gives the book a large part of its personality.

X-Men #1 is another standout entry in the Marvel NOW! initiative. Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel bring an immensely satisfying first offering to the table. It’s a book that is not only full of the high-flying histrionics we come to expect from an X-title, but one that promises to deliver fresh stories from underused characters. This is one of those titles that reminds us what big comic book storytelling should be, and it’s a must-buy for all comic fans.