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So I just started playing this game. I got it for Christmas, but I let it lie for a while due to the low score it got from IGN and generally not hearing much about it (and of course, franchise fatigue).
But to my surprise, this is one of the best AC games! I'm really enjoying the story, and at first I was afraid that it was just a smaller reskin of Black Flag, but they sure did do A LOT of changes to the world and the mechanics. I find Shay to be a really interesting protagonist.
Rogue is definitely not a smaller game than Black Flag. If you're like me, you'll get a little frustrated when you explore some of the areas in the River Valley.
And yes, Rogue is one of the best in the series. Black Flag was a really good game. Rogue improves upon it in almost every way. Better story, refined gameplay, far better main character (2nd best protagonist after Ezio imo), etc. Haytham is also a secondary character, so that's a definite plus.
"To all visitors from Transylvania looking for the head of Voivode Dracula: Yes, we have it. Yes, he's dead. No, you cannot see it. No, he will not return and invade you again. It has been over thirty years, please stop pestering us."
Well it mostly is. It's built on the same foundation, so while it has all of the good stuff Black Flag had, it has the bad too.
As a game I like it, because I loved Black Flag, and more of the same is a good thing to me.
I'm a few hours in to it, and I'm enjoying it so far... But man, his ****ing accent is awful. What makes it worse is that Liam, his best friend, has a perfectly fine Irish accent (as the actor is Irish). I get that doing the whole "VA does motion capture too" thing is popular right now, but it isn't really necessary imo.
I finally finished Rogue. Great game, but I have a few criticisms. First off, it's way too short. It's most 2/3rds the length of previous games, and thats being generous. Throughout that short length, you are made to visit maybe 10% of all the areas in the game, which is a shame because that makes most areas feel like filler even though they are so well made. New York from Assassins Creed III (pre-ravaged) is a huge area, and you have two other great sized maps to visit. One of them is an icy set of glacier islands with iceburgs and penguins around, and the other is an AC3 like terrain with bunch of forests connected by rivers. It's all very beautiful, but there is little incentive to actually go visit all these ports outside of collectibles and unlocking items/outfits.
Now on to the good. The story is actually pretty damn good. It explains why the Assassins are extinct by AC3, it explains the purpose of the precursor sites, and it gives us closure on a bunch past characters (all of it sad, unfortunately; Ezio is officially the only assassin to have a truly happy ending). It also spans a long time period, so it ties together AC4, 3, and Unity in huge ways. It felt like Revelations in this regard. Closure is always welcome. The only person who didn't get any closure was Shay himself, which is a shame. One of the things I liked about AC4 is that it worked as a self contained story. Edward had his ending.
Shay himself was an awesome character. It was cool playing as a badass, high ranking Templar (I always enjoy this aspect; Haytham Kenway is my second favorite character in this series, right behind his dad, so its great seeing his side for a game). We got to see history from their side throughout the entire game, and it was an interesting POV. On the other hand, it was sad wreaking havoc on the Assassins. One assassination especially, had a huge impact on me. Fuuaark. Shays character arc into a full out villain throughout the game was well done. The games short length did make it feel quick, but taking into account all the years that passed between sequences makes that forgivable, as does his reasoning for it all.
As far as the gameplay, while this did borrow a lot from AC4 and 3, it felt unique. The assassins are your enemies this time around, and they actually built the gameplay around that. You are hunted by enemies you cant see, and you're preventing assassinations as opposed to carrying them out. All the assassins you killed (your former friends) also had their own unique set pieces leading to their deaths, so while the game was short, it was bombastic all the way through. I had experiences in this game I've never had in an AC game. So many great missions.
Rogue is at it's best if you've played AC3, 4, and Unity to a lesser extent (it leads directly into Unity, so it's probably better to play Rogue before it). It serves as an exclamation point to AC3 and 4, so it does lose a bit of its own identity because of this. Shay is a vessel to closure for past games, and filling us in on certain characters and plot lines, while showing us the story from a different POV. I liked it, and it's definitely worth playing. I'd rank it a little lower than I originally thought though, since it doesn't really stand on its own as well. It really depends on you having played the other games.
1. Black Flag
tl;dr If you've played AC3 and 4, definitely play this one. Preferably before Unity.