The first thing I notice about AC Rogue is how it sounds. Not only does it have a beautiful soundtrack, but the menu effects are brightened and the water, wildlife, and footsteps – especially in the snow – are all more refined and realistic.
Rogue’s graphics are crisp; costume details have been upgraded and the gameworld elements have been diversified. It looks a lot more organic, the transitions between ground/water/tree and indoor/outdoor are smoother, and loading screens are quick. I’m betting a lot of this is due to the 1 GB install you’re required to perform on the 360 before you can even get to the game’s dashboard.
Movement controls haven’t changed from AC Black Flag, but compared to Edward Kenway, Shay Cormac is “lighter”, and more quick on his feet. Controller input response time feels improved. And while the sailing mechanics are the same as we all loved from Black Flag, it’s an amazingly different feeling to sail the north Atlantic waters than the Caribbean sea!
These things said, AC Rogue doesn’t feel new. If Assassin’s Creed 3 (may it rest in hell forever) was rebuilt on the Black Flag framework, it wouldn’t have crashed and burned quite so badly. That’s what Rogue feels like: Shay is Connor 2.0.
Unfortunately, for now, the character writing feels tired, worn out. I’m definitely not drawn to Shay like I was Edward, nor do I really love any of his mentors (thought there is a nice surprise visit from an old Black Flag friend!), but it’s only been an hour. The gameworld is beautiful enough to distract me, so far, and I haven’t been trapped into quests that demand I finish before chasing that feather or playing a tavern game.
I’m very glad to find that they kept the “Abstergo Entertainment” current-time aspect: you’re still using the animus and tracking DNA memory completion. I’m disappointed that the completion criteria notification improvements from Liberation were NOT retained for Rogue. It’s still not clear what actions give you 100% completion for a memory, unless you actively pause and look it up at the first second that countdown clock starts ticking. I was annoyed. But on the bright side again, there are new hacking puzzles, which I’ve always loved doing.
If for no other reason, I’m glad to be playing Rogue because the information Easter eggs in current-time world are excellent at filling in story holes between AC3, 4, Freedom Cry, and even all the way back to the original Assassin’s Creed.