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I just finished playing AC:Rogue's main story line and I'm pleasantly surprised.
I was not originally going to buy Rogue as it seemed to just be milked out DLC but after reading the reviews (and only have a last-gen console) I thought I'd give it a go.
It feels like it's own game. Whilst the gameplay is naturally similar to Black Flag and Freedom Cry it the character is distinctive enough (although the accent is a little too cliche at times!) and dominating enough that it doesn't feel like a repeat performance. It it frustrating that there is no real choice in main combat - hidden blades and sword&dagger are good but why couldn't we just have the sword or just have the dagger as combat options too? When raiding ships and stealth isn't an option, it can get repetive. The Morrigan looks and plays differently, so I can still somehow pour hours into the naval gameplay and not be bored! Shay's customisable appearance is much more diverse than before and I started choosing the right outfit for the right mission just because there was so much choice! The environment is amazing and diverse. Often being artic and looking nothing like ACIV, it is genuinely impressive how massive the world is and how open it is (I stopped the Morrigan in the North Passage, got off the boat and went for a wander on the ice - there was nothing there but it's impresive to remember that anywhere you can just get off the boat and what should be walkable is walkable). The world is just amazing things happening everywhere. After helping a war skirmish, I can save someone from falling off a cliff, then do the hunting I intended to do, then get on my ship sail to a burning ship run through the ship then baddassly leap off the mast as it sinks, then sail off to rescue some POWs and come across treasury ships...just wow.
Most importantly of all though - the story. This is the story Black Flag could have used. Now I have said before that ACIV is one of the best games I have ever played - it really is - but it didn't feel like and AC game, with limited time dedicated to Assassins, Templars and TWCB story wise. Rogue does this extremely well. A by-product of the story itself no doubt, which forces allegiance into the player's mind constantly - but still a welcome sign. As AC progressed we learned more about the history of the Assassin-Templar war but to be honest the biggest information we received was at the end of ACII - sure some of Desmond's temple runnings in ACIII added a some more but to be hones the last couple of games (I haven't played Unity) have seemed to avoid exploring the history further. Rogue does a good job of making the POEs the focus of the game and has a good story in general.
The only thing I don't buy is Shay's conversion. Leaving the Assassins? Yes, it is really well thought through and written. What a way to make him leave (the brutality of his Portugal escape - being thrown around etc. reflects this nicely). But as for how he joins the Templars? I feel that the bare bones - they're helping people to be equal, the wages, the development - really appealed to Shay but how that leads to him swearing fealty to the people he heard so much bad about during his training....just seems like there's a memory or two missing where he works with the Templars in other ways (which sounds more like a production time saving issue than bad story telling.)
I do feel Rogue has a missed opportunity though. There is so much we don't know about the Templars. Shay being Shay and questioning everything I would have thought this game would have at least given us a little bit more - i.e. who is the Father of Understanding?
The modern day contiues to disapoint really. I completed all the hacks and found all the tablets and while it was interesting, it never really blew me away (but that's because I think, fundamentally, first person playing does not work in a story driven series - you cannot have a voiceless, choiceless character in a world full of moral grey). Coming across the Instruments' logo in one of the bathrooms after one of the earlier missions made me think that there was going to be a bigger plot point. When we had to go to the server room again I expected Juno to reappear and this character was going to be her host. But nothing really happened.
As someone who loved the glyphs and rifts, I really like all the collectables (the animus fragments have a meaning now!) but there are so many of them I kind of feel put off. I haven't got many of the animus fragments yet. I have all the cave paintings and while I really liked the story and how it was done I expected more from an AC game - like after the woman finished reading the story the Instruments/Erudito would hack the animus and show or at least hint at how the story relates to TWCB (imprisoning bad people bellow the ground sounds like how they stored Juno, so maybe it could have been a hint on how to recapture her for the Templars or whatever...it just feels like a missed opportunity.
I really liked Rogue. It surprised me that it wasn't just DLC and the story was good, but it just felt like ubisoft holding us off of the bigger plot. If Shay's story was meant to be a conversion signal for the Assassins I would have liked to have seen some effect of that. All-round an impressive game!