Assassin’s Creed Rogue

I'm going to NYC next week, so here's a picture of "me" close to where my hotel will be a few hundred years later.

I’m going to NYC next week, so here’s a picture of “me” close to where my hotel will be a few hundred years later.

Another month, another Assassin’s Creed – this time, I played through the last-gen exclusive Rogue, which is basically Ubisoft saying “okay, next current-gen got a shiny new title, here’s something we hastily cobbled together from assets taken from Black Flag and Unity so even the last Xbox 360 or PS3 user will want to make the switch”.

It all sounds pretty bad, and it occasionally happens to look pretty bad as well: asset recycling is abundant, bugs are aplenty and I had the game crash twice during my play through. The lack of optimization is staggering; on some of the more hectic missions I experienced strange frame rate drops all the way down to zero for several seconds, and that with a mandatory hard drive installation. Why that installation was even necessary in the first place is beyond me since Black Flag ran perfectly fine without it and it’s more or less the same game.

Yep, it's Black Flag without black flags.

Yep, it’s Black Flag without black flags. Oddly enough, there are absolutely no real pirates in these waters while the south seas were absolutely infested with them.

These technical issues aside I did enjoy my time as a Templar, even though it became pretty clear that Ubisoft didn’t bother much with coming up with an excuse to reskin Black Flag. No matter what the player character is supposed to be, the whole piracy thing is still on, although you’re now sailing under the British flag and the victims are usually French – as opposed to just everyone in Black Flag. Several missions feel like they have been lifted directly from Black Flag in terms of objectives and mechanics with only slight changes to the story. Having completed Black Flag only recently I felt somewhat fatigued by the repetition, but I guess that was to be expected.

One thing that annoyed me a bit was that while the game duly recognized my efforts in the previous games and awarded me with a specific costume for each completed prequel, I still had to go through the tutorial missions like some newbie who’d never played an Assassin’s Creed game before. At this point in the franchise’s lifespan they could really come up with a way to be able to skip all that crap and get right into the meat of the game.

No idea what secondary sequences even are because the completion tracker doesn't seem to list them, but I can't really be arsed to do more.

Something fishy is going on with the completion tracker – the three cyan bars all say 100% while the identical-colored “secondary sequences” count reads 69%. That can’t be right …

Still, the ~28 hours spent on the game weren’t a time I didn’t enjoy. However, I’m happy to leave the Americas trilogy behind and finally get into big cities like Paris and London again. The American cities really weren’t great for climbing with their small buildings and all the samey-looking forest environments just lead to extremely easy and dull climbing puzzles. And seriously: they could have put more effort into designing trees. Having only one tree per climbing mechanic is just lazy.

Since I’m going on holiday to the USA next week I don’t really want to start a big new game before that (and certainly not AC: Unity!) so I don’t know … maybe I’ll throw in Call of Duty Black Ops II since I just noticed I kinda missed that too.

Quest log update: July

Upon turning on my Xbox One today to install the next game on my quest to complete all the (interesting) AAA games I missed over the last years, I was greeted by yet another patch download. Considering how little I used the console since I got it, it’s probably no surprise, but I remember downloading a huge update only recently, so it’s getting a bit on my nerves. What’s even worse is that the update aborts all the time, but it doesn’t automatically try to resume, so I have to check on the console every few minutes. Argh!

Right after finishing the stellar, but technically flawed The Wolf Among Us, the new Batman Arkham Knight game was released. Having played none of the previous Batman titles I was interested enough to at least take a look at Batman Arkham Asylum, a game I had on my shelf for a good two years without even cracking it open. I must admit that I have very little interest in super heroes in general and Batman in particular because I am no longer 12 years old, but after watching a review on the latest game, the combat system looked compelling enough to at least take a look.

Well, what can a say – I didn’t really stop “taking a look” until I reached what I presume is the final boss fight. It’s certainly a better game than I had anticipated – and it’s still looking great despite it’s age – but I must admit the combat system didn’t really click with me. I could fumble and button mash my way to the end, but that’s probably it. Not sure if I’ll bother to try and complete it – even though I really liked the puzzles, I feel like I have seen enough of the game to move on.

Next on the agenda was The Walking Dead including its “400 Days” DLC. Oddly enough the technical issues The Wolf Among Us had weren’t present here at all, although I did run into my fair share of glitches, including an almost game-breaking bug where a door I was supposed to open wasn’t clickable until I replayed the entire scene. My verdict? Doesn’t quite beat The Wolf Among Us in terms of artwork, writing or characters, but it’s certainly an experience worth having. The DLC was nice, but rather short – I wouldn’t have bought it on it’s own, but it was included in the GOTY anyway.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

Finally I felt ready to tackle the next game in the seemingly endless Assassin’s Creed franchise: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. Having been severely disappointed by the mediocre third installment with it’s hodgepodge of systems, I was pretty certain the next contender would be even less enjoyable, but fortunately for me, that wasn’t the case. Black Flag certainly offers a lot of stuff, but it’s a way more structured offering than the previous game, and most of the systems actually make sense in context of the game. There’s still way too much nonsensical stuff to collect and most of the crap doesn’t even count in terms of achievements – I am looking at you, Animus Fragment! – but the treasure maps are a cool addition and I greatly enjoyed the thrill of exploring shark-infested shipwrecks. For a 360 game, the graphics were excellent, especially after AC3 was a step back in that department, and the music was also really good. One should not forget the fantastic Shanties, of which I got several stuck in my head now, especially “Leave Her, Johnny“.

Despite being not very interested in pirate life in general – again, I’m no longer a kid – I did enjoy the story very much, but the best “addition” was the almost entire lack of WTF moments in the “real world” sequences. Where all games including AC3 had a ludicrous storyline filled with crazy talk about beings of old trying to save humanity from certain doom, almost all of that got tossed out of the window. Instead, the player works for Abstergo Entertainment, a Templar-run company which is clearly a spitting image of Ubisoft, and this setup was much more fun to me than the usual doom-and-gloom setup of the older games. The cameos by certain Assassins during the present-day episodes were greatly appreciated as well, as well as the fantastic end sequence.

Not sure how the game's visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

Not sure how the game’s visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

After about 40 hours of sailing the seven seas, I got to a point where I didn’t care enough about the remaining achievements to continue playing. I loved my time on the Jackdaw, but I’ll take after Edward Kenway and move on.

I’ll need a while to recharge my spirits before the next Assassin’s Creed, which will be Rogue, so the next game to cross off my list will be Ryse: Son of Rome. Despite having the Xbox One for over a year now, I never played anything on it except for Watch_Dogs which is multi-platform anyway and certainly doesn’t look like a next-gen title should. Now I just need to wait for my Xbox One to finally download the update … 1675 megabytes to go, moving at a snail’s pace. Oh well, I guess it’s time for me to relax.