I started with the Assassin’s Creed series back when the first game came out in 2007, and then loved Assassin’s Creed II in 2009, but I didn’t get in to any of Ezio’s offshoot games. In 2012 I picked up Assassin’s Creed III, but it didn’t really pull me in and I dropped off the series from there. Last summer I started playing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and it’s pulled me way back in to the series. Since then I played through AC4 , finished up AC3 (it turns out I’d stopped it just before a twist that would have kept me hooked), and knocked out the Freedom Cry expansion for AC4. I’ve had Assassin’s Creed Unity sitting on my shelf since I started AC4, but since I have heard it wasn’t great I decided to try out Assassin’s Creed Rogue on the Xbox 360 next.

Rogue came out at the same time as Unity, back in November of 2014, but was released for the older systems (360 and PS3) while Unity was specifically made for the modern consoles. I picked up a 360 copy a while back, expecting it to be a weak little brother to AC4, but it turns out it’s good… like, really, really good! I think it might be my favorite game in the series so far.

I went in to this entry with very little info, except for hearing that it was more of AC4, and from a gameplay perspective that is absolutely true. AC3 introduced sailing to the Assassin’s Creed universe, but it felt clunky and awkward in that game (probably because I played AC4 first), so I was glad the mechanics here pulled from the more recent system. The weapon selectional tool also got a huge improvement in AC4, and Rogue pulls straight from that. Really, there wasn’t much that changed from AC4 to this… the dart gun was replaced by an air rifle (but they function exactly the same) and the fire barrels from AC4 were replaced by being able to dump burning oil behind your ship (but I never really used either of those weapons in either game). The only real new addition was a grenade launcher that can shoot shrapnel, sleep, and berserk grenades, but aiming it felt a bit clunky, so I didn’t use it much outside of areas it was required.

The biggest change from AC4 to Rogue is the setting. Since I kept hearing that this was more of the same, I assumed it was also going to be set in the tropics. That made the North Atlantic setting a huge, but welcome, surprise. The ice burg filled oceans and jagged coastlines ended up being way more entertaining to sail through than the Caribbean, and having more developed cities to explore made this feel more like older AC games than Black Flag ever did. The world also seems more expansive than AC4, with several different regions to explore, each with different weather, trees, and animals. I was surprised at the end to realize there was a whole section of New York I never even set foot in. In fact, the only failing in the world of Rogue might be that the story was so short that I don’t feel like I had a chance to explore all of it’s nooks and crannies.

On the story… The major plot device of this game is a series of Precursor sites that the Assassin’s think can be used to control the world… somehow. When Assassin Shay Cormac accidentally triggers the destruction of Lisbon by exploring one of these sites (and discovering that they actually hold the world together… or something), he defies his mentor, Achilles, for meddling with powers he doesn’t understand. This eventually results in him joining the Templar Order in hunting down his former brothers. Playing the role of the betrayer is an interesting twist from the past games, but it’s really the inclusion of Adéwalé (from AC4) and Achilles (from AC3) as adversaries that make this interesting.

Setting this game between two others in the series means that you aren’t (always) going up against random, nameless Assassin’s, you get to hunt down characters that the player already has a huge emotional investment in (the end of Achilles’ story in AC3 in particular had me shedding tears, so seeing him in his prime was… complex). Without having played those other games, the story probably wouldn’t be quite as engaging, but I think it’d still be enough to push you from point A to point B (at least more than the beginning of AC3 did for me).

I really, really loved this game, even though it was short. I’ve been trying to burn through the Assassin’s Creed games to get up to date ever since Black Flag pulled me back in to the series, but since I’ve heard so many negative thoughts on Unity, I think I might just keep exploring the North Atlantic for a bit longer.

What do you think? Did you get a chance to play Rogue, or did it slip under your radar as just a distraction from the main series, like Arkham Origins Blackgate or any of the Grand Theft Auto or Final Fantasy offshoots? Or maybe you’ve found other offshoots that best the main entries in a series like Rogue does for Assassin’s Creed? I’m curious what everyone thinks!