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It’s rare that a shameless collectible hunt is as enjoyable as this.

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    Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    It’s rare that a shameless collectible hunt is as enjoyable as this.

    You just finished your mission, and you’re sailing down a rather narrow corridor of sea to check out the local area. As you sail past, you see an Animus Fragment on your mini-map. This Animus Fragment is not out of the way; in fact, you barely even have to move your ship to land on the island that contains it. Most of these Animus Fragment islands are quite simple, though they do vary in complexity; some will have you wrap around the landscape to ultimately gain enough height while others are quite straight-forward; it can almost always be said that there is a fast travel boat at the location as well so you can quickly and easily get back to sailing once you get the collectible. Nor are these collectibles so gratuitous in number that it makes collecting them to begin with daunting or irritating; in fact, they are almost always on your way to whatever you are doing next.

    It’s this kind of game design that really made Assassin’s Creed: Rogue stand out above every single other Assassin’s Creed game. Whether it be collecting all the flags in Assassin’s Creed 1, the feathers in Assassin’s Creed 2 or other similar monotonous tasks that ultimately required quite a bit of backtracking through familiar areas, this is a problem that has plagued the series since its inception. Collectibles were rarely a tool to reward the player for searching through an area, or perhaps having a keen eye for detail to notice a secret path. Instead, they were placed in annoying areas to reach, often required climbing, and in general, just tried to pad the time in the game rather than give you a unique and interesting experience. This is not so in Rogue. Like in Black Flag, Rogue offers singular environments where you can tell the developers put time and care into each one that you experience. Collectibles are offered to you in a neat list as you enter the island, and they are easily shown on your mini-map once you reach the synchronization point in the area.

    It cannot be said enough what this does for the series. Instead of being forced to backtrack through these familiar environments for these out-of-the-way collectibles that ultimately didn’t do much, what Rogue does is reward us for finding the collectibles to begin with, as well as has each collectible carefully designed and placed often in hard to reach places that require attention to the environment. Many islands will require you to fully analyze the environment, and also offer many puzzles. One frequently used is that the developers will place an Animus Fragment leading out of an area that may have been hard to get into initially through a Leap of Faith; this rewards players who note this down and decide to clean out the area instead, as they can forego having to climb back up to begin with. Players that do take these less optimal paths will still note in many places that the developers had a knack for hiding easy shortcuts through their levels in plain sight; many times playing the game I fell from messing up the free run controls, only to have an easy way back up right in front of me. For the exploration alone, this and Black Flag did a ton of work from moving collectibles as "mindless time-wasters" to "rewarding players for exploration".

    I have not fully reached 100% in an Assassin’s Creed game since Assassin’s Creed 1. I played that game when it had just come out, and I so thoroughly loved the setting and the unique gameplay that it offered me that I did bother to collect everything and reach that full synchronization rate, saving that final ending cutscene for my own eyes. Upon reflection, I look back on it as mostly wasted time; collecting all these flags didn’t offer me anything particularly interesting in terms of gameplay, it was a mindless fetch-quest. Go into an area on Rogue and you will find that you probably have some degree of familiarity with the landscape if you’ve already been through it; the environments tend to be varied enough to distinguish the areas, along with the tricks they use to hide items. You will remember some harder to reach items that may have taken you quite a bit of searching around the environment for that entrance into the section. Some of these gave you a great degree of frustration, but also ultimately, they gave you satisfaction once you finally got that 100% done on that island.

    And ultimately, it is this that personifies Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. What this series so sorely lacked was player engagement. Most of the solutions for things in the series are quite simple, or easily discerned with a try or two in time-based settings. Having collectibles that often amount to just going out of your way down to parkour back up the way you came doesn’t help with this in any degree whatsoever. Having enemies that aren’t threatening and can’t kill you also doesn’t keep the player engaged, like the Stalker enemies Rogue introduces to keep you on your toes (also thematically fitting the fact that you are fighting a different enemy than the ones you’ve fought in previous games). Rogue understood that in order to really make a truly great game, you have to challenge players sometime. You have to give them an opportunity to use what they learned, without holding their hand. You have to show them, and not tell them. I think this is the best Assassin’s Creed game I’ve played (for reference, 1, 2, Brotherhood, Revelations, 3, Black Flag and Syndicate) and it’s because the game doesn’t treat collecting the many things within it as a chore that is bothersome, but rather an opportunity to fully explore all the different ways they put things into a new environment.

    As someone that played the first Assassin’s Creed game, reached 100% over a decade ago and was convinced off of collecting everything in these games from that experience, I just finished up 100% synchronization in Rogue (after it being pretty much the only game I played for the duration of 35 hours I played it). I don’t regret a single bit of it because almost every single collectible offered me either a unique location, or just an interesting looking parkour to the collection; the ones that were less interesting were because they were easy to get and in front of my face (also, I can mention a couple Animus Fragments that require you to jump early in an environment with tons of sticky things, which were mean but I can’t hate). This game was the perfect send-off for the console this series began on. It took everything it could that stuck well with the previous games and tried to exemplify them. Native Totems offer that dungeon-crawling itch in a fresh new format that began with Assassin’s Creed 2 and collecting the Armor of Altair. They gave you a slightly weaker ship than in Black Flag, but you move faster and you don’t need the firepower because most of the ships you’re fighting in-land are not larger types, which makes exploring the environment much easier. The collectibles have been covered enough. Like how Assassin’s Creed 3 drew back to Assassin’s Creed 1’s grey tones in morality, Rogue also takes a lot of inspiration for that. I have not spoken of the plot whatsoever yet, but honestly, I think this game is strong enough on the gameplay and exploration alone to be worth playing.

    That is all I really have to say: this game was a blast to get 100% in and I enjoyed almost every moment of it. I rarely felt like the developers were going out of their way to waste my time; instead I felt challenged with learning a new environment and how to get around it, with tastefully placed collectibles that often made running through the level easy and fast with some consideration to the route after sychronizing. This game was easily the best experience I ever had in an Assassin’s Creed game.

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