Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Physical Version
Category: Action, Adventure, Role-Playing
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: December 6th, 2019 (Worldwide)
Price: $39.99 USD
The Assassin’s Creed Franchise has been going strong since 2007 with the first game’s protagonist Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and his fight against the Knights Templar during the Third Crusade. There have been 10 installments in the mainline series and seventeen spinoffs. The series has also branched into the literacy domain with novelizations on each of the main titles and the film industry with a motion picture film.
As regards to the Assassin’s Creed series on Nintendo consoles, Only two of them have previously been on Nintendo Wii U before the series made a return to Nintendo Switch in 2019. The two games being Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
The Nintendo Switch saw the release of Assassin’s Creed III Remastered earlier this year, which came bundled with all the previous DLC. Some of the content was not previously available for the Wii U version of the game, making it new for those that never played it on other platforms.
Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection brings Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag back to a Nintendo Console and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue along for the ride. Both games have been remastered and packaged together and contain all previously released DLC, including platform-exclusive content and some new content as well, which I will get to later on in the review.
Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection has two entries of the Assassin’s Creed series; Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue which I will now refer to as AC: Black Flag and AC: Rogue when talking about each game singularly. Both games follow an Abstergo Entertainment employee who is tasked with reliving the memories of an unnamed donor using a machine called the Animus.
The premise is that the memories are to be used to create action-adventure video games but there is a much darker reason why Abstergo Entertainment wants you to pry and research these memories. If you are going into these games without playing them before, I shall try to avoid heavy spoilers so you can experience and enjoy the game’s story arcs for yourself.
Using the Animus, you can relive the memories of two Assassin’s that blazed their own trail and followed their own creed. In AC: Black Flag, you take on the role of the rebellious Pirate Edward Kenway, who unwittingly sold out the Assassins to the Templars for a bit of coin. After learning that there is a bigger prize at stake known as “The Observatory”. Kenway swaps sides and helps the Assassins put an end to the Templars’ plans.
In AC: Rogue, you follow the story of Shay Cormac, an Irish assassin who is forced to abandon his brotherhood after their search for one of the pieces of Eden caused a catastrophe and destroyed an entire city. Racked with guilt, Shay is slowly enticed over to the side of the Templars and vows to stop the Assassins from causing any more destruction.
AC: Black Flag breaks the mold from previous entries in the Assassin’s Creed series by focusing more on the appeal of Pirates of the 18th century in the Caribbean and their declining foothold on the West Indies. The storyline eventually changes direction to that of the invisible war between Assassins & Templars when Edward Kenway lands himself in the middle of it. Having played it on Wii U, I already knew what I was getting into when picking the game up again. I can’t say the same for AC: Rogue though.
Having never played AC: Rogue before, I was bemused by its appeal and have found the story much more compelling than I thought. The events of Rogue take place between that of AC: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed III during the Seven Years War. Characters from both of those games are entwined into the story of AC: Rogue with the likes of Adawale, Achilles and Haytham Kenway, son of Edward Kenway. It also helps expand on the lineage of the Kenway family without making them the main focus.
Both Games are open-world action-adventure games that focus on Stealth and Free Running. Stealth takedowns consist of assassinations that can come from behind cover, from above or even direct view without the target being alert to your intentions. There are also possibilities to attack from a distance with certain weapons for those that prefer not to blow their cover.
Free Running gives the player the ability and freedom to climb almost anything and jump anywhere. From buildings to trees, towering walls and even ship rigging, Though there is some limitation to what you can climb and what you can’t, there are some subtle hints as to what is climbable and what isn’t. The freedom to create your own paths is welcomed and opens up a lot of possibilities to complete missions and objectives on your own terms whilst meeting the requirements set for each.
Of course, it isn’t all sneak attacks with hidden blades, sometimes you have to fight your way out of sticky situations. Armed with swords, pistols, and other weapons, You can make short work of your enemies whilst in combat. Some enemies can be easily defeated with a few swings of your sword but the likes of Brutes and Officers require a more refined method to counter and counter-attack.
During combat, players can Parry, Counter, Break Defense or use their alternative weapon on opponents. After a successful counter, you can move in to kill, push away or disarm your enemy. Using Smoke bombs during difficult encounters can create an opportunity to escape, especially when low on health. Using sleep darts or berserk darts can also help swing the outcome to your favor by incapacitating enemies or setting them off to kill their own.
As well as the main storyline that at times, is essential to follow in order to access more of the world for you to explore, There are a large number of side activities to indulge in. There are Animus Fragments that help towards your total Synchronization. There are chests to raid, Sea Shanties to collect and Forts to lay siege to as well as other side missions to take part in.
Both games take place at sea just as much as they do on land. Both Edward Kenway and Shay Cormac have their own vessel to call their own. You can upgrade your vessel with stronger armor, more cannons, add Mortars and even change the appearance of it with different sails, figurehead and Captain’s Wheel.
Whilst aboard your vessel, you can engage in roaring sea battles with enemy ships. Ships can range from any class including; Gunboat, Schooner, Brig, Frigate and Man O’ War. In order to upgrade your ship, you will need materials as well as coin in order to do so. You will at times need to attack other ships in order to claim their own resources to meet your needs.
When an enemy ship is severely damaged, it will become available for boarding, allowing you to jump aboard the enemy vessel and fight it’s crew until they surrender. Sometimes you will have to accomplish other objectives like killing the Captain, Officers and/or cut down the Ship’s Flag. Should you not wish to board the vessel, another round of cannon fire will sink it and allow you to collect half of the loot onboard.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
As well as the main campaign, side missions and collectibles, there are other features like Kenway’s Fleet / Cormac’s Fleet. This is a sort of strategic minigame that has the player in control of a fleet of ships that can participate in naval battles and be sent along trading routes to acquire income and treasures.
At some point during both games, you will be able to renovate certain properties. In AC: Black Flag, you get the opportunity to own your own Island and with it, provide amenities for all those that wish to reside there. In AC: Rogue, you can increase the income that you can collect periodically by renovating buildings that are in need of repair.
At the Taverns, you can take a break from the usual swashbuckling, brawls and assassinations by playing games like dice or draughts or learn information from the Barkeeper. Not all taverns are accessible right away and may require beating up some local ruffians in order to unlock them. The Taverns also allow you to drink yourself merry, though if you drink too much, you will eventually blackout and wake up somewhere else with no recollection of how you got there. Kind of like in real life!
Character health, owning more guns and certain outfits can be obtained by crafting. In order to craft, you need to find and skin animals for their pelts. Animals can be found on land and at sea from hares and deer to Great White Sharks and Humpback Whales. Most of the animals will run away from you on land with the exception of Jaguars and Crocodiles but can be hunted with the usual techniques like assassinations, shot with a pistol or blowpipe, etc.
Sea Animals, on the other hand, are hunted via Harpooning spots where you have to launch harpoons at your quarry until you run out, have your rowboat destroyed or you land the critter. If you are successful in the hunt, you will haul up the bounty on to your ship and collect materials that you can use to craft or sell.
I can’t help but question my own moral standing when it comes to killing virtual animals. I have no problem murdering the virtual people of the world like the guards, Templars, and Assassins but you tell yourself that these people somehow deserve it. The animals, however, were just minding their own business and until you come along and make them extinct. As an animal lover, it does twist my gut when having to slay them for my own personal gain. I do have to tell myself that it is just a game and that I am not killing real-life animals.
The Soundtrack to Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection is still as good as it was in the original games that are included in the collection, if not a tiny bit better. I particularly enjoy listening to the sailors as they sing Shanties whilst at sea, though the orchestral soundtrack also does well to pick up pace and ramp up the tension during action sequences.
The dialogue from the voice actors is well done, though there are noticeable drops in Shay Cormac’s accent from time to time. As regards to the sound effects, they sound real enough from the cannon fire and thunderclap to the swishing of swords and gunshots. It all adds to the acoustic experience and makes every fight and battle feel realistic, up until the electronic buzzing and alarms remind you that it is all just a “simulation” and that you are close to desynchronization.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
The visuals have definitely seen an upgrade with the remaster. The Wii U had quite a few issues with rendering shadows and other effects. The Switch version handles this much better and the draw distance is very good for the console. However, NPC’s are not always procedurally generated and can pop-up on screen in an instant which, makes the game feel less natural.
Performance-wise, Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection is very good and it is evident that improvements have been made, as well as some heavy optimization to make sure the game runs as smooth as it can. The frame rate is an exceptionally steady 30 fps and makes only the slightest of drops when engaged in harsh naval battles as the Switch is pushed to its limits to emulate everything as smooth as possible.
If compared between other versions of the Remaster, though compromises have been made, the Switch version looks significantly better than the Xbox One version and falls somewhere between the Xbox One and PS4. The optimization team has done an incredible job making the Switch version look as good as it possibly can.
Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection is not without its faults. There are a number of graphical issues that rear their ugly head from time to time. Such issues include clipping, disappearing textures, and my personal favorite, NPC’s being deconstructed like they have been sucked into a matter-bending anomaly. That has happened to me once in the remaster and I have yet to be able to replicate the experience but it was certainly a disturbing one.
The multiplayer mode has been completely removed from the game which is a bit of a shame for those that never got the chance to play the online modes the first time around. The community events have also been removed, further limiting online play. Some special treasure chests can still be found dotted around but the map but there are no extra perks for finding them.
Still, there is plenty to do even without the community events and the online multiplayer mode. The Assassin Contracts, Abstergo challenges, Naval Contracts and the many different collectibles found over each and every part of both game worlds will keep the most avid of collectionists busy long after the main story is been beaten.
Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection brings one of the best Assassin’s Creed games to the Nintendo Switch and one of the most underrated ones as well. The Swashbuckling fun and Naval Battles in both games provide an experience that is fun and engaging both in handheld mode and docked.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*A Physical copy of the game was purchased for the purposes of this review
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