Assassin's Creed: The Rebel Collection Review
Assassin's Creed: The Rebel Collection includes two complete games, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag and Assassin's Creed Rogue, as well as all DLC released for both of the games. The two games make for a good pairing, as the events of Rogue take place not long after those in Black Flag and both games give you a sailing ship and let you experience the life of a privateer in the New World. Since both games originally debuted during the PS3/Xbox 360 console generation, the Switch has no trouble running these games without slowdowns or graphical issues, and the games take advantage of some of the Switch's features such as touchscreen navigation while in portable mode. The two games and their DLC can be accessed from a top-level menu and can be played in any order or simultaneously, although from a narrative perspective it's best to begin with Black Flag and its DLC before moving on to Rogue.
If you missed these games the first time around or never played the preceding games in the series, then the series' central conceit, that you're an employee at a game company that uses "genetic memories" to allow players to relieve the past lives of historical figures, can be a little jarring and confusing at first. In addition, the game also assumes that you're already familiar with the struggle between the two secret factions in the game's universe, the Assassins and the Templars, and so it doesn't provide much background on this. New players can still enjoy the games' stories on their own, though, but to come completely up to speed a visit to a wiki or two will be necessary. The two games' stories explore a similar theme in two different ways in that neither game's protagonist is dedicated to the cause. Black Flag's Edward Kenway is an opportunist who takes on the identity of a dying man to pursue a Templar treasure and finds himself on the side of the Assassins as a result. Rogue's Shay Cormac is a novice Assassin who becomes disillusioned with the cause and changes his allegiance to the Templars instead.
The gameplay in each game is pretty similar, the most distinguishing feature aside from the stories being each game's setting. Both games have an open world design that is primarily navigated by sea, the difference being that Black Flag takes place in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Pirates and Rogue in New England during European colonization. While on the high seas you can engage in battle with other ships, a dance that involves trying to bring a broadside to bear on the enemy while trying to not to expose yourself to a full broadside from the enemy. If you refrain from destroying an enemy ship entirely, you can attempt to board and capture it which will give you the opportunity to capture more cargo and to strip the ship for parts and supplies. After grappling the crippled enemy vessel, you and your crew will board the enemy ship to engage in hand-to-hand combat until one side overwhelms the other. The naval combat is fun and exciting, especially when you are engaged with multiple enemies at once, but for the most part it's a voluntary experience. The seas are open enough that most of the time you can avoid or seek combat as you desire.
When on land, the games provide a more traditional Assassin's Creed experience. You'll traverse towns along their rooftops, turning each one into a parkour playground as you hunt down your assassination targets, chests and treasures to loot, and collectibles left in tricky to reach locations. Black Flag and Rogue provide numerous smaller locations instead of the larger urban environments of the games that preceded them, as well as wilderness locations that will have you using your parkour skills to leap from tree to tree and scurry across cliff faces. For the most part the traversal is easy to control and its exciting to chase down a fleeing enemy as you leap from one building to the next and thrilling to scale a tower to reach the spire and gaze at the surrounding city. The traversal system does have its quirks, though, and there are times when you'll find yourself suddenly grabbing a beam or scaling a wall when you had no intention of doing so.
The best way to survive in the game is to rely on stealth and your assassin skills. Sticking to the shadows, tall grass, and rooftops, you can pounce on your enemies unaware, killing them instantly with a deadly blow. Stay out of sight, carefully chose the moments to strike when you can do so unseen, and keep the bodies of your victims hidden, and you can take down an entire garrison on your own. Make a mistake or become careless, and you can quickly find yourself outnumbered. As an Assassin you have the skills to fight several enemies at once, which is accomplished with the game's timing-based combat system in which you need to parry attacks or break an enemy's stance before delivering a strike. You can still be overwhelmed if you draw too much attention, so sometimes the best thing to do is to turn tail and run. The enemy pursuit can be relentless, so you'll either need to lose your pursuers by using your parkour skills while avoiding attracting the attention of any other enemies, or find a place to hide out of sight for a bit.
Neither Black Flag nor Rogue provide the same sort of full open worlds that you find in the series' latest iterations, Origins and Odyssey. The locations are all artificially boxed-in to be self-contained, with cliff sides and the sea forming the walls of each one. You'll soon discover that the games' used the seas as a way to give the games the illusion of open worlds more so than actually delivering the complete freedom of truly open world. Fast travel and a full sails option when onboard your ship, along with the game's enjoyable naval battles, prevent this open world construct from turning into a travel grind, though.
The open nature of the games in this collection make them work well in portable mode. The game doesn't suffer from being played on a small screen, especially since it doesn't really heavily on a HUD or menus. When you're short on time, you can snag a few collectibles or attack a ship or two. When you have more time you can explore one of the smaller locations, and when you need to kill a larger chunk of time you can take on a story mission. All multiplayer aspects have been removed during the port to the Switch, so you never need to be tied down to an access point to play the game.
Assassin's Creed: The Rebel Collection provides a lot of gameplay for your money, even though overall Rogue feels a lot like Black Flag reskinned and moved to a new setting from a gameplay perspective. It's easy to recommend The Rebel Collection to action game fans, especially those who want to turn their daily commute into an adventure on the high seas.
Final Rating: 88% - Set your Switch to full sail.