Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection (Switch) Review
2019 was the year we finally got some Assassin’s Creed on our Switches, of course not including the streaming versions in Japan. Things got off to a bumpy start with Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered, launching with rough performance. Thankfully (and kinda surprisingly) it was patched up to a much better state, then it just depended on how much you liked that game. The concern was that Ubisoft might ditch any future ports after Assassin’s Creed 3 being released so roughly. But then they announced the Rebel Collection. Good news is that the collection includes Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, also joined by Rogue, Freedom Cry and all the other DLC. Time to take the leap of faith and see if we land in a sweet pile of hay or a steaming pile of manure.
The Rebel Collection contains the two other games connected to Assassins Creed 3; Black Flag and Rogue. Each one leads up to the events in AC3, while also containing modern-day sections that follow on after Desmond’s story. Don’t worry, Desmond isn’t to be seen here. For the most part, it just provides background information and continues on the current day plight of the Assassins against the Templar’s.
Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag is the tale of Edward Kenway during the golden age of piracy on the high seas. Building on the naval combat of AC3, Black Flag has a bigger focus on sailing, maritime battles and exploration of the many islands dotted throughout the Caribbean. There’s also plenty of on-land Assassining, as Edward goes from ‘coincidentally killed an assassin and stole their identity’ to ‘I’m an assassin pirate now’. After the more serious AC3, Black Flag doesn’t take itself as seriously, especially with the current day Abstergo sections. Abstergo, while being a front for the Templars, is also poking fun at Ubisoft in a few cheeky (but never too cheeky) ways. Black Flag feels like a course correct for the series now it’s unshackled itself from the mostly blank slate Desmond. While there are characters from the overall series, at this point in the AC series the focus is more about reliving periods of history with more cloaked people with hidden blades running around.
Originally a last-gen exclusive, Assassin’s Creed Rogue continues and concludes the story that begins with Black Flag and ends in AC3. Following Shay Cormac who, as a twist on the AC3 introduction, strays from the path of the Assassins guild leading to you becoming a Templar. Rogue continues the use of naval combat and exploration along with the usual on land activities (murdering, sneak murdering). Now with Shay on the other side, he must contend with Assassins that will sneak around requiring you to track them down first. While ship to ship combat is still a big thing, the introduction of colder climates adds a new danger. You can freeze to death when you linger in the icy waters. Rogue was released on the last-gen consoles, while the PS4 and Xbox One got AC Unity. Unity got off to a rough start, but it moved the series properly into the current-gen. Rogue felt like Ubisoft was giving the aging hardware one last hurrah while capping off the Kenway trilogy. It’s a shorter game than Black Flag, but there’s plenty to enjoy and it kinda slipped under the radar while the AC Unity bugs kept everyone distracted and angry at the series.
Not only are there the two full titles, but there’s also the season pass DLC which includes Freedom Cry. This expansion is based on the AC Black Flag character Adewalè, who wants to free others still in slavery and start a revolution against the corrupt leaders. As with the other games from this period of Assassin’s Creed, there is some ship combat and exploration. The DLC is shorter and more contained than the other games in this collection, but there is still at least five hours in this story and it’s worth spending that time with Adewalè. Another extra on the Black Flag side of things is the DLC for returning Assassin Aveline. This Is a shorter, more straight forward series of missions, following on from Assassin’s Creed 3 and Liberation. Compared to the other expansions it’s much shorter. Outside of some early sneaking around in an open space, it is also pretty linear. It’s a nice return to the character, although it’s a shame they didn’t have more content. With all the other games packed in here, you won’t be short of something to play for a while.
If you’re not familiar with the series, the games within the Rebel Collection are all third-person exploration/assassination/parkour based games. Now, of course, there’s also more open seas exploration, as all the pirating implies. You will also find boat battling, along with some modern-day first-person walking around the Abstergo offices and hacking into terminals for a change in pace. While walking around the offices there are QR codes to scan, and hacking minigames for when you’re sick of running around and climbing on everything. Being a Ubisoft open-world game there are the usual staples; synchronisation points that open up more of the map, lots of side missions, and random events that task you with saving, defending or catching people.
There’s also crafting where you’ll need to hunt animals across the islands to improve your gear and collect resources for your ship so you can turn it into a proper warship. It can all get a bit overwhelming if you want to 100% these games. On top of all of the missions and collectibles and exploring everywhere on the map, missions also come with secondary objectives that improve your sync rating to get that 100% mission complete. It took me many years of burning out on AC games 20-30 hours in to get used to not having to get every single collectible. Secondary objectives add an extra layer of challenge to a mission, but you’re not really missing out on anything if you just do what you have to see the mission through.
The part of the collection that will either be a big pro or negative is the ship travel and combat. If you’ve played AC3 you’d be familiar with it already, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or mug of ale). When you’re not at the fastest speed, the camera sticks close to your ship and it can be difficult to clearly see what’s going on around you. You can adjust to a degree, but for some, it just won’t be their thing. Personally I loved being able to sail across the oceans, finding little islands to run around on while braving the storms, giant waves and water spouts. Being older AC games now, they still control more like the games that came before it. Free Running is still hit and miss, but when you’re getting the flow of jumping and running along rooftops or swinging from rafter to signpost it feels great. You’re never far off from being brought back down to earth when hitting a slightly wrong angle, or the game is just sick of you being alive and unharmed for so long and drops you from a bell tower. It’s a small issue because it’s such a common issue with AC games, it’s never too bad and it works a lot more than it doesn’t.
Black Flag was a cross-gen title, and it even came out on the Wii U, so the Switch is more than up for the task. All the games in the Rebel Collection had the benefit of looking nice enough on the older hardware. Black Flag, in particular, is filled with some beautiful locations by the ocean. Along with capturing storms, giant waves and water spouts bear down on your ship. It may not look as impressive as it did all those years back, but it still holds up well.
If you’re familiar with the Assassin’s Creed series you know to expect your fair share of visual glitches. It’s nothing detrimental, just the usual things you can find with massive open-world games with a lot of NPCs.
The sound manages to capture the Assassins Creed feel, combined with a little Pirates of the Caribbean. More importantly are the collectible Sea Shanties, acting like the almanac pages from AC3. Chase these pages down and your crew will have a new shanty to sing as you sail around the Caribbean. After many hours out at sea, it’s hard not to get some of the shanty’s stuck in your head.
The main thing everyone likely wants to know with this release, especially after the pre-patched Assassin’s Creed 3, how does it perform? Great news everyone, the Rebel Collection runs as well as you could hope. The frame rate sits at 30fps which works fine. It usually sticks to that or very close to, no overly jarring movement this time around. The sound also seems to be generally better. After fixing the compression with AC3, those issues aren’t present here.
The Assassin’s Creed Rebel Collection more than makes up for the iffy start Assassins’ Creed 3 on the Switch suffered from. While favourite Assassin’s Creed games are a more personal preference, Black Flag is still one of the best games in the series and helped give the franchise a breath of fresh air after the lagging Desmond saga. Rogue may not be as big as Black Flag, but still has plenty to offer as well as a different take on your usual Assassin’s Creed game. If you’re looking for a game that will last you a while with a nice big open world within a decently priced package, then the Rebel Collection is worth plundering. (Buying, not actually stealing)
+ Some of the more fun Assassin’s Creed games
+ The collection runs well on the Switch
+ Lots to enjoy across 2 games and their DLC
- Increased use of boats might not be to everyone’s liking
- Free running is still very temperamental