‘Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection’ Shows The Switch Can Go Large
I've only dipped a toe, so far, in the Assassin's Creed: The Rebel Collection, a compilation of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Freedom Cry and Assassin's Creed Rogue released tomorrow for Nintendo Switch. I've stabbed a few folk, trailed others, fired off some cannonballs and free-ran my way across a smattering of rooftops; but really, my adventure is only beginning. But this particularly pirate-y set is certainly welcomed, and represents another open-world game (or two) of the recent past given a new home on the successful hybrid console.
Or, in other words: I can finally get around to playing these games properly, now. Such is the time I spend commuting these days that the Switch has become my primary console, relegating the Xbox One and PS4 to secondary status, used only during the fleetingly few hours I get to game at home (time that's always in competition with the kids' YouTube and Netflix requests, and whatever series my wife's got into on our streaming subscriptions).
Even though I did manage to stack a good 300 hours and more into The Witcher 3 and its DLC on PS4, I've accumulated a healthy 80 hours of handheld play on the game's Switch port, since its October release. And Black Flag held my attention for a while there, back around its 2013 release - at which time I was playing it on PS3, not PS4. But the thing about doing this as a job, as well as for fun, is that it's tough to commit fun-only time to new or old releases - there's rarely any content in simply enjoying a game. So Black Flag, which I wasn't covering in a meaningful way, just faded into the background, buried by other noise.
But my commuting time is my time, and it's here where Black Flag - likewise the brand-new, excellent port of Alien: Isolation, another golden sort-of-oldie revived for Switch (which Digital Foundry has claimed looks better than its PS4 cousin) - is going to shine, I hope.
Black Flag in particular, though, is a port that gives me hope for grander, bolder adventures on Nintendo's present flagship machine. Not only does it look the business, its azure blues and verdant greens popping sharply on the Switch screen, but its sheer scale has me excited for what treasures the Switch could yet give us, both in terms of fresh ports and all-new projects.
Black Flag's map is around 90 square miles in size. Granted, a lot of that is the oceans of the Caribbean, but nevertheless, it's a huge open world, the kind of game that Switch detractors were adamant couldn't come to the system when it debuted in 2017. That was until The Witcher 3, and its bounty of DLC, came out and illustrated just what magic the Switch's Tegra X1 processor was capable of.
Of course, Breath of the Wild was a big deal, too, when it came to both quality of experience and breadth of world. But its stylised visuals kept it feeling unreal, whereas places like Novigrad and Havana are rendered in a more lifelike manner.
And when it comes to size, Black Flag matters. That 90 square miles eclipses, so far as I can tell from an admittedly very cursory peek around the internet, anything else on Switch. Rogue's North Atlantic waters come in at 43 square miles. The Witcher 3? About 52 square miles, apparently. Breath of the Wild spanned just under 24 square miles, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim roughly 16 square miles. Should Grand Theft Auto V ever come to Switch, its map is 49 miles squared. Red Dead Redemption 2 comes in at 29 square miles, and its predecessor of 2010 at 12 square miles. Nier: Automata stretches across an estimated 3.4 square miles. What a runt.
You see, perhaps, where this is going: if the Switch can handle, seemingly easily enough (reminder that I'm not especially deep into this yet), the size of Black Flag, when should we expect other grand gaming worlds from the past couple of console generations to appear on it? I know, I know, that size isn't everything, and there are myriad factors to consider when it comes to the suitability of a port, and the compromises that have to be made for Switch when compared to PS4 or XBO. But, surely, surely, if I can have Black Flag on my Switch, I could have Red Dead, too? Not Red Dead 2, though, obvs. (But, maybe?)
Big, bold, legitimately blockbuster games on the go has been an ambition of the industry, and a wish-list mainstay of players, for countless years. The Game Boy reveled in its limitations so didn't try to match what the NES was doing. The DS was comfortable in its own skin. Sony's PSP and Vita aimed for home console parity but came up short, most of the time. The Switch, it seems, can finally deliver experiences that hold up to comparisons not only with PS3 and Xbox 360 games but also PS4 and XBO releases. And Black Flag is the biggest example of this yet - a true epic of handcrafted world-building that's also right at home on a small screen.
It could even be argued that the Black Flag that forms part of the Rebel Collection is the definitive version of Ubisoft's game. It's DLC complete, which is great, and throws in Rogue for good measure; but it also uses the exclusive functions of the Switch, like HD Rumble, motion control aiming (optional, but a treat for naval battles) and touch-screen interface options. And it's great to see a port that recognises how new host hardware can improve the experience, after others that, well, haven't taken advantage of these features.
I'm into it, is what I'm saying, and feel that this could just be the beginning of a wave of wonderful ports, as teams properly get to grips with what the Switch can do - it's always the case that devs take a while to really make the most of a generation's gaming hardware. Rockstar, Rocksteady, Square Enix and more: I'm looking at you, I'm looking at this, and I'm waiting.
Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft