Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me.Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is 2013’s contribution to the annualized franchise. It breathes fresh air into the series, while expanding the scope of the game and building on concepts introduced in previous entries. On top of all that, the majority of the problems that the series has faced in the past, although still there, have been greatly reduced.
Black Flag puts you in control of Edward Kenway, the father and grandfather to Haytham and Connor respectively, from Assassin’s Creed III. Unlike the characters in Assassin’s Creed III, Edward has only one motivation in the entire game: gold.
That’s really one of the positives of Black Flag, it stops taking itself so seriously and embraces its concepts, becoming a much more fun game. Sure, there are still plot points involving fighting with the Templars and the search for a bit of First Civilization technology called The Observatory, but when it comes down to it, Assassin’s Creed IV is all about being a pirate and letting you plunder and pillage at your own discretion.
The game does this by building the game around the ship combat that debuted in Assassin’s Creed III. Ubisoft pulls out all the stops here, making Black Flag one of the greatest pirate sims ever. You can dock to almost any island you come across as you sail the beautiful looking sea. One of the collectibles you can find on the mainland are Shanties, which are songs that your crew will sing aloud while on the high seas. The real attraction though, is the ability to attack and board any ship you may come across.
The process of attacking and boarding the ships is easy and a helluva lot of fun. Once you have done a considerable amount of damage to said ship, you get the option to board it, swinging by rope from your boat to the enemies boat and clearing the deck of your opposition. After the deed is done, you get to decide what to do with the ship, whether you take the extra material, convert the ship and crew, or lower your wanted level.
This is, however, where the game runs into one of its most annoying qualities. Upgrading your ship, the Jackdaw, becomes a time sink very quickly and is basically required to finish late game missions. There are options to plunder warehouses on islands for material, but rarely do they garner more than a meager amount of supplies. You get the most materials from boarding and taking ships, which quickly turns that fun concept into a boring and tedious chore as you repeat the process over and over to acquire the right amount of metal and wood for that hull upgrade you’re needing.
While some of the new features bring about some new issues, many of the problems that many complained about in past games are either done away with or much less glaring than they were in previous entires. The most obvious being the game’s modern day segments.
Previously, these moments had been the bane of most gamer’s time with the Assassin’s Creedfranchise, but keeping with the more fun loving feel, Black Flag not only makes the modern day sections limited if you choose, but also much more interesting.
In a deliciously meta twist, the modern day sections place you as a faceless employee who works for Abstergo Entertainment that spends his or her time collecting data on Edward’s life for a game called, you guessed it, Assassin’s Creed. Most of these sections are optional, but I found walking around and hacking computers to be interesting because of the wealth of information and extra history you get by doing so.
Another improvement to the game is the controls. The patented Assassin’s Creed free running comes back in force and is better than ever. Flowing from one kill to another effortless is still an absolute blast. The traversal controls see a lot of improvement as well. In the past, the character’s feet didn’t seem to always cooperate with where I wanted to go, often sending me climbing up a wall or squatting on a fence post when I didn’t want to. In Black Flag, that issue is almost non-existent, making the free running feel as smooth as the combat.
There is also more mission diversity. Yes, the dreaded eavesdropping and tailing missions are still present but there are plenty of other variations to keep things interesting.
Outside of the actual story missions, you’ll be hard pressed to not find something to keep you busy. Black Flag has a very Far Cry-esque hunting and crafting system that will keep you island hopping for quite a while. If that isn’t your fancy then the absurd amount of collectibles and side quests will keep players busy. Past games have felt bogged down with an overabundance of things to do, but Black Flag finds just the right mix.
On the multiplayer end of things, the game stays relatively the same. There is still the same player hunts player hunts player aspect that is a fun to play. There are some new characters to control and a couple of new items to play as but as far the core gameplay goes Ubisoft went with the, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ motto.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a great addition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. It fixes many of the issues that previous games faced, while adding excellent new mechanics to the franchise that are sure to stay for years to come. There’s so much to do out on the high seas that players will be coming back again and again long after the story credits roll.