Review: Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the latest installment of the series, and has you sailing the open seas. The year is 1715 and you play as Edward Kenway, who is the grandfather of Connor from AC 3. Ubisoft learned from most of their mistakes from the last game, by setting a much lighter, more appreciative world and landscape. The game really pushes exploration and there is tons of it to do; however, there are quite a few hoops to jump through before one gets to sink their teeth into the vast open world.
Many people had a problem with how the beginning of AC 3 was set up, by holding your hand for a number of hours and not letting you play as the characters on the box. AC 4 throws you right in with an unforgettable sequence that feels like an action movie. It then takes you on a few set up missions afterwards to teach you how to play, and introduces the new mechanics. There isn’t much time wasted before you are sailing and upgrading your ship, and you will not be left in the dark when it comes to upgrading and battling against other ships. For example, when sailing towards other ships or on sea missions, the game will tell you to upgrade your ship before battling. Often times if you don’t, you’ll quickly realize they weren’t joking when saying that. Sea battles can be brutal if you make too many mistakes, but can be very rewarding if done correctly. A new mechanic introduced is the ability to board enemy ships, and this can be done by coming close to defeating the enemy, getting close to their ship, and then boarding it. Once boarded you’re given a task: for example, to kill ten enemies on that ship. By doing so, you will receive a greater amount of loot and supplies. A combination of money and supplies will allow you to upgrade your ship. You can upgrade things such as armor for your ship, better cannons, and more ammo. All of this will help prepare you for more powerful enemies and battles down the road.
The game length will stretch over 40 plus hours and that’s without completing everything there is to do. After you get through a few hours of main story missions, you as a player will finally be able to explore to your hearts desire. This is what AC 4 exceeds in, because of its open world style; something a little different than its previous titles. Instead of collecting feathers that were basically worthless, a new collectable has been introduced: sea shanties, which are different songs your crew will sing while out at sea. They are spread out through the map in various locations much like the feathers in previous games. You will want to see what the next island has to offer, battle other ships, and live a pirates life.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will have you enamoured with how it looks. A lot of that has to do with the fact it is both a current and next gen game. Whichever platform you choose, you will not be disappointed. Every cut scene is hollywood-like quality and I appreciate that. The color tone is very saturated and that takes part on the immensely blue open sea, and forest savannah. The lighting is good as ever and that compensates with the detail given throughout the land. If you’re not given something to do, you will always have something to look at. While out at sea the sun sets are mesmerizing, comparable to real life. This is most definitely the prettiest Assassin’s Creed game yet.
Gameplay is what attracts most people to the series, and Ubisoft seems to recycle some of its old tricks. When you are playing on land you will find yourself completing tasks like in the previous games, just in a different setting. More often than not you will be told to tail enemies, and then get close enough to listen to their conversation, which is dreadful – it got really old quickly. When I wasn’t on land I was out at sea, and as great as it was that too grew tiresome. The map is much larger than usual because of the islands being spread out. In the beginning you’ll manually have to sail to each one, but over time you will have the option to fast travel to all the different islands. You are encouraged and rewarded if you travel between the islands yourself with being able to add a member to your crew by rescuing them. There are also spots throughout the sea where harpooning is available. It’s not mandatory, but is an interesting addition to your experience.
Good things happen when developers listen to their audience, and I applaud Ubisoft for doing so. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a refreshing change of pace for the series, taking everyone somewhere a little different this time around. The focus was a little heavy on sailing and being on the water; and too light while on land. If you were a fan of the previous titles, you’ll be right at home with the latest installment. The flaws in Black Flag do not ruin or break the game, they just hold it back from being its very best. If this is your next gen launch title you should be excited; you’re sailing in the right direction.