Not sure if the end of the world was a lie, or if Desmond Miles saved us?
Title: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC, Wii U
Reviewed on: Xbox One
The Assassin’s Creed stories, like those in most open world games, can be hard to follow sometimes. The worlds are so open, with an impossible list of activities to do, it’s hard to just focus on the story campaign alone. One would start to feel guilty about passing over all the side activities calling out for attention.
Over this past weekend I played Assassin’s Creed IV: Blag Flag through to its story conclusion. This was a game that I started back in February on the Xbox One and have been plugging away at for a few days here and there, but never really making much progress.
I had managed a mediocre 10 – 15 or so hours in February and March, but then let it start to gather dust. But it remained there, in my library, proudly sitting at the beginning of the alphabetical list; constantly hollering.
Full disclosure: I have a short attention span when it comes to open world games of the Ubisoft ilk. The opening quarter of the game plays like a tutorial mission, introducing us to the many different mechanics newly introduced. The player is only granted his ship – the ability to venture out on your own, to fly the coop – a couple hours in.
“OUT OF RUM. WHY? WHY ARE WE OUT OF RUM?”
Saturday and Sunday, I resigned myself to completing the main portion of the game and completing most of the achievable achievements. Those I could see myself completing in the 2 sittings. I unknowingly, but not surprisingly played 12 hours a day for the two full days to wrap it up. The only true evidence of this is when Sunday evening rolled around, reminding me I had to work the next morning. I did complete the story however, some of the attainable achievements, and conquered the forts.
And in just over 35 hours, which, in a game such as this, is really no time at all, and I’m aware of this. The game informs me I’m only 52% done. But no, GAME, I’m 100% done. I’m moving on. I have other Ubisoft games to tackle. Other Assassin’s Creed games even.
I didn’t beat the game because I wanted to. I beat it because it had taken up far too much valuable real estate on my harddrive, and I’d grown exhausted of its mocking glare over the past 6 months.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag features our new hero in the game world: Edward Kenway – a privateer turned pirate turned Assassin. In the real world we play an unnamed engineer, working for Abstergo Entertainment. After the death of Desmond Miles in Assassins Creed III, we have found that Abstergo is still able to explore his genetic memories from samples of his body, and seeking profit, Abstergo has started turning these memories into simulated reality adventures for the general public’s consumption.
Back to Kenway, we get to sail the wide open seas in the Carribean, and take part in land-based adventures in Cuba and Jamaica, and the Caribbean islands. We visit many familiar locales – popularized by pirate movies and TV shows – like Nassau, Kingston and Tortuga. And we get introduced to familiar characters such as Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch, and Charles Vane.
The game takes the mobility of Assassin’s Creed III and makes it smoother and quicker, and in taking the tacked on ship battles, graciously makes this the primary focus, upsetting no one. Ever.
The commandeering of the Jackdaw is the best part of the game. Ship to ship battles are simultaneously frantic and glorious, and when a ship is defeated, you can pull alongside, and board it. In defeating all the remaining enemies, the player can choose to add the ship to your fleet for the trading mini game, or scuttle it. The trading mini game adds to your bank account for ship and character upgrades. This was introduced in III, and is easily overlooked, but it’s a thing.
“BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES, WEIGH ANCHOR! WE SAIL . . . WITH THE TIDE”
As the story progresses, and as our own ship gets upgraded, the battles become larger and increasingly difficult as we start to war against larger ships in increasing numbers. These battles can, at times, require full attention and strategy.
The open world takes place in both the seas and towns, and everything is seamless, without loading. At any time, within range of a small island, we can anchor the Jackdaw and dive our Assassin overboard, to swim ashore and search for treasure. It is that fluid, and a lot of fun. The game also has a full day and night system and full, fully realized weather systems. Windy channels and huge storms can come rolling along with the occasional rogue wave or water tornado. Both of these scary happenstance events are to be wary of.
The game features quite a few large cities, Kingston and Nassau, and Havana, and plenty of smaller towns. As well as full jungle islands. The game brings back hunting of animals, and includes the much criticized whale hunting.
The fortress battles are the best showcase of the game’s ship to shore fighting mechanics. The strongholds act of the synchronization points for the world map, like towers in Far Cry 3 and 4; once completed they reveal the map, side quests and collectibles in that quadrant.
We storm the garrison from the sea, taking down its defenses with our ship’s many guns. Once thoroughly defeated, we land the ship, attacking on foot, needing to track down and kill the commander of the fort, completing the attack.
“STOP BLOWING HOLES IN MY SHIP!”
Kenway’s arsenal is as burgeoning as ever. Dual wielding swords, dual knives, smoke bombs, sleep darts, rope darts, and 4 pistols for multi-shooting. We are the true bringer of death. At times, when surrounded by 8 or so enemies, and utilized everything on our utility belt, we’d be an even match for The Dark Knight.
As I said at the top, the story can sometimes get muddled as we partake in side assassination missions, or naval battles, distracting by fragment collecting or searching for buried treasure . . . so it can be hard to keep track of what is happening in Kenway’s campaign. It’s really the only downside to open world games such as these, and the story suffers from lack of continuity.
In the finale, in typical fashion, the game wraps up all the events and it plays very linear. Cut scene to cut scene, assignation then another cut scene. The last 3 chapters remove the open world aspect from the game, forcing the player to wrap up their experience. But after all said and done, the open seas are ours again, as well as the Abstergo development floor, for those who cared.
Assassin’s Creed IV brings all the very best of its predecessors together and melds them with an altogether new tale, while continuing along the same story thread that the past 5 games have written. Released in 2013 as the console next-gen bridge, it is the best Assassin’s Creed game to date. Now it is time for me to move onto last year’s Unity and this year’s Syndicate, and BEYOND.
“For those who like: sailing the open seas, playing the pirate, bar fights and killing people with your awesome.”
Achievements mainly reside in the story chapters and unfortunately some in multiplayer. The rest are mainly collectibles: complete the forts, complete the hidden shipwrecks, full upgrade everything – lame.
Wild West Indies (kill 4 enemies in a row using multi-pistols) – 20G
Hungover (wake up in a haystack) – 10G