Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a very ambitious game. All the details that surfaced around the launch of the game seemed to indicate that this was going to be a departure for the series. We learned that this game will take place in the early 1700’s while Assassin’s Creed III took place in the late 1700’s, we found out that this game will not include the main protagonist of all four previous games; Desmond Miles, we even learned that the game is going to focus on the naval aspects of Assassin’s Creed III. All those facts point to a game that is trying to buck the trend and be something different. In some ways the game succeeds but offering players a vast amount of area to explore and engage with. In other ways, this game fails to capture the traditional Assassin’s Creed feeling that the others games held. However, the question on everyone’s mind is; Is this game any good?
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag follows the story of Edward Kenway, the grandfather of Haytham Kenway who was the main antagonist from Assassin’s Creed III. However, the player assumes the role of an analyst that has just joined a new branch of Abstergo called Abstergo Entertainment. Abstergo Entertainment was set up to package memories of people from the past into a product that people can buy. Those people could then relive the memories of historical figures from their own home version of the animus. You are given the task to go through Desmond Miles’ memory, the protagonist from the first four games, and collect the most interesting moments of Edward Kenway’s life. Most of the game has you assuming the role of Edward Kenway as he sails the seven seas and deals with several of history’s most notorious pirates.
As you can probably tell immediately, this is a vast departure in terms of storytelling. Desmond Miles is no longer the focus of the story and a completely new set of circumstances are left to drive the narrative. While we can see the potential in making this kind of switch, it hurts the series overall since it no longer resembles the game it is based on from a story-perspective. The glue that bound the games together was Desmond’s story and how his roots were the basis of the Assassin’s order. Things were taken further with the addition of the first civilization story arch, the impending doom of our world and the first civilization’s tools including the infamous Apple of Eden. At this point, all those storylines are over and a piece of the game’s lore is gone with it. In fact, the story takes a back seat to the action all together. This is really a shame because the story of Assassin’s Creed was one of the strong points of the series. Now, Assasssin’s Creed IV: Black Flag more closely resembles any one of the several action-based franchises on consoles today.
Story aside, if action is something you look for in a game, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag provides it in droves. There is a lengthy single-player campaign that delivers some truly heart-pounding moments along with more side-missions you can shake a stick at. This year’s edition in the franchise provides players with a larger overall map and more things to do in that map. There is a heavy focus on sea-exploration and naval battles so upgrading your ship and keeping on your toes is paramount. You will find yourself boarding a ton of ships to get enough money to do the things you need to do in this game like upgrading your ship and buying new weapons and armor. The game has a more expansive feeling and the open-world design has far fewer obstacles to overcome. Everything is connected seamlessly and loading times are kept to a minimum. Many fans of the series probably remember the travelling system that snuck loading times in-between travelling to new areas. In this game, you can sail from one edge of the Caribbean to the other without having to load. However, there are tons of small islands and busy ports on the way that are sure to draw your interest.
From a technical aspect, this game is excellent. The graphics look great, and as we mentioned above, loading times are minimal. We did not encounter any glitches or performance-based issues during our play-through, but those that played Assassin’s Creed III will notice that this game handles much the same way. We particularly enjoyed the sound direction of the game. Everything from the score to the sound effects managed to immerse us into the Golden Age of Pirates much as the game promises. One new addition, and a particularly nice touch, was the addition of crew songs in the game. As you visit some of the main areas in the game, you can collect songs for your crew to sing at sea. These songs are accurate to the time and allow you to infuse some song variety while on extended bouts at sea.
Multiplayer makes a triumphant return to Black Flag, though the mode is pretty much unchanged since Assassin’s Creed III. The only update to the system is the new characters and levels to play. Otherwise, veterans of the franchise will recognize many of the gameplay modes that this game has to offer. However, there is one improvement to the multiplayer which includes a “create-your-own” mode which allows players to create custom game modes and share those modes with their friends. You can adjust the victory conditions, time length, abilities and more all in the Game Lab. While this does help to add some much-needed variety on the fourth generation multiplayer model, it still feels like more of the same. If you love the traditional Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, then you’ll love this, but if you wanted something more, this year will fail to deliver.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is an excellent game despite the major changes to the franchise. Sure the story has changed but this game does a good job at making you feel like you are a pirate. The new open world feel to the game works great and this game is just fun to play. From the naval battles to the more traditional assassin gameplay, this game has it all. There may be some nitpicks from hardcore fans, like us, but you can’t deny that playing this game is going to deliver a gameplay experience unlike any other. Therefore, we give this game one of our highest recommendations, make sure you get it today!
This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag distributed by Ubisoft.
- Open-World Gameplay
- Naval Battles Galore
- Story Departure