Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)


This is the World’s Only Certainty.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)I’ve had my ups and downs with the Assassin’s Creed series in the past, but I’ve generally ended up liking them all.  Assassin’s Creed 3 was a little underwhelming, but the one part I did like seemed to have been turned into its own game with today’s game.  But the main inspiration for the purchase of this game was that it was one of the very few games releasing with the Xbox One that I was interested in.  I needed games to make my investment in the Xbone seem worthwhile, and this game became one of the two.  This game is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, developed by Ubisoft Montreal, published by Ubisoft, and including the voices of Matt Ryan, Olivia Morgan, Mark Bonnar, Oliver Milburn, Nolan North, Ed Stoppard, Ralph Ineson, Sarah Greene, O.T. Fagbenle, and Tristan D. Lalla.

Abstergo has taken a new approach at ruling the world by creating Abstergo Entertainment, who gets people to sift through the memories of the now-deceased Desmond Miles (Nolan North) by disguising them as video games.  I am so in!  Our character is an employee of Abstergo Entertainment assigned to explore the life of an eighteenth-century pirate named Edward Kenway (Matt Ryan), who later fathers Haytham Kenway, who later fathers Connor Kenway and stars in his own game.  As Edward, you kill an Assassin and assume his clothing, getting yourself wrapped up in a fight between the Assassins and the Templars.  Refusing to take a side, you spend more of your time aligning yourself with random pirates, such as Blackbeard (Mark Bonnar), Bartholomew Roberts (Oliver Milburn), Benjamin Hornigold (Ed Stoppard), Charles Vane (Ralph Ineson), Anne Bonny (Sarah Greene), “Calico” Jack Rackham (O.T. Fagbenle), and Mary Read (Olivia Morgan).  But, as his journey takes him closer to an ancient artifact known as The Observatory, his goals start to change from selfish ones to something more in line with a creed held by a certain group of people that kill another group of people.

I really liked this game.  It had similar problems that could be found in any of the other Assassin’s Creed games, but I would say the changes they made helped this game work out to be my favorite Assassin’s Creed game to date.  One of the things I’ve always had a problem with is the non-Assassin parts of these games.  That remains in this game.  I don’t know why.  They just slow the pace down on the parts I want to play.  This one was vaguely interesting in the Meta way they make their own company part of Abstergo Enterprises, but my interest didn’t get much further than that.  I still don’t know why they feel the need to have these sections.  Is anybody playing these games to find out what’s going on with Desmond?  Not me!  I’m here to jump off of buildings and stab people in the neck!  And didn’t I destroy the world at the end of the previous game anyway?  I don’t remember, and that’s probably because I don’t really pay attention to these sides of the story.  I liked the Edward Kenway parts a lot.  It was fun being a pirate.  They also had some emotional bits in the story that worked very well.    The way they handled Blackbeard’s fate was very well done and I wasn’t really expecting the reveal involving James Kidd even though the voice should’ve probably given it away.  The only real problem I had with the story is that they didn’t do anything with the Bermuda Triangle.  They were right there!  I went to Florida and everything!  Just seems like such a waste.

As with all of the Assassin’s Creed games, Black Flag looks great.  The only complaints I had were with some of the special armor you can unlock through collectables.  Both the Templar armor and the Mayan armor take a while and some doing to unlock, but getting them ruins everything.  You lose the trademark Assassin hood!  You can’t do that!  I’ve played like 6 games with that hood and I want it right where it is!  And do you know how ridiculous it looks to see Edward grab an invisible hood and pull it over his head because you didn’t change the character’s movements to account for you taking away the hood?  One thing I did appreciate was the sea shanties your crew would sing while you were piloting your ship.  It felt like a GTA radio station for the high seas.

I think the thing that helped this game win most of all with me is that it took all the things I liked from the previous game and built the game around it, and those things were the nautical battles.  I spent hours in this game avoiding the main story and sailing the high seas, looting and plundering ships that got in my way.  And the game seems aware of what drew me in because they started the game with it.  And I like almost all of the nautical battles.  Almost.  There were parts that caused me some frustration that I felt like I didn’t enjoy at the time.  For instance, I didn’t think the process of upgrading a ship made any sense.  Why am I going to a store and paying lots of money to upgrade my ship when I also have to supply the materials for the upgrade?  You don’t go to Best Buy to buy a movie and have to bring a DVD-R with you!  The crew system for your ship was fine.  You could either hire them from a bar or save them from guards or rescue them on the seas.  I preferred the last two options.  They had better fight harder for me if I saved their life instead of just giving them money to join.  The most frustrating thing about the nautical battles was the legendary ships you had to fight.  One of them had a really big ram on the front of their ship it would look to hit you with, and it was made even more annoying by the fact that this ram did not even need to touch you to do damage.  The game would count it as improved damage even when it hit you with its side.  Which TOTALLY makes sense.  And they were all pretty difficult.  I died a lot trying to battle them even with a fully upgraded ship.  I actually got the achievement when I didn’t deserve it because I had destroyed each of the two legendary ships that attack you simultaneously, even though I had never destroyed both at the same time.  But even with the achievement, I still felt like I owed them an ass-whooping so I kept coming back.  I eventually defeated them with extreme cowardice by dropping tons of explosives as I was trying to run away.  Like a boss.

There are other things to the gameplay, of course.  I liked that you can now see where all of the collectables are if you look around from the top of a viewpoint.  There’s still hunting in this game, but you don’t have to do it as much and it doesn’t deduct anything from you if you shoot them because you don’t want to fuck around and have to chase down an iguana.  I did find it extremely hard to find rabbits, especially for a creature that fucks like rabbits.  They should be everywhere!  The usual staple of the Assassin’s Creed games recently is to have some form of strategy game involving sending your crew out to do something for you while you continue with the game.  This game does that with something called Kenway’s Fleet, where you send out ships to do trades with other countries.  This was a forgettable experience, but only annoyed me because you couldn’t tell your ships which ship to fire upon.  It doesn’t make sense that my ships will shoot at different ships when they should be all trying to take out the giant Man O’ War.  Fuck the Schooner!  Let that little bitch shoot at me for a while.  I also still hate the gambling games they include.  Remember in my review for Assassin’s Creed 3 when I told you how I hate Nine Man Morris?  Well they brought it back.  And I still hate it.  But fortunately, there’s not an achievement for it so I didn’t really bother with it much.

Though Assassin’s Creed 4 doesn’t change drastically from the previous incarnations of the game, I would say that the things they did helped Black Flag wind up as my favorite Assassin’s Creed game to date.  The story still has the boring stuff outside of the life of the Assassin, but when you ignore that the story succeeds with a lot of interesting and emotional moments.  The look is as great as it typically is, and they made a smart decision to keep most of the controls the same but make the game a lot heavier with the nautical battles, which I found very satisfying.  Fans will already have purchased this game, and non-fans might not find it worth $60, but it’s been cheaper than that recently and this game is totally worth $40.  I was satisfied at $60.  Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag gets “It might be that this idea is only the beginning of wisdom, and not its final form” out of “In a world without gold, we might have been heroes.”

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