Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is less of a assassin game, and more of a pirate game. Although, for a franchise that has become annualized, it is good for the series go through a fresh and different pace. If Assassin’s Creed did the same thing every time the series would quickly become stale, but Black Flag feels different enough from previous games, while keeping its ties to its roots. When AC IV embraces the pirate life, it shines magnificently. However, when it tries to return to its roots and reminds itself that it is an assassin’s creed game, it suffers from flaws that have been present in the previous games. You’ll enjoy sailing the high seas, but ultimately it may leave you desiring a more focused experience.
The thing that stands out the most about Assassin’s Creed IV, is its atmosphere. The lush crashing waves of the sea and the green jungles found on various islands will invite you to stop and enjoy the scenery. You’ll almost feel like you’re in the Caribbean, especially on the PS4 or XB1, which takes the graphics to even newer heights. Adding to the atmosphere, are the sounds of the pirate life. The score of AC IV is indeed great, but the shanties of your pirate crew are the sounds you’ll be singing along to. As you progress in the game, you can unlock the opportunity to collect shanties, which your crew will sing while you are sailing the seas. This combined with the raging winds and water, sailing the seas aren’t just a feast for your eyes, but your ears as well.
The story of Edward Kenway, the fifth main assassin in the franchise, is a different one compared to Altair, Ezio, Conner and Aveline. Edward becomes an assassin by indecent means, and he is more of a pirate than assassin. Edward’s journey is mostly a entertaining one, especially when he is plundering and sailing on the high seas. Boarding and sinking ships isn’t necessarily easy but it is very smooth. The transition to shooting and boarding ships is very simple and feels fluid, but your success when it comes to sinking/boarding ships depends on how often you upgrade your ship. The Jackdaw is the vessel you’ll be piloting for most of the game, and you’ll have to frequently get resources to improve the damage input it can take and damage output it can deal. I strongly recommend keeping your ship up to date or later missions will be damn near impossible. Sinking ships feels empowering knowing that you’ve created a dominant ship that can’t easily be defeated.
Even though you’ll spend most of the time on the sea, you’ll also spend a noticeable time on land. The free-flowing parkour, combat and stalking of previous Assassin’s Creed games are all here and they are smoother than ever. Occasionally Edward would scale walls I didn’t want him to, just like previous titles, but it isn’t a big issue, just a minor annoyance. What is greatly annoying is the fact that the game still suffers from bland “follow your target here” missions. In such missions you tail a target for an extended period of time from a certain distance and if you drift too far, you fail the mission. These missions have always been present in previous games and they are always the weakest aspect of the game. Hopefully Ubisoft will notice that nobody cares for those missions, especially since they smartly added in a rating system for missions. You can now rate a mission after completing one, which tells Ubisoft which missions are more favored than others.
When you’re pulled out of the animus, it feels like a different game entirely, and that is not a good thing. You are pulled out of your pirate adventure and you are reminded that you are playing a video game simulation of a simulation. Every time I took control of the present day character I was filled with dread and often asked myself, “How long do I have to put up with this to get back to being a pirate?” The present day missions are bland and take away the free roaming experience and even though the missions are short, they are very intrusive.
If this was a full-blown pirate game, I believe it would have been spectacular. Making it an Assassin’s Creed game ultimately holds it back with its eavesdrop missions and the present day missions. Regardless, AC IV Black Flag is an engrossing experience with its gorgeous visuals, mesmerizing audio, a vast world to explore and a fun adventure. Sailing the high seas and running across buildings killing templars and pirates never felt so smooth. After the abysmal failure that was Assassin’s Creed III, this game is a refreshing step in the right direction for an annual franchise.
Lasting Appeal: 8.25/10
Overall: 8.5 out of 10
Try this game if you liked:
Assassin’s Creed II