Review: Assassin’s Creed IV Blackflag

Filed under Game Reviews, Reviews

The thing that makes Assassin’s Creed games so unique is that each installment allows you to explore exciting places. To add to that, you get to go on an action packed adventure, except this time you are a pirate. For many this is the reason to come back to the dying franchise. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a pirate who happens to be an Assassin in his spare time?

In Ubisoft’s 6th console Assassin’s Creed experience you set sail to the Caribbean seas as the charming, charismatic and selfish pirate named Edward Kenway the grandfather of Connor Kenway (protagonist from AC3). Edward was born in England but decided to venture out to the Caribbean in 1715, in hopes to find wealth to take back home to his disappointed wife. Edward is a typical pirate throughout the game, even though he wears the Assassins’ robes. Just like his life, what he wears is just a means of him lying to get what he wants: money. But because of this, he gets stuck right in the middle of the fight between the Assassins and Templars.  This time the story is more lighthearted and is all about the amazing adventure. You will get to fight alongside famous pirates such as Benjamin Hornigold (The Gentlemen Pirate) and Ed Thatch (Blackbeard), as you plunder ships and steal gold. The one thing that was surprising was that the story actually had unexpected twists and told a gripping tale, which has been missing from the series. You get to see Edward grow from a low-life scumbag into a master Assassin.

There are three main cities to explore and the usual eagle viewpoints that showcases each city’s beauty. AC4 is by far the most gorgeous to date, recreating 18th century Havana, Kingston, and Nassau. Havana is Spanish controlled, and so naturally it looks like a Spanish city and is inhabited by Spanish people. Kingston is under the British flag, so here you can expect to see a lot of soldiers in red uniforms and people posh people. Nassau on the other hand is under the black flag; pirates rule here.  Even though these cities are beautifully detailed, they are disappointing compared to previous cities that offered a lot more landmarks and noticeable places, a fact that is quickly forgotten though when you take to the open seas. Here there are over 70 unique places to discover and explore. From breath taking islands, treasure filled smuggler dens, or underwater shipwrecks, it all looks something out of a holiday postcard. The game offers a perfect blend of man-made marvels and natural beauty.

ACIV Screen 3

AC4 finally get the combat right by having its newly found fluidity from AC3 mixed with the solidity that the original AC had brought, while still feeling like the badass that was introduced in AC2. Assassinating your various targets have also been improved where it feels smoother and quicker and you really feel like a dark angel in the shadows (or better yet haystack). What makes Edward stick out from the other Assassins is the fact that he wields a sword in each hand which allows him to do some interesting, yet gruesome, kills that would make Blackbeard himself shiver. Edward is able to carry up to four pistols, after all Blackbeard says “a pirate is judged by how many pistols he carries”.  When you are surrounded by enemies, you tap the shoot button and you watch with awe as Edward moves with ease firing these deadly weapons. The combat is awesome to watch, but unfortunately there are a lot of inconsistencies and glitches where the sound effects are sometimes not in sync with the motions and sometimes Edward seemed to have missed the kill completely but still he drops. These issues dampen the general great feel of the game.

ACIV Screen 2

The naval combat from AC3 takes center stage this time. It is fun as ever and looks and feels amazing.  You navigate the ship in any direction you like, whilst changing the sails at the right time. You see your crew running around your ship doing their various jobs. You see a ship filled with booty you want, you fire canons, mortars, swivel guns and explosive barrels your enemy’s way. Once the ship is weak enough, you can board it and bring death upon those who don’t want to give up their merchandise. These are fast paced and incredibly fun as you take down all ships that come your way. What is so impressive though is the transaction from land controls to ship controls and ship to land, where you can stop your ship and instantly go ashore with no loading times. The result is a frame-rate drop, but that is excusable.

The entire Caribbean sea is yours to play in right off the bat. But there are places you can’t go unless you upgrade your ship to take on the ships and forts guarding the areas. Upgrading your ship means giving it more canons, improving the strength or even changing the sails gives you a real sense of achievement of improvement. You can also improve Edward by hunting the vast amount of animals and earning money. For some extra cash you can  choose from a vast amount of side missions. From fulfilling assassination contracts, plundering ships, naval contracts, hidden treasures, taking over forts, stealing from storehouses, helping fellow assassins, killing various sea creatures and many more. There is so much to do on top of the impressive 18+ hour campaign. Not once did I find myself look for a task in the vast world.

ACIV Screen 1All the great elements from the previous games are combined into a perfect sequel worthy of the title Assassin’s Creed. If you are able to look past the few technical hiccups here and there, you will have nothing short of an amazing time!

by Alec Samuel

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