Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review

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The latest installment in Ubisoft’s famous Assassin’s Creed franchise is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag starring Pirate Assassin Edward Kenway. This sixth installment in the series was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and is available on Xbox 360, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U and Xbox One.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag picks up after the events of Assassin’s Creed III. At the end of the last game, Desmond had a choice to either let the world be destroyed and “start from scratch” with a handful of people who survived or to save the world but with some serious consequences, the most serious being to free Juno, the rogue ruler of the First Civilisation who wanted to take over the earth and make the people her slaves. Being the hero he is, Desmond opted for the latter because that way “humanity will have a chance to survive and fight against whatever will happen”. That way, he gave up his life for the sake of humanity and as an inevitable result, freed Juno.

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In Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, you are an (unnamed) employee of the “Entertainment” company, Abstergo Entertainment, which found a way to access Desmond’s memories using the animus and the company makes “movies” by extracting information from his DNA. Your job is to re-live the memories of Desmond’s ancestors so that Abstergo Entertainment can make “movies” based on the life of any Assassin they deem acceptable to feature in a flick.

You accept this job, not knowing at first that Abstergo Entertainment is in fact run by the Templars to find the location of an ancient relic by extracting the required information from the DNA of Desmond, all under the cover of gaining information to make the “movie”.

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You live the memories of Edward Kenway, an eighteenth century privateer-turned-pirate, who is the father of Hatham Kenway from Assassin’s Creed III. He sets out on a journey to become rich and help his family to live in better conditions, but as you will later find out, that plan turns upside down on its head.

The review for gameplay will be split in two parts. One will be for the present day when you are playing as yourself, the un-named employee, and the other being when you play as Edward Kenway, the pirate.

The present day game is played in first person mode with not much to do honestly. There’s only a handful of present day missions which, in a nutshell, are “Go here, listen, go there, listen, go there, hack the pc; that’s enough real world for you, go back to the animus!” Besides that, you can roam around in the Abstergo buildings and hack some computers or find some “strange sticky notes” throughout the building to get some more information about Abstergo. Other than that, you can’t really do anything else.

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Now coming to the “real” game; when you’re hooked up to the animus and playing as Kenway, the pirate.

First of all, the biggest difference from the previous games in the series is that now, you have your very own ship (called the “Jackdow”) on which you will spend most of your time (and money?). You can buy upgrades for your ship to change its weapons, looks, etc. You will also need a crew for your ship and you can free the captive pirates from the soldiers to recruit them.

In ACIII, there were a few ‘Naval Battle’ missions. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag takes it a step further. Now, since you have your very own ship, you can engage in battles with other ships whenever you feel like it and if you are successful, then you can board the ship to gain items and recruit crew for your ship. However, as you attack more ships, your wanted level increases and as a result “hunter” ships might come for you to take you down as there will be a price on your head.

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The map of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is really vast with many cities and islands to explore. You will be traveling to the locations using your ship and I felt that I spent more time steering the ship rather than playing as Edward. You can fast travel to locations BUT they will only become available after you visit that location at least once (Yup, and you have to use your ship for that). Overall, the naval battles are a good addition to the game, but after sometime, they get rather boring for me, as I prefer to play as an Assassin who assassinates people and not as a captain of a ship.

Another area of the game that is greatly improved is crafting. Now you can hunt animals and then use their skin to craft different items such as weapon holsters, pouches or even new clothes for your Assassin. The items need specific materials to craft so you will have something to gain if you see an animal out in the wild which you have not hunted before. However, if you’re too lazy to do that, then don’t worry because you can always buy the things from the shops. You are also able to sell the things you have gathered on your journey (including the loot from other ships).

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Some other ‘new’ side-activities include underwater exploration of ship wrecks, collecting music sheets (Read further to know about this) and taking over the enemy forts. To successfully take-over a fort, you have to destroy its defences which includes cannons, mortars and defensive walls (again, all this is done from your ship) and then you have to enter the fort and kill the Captains of that fort to complete a take-over. After that, your area of influence will increase around that fort and you will also unlock extra missions.

Now, for the gameplay while on foot.

There is not much of a difference between the player’s movement in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the previous games. The free running is however tweaked the little bit and feels smoother, for example, now you can jump seamlessly from a building, to a tree, to another building all in one flow.

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In ACIII, you could only use your gun as a secondary weapon. This time, you have more weapons at your disposal. You can use your gun, darts or a rope hook for combat. As expected, you can buy new swords or guns from the store to make yourself even deadlier.

Some stealth related actions are new in the game such as, hiding in bushes or behind walls and whistling to distract an enemy to make him an easier target, or to slip by him undetected. The combat technique is almost the same but it feels rather easy as compared to the previous games in the series. In the previous games, you were sometimes surrounded by a whole army of soldiers waiting to get a piece of you and on certain occasions, the most sensible thing to do that time was to run like hell and hide. In Black Flag, the combat is not much different but I felt that the number of enemies was too small. Even after killing a high political personality, you would hardly have to fight 10 enemies which feels rather unrealistic.

Other than that, there are a lot of areas to explore. The beautiful landscapes will force you to explore them, rather than continuing the story and the game will reward you for that. The incentives to explore the vast world include stuff like treasure maps, chests and other many other items.

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The graphics of the game are, as expected, visually stunning. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is based on an improved version of the same engine which was used in AC III. So therefore, don’t expect a huge difference in the graphics, but the graphics are certainly a step up from the previous version.

The textures are very detailed and the cities feel alive. The change from day to night greatly enhances the experience. Besides that, the weather effects are also really well implemented. It will feel like a different world when it is raining. The water dripping from your player’s face, the lightening, the clouds, everything seems like a perfect combination to indulge you in the game.

This franchise has become known for its great collection of music and this game certainly doesn’t disappoint. As always, the intensity of the music will depend on your actions for example: a slow, calming music when you are just roaming around; a fast-paced, intense music when you are being chased by enemies; and even a depressed and gloomy silence when an ally of yours dies.

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When we are on the ship, we get to hear the typical “Pirate music” and during long journeys our pirate crew will start to sing some pirate songs. Now remember the music sheets I talked about? Well, they unlock more songs for our fellow pirates to sing so we don’t get bored with just a couple of songs. All these factors certainly enriches the experience of playing this game.

This is a tough one. Ubisoft had to continue the story without its main protagonist, Desmond and from a neutral perspective, the story was interesting and the gameplay was also really good and immersive. The naval battles, hunting animals, huge range of side games and playing as an assassin, provided a perfect mixture to make it a breath-taking game which I am sure every person will enjoy a lot.

Now, my view as a big Assassin’s Creed fan is that, I feel Ubisoft deviated from what made this series a huge success. I was not too happy while sailing my ship for most parts of the game as I wanted to play as Edward and kill someone, just like an assassin is supposed to. I felt like quitting the game because of the long boat journeys. The story was also not as intriguing as the previous parts. Edward was not raised as an assassin like Ezio or Altair per-se and I did not like this fact for some reason. Moreover, the ending of the game was also not a typical Assassin’s Creed cliff-hanger. The fans of the series will know that at the end of the previous games, we were left like “Whoa! What happened!? What’s going to happen now? What happened to that guy? UHHH I can’t wait for the next game!” but when I finished this game I was like “Huh? Credits? It’s finished?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of this series and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a really great game, but I feel that this is not a great Assassin’s Creed game. The typical twists and turns in the story of the AC franchise were missing. Maybe some die-hard fans will agree with me on this, that the neutrals will absolutely love this game, but the people who followed this game since the first part, would be rather disappointed

Pros:

  • Beautiful, detailed world which you will enjoy exploring
  • A lot of side-quests and activities
  • Many options to upgrade your ship and player

Cons:

  • Too much time on the ship for an Assassin’s Creed game
  • Lack of a griping present day storyline
  • Rather premature ending

Played the game? Let us know your thoughts on the game below.

Review Overview
  • Graphics8.5
  • Story7.5
  • Gameplay8
  • Sound8
  • Value8
Total Score8.0

User Rating: 4.6 (1 Votes)
Hammad Shahid