After playing Assassin’s Creed III last year I was pretty much done with the franchise that I once looked forward to each year without hesitation.With that said I write this review with much surprise on how quick Ubisoft was able to turn the franchise around with Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag.
The new game takes place actually before the timeline in Assassin’s Creed III around 1715. You play as Edward Kenway, the grandfather to Conner Kenway who was the protagonist in Assassin’s Creed III.
You start off on an island in make quick work of an Assassin that you are chasing. Upon killing him, you take his clothes and continue on his mission in hopes of making a fortune, soon after that you are thrown into a battle that has been in the shadows for the past several centuries between the Templar and assassin’s. This plot is the main element that throws Edward into the forefront of this war, and what starts as just a means to an end over the years finally gives Edward the purpose he has always been looking for in his life.
The story, while better than the previous story in the series, is the true champion of this title is how Ubisoft streamlined the experience. They started off by making the combat the best it’s been since Brotherhood and that is where I had the most fun anytime I was given the choice of sneaking or knew I could get away with killing all the bad guys, I made quick work of them with my blades. The biggest improvement from the previous game and really the only mechanic that was new in the previous game that returns is the ship combat. In Assassin’s Creed III I never really bothered with the ship combat as I never found it enjoyable, but by making this a main focus in this game they streamlined the controls and anytime I saw a ship I attacked it head on. Your ship can be upgraded with improved structure, fire power, and cargo hold and your harpoon boat and harpoons can be upgraded since this is also a mini game.
One thing I have come to enjoy with Ubisoft and it started to show big time in last years Farcry 3 is how they take mechanics from all their games and see if they will fit in any of their other titles, and this years Assassin’s Creed is no different. Now when you go into eagle vision and there are any enemies in front of you they are now targeted in have a red highlight around them or gold depending on if they are a target of interest. They have also added the hunting and crafting mechanic from Farcry 3 into this game so the same targeting system that works with enemies can also work with animals, this is also where the harpooning mini game comes into play. They also refined or well, I guess I should say, made it faster to upgrade by allowing you to go into any store and just buy hunting items so you can just buy what skins you need for your next upgrade and do it that way so you can have more focus on stabbing templars in the face and sinking their ships.
Like previous titles in the series, there are various types of collectibles that give you different rewards such as getting the templar keys will give you a templar suit to wear, but the most important collectible to get is the sea shanties by getting this you will open up new songs that the crew on your boat will start singing while you are on the open sea.
The soundtrack is another huge strong point in this game with the sea shanties that are sung when out to sea and the score that is accompanied by any major battle or story point after a few moments out to sea you will find yourself singing along to your favorite tunes and anytime you go into a new port or island adventure and you unlock the map and see that there are some new tunes available it will become one of the first things if not in some cases the first collectible you go for.
In this years game instead of having the assassin mini game where you send members of your brotherhood out on assassination missions you have a fleet of ships that you can send out on battles or trade missions, you get new ships by sending ships you boarded at the end of a ship battle by sending them to your fleet. With the advent of second screen apps being a big part of this new generation of consoles you can either play Kenway’s fleet in-game or use your tablet or smartphone. I actually found myself several times while watching the television while loading up my black flag app and checking up on my ships and doing any new missions that are available. Another cool aspect of this mini game is if anybody on your friends list also has black flag their ships will occasionally help you out in any mission.
I played this game on the PS4, and if you plan on getting this years Assassin’s Creed game, I suggest getting it on a Sony platform because you will get an extra mission where you play as the main character in last years PS Vita title Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. It is a fun little side mission that will give you just over an hour of gameplay, and makes me interested to see what Ubisoft may do with Aveline’s story. I really liked her game last year and plan on getting the HD remake that will be launched later this year on home consoles.
Overall, there is really nothing I hated about this game and Ubisoft was able in one year take me from no longer playing this series to actually looking forward to what they do with the next title in the series. Lastly, a new feature that Ubisoft put in this years title is a way to vote on a five star system your enjoyment of each mission this single new aspect could be one of the most potential game changers in this long running series by letting Ubisoft take out stuff that they know people didn’t like and tweaking stuff that does work while adding new mechanics.
If there is anything I can say about this game from a christian perspective it is how a lot of the things that drove the pirates in the 18th century seem to be the same thing that drives many people in our society today. My pleasure is what comes first, this is one feature that I never got that was a driving force with Edward Kenway.