Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Review
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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is the sixth major installment in Ubisoft's ever growing Assassin's Creed franchise, released November 2013 on all major consoles (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC) Assassin's Creed IV is a sequel to 2012's Assassin's Creed III's modern story setting and a prequel to the historical storyline of the game, as the story is set in the early 18th century caribbean, during the Golden Age of Piracy. The story follows the pirate Edward Kenway, who is the grandfather of the Assassin's Creed III protagonist Ratonhnhaké:ton.
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Unlike previous Assassin's Creed games, the gameplay in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is more ship based than other games, but still keeps the traditional land based free running exploration, along with the combat and stealth systems we've all grown to love with the progression of the series.
From very early in the game you get your own ship called the Jackdaw, an old ship that is merely a shadow of its former self, and are tasked with repairing it and buying upgrades, to make it a fearsome warship, to take on the Spanish and English ships waiting for you, to get their gold/other items!
One of the better things about upgrading the Jackdaw is that it feels more rewarding than previous side missions in Assassin's Creed games, as getting gold is extremely easy in Black Flag, when you upgrade something on your ship, then see it when you're sailing, you feel a sense of accomplishment and attachment towards the ship, and the same applies when you sink an enemy ship that you wouldn't have been able to do a few upgrades ago, you feel good about it. Whether you're diving in underwater shipwrecks for chests, searching island after island to find a buried treasure, infiltrating a military store room to get the required wood, metal and rum, or just sailing around picking up crew members and crates from the ocean, just to upgrade the Jackdaw, its safe to say that as beautiful and immersive as the world in Black Flag, there are a ton of reasons to go off and explore too.
Upgrading your ship is a key element of the Black Flag story, as naval combat is a large part of the main story missions along with side missions. but this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the naval combat is extremely fun, there are many different strategies to find success, you can either choose to go in head on and use the cannons to hope you destroy the enemy ship(s), get in shots from further away with the mortars, use explosive barrels to decimate a chasing enemy, or straight up ram an enemy ship, the naval combat system promotes strategies and tactics, which makes it much more enjoyable and rewarding. Black Flag also adds in a Spyglass you can use, to survey the land around you, and spot enemy ships to see exactly what's around you, while telling you the level of the enemy ship, and what items are on board, so you can decide if you want to plunder it or just leave it.
But, not all of the naval combat resolves around just ships, once you damage a ship a certain amount, you have the option to board it, or sink it and lose half the loot if you desire, but if you choose to board it, you will engage in a good old swordfight, and will have to kill a specific amount of enemies before you finish, once you've done this then you can either choose to add the ship to your fleet, destroy the ship, or use it to lower your wanted level, and stop hunters coming after you. Very similar to the fort takeovers present in the game, where you destroy specific areas of a fort, and then kill the person in charge, and the fort is yours! although these are similar in goals, they are both still rewarding and enjoyable to complete.
There are many more side missions than that though, from underwater diving to find treasures to hunting smaller animals such as rabbits or monkeys, to great white sharks and whales, to upgrade armour/weapons, its clear that Black Flag has a lot of things to do on the side, with a true feeling of accomplishment and reward, and will keep players occupied for hours upon hours, and doesn't have that feeling of nothing to do once the main storyline has been completed.
Speaking of the main storyline, the modern day storyline of the game is present also, but isn't as big as in previous games, they add a bit of humour and continue to keep you curious about the main storyline happenings.
The main character of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Edward Kenway is one of the more loveable characters of the series, at the start of the game he is just a simple pirate, not an Assassin or Templar, trying to travel and make enough money so that he can go back home and settle down with his woman, but the pirate life is too enjoyable for him to want to just give up, and he eventually gets himself caught up in the Assassin's/Templars battle due to his thirst for money and a search for greater purpose in life, dragging him further in to the battle, all while Edward remains true to his pirate ways, meeting some stand out pirate figures such as Blackbeard, Charles Vane, and others, the game does well in exploring the 'human side' of these pirates, and even makes you feel a bit sympathetic towards them at certain points of the story. With a fantastic narrative and some very good characters/voice acting, it makes the story more enjoyable and you find yourself wanting more and to never put the controller down, from walking around a deserted island with Edward, or becoming more and more engaged in the middle of the Assassin/Templar battle accidentally, making him unable to leave his pirate lifestyle, not that he can be blamed for this, as the Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag universe is stunningly beautiful, from just simply sailing around the sea's on a nice peaceful day, to navigating your ship through massive storms to avoid losing your crew, to just walking around on a small deserted island, or even Nassau, the pirates town area, it's all extremely well done, the game does extremely well to capture the thrills of the open sea, along with the beauty of the islands/ruins/jungles, along with the towns and cities, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is the most detailed game in the series so far, and the attention to detail put in by the developers is nothing short of magnificent. Everything in the game is impressive regardless of which console its played on, but obviously far superior on PS4, especially with more simple things, such as navigating through the bushes with Edward, or the sails blowing in the wind as you sail through the sea.
As good and as beautiful as Black Flag is, there are still a few things that could be better, the slight feeling of deja-vu is there, with the implementation of the eavesdropping and tailing missions, which aren't bad or boring, just have been in the series from the very first Assassin's Creed, and have just slightly began to show their age a bit in Black Flag.
Another potential issue that may arise is the lack of advancements in Multiplayer, while still being incredibly fun and enjoyable to play, it feels the same as previous games, with Wanted and Co-Op modes returning, while the co-op modes are fun, they can be annoying due to team members, as in the Wolfpack game mode, you get extra bonuses for teamwork and waiting to fully lock on to an enemy, and blending in/hiding/ariel assassinations, but many just run to the enemies and assassinate them instantly, gaining the rest of the team less points overall, increasing frustration, although if you can find good team members then its a lot more fun with co-ordination and so in. Black Flag feels like it is slightly lacking in Multiplayer, as the single player aspect had so many improvements compared to the multiplayer.
Black Flag Multiplayer
Summing up, Black Flag is a step forward for the Assassin's Creed series, significantly better than Assassin's Creed III, with a beautiful universe, fun to explore lands/islands and even the sea, and a highly enjoyable story with fantastic characters and voice acting. Even although small bits of it seem repetitive and the multiplayer isn't as good as it could be, its safe to say this game will keep you occupied for a very long time.