ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Review

Updated on March 24, 2014

What with the games' titles, it's sometimes easy to forget that this is the sixth Assassin's Creed instalment in almost as many years. After the somewhat grim and dour affair we had last year with Assassin's Creed III, Ubisoft's latest attempt seems to breathe a little more excitement into a series that has frequently been at a bit of a risk of becoming stale and a little bit too serious.

And what better way of making something exciting than basing it around pirates. A small group of side quests that were included in Assassin's Creed III have now taken front and centre stage as you explore the world at the helm of a pirate ship. Taking a leaf out of The Wind Waker, the game is a huge patch of Caribbean sea dotted with an abundance of islands, coves and pirate dens to explore. It's easily the biggest change in the series' core structure since Assassin's Creed II.

Even the lead character is a sharp contrast from the stern-faced Connor. Edward Kenway is a pirate first and an Assassin second. An early plot event has him impersonating an Assassin turncoat and temporarily working for the Templars. It's a great way to kick off the game but unfortunately, the whole tense triple-crossing affair is quickly scrapped for the typical (and far less interesting) tale of revenge as Edward sets out on the hunt for some elusive treasure and the chance to get the Templars back.

Still, Edward is still a breath of fresh air; Altair and Connor were dull guys right from the get go, and even Ezio got all serious whenever the Assassin's code got mentioned or some Templars showed up. Edward manages to seem a bit more human simply for the fact that he's largely interested in money before anything else and is happy to question both the Assassin's and Templar's motives, even if their group names might as well be called "Good Guys" and "Bad Guys".

Despite the focus on naval combat, the games towns and settlements are still pretty varied and well crafted.
Despite the focus on naval combat, the games towns and settlements are still pretty varied and well crafted.

If The Wind Waker influenced the world design, then Far Cry 3 influenced the game mechanics. Ubisoft seem determined to clean up a lot of the rather convoluted, plodding elements that slowed the last game down and so have turned to one of their other series for help. Crafting upgrades involves hunting animal skins from various creatures such as crocodiles and sharks, with each island housing different inhabitants. Meanwhile, side quests see you taking control of British and Spanish strongholds, which in turn reveals secrets in the nearby area.

Whilst Edward might not be much of an Assassin he's still happy to carry out their work for a reward. Assassination contracts are dotted around each town or settlement you visit, along with Naval Contracts so that you get take to the high seas and make money that way too.

Ship battles are easily one of the games highlights, and capture the tone and spirit of the game better than any other moment. Much like in Assassin's Creed III, ship battles largely consist of pounding the other ship with more broadside cannons than they can bring to bear against you. It's a rather simple mechanic overall, but remains oddly compelling for lot longer than it should. Once a ship as been sufficiently damaged it can be boarded, and, provided you take out enough of the crew, will eventually surrender.

This isn't just an idle past-time however, piracy rewards you with supplies, some, such as rum and sugar, can be sold for a high price, whilst others can be used to upgrade your ship. It's a moreish system that tempts you with looting one more brig so you can just get that next cannon upgrade that'll make gunning down enemy vessels that little bit easier.

With this abundance of side content, it's easy to forget that most of this messing around, stealing and fighting for money, is not connected at all to the game's main campaign, which is where the cracks begin to show. Here, the same problems that reared their head in previous installments return: the repetitive mission structures, dull tasks (almost every mission requires you to tail someone for several minutes), and a general lack of creativity towards what should be the game's most iconic set pieces.

Thanks to a decent fast travel system sailing is enjoyable but never gets tedious as the game progresses.
Thanks to a decent fast travel system sailing is enjoyable but never gets tedious as the game progresses.
Visiting taverns is good way of gathering information, just be prepared to get into a brawl.
Visiting taverns is good way of gathering information, just be prepared to get into a brawl.

Similarly, the story suffers from some rather awkward pacing. Rather than tell an epic tale of redemption, Assassin's Creed IV manages to feel fragmented and episodic. Each section of the story manages to introduce another bad guy or another problem, which is usually dealt with far too easily. The other issue with having such a wide array of characters, both good and bad, is that there's simply not enough time to establish them well enough so that we care about what's happening. In fact, one of the game's major antagonists manages to hardly be present in the story until the final few chapters.

While Kenway remains a likable enough lead throughout, his transformation from beginning to end also comes across as rushed and not all that convincing, despite a decent vocal performance by Matt Ryan. The mystery of what side he'll end up on, given who his son is, is never really played up enough. Edward Kenway might be a greedy pirate but it's still clear early on that he's one of the good guys.

And in case you were wondering, no, Ubisoft haven't forgotten about the present day segments either. Finally rid of Desmond Miles and that ridiculous end of the world plot that seemingly went nowhere, the developers were finally in a position to rebuild this section from scratch or jettison it entirely. In the end, it's a bizarre compromise, playing as a nameless, voiceless Abstergo employee working on the Edward Kenway memory file, you unwittingly find yourself aiding some undercover Assassins. The finale will have anybody who sat through Assassin's Creed III's present day sections rolling your eyes and wishing Ubisoft would be done with Abstergo and stick to historical settings.

It's something of a disappointment too because, much like the rest of the game, when the developers stop taking themselves so seriously there's moments that are actually rather fun. In this instalment, Edward Kenway's memory is being explored as part of Abstergo's entertainment division, which is developing a pirate-themed game for mass market. It's a funny meta-story on the Assassin's Creed series, and Ubisoft aren't above poking fun at themselves in some of the files you can uncover; one has several corporate executives arguing over whether pirates, zombies, or ninjas are more profitable.

With Assassin's Creed: Unity having been announced for this holiday season it seems the annual installments of Assassin's Creed aren't going anywhere. Black Flag is the first game that questions whether it should be an Assassin's title however; it manages to refresh the series but a lot of the old problems still remain. This almost feels like a pirate game that just so happens to be set in the same fictional universe. At times you wish the Assassin's, Templars, and all that silly Animus nonsense would buzz off and just let you enjoy being a pirate.

With Unity being set during the French Revolution, we'll be hoping that Ubisoft can pull off a little revolution of their own and update a bunch of game mechanics that have remained essentially the same since the second game in the series way back in 2009. Black Flag has its flaws but there's enough to enjoy here to hope that Unity is a success.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was released in October for Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U. A PS4 and Xbox One version were released in November.

This review is based on the PS4 version.

© 2014 LudoLogic

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • LudoLogic profile imageAUTHOR

      LudoLogic 

      4 years ago

      Ha, yes it was pushing things a bit far turning an assassin into a pirate wasn't it? :) There's not a whole lot to choose from weapon-wise this time around either (probably because of the focus on naval combat). Hopefully, they'll sort some of this out for the next game.

    • dailytop10 profile image

      dailytop10 

      4 years ago from Davao City

      Look! There's Jacksparrow! Though I love the AC series, I think the developers went overboard this time turning our beloved assassin into a pirate.haha I just hope they make up to it with an improved set of flashy and stealthy moves. And more weapon choices please! I like doing my missions rough. haha

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)