Alternate Character Interpretation: Surprisingly, for a blank-slate protagonist, the Abstergo Entertainment employee has this going. The story makes it seem as though John from IT is bullying you from one hacking operation to the next, threatening to scapegoat you if you don't go along. If you've been taking advantage of the hacking skills he's taught you and used the security access he's granted you to gleefully hack your colleagues' terminals and computers, then what does that say about you as a character? Are you just in it because of John's threats? Are you just a bit overly curious after seeing the tidbits that John had you dig up for him? Or, are you gleefully exploiting everything that John has done for you because you enjoy accessing restricted information? Or, at least after a certain point, are you just pissed that your employer has drugged and imprisioned you and, as the final insult, your annoyingly perky boss comes on the intercom to tell you to get back to work?
Abstergo Entertainment and its employees as a whole. Are Olivier Garneau and Melanie Lemay simply decent people who are an Unwitting Pawn to their Jerk Ass bossesnote for example, Olivier claims not to know why, other than "orders from above", they're not allowed to call Julien du Casse and others "Templars" or are they Punch Clock Villains who are Just Following Orders no matter how bizarre and illegalnote Lemay — although reluctantly — locks down the Abstergo building and imprisons all her workers in the office, which violates more civil rights than you can shake a fist at! Then again, according to her, she had the authority to detain them indefinitely...? Are the employees merely interested in working to make a good product or are they consciously spreading Templar propaganda. Word of God is that Olivier may be the only one who "does know who his bosses are", while "most people at AE" are indeed the Unwitting Pawn. It's later revealed in Rogues that Lemay, at least, is indeed a Templar. And given that a file for Otso Berg, who plays a big role in Rogue, shows up in Black Flag, it seems that Word of God was misleading. For all that she's quite perky, it appears Lemay knew from the start. Although she may only have been promoted after the Assassins kidnapped Olivier.
Oliver Bowden's tie-in novel which adds an epilogue to the events of the game muddies Edward's redemptive story to some. It's hard to accept that Edward truly learned that "money wasn't everything" as the main game insists when at the end of the book, after becoming an Assassin, he takes the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole's pardon and offer of money and business in exchange of sparing some Templars, justifying this on grounds of it serving as a foundation for his "assassin business". Is Edward a morally ambiguous Anti-Hero who was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or a mere opportunist with Delusions of Eloquence and self-importance.
Edward Kenway is unique in being largely mercenary in motivation, a more-or-less normal person thrust into the ongoing Assassin/Templar conflict. The Templars are appalled that Edward would prefer piracy over their ideas of a New World Order, while the Assassins regard him as a selfish jerk who's wasting any potential he might have. Even his own beliefs about making money to provide for his wife is suspect, since she loved him for who he was and it was he who wanted "a good life, and easy life". Whether he's a good man who's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold or a self-destructive Failure Hero who wasted many of the best things that happened to him is up to fans to decide.
A downplayed example. Adéwalé constantly shouts advice Edward's way during naval battles, but as Edward's quartermaster, that's pretty much his job. Moreover, the only reason that he wasn't captain of the Jackdaw to begin with... is because he's black. (Edward admitted that their initial crew of rescued prisoners was too racially prejudiced to accept Adéwalé as captain, even though Adéwalé was obviously more experienced, so in a sense Adéwalé was also The Man Behind the Man.)
If you want to board a ship, don't engage it near a captured fort. The fort will blow it out of the water well before you can get into position.
Anti-Climax Boss: By now, a staple of the series with Laureano de Torres being a Platform Puzzle boss, who as an old man, dies with a single air-assassination. But its also played straight with others like Benjamin Hornigold and Black Bart who you would expect to put up more of a fight. The game's Legendary Ships are far more tough than any story-mission boss, either on land or at sea. Especially galling in the case of Hornigold since his sea fight is against a Schooner, the weakest class of ship, when in real life, he had a 30 gun sloop.
Bartholomew Roberts is especially a disappointment since he's made out to be the Bigger Bad of the Caribbean and Edward's Always Someone Better as a pirate, and he's also a Humanoid Abomination, a reincarnation of the God of Death in many old religions. Given this buildup, you would be forgiven for expecting, at the very least a Magitek based Boss Fight on the order of the Altaïr-Al Mualim or Ezio-Rodrigo Borgia or even Connor's fight with King Washington in the DLC.
Badass Decay: Retroactively this comes into play. In the Assassin's Creed Forsaken novelization, we see Edward's final fate, dying in battle in a fight against a bunch of random mooks (one of whom is killed by ten year old Haytham) when as a captain he was a scourge of the navies and could easily tackle multiple enemies at once and he was still fairly young. There's the fact that he was attacked at the dead of night and maybe hadn't been active for years, and he did put up a fight but still, all in all, a fairly ignominious end.
The ultimate fate of Edward in the Kenway saga fairly reeks of Death by Origin Story, which is why it seems so jarring now that he's a fully fledged character in his own right and not just an adjunct for the characterization of others.
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: The PC/PS3/PS4-exclusive Aveline missions feel like this all around - as AC4 content, as a tie-in to the AC3 saganote it's the only mention of Connor after the events of AC3 despite him only appearing in voiceover form, and as part of the setting's overall narrative.
Is setting an Assassin's Creed game in The Golden Age of Piracy a good idea, or just over-the-top and out of place? Was it a good idea to release another numbered sequel just a year after Assassin's Creed III? Was it a good idea to make IV a prequel instead of going forward in the timeline?
The emphasis on sailing. A welcome expansion to a fun but underutilized mechanic of the last game, or just frustrating and awkward? Does it detract from the Assassin's Creed experience, and even if you think so, do you still enjoy it as a pirate game?
After the game came out, people liked the game but debated on whether it was a true Assassin's Creed game or just a pirate game with the main series holding on as an Artifact Title, with some wondering if it would not be better as a pure pirate game with all the Assassins Vs. Templars stuff taken out (Not helping was Ubisoft releasing a poll asking just that.)
Like with Grand Theft Auto V, Microsoft are charging 70 dollars for Black Flag on their Games On Demand Service. Unlike GTA V, most of the arguments are one-sided attacks at Microsoft, as most of the other games are a seventh of that price (3 is the only one above ten dollars, at 30), and it came out during Microsoft's Winter Sale, where many games were much cheaper than they would have been. Even worse, Freedom's Cry, a spin-off DLC, came out right before the GoD copy of Black Flag, and guess what its price was? Ten dollars. However, Microsoft lowered the price to thirty dollars, avoiding this splintering of the base.
Catharsis Factor: After going through most of the main story with amoral abandon, the opportunity to have an unambiguously righteous cause to fight for in Freedom Cry is immensely satisfying. Hacking to pieces overseers (who are paid to beat obedience into slaves or kill them rather than risk a plantation uprising) in order to liberate people from a lifetime of hard forced labor scratches an indignant itch.
Complete Monster: Pierre, Marquis de Fayet, the Big Bad of the Freedom Cry DLC, is the Governor of Port au Prince. He is initially presented as less racist then the other slave masters and out to calm the violence, when, in fact, it's quite the opposite. Slaves on Saint-Domingue and its surrounding territories are treated extremely harshly under his rule, brutal system of oppression. Despite his racism, de Fayet also supports and frequents an African brothel. Later, when the Maroons end up freeing large numbers of slaves, de Fayet orders slave ships about to be captured to be sunk with the slaves still on board, condemning them to drown while chained up. When he's tracked down to his estate, he's has slaves lined up to be tortured with a branding iron for information, shooting them when they don't comply. When Adéwalé, the hero of the DLC, finally has de Fayet at his blade's edge, de Fayet justifies himself with the belief that blacks are less than human and he can do with them as he wishes.
Draco in Leather Pants: While not shirking from emphasizing the fact that Pirates do live off plunder, the game's perspective on the pirate's republic and the relative egalitarianism of their life over that of the Law enforces like Woodes Rogers and Julien du Casse makes many players openly root for the Pirates over the Templars and Assassins, with some lamenting Edward joining the Assassins and becoming a Reformed Criminal, preferring him to remain a pirate forever instead.
Ear Worm: Most, if not all, of the collectible Sea Shanties.
Blackbeard unsurprisingly, though whether he's a darkhorse when he's an obvious crowdpleaser is up for debate. Still the Lighter and Softer, The Mentor / The Obi-Wan who is A Father to His Men approach to this legendary bad guy made him incredibly endearing and cool while making him no less awesome.
Benjamin Hornigold, like Haytham Kenway, has a Jerkass Has a Point standing among fans, the fact that he dresses, speaks and acts more like the hero than Edward Kenway himself doesn't hurt either. That and he gives Edward an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
Charles Vane, who even has his own fanclub (the "Vaneglorious Bastards"). A good portion of his appeal comes from his voice actor, Ralph Ineson, who has a very deep, guttural voice (sort of in the same zone as Commodore Norrington).
An oft-heard cry in fandom is the desire to see Vane, Hornigold and Thatch get their own DLC where they can be properly awesome.
James Kidd / Mary Read in both aspects is very awesome.
Adewale is pretty cool too and arguably more likable than Edward. This was likely intentional, as he now has a DLC campaign named Freedom's Cry out.
Ah Tabai for his Altaïr-like dignity and sense of understanding has also attracted a few fans.
Woodes Rogers is a more minor example of this, he's usually seen being slashed with Julien Du Caisse.
The Templar and Mayan Armor. Templar armor goes hand in hand with Disc One Nuke, as it is available after doing some easy, if lengthy, missions lines unlocked in the first fourth of the game, and makes Edward a walking tank that takes an extreme amount of damage to take down. Mayan armor makes Edward Immune to Bullets, albeit without the damage-reducing effects of the Templar armor, and can let the player snipe enemies without getting damaged by riflemen.
Berserk darts can veer into this from time to time. Why chase an assassination target down when you can snipe them from the bushes and watch as their own guards cut them down in self defence?
There's several tricks with regards to boarding gameplay that can make dealing with non-Legendary enemy shipsnote Legendary ships cannot be boarded a lot easier than presumably intended:
First, enemy ships will stop shooting once you come alongside and grapple an enemy ship — evidently none of their captains decide to sacrifice their disabled ally to ensure the sinking of the Jackdaw — and you'll 'leave' the naval combat phase, which effectively makes the Jackdawnote though not Edward invincible for the duration of the boarding action.
Second, you're almost never required to cross over to the enemy ship, only to kill a number of enemy crew and complete certain other objectives (i.e. destroy the enemy ship's powder reserves, kill enemy sharpshooters, kill the enemy captainnote which can be achieved by nailing him with a sleep dart from as far as one of the Jackdaw's masts, after which he can be one-shotted by anyone such as your crew), with no special restrictions as to how to achieve these other than destroying an enemy ship's flagnote though if you can get from one of the Jackdaw's masts onto a remaining mast on the enemy ship, you can avoid the deck altogether. In practice, if you've got enough ammo you can almost always stay on the Jackdaw and plink away with Edward's personal ranged weapons... or if you've got a high enough Crew, you could very well just let the Jackdaws handle the enemy crew!
Thirdly, not only can swivel gun shots kill multiple enemies in one hitnote and upgrading them will increase their area of effect, but you're not required to use up all five swivel gun shots in one go, so if Edward took enough damage aboard the enemy ship to risk desync, you can have him flee back to the Jackdaw to regenerate healthnote at the slow "open conflict" rate while manning the gun. Moreover, if the enemy ship is sufficiently small and your shots sufficiently precise, you may carry out the boarding objectives entirely with swivel gun shots!
Fourth, the post-boarding prompt for what to do with a captured prize will still appear — in particular, "Repair the Jackdaw" — even if a multi-ship combat is still ongoing. Combined withe the Jackdaw's invincibility during boarding, a player can keep the Jackdaw afloat in a drawn-out battle for as long as they can make it to the next boarding, i.e. "nibbling one's way up the food chain" against a high-level enemy ship by focusing on disabling, then boarding and capturing lower-level allies to "recover health" whenever needed.
Finally, you can avoid naval combat with non-Legendary ships in free-roam altogether if you're not already in naval combat... by releasing the Jackdaw's wheel, diving over the side, swimming to the target ship and wiping out its crew in personal combat single-handedly, then swimming back to the Jackdaw; your first cannonball impacts against the cleared ship will immediately disable it, and you'll even get a special slow-motion camera view of the shots, and upon the boarding prompt you may even get the success lighting/crew animations/what-to-do-with-the-prize prompt with everyone still on the Jackdaw'''s decks'... even if the disabled ship is a level 60 man o' war! If you end up having to complete an objective anyway, you'll be able to carry it out without having to kill any (more) crew.
Qualified in that you have to be able to defeat a Legendary ship, but in the HMS ''Fearless'' and HMS ''Royal Sovereign'' boss fight both ships drop one half of the normal reward, and if you loot one of them before going down to her sister ship you keep the drop — as long as you can consistently defeat and loot one each time, that's 10000 reales per fight!
Slavery has been, justifiably, discredited to such an extent that the game's many sympathetic moments given to a character like Woodes Rogers feels hollow, since he sees nothing wrong in operating slave ships. What makes Rogers worse is that as a Templar, he's supposedly enlightened and free from the prejudices of the time (like Torres seems to be) which you can make a case is true for Laurens Prins, a career criminal who's certainly not making a claim to be the man who'll solve all of humanity's problems. But he still goes ahead with it. His dismissal of Edward Kenway for breaking down everything that "made our civilization is great" is especially galling, since even Edward, a cut-throat Lower-Class Lout who even the Assassins find hard to put up with, knows that slavery is a horrible crime against humanity and he would never earn money from it, even if its more profitable than piracy. And not only did fellow Templar Julien du Casse actually become a sell-sword (hence how he ended up with the Templars) in the first place because he quit the slave trade, but Rogers is still in it despite their own Templar Grand Master specifically telling him "to divest yourself of that sick institution"... though Rogers turns it around by asking him the difference between enslaving some men as per the slave trade, and enslaving all men as per the Templar goal.
The fact that most of the navy ships you sink are essentially serving to enable safe passage for the Atlantic Slave Trade, which was still active and legal at the time, makes shooting them down a lot less guilt-free than it would have been, with most of those soldiers Just Following Orders and lacking the guts of the Pirates to build something of their own, even if it was a doomed experiment in democracy.
Any pretenses of Torres of sophistication and intelligence and even fair-mindedness goes out the window in the final mission where he and his soldiers charge to the Observatory in Long Bay, Jamaica and massacre what seems to be a hundred native tribesman of the Taino. Edward finds their corpses dotting his path up the jungle.
The DLC Freedom Cry gives an even worse one to Gouverneur de Fayet, also a historical figurenote specifically Saint-Domingue's governor-general Pierre, marquis de Fayet, who visits a brothel of African women while perpetrating a vile system of abuse on the slave population of Port au Prince. He orders a crew to fire on and sink a slave ship, with most of them drowning and Adewale barely surviving. And he also tortures another slave with a branding iron, and in the end, he still has the temerity to justify it to Adewale when the latter murders him... which, considering the optional objectives being the canonical historical route, was with his own branding iron.
Most Annoying Sound: The narrator's "helping" whenever an AI starts lowering your chest bar in Wolfpack. Since it informs you every time an enemy so much as touches a chest, and there's always +1 chest to your player count (to prevent players just sitting on one), it often results in the game shouting a near-constant stream of information at you:
"ONE OF YOUR CHESTS IS UNDER ATTACK! ONE OF YOUR CHESTS IS UNDER ATTACK! — One minute remaining! — ONE OF YOUR CHESTS IS UNDER ATTACK! — Kill the extra target! — ONE OF YOUR CHESTS IS UNDER ATTACK!...".
Edward and Blackbeard are attacked at the latter's retirement party by British soldiers. Eventually, onboard a ship, Blackbeard is overrun and killed by soldiers while Edward is too far away to help him.
Benjamin Hornigold, Edward's former pirate friend, joins the Templars, resulting in him becoming an assassination target for Edward.
The entire end of the level when trying to help Mary Read escape from a Jamaican prison. Dying from complications brought about during the birth of her child, Edward tries everything he can to get her out alive, from letting her lean on him, to flat out carrying her. In the end Mary dies despite Edward's best efforts and pleading, and the best he can do for her is carry her body out. Out of all others, this death seems to hit Edward the hardest by far, causing him to go through a massive Heroic BSOD.
The autopsy video and memos of Desmond Miles, found by hacking your way around Abstergo Entertainment in the modern day segments. The former exists to cement the fact that he's dead, and the latter, a series of messages he recorded on his phone during the events of III for his father, has him reflecting on his life and regrets as he realizes what's to come. As it turns out, this broke William so hard that he quit the Order.
Take That, Scrappy!: Played with yet doubling as a Take That, Critics! for those who didn't like Connor: His Abstergo Market Analysis video reeks of this, with the narrator echoing real-world player complaints of the character's nature as The Stoic and the setting of his early years as reasons to pass on making him a Virtual Experience character. Thing is, this is the opinion of the 21st-century successors of his enemies, whose other market feasibility analysis videos wildly mischaracterize the other ancestorsnote for example, implying that Ezio Auditore is a Dirty Old Man.
That One Boss: El Impoluto. It's as tough as any of the other Legendary Ships, but it's also ridiculously fast, so much so that the Jackdaw's mortars and fire barrels are all but useless. That just leaves getting in close for broadside volleys...which leaves you exposed to its broadsides...or, worse, its turbo-charged ram.
That One Sidequest: Those damn sea-shanties. They're hard as shit to locate on the map, easily blending into its surroundings so that you'd have to scour every inch of it to find them. Like the Almanac pages from III, they're floating pages that fly away when you get near them, requiring you to run all over the friggin city chasing them down. And if you don't catch them in a certain amount of time they disappear, requiring you to go all the way back to the start and wait several minutes for them to respawn.
Uncanny Valley: Deliberately invoked with the Sages' face. Their unnatural blue and yellow eyes are unsettling enough, but in the denouement of the modern-day portion, we're given an up-close look at John's face, with every single blemish, every bit of stubble, being visible and magnified.
Win Back the Crowd: After the mixed reactions garnered towards the Contested SequelAssassin's Creed III, Black Flag managed to surprise critics who found themselves heavily enjoying the open world sailing aspect of the game. Today, it's considered one of the top entries in the series.