Reviews: Assassins Creed IV Black Flag

A title I SHOULD despise.

To me, one of the worst things a game can do is mitigate the definitive aspects of what gives the franchise it belongs to its quality for the sake of glossing up an otherwise gimmicky or poorly-carrying change in procedure. This game, on a design standpoint, has some of the most severe fundamental issues to the series since the first game, and here they all are.

The main campaign missions are absolutely MIND-NUMBING. The ratio between original or exciting missions and overplayed, slow-paced, tedious, and all around frustrating tailing missions is practically 1:10. An even bigger problem arises when nearly half of the side quests become relegated to that same mission structure (at least the ones based on being on land).

Combat is the absolute worst since AC 1 and maybe even worse than that. Edward fights sloppily, clunky, is almost unresponsive in even the most basic scenarios and ALL of the most common ones, and it's what REALLY drags down the fun that the boarding segments could have had.

I'm gonna get plenty of hate for this, but I didn't much care for Edward. comes off as a gleefully stubborn tool for so long that I was long since disengaged in his comparatively petty plight for the level of his development—his 'charming lovable rogue' BS felt like little more than a facade, which I felt was clearly unintentional on the writers' part after a relatively early point. I found both Ezio and Connor to be far more sincere and to that end, simply better protagonists.

Really, there's not much I can say that lived up to the bare minimum, if that. HOWEVER, the game emphasized one thing based all upon its ocean-themed world: Playing at YOUR pace. Rarely was anything kept from you during the course of the game while roaming the open seas, and most of what was came around to the player soon enough. Anything relating to the naval combat-ESPECIALLY the battling to take over the sea forts-ranged between impressive to exhilarating, and the dynamic nature of the ocean itself such as storms, waves, other battles going on, ships hunting down your ass, all kept the world from growing stagnant and aided in replay value. In all, this is one of the few breaks from standard procedure that actually made something of it. Is it overrated? Not as much as I think AC 3 is underrated, but I think that balance really helps me hold both in a high regard.

Possibly the best AC game by far

I'm going to admit, I was actually prepared to hate this game. After being incredibly excited about Assassin's Creed 3, I was bitterly disappointed to discover the sequel would not star Conner Kenway but his grandfather. Worse, I was resistant to the idea of a sequel based around the Golden Age of Piracy. I felt this was a blatant cash grab using a time period which was far less interesting than numerous others which had been forwarded by fans from the French Revolution to Tokugawa Japan. As a result, I only put it on my Christmas list to fill it out and got it early due to my illness.

What's my opinion? I have never been more pleased to be so wrong about my misgivings. I think Black Flag may be my favorite of the series. Not only does it successfully continue the story after the original metaplot of the games was resolved but it does so in style. The character of Edward Kenway is perhaps my favorite one in the entire Assassin's Creed franchise, surpassing Connor and even Ezio.

So what is so enjoyable about Black Flag? At heart, I believe it's the fact the game isn't afraid to take a fresh look at some long-standing assumptions about the franchise and turn them on their head. The Assassins, Templars, conspiracies, and importance of the Pieces of Eden all get put under a microscope with a protagonist who can barely bring himself to care about any. The protagonist, Edward Kenway manages to bring a roguish charm to the series without forgetting piracy is an activity built on murder and robbery. The darker side of the character comes out in discussions regarding everything from slavery (he's against it but it's not his problem until it impacts him personally) to motivation (profit, plain and simple). The sailing missions are fun, the supporting cast is incredible, and the vistas are beautiful.

In conclusion, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is an absolutely fabulous game. One I heartily recommend to not only long-time fans of the series but newcomers as well. Shiver me timbers and swash me buckles, it's a good buy.


Of Wooden Ships and Iron Men

So as to list some of the more positive aspects of the game:

  • The largest open world of the series, to the extent that the game could be considered a sandbox game even without the main storyline.
  • A main story line that attempts to explore the Templar perspective of the Assassin/Templar conflict without diminishing the impact or ignoring the conclusion of the Desmond Arc.
  • Some surprisingly well-detailed first person segments
  • A stunningly rich and enjoyable sailing experience that captured the whole "Age of Sail" era far more than any game I've yet seen.
  • Some extensive and enjoyable multiplayer content.
  • Brilliant level design and combat mechanics (as are standard for the series).

Overall an enjoyable game with much staying power, if not my favorite game of the entire series. I would highly recommend it, but this review doesn't do it justice. See the game for yourself and see what you think.