Don’t worry guys, there’s no spoilers in here. Or at least nothing I would consider a spoiler anyway.
Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, the newest title in the franchise from Ubisoft was released to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 players on the 29th October and since then I’ve been sailing through the Caribbean nearly every day so I think it’s about time I shared my thoughts on Black Flag with you all.
The game is set in the Golden Age of Piracy, the later years of it to be exact. And in 1715 that is when you meet Edward Kenway, a privateer turned pirate. A man who from the outset of the game makes no excuses for his want for riches. Edward is in this for the money, he’s a greedy man. Something I found refreshing, it’s nice to be a little selfish now and then. In the first few missions of the game Edwards intentions are a little hazy, Ubisoft have again tried to throw us off the stories scent, much like Haytham’s stint in Assassin’s Creed III.
The game throws you in to action from the very beginning, and to the players with other Assassin’s Creed games under their belts the action is probably no problem to handle, but I suspect novice player may struggle. With Assassin’s Creed II and III players were guided from the characters young age in what they had to do so tasks weren’t hard to do. Edward though, he’s a pirate, he should already know how to handle himself in a fight. The game doesn’t let up and it really starts to get interesting when you meet Adawale. At that point in the game that is when you meet the games second protagonist, The Jackdaw.
Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag could not work with out The Jackdaw, people who’ve played the game I’m sure you’ll agree. You’ll be spending a lot of time aboard the ship and keeping it in ship shape is very important, that’s what makes it this great ‘character’. You will have to put in a lot of money into The Jackdaw, but it will look after you in return, you’ll sink enemies faster, get to locations quicker and it’s the key to exploring the huge and expansive map in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. Ubisoft have made customising the Jackdaw a major thing as well, there are plenty of options to make when it comes to the appearance of the ship, you can change the ships sails, wheel and figurehead. Combinations can make a ship look menacing or that it belongs in the kings fleet.
We’ll come back to the Jackdaw later. The game consists of about 50 locations that can be explored, varying in size and what lies within the locations, larger places like Havana and Kingston, are where players will get most of their free running fill. The buildings are a lot like those from Assassin’s Creed II, where rooftop chases were the norm. Edward also spends a lot of time on Nassau, the Pirate Paradise, but there are also smaller islands, some house fisherman villages, some are only inhabited by wildlife. You have several different variations of locations, who and what you’ll find changes. That’s a great feature in Black Flag too, it adds to the realism of the Caribbean, you can anchor The Jackdaw dive in and swim to an island and not know what you might find, what treasure (literally) will be waiting.
With Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag being so large, there is a fast travel solution, but you’re still forced to explore first. Viewpoints are used as fast travel locations in this game, but you can’t just jump to any viewpoint in the map, you’ve got to reach that destination by ship first, climb to the top and then synchronize. By forcing you to reach the location first, you’ll get distracted by other things, most of the time by the promise of riches. It’s like you become Edward. Passing ships can be plundered, islands can be explored for hidden gold and eventually, you’ll be able to explore the sea bed. With the help of the diving bell, Edward can explore wrecks and the surrounding areas of the wrecks for gold, animus fragments and sometimes the odd angry shark. Ubisoft manage to distract you so well in this game, probably better that the previous ones. And it’s done simply, treasure maps. Find the maps on the bodies of dead pirates and you’ll get a grid reference and small diagram aiming you in the right direction for the treasure. And once you reach your prize, you’ll be given a blueprint, this blueprint will now let you upgrade Edward or The Jackdaw. It’s normally for the Jackdaw though, but by exploring the map, and ‘wasting’ time you’ll be rewarded.
As with every Assassin’s Creed, the games have their standout secondary characters, many would say choose Malik from Assassin’s Creed, Leonardo Da Vinci from Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood, Yusuf from Revelations and Achilles form Assassin’s Creed III. Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is no different, but this time I think there are so many to choose from that it’s probably down to personal preference, but for me it has to be Blackbeard, he’s the most ruthless and probably most terrifying character to call an ally. There are a lot of historical characters in the game too, Benjamin Hornigold, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack, Charles Vane and obviously Blackbeard.
Edward Kenway has a wealth of weapons in his arsenal, wielding dual cutlass’ which can take care of enemies in no time, if chained together correctly. He also has two flintlock pistols that can be upgraded so that he carry four on his persons, again these pistols can be quick fired to take out enemies quick when boarding a ship say. There is also the addition of free aiming, players no longer need to have the game auto-aim for you, this allows for a more tactical game. Firing at an ammunition store will cause an explosion that can be used to distract or kill. Another weapon in Edwards possession is the blowpipe, with sleep or bezerk darts available, if a stealth mission is required, the silent blowpipe is a must. Rope darts make a return from Assassin’s Creed III with the same effect as last time, death. And finally, the hidden blades, Edward is in possession of two in this game, but maybe shouldn’t have them in certain characters opinions.
Naval gameplay was first introduced in 2012, in Assassin’s Creed III where we have Connor captain the Aquila, but with Captain Kenway and The Jackdaw, naval gameplay had been massively improved. The open sea is what the frontier was to Connor, it’s the gateway to new lands. There are also forts dotted around the map, these forts can be taken over by you and your crew and can help you rule the sea. You see, the forts are powerful so taking them over is difficult, they have cannons on their walls that will rain down on you and your ship and sink you in no time (not to mention they normally have ally ships sailing around them making it even harder). So it’s a case of using a combination of tactical sailing and all of the Jackdaws weapons to make the fort possible to enter. The chaos doesn’t end there though, within the fort are enemies, and the forts officer in command who once killed leaves the fort up for grabs. Hoist up the Black Flag and the forts yours, it’ll protect an area too so enemies passing will be attacked and you can pick up the loot later. Ubisoft have made the risk high but the gains larger and with the forts, you can use them as locations to fast travel from so navigating the map becomes a little easier.
So far, there has been a lot of mission variation. There’s been more simple assassin missions where killing is the aim of the game and more technical puzzle missions where sometimes taking a step back and taking it slowly is the best option. My only concern is the amount of eavesdrop assignments there are. I don’t mind them, but there are quite a few.
A main focal point prior to the games release was the Modern Day sections of the game, and without spoiling it let me tell you it’s done brilliantly! You’ll see old faces that make you say to yourself “LOOK! It’s [INSERT NAME HERE] haha, didn’t expect that!” or at least I said that when I seen good old insert. Good times. ‘You’ are now an employee of Abstergo Entertainment, and it’s your fist day on the job and you’ve been given the task of enjoying the life and times of Edward Kenway, but as with Abstergo Entertainment there’s always something else to it. You’ll learn stuff whilst working for Abstergo that make doing the modern day parts of the game an exciting change of pace.
So far Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag has been a brilliant game, Edward is a very very likable character, who is surrounded by other brilliant characters. The game has so many varying places to explore, making it a fun task, where rewards are plentiful. The naval gameplay has been kicked up a gear too and doesn’t feel so mission-like, it feels like it’s sewn into the world seamlessly. Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag feels large which is exactly what Ubisoft needed to, with it being set in the world it is. I personally think it has the same feel as Assassin’s Creed II did with it’s varying cities.
I haven’t played the games multiplayer yet so come back soon for an in depth look at the multiplayer side of Black Flag. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on Adewales DLC, Freedom Cry when it is released. As always though, share your thoughts on the game in the comments below, no spoilers though. Don’t be that person. What did you enjoy? What did you not? Is Edward a good character to play as? Is this the best Assassin’s Creed yet? Share your thoughts.