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Review | Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

By
Posted on January 15, 2014 AT 01:23pm

Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagI’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag now for 2 months now, and I’m not even close to completing the game. Not only am I ok with this, I’m glad about.

I bought ACIV: Black Flag on release day for the Xbox 360 and immediately tore into playing it, knowing that the Xbox One version would follow a month later and I would have to make the hard choice between not playing the game on the new console, or starting all over from scratch. While Ubisoft offered a $9.99 upgrade path to the newer console versions for those purchasing the game day one, game saves did not transfer over which is the only negative thing I have to say about ACIV: Black Flag in this review. Ultimately, I did buy the Xbox One version of ACIV: Black Flag, but this review is of the Xbox 360 version of the game. Enough setup, let’s get to the fun stuff.

ARRRRH You Ready For The Plot

Breaking from the previous assassin excursions, in ACIV: Black Flag players will find themselves taking to the high seas as the the infamous pirate Edward Kenway – grandfather to  Ratonhnhaké:ton, the protagonist of the games’ predecessor, Assassin’s Creed III. In ACIV: Black Flag, Edward takes to the life of piracy as his way of making his fortune in the world under the guise of providing for his “wife” Caroline. For those who played the last game in this franchise, you may be wondering how we are able to once again dive into the past as SPOILER ALERT Desmond Miles died at the end of the game. After making the ultimate sacrifice, Desmond’s body was recovered by the Templars and their organization Abstergo Industries has taken samples of his DNA to explore his memories.

Kenway through the fortune of fate stumbles into the epic Templar versus Assassin’s battle, and not until suffering an emotional loss after following the pirate code of booty before all else, chooses the Assassin Order. In this game, the Templars are search for a place known as “The Observatory” – technology left behind by The First Civilization that allows the user to observe a person in-the-moment wherever they are on the planet provided they insert a single drop of their blood into the machine. A truly world changing device that no one should control, but only one person holds the key to, known only as “The Sage.”

Like all other Assassin games, when you are not inside the Animus device exploring the Templar versus Assassin timelines, you are in the present day. In Black Flag “the present day” takes place in Abstergo Entertainment, an entertainment production company that is working on fully immersive and interactive consumer entertainment experiences using Animus technology. In all truth, it’s a front for Abstergo Industries attempts to locate The Observatory.

With the plot out of the way, it’s on to the gameplay

Booty Plundering’s The Game

While the majority of all other Assassin’s games take place on land, the bulk of the time you spend in ACIV: Black Flag will be on the open sea, and I do mean open. It’s no exaggeration to say that I have spent more than 10 hours just traveling around the map in my ship, the Jackdaw. It’s this explorative aspect of the game that makes it more enjoyable than previous games. Between fighting storms on the water, other ships, sharks while diving for sunken treasure, harpooning sharks and whales for their skins and bones to craft upgrades, capturing forts, and recovering loot and survivors from the waters, it’s easy to spend more time on the water outside of the main story than in it.

The amount of detail that has gone into crafting the water based adventures from the Ubisoft team is remarkable. While captaining your vessel, you rely on your spyglass to see the stats of the ships around you – or off in the distance – to determine whether or not you have a chance of damaging, boarding, plundering their ship, or possibly adding them to your fleet. Kenway’s Fleet is the side mission that replaces assassin missions from the previous games that nets you money and trading resources you can use in the main game.

That’s not to say that land based activity isn’t grand or expansive in its own way, because it is. ACIV: Black Flag is full of collectibles on land ranging from songs for your crew to sing when you’re sailing on the sea (shanty’s), animus fragments, manuscripts, treasure chests, letters in bottles, viewpoints to synchronize, to Mayan Stelae, art and buried chests. Even with these collectible additions which some may say are added to lengthen the time spent in the single player campaign, the best part of ACIV: Black Flag is that the difficulty is back.

Being good at being stealthy is a necessity in this game. You don’t have any assassin recruits you can call to help in a fight – though at times you do have an NPC companion along for the ride during a mission – they must deftly balance using and upgrading melee weapons (hidden blades and swords) and ranged weapons (guns, blow darts, smoke grenades), or slog through the same missions over and over again. If you are going to play this game – and you really should – you must hunt. You have to hunt in order to upgrade Kenway’s health, number of smoke bombs, blow darts, and rope darts. Trust me, you will also need to beef up the Jackdaw. You will get tired of seeing the reboot screen when you are defeated by another ship simply because you are out gunned.

Multiplayer is a beast all its own, so I will tackle that in a separate review. In short, it doesn’t suck.

In The End

Over 40 hours in, I’m only at 68% completion rate on the single player campaign according to my start screen, and I’m more than okay with it. With a strong multiplayer and community aspect, and planned DLC to expand the game play, ACIV: Black Flag should not be overlooked by any action-adventure game fans.

It’s gorgeous. It’s epic. It’s a journey worth taking the time to savor.

Rochelle has been writing about, talking about, and arguing with anyone who will listen to her about video games –professionally – for more six years. Co-Founder, Designer, and Podcast Co-Host at ElectricSistaHood, Rochelle fancies herself rather geeky. Follow her on twitter @NinJaSistah




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