Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal,
Released: October 29th, 2013 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U) || November 15 (PS4) || November 19th (PC) || November 22 (Xbox One)
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III was an ambitious undertaking but ultimately missed it’s mark due to the repetitive mission structure that bogged things down. With Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag, Ubisoft has learned from its mistakes and created what is unequivocally one of the best games of this franchise with a smart, sprawling adventure that places an emphasis on freedom.
Set in the early 18th century the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ if you will, Black Flag centers on Edward Kenway, a loud privateer-turned-pirate who seeks a better way of life by plundering the riches of the Caribbean. Unlike characters that have come before in the Assassin Creed universe, Edward is neither an Assassin nor a Templar, but a pirate who runs solo and is a true scourge of the seven seas. Any would be protagonist that comes into contact with him best tread lightly—a fact a poor Assassin soon found out the hard way as he was killed by Edward. Assuming the identity of the Assassin he murked allowed Edward to learn of a great treasure being sought by the world’s secret powers which would set him up for life. This officially sets in motion the campaign following Edward as he hunts down said treasure, taking you on a fantastic adventure which should take players around thirty hours to complete, assuming they don’t do any of the many side missions. Black Flag’s aforementioned side missions are a spectacle to behold on their own. There are plenty of Assassin and Naval contracts to be completed, and many small uncharted islands begging to be searched for hidden treasures. Scouring the oceans is where Black Flag truly shines and where you get to truly understand how massive the open world setting is. While it comes with the caveat of completing a portion of the story to unlock certain areas, the majority of the sprawling sea is immediately open for the plundering as you navigate it onboard the Jackdaw. While there are three main cities—Kingston, Havana and Nassau, each of which are bustling with activity—the Caribbean is littered with smaller islands loaded, with chests, treasure maps, and supplies all for the taking. Navigation is made easier this time around with the introduction of synchronization points which double as fast-travel hotspots, eliminating the need to sail through miles of ocean. Aside from collectibles, there are forts to capture and raid, mayan ruins and caves to explore, and of course ships to battle and jack on the high seas. It is easily one of the most action-packed sandboxes you’ll play on this waning console generation.
Any pirate worth his salt is going to want to trick out his trusty boat and there are plenty of upgrades available for the Jackdaw. You’ll be able to pimp your ride with powerful cannons, strengthen the hull integrity, increase cargo space and you’ll even be able to change your sail color as some of the options. Some of the upgrades are necessities when you go into battle against the British and Spanish ships as they bring some serious fire power. If there was one drawback to the game it’s the land-based activities in the campaign suffer from feeling more or less the same, one mission to the next doesn’t help deter from the repetitiveness. The game takes it’s hardest hit in its overuse of eavesdropping missions which has been a staple of the franchise and precisely why it’s begun to show it’s age.
Multiplayer has become a huge part of the Assassin’s Creed experience since it was introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and it’s no different in Black Flag. The core element is much the same violent game of hide and seek that reached its apex last year. Wolfpack mode is back, although this time it’s been tweaked as players need to defend chests that pop up occasionally as well as coordinate timed attacks on groups of enemies.
Those moments of stagnation are mere blips that do little to deter from what Black Flag is: an invigorating interpretation of swashbuckling on the high seas that you’ll be playing for many hours.—Written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)
XXL Rating: XL
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag was reviewed on the PS3 version provided by Ubisoft.