- Ninja Pirates
Assassin’ Creed IV Black Flag is perhaps one of the best pirate themed games that I have ever played, and that fact alone makes it stand out as an AC title. Ubisoft did an amazing job at crafting a world full of things to do, but the main campaign is not all that impressive. It is nice to see that they did try to switch things up a bit with the story. First of all it is not as serious as previous titles, there is little political intrigue or melodrama. The story embraces a more classic pirate adventure full of treasure, betrayal and not letting the man (King George) get you down. Edward begins as a pirate and for the most part stays in that role, he does not become an Assassin until the end of the game. To be clear here he has all the abilities of an Assassin but his motivation remains gaining enough wealth to return home to his wife Catherine in England so that they can have an easy life. The Assassins initially dislike him because of what he does in the opening sequences to give the Templars an upper hand in their ongoing conflict.
The mission structure remains the same, and other than the addition of the naval aspect there is not really anything longtime fans will find that is new here. Even the eavesdropping segments make a return, these are arguably my least favorite parts because it is hard to pay attention to the conversation while you are busy trying to avoid being spotted by guards and the people who you are pursuing. The other missions consist of getting inside places you should not be in and chasing or taking out targets. For the most part Edward handles well, there were a few times when the controls did not respond the way I wanted them to. The combat is also fun while remaining true to past AC titles, especially when you board other ships. Naval combat is arguably my favorite part of the game; it is all about positioning and outmaneuvering your opponent(s). When an enemy ship has sustained enough damage you can board alongside your crew and have a very fun and hectic fight. Boarding usually has side objectives like killing the captain, blowing up powder reserves or taking the ship’s flag which keep things from getting too repetitive. Another naval aspect is capturing the enemy forts, which I think are the more challenging naval encounters because while you are shooting at them not only are they shooting back, but there are usually other ships in the area which attack you at the same time. Once a fort has sustained enough damage you must enter on foot and fight you way to the governor and kill him to take the fort for yourself. Once the fort is yours a large section of the map is revealed and enemy ships who come too close will be fired upon.
I have never had so much fun in an AC game as when exploring the world of AC IV Black Flag; I spent most of my time doing just that while unlocking fast travel points. The world is huge and beautiful to look at, this being a next gen game and all. I found myself climbing several viewpoints and just admiring the scenery of the Caribbean and wishing I was there. One of Ubisoft’s goals with this game was to make it easy for you to get sidetracked from the main story, and in this regard they have succeeded. Once the world opens up after the first hour you can go anywhere you please with few exceptions, and those exceptions are based on how much you have improved the Jackdaw, which in this game takes a really long time because of the resources and money you have to gather to do it. At no point did I feel like I had a ton of money and nowhere to spend it, which was one of the problems with AC III. There are plenty of side missions and activities to do; naval contracts, assassin contracts, Templar Hunts, taking over forts, diving for treasure, robbing warehouses of their goods and hunting land and sea creatures. All of these activities either give you money, new weapons or outfits and materials to upgrade Edward and the Jackdaw. The feeling I got when I finally upgraded the Jackdaw to its limit was quite satisfying. There are also four legendary ships at the four corners of the map which will test you to the utmost even with the Jackdaw fully upgraded.
Ubisoft also did something interesting with the present day in the game. Since Desmond is dead and Abstergo has his genetic data you play as a nameless Abstergo Entertainment employee assigned to sequence that genetic data for the purposes of creating interactive entertainment to be enjoyed by the public. You also get to hack other employee’s computers via several hacking minigames to find out more information about Abstergo, Templars and Assassins as well as a few bits about the First Civilization. Of course at the end you are given more hints about what is to come in the next title with regards to Juno and her plans for the world.
The multiplayer could have been better. There are seven modes to choose from; deathmatch, wanted, assassinate, manhunt, artifact assault and domination. While multiplayer provides some tense moments because of the cat and mouse structure it has no lasting appeal. Not even the Game Lab which allows you to customize your matches was enough to keep me interested. I think it would have been nice if there was a naval battle mode which pitted players and their ships against each other. A missed opportunity if you ask me.
Overall I had fun with this game, the main story might not have been the best, but the rest of the game has plenty to offer. It is the setting, the freedom of sailing anywhere and all of the things that you can do that make this game great. Long time fans will find something to like here. People who love pirates or ninjas or pirate ninjas will also find this title a blast. The game runs smoothly for the most part with few technical hiccups or glitches which is quite a feat considering the size of the game. Ubisoft did a great job making this Assassin’s Creed game less serious and allowing the player to make their own fun. Put that all together and you have one smooth pirate assassin adventure that will last you over 50 hours.