System(s): PC (Also available for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Ubisoft (Ubisoft Montreal)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Language, Violence
Assassin’s Creed is one of those acquired taste franchises. It’s not because of the gameplay since, even at the weakest installment and implementation of mechanics, the games still manage to be pretty fluid in play and pretty fun. The thing that usually gets people is the story. Having a meld of at least two different timeframes per game, things can be pretty complicated. This isn’t a bad thing since each time period does play off the other, whether by revealing the specific MacGuffin for the game or out-of-animus character gaining some of the skills of his ancestor(s). It gets even more complicated with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations where the game essentially covers two periods of time and the Animus coma dream. You’re dealing with a lot of finely crafted narrative details that need to be balanced and it can be overwhelming for people not accustomed to similar types of games.
However, one of the great things about the Assassin’s Creed franchise is that it covers a lot of different places during times of great shifts of politics, science, religion and consciousness. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag continues the trend of covering historic periods in the midst great change, as we’re treated to a view of the pirate’s life in the Caribbean during the early 1700s. It also continues the trend that Liberation with creating a more focused and more accessible story. While there are some parts of Assassin’s Creed IV‘s story that take place outside of the Animus, the meat of the story is told in-Animus and follows an assassin named Edward Kenway.
Prepare to embark
As Edward Kenway, you’re a man without direction. He’s someone who knows what he wants, while also not being quite sure on how to attain it. So he turns from being a privateer to being an outright pirate. Yes, there is a slight difference. A privateer has a letter of marque at least approving piracy as a legitimate practice so long as the act targeted another country’s ships and was confined to a set area of the sea, whereas true piracy operated with freedom outside of the bounds of the law, but the threat of swift and deadly legal action if caught. Kenway becomes an assassin when he kills an assassin on his way to defect to the templars and steals his identity.
The Assassin’s Creed IV story, much like the other entries, is partially the typical quest for some artifact, a MacGuffin that will help in the overarching franchise story. The overarching story is about a struggle for power. On one side, the Templars are fighting for control to mold the world in their image. On the other side, the Assassin’s and, in Black Flag‘s cases, the pirates fight for freedom. In this case, the artifact or place of power is known as The Observatory. It is a tool that would allow the people who control it to observe anyone on the planet at any time. The implication of such a devise, especially in the hands of those seeking control is absolutely terrifying.
Kenway is easily one of the best written protagonists of the historical portion of Assassin’s Creed. It’s partially because he has a lot of rich motivations and shifting allegiances. After all, when you first meet him, he’s a pirate. However, in a flashback, he is talking to his fiancee about becoming a privateer so that he can afford the freedom to live well rather than joining England’s navy. When he first gets the assassin’s garb and meets with the governor of Havana, he is acting like a Assassin defector joining the Templars. Kenway is one of the most flawed and most human protagonists on the historical end of Assassin’s Creed‘s overarching story.
As said earlier, one of the best features of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is its writing and the protagonist. However, there is a lot of great content in the game. For one thing, it easily feels like one of the biggest and most open worlds in gaming outside of Grand Theft Auto V‘s Los Santos. The Caribbean is full of shipwrecks, islands, temples, towns, military bases and supply points to explore. Add in the search for treasure, there’s more that forces you to explore either single cities or multiple locations. Then there are the assassination contracts, which provide both money and notoriety. The synchronization points do a great job by adding both fast travel. Even describing all this, it barely scratches the surface.
All this exploring is made even easier, given the beauty of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag‘s world. It’s easily one of the brightest and most colorful in the series, and ridiculously detailed. It’s easy to just get lost even in a single city, like Havana, wandering around and taking in the sites.
The aquatic world of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is beautiful and filled with all sorts of activities and dangers, and is a bit more compelling than the land-based play. There are the random ships to battle and storms to survive. Smart sailors will combine the two to turn the tide in battles. Kenway can even dive for treasures or harpoon dangerous undersea beasts. It’s a beautiful, yet lethal world.
PC owners may experience some minor issues with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I began using a keyboard and mouse, and found both occasionally unresponsive. It feels designed for a gamepad, and is much more responsive. If you go into a chacse segment with only the option of keyboard and mouse, you’re may have a bad time.
Also, be ready to take breaks while playing Assassin’s Creed IV if you’re playing on a laptop or older PC. I ran into graphical glitches after playing for long stretches. I found if I my computer rest after running into a problem, turning off the game and taking a break before returning, gameplay would return to normal. Be aware of the system requirements, because this game is taxing.
Assassin’s Creed IV is definitely worth the money. You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck, even if a player doesn’t plan to invest in DLC. It’s smart, well designed and visually stunning game, even if someone goes with with lower settings. Anyone who takes a chance on the pirate life will find an engaging story and a world that begs for constant exploration.