With funds quite low, I’ve only got one title at the moment for my Xbone. I am pleased that I waited for the new Assassin’s Creed. While the consensus seems to be that the previous installment of the series (AC3) was a flop, I’ll admit it wasn’t the best but still held value. Doubt and suspicion surrounded Black Flag as Ubisoft continued its annual pace with a strange focus on the naval battles which were a small part of its predecessor. I am here to wash away that uncertainty and boast an Assassin title that rivals whatever may your favorite in the series. It’s time to go now, haul away your anchor!
As with all within the franchise, we are presented with the historic based piece that is paired with a modern day twist that ties the games together. If you have somehow missed it, Ubisoft is taking us back to the age of piracy. We are following the footsteps of Edward Kenway (AC3 main character’s gramps) who’s doing what any self respecting pirate would be, which is plundering and looting booty to live the good life. While past protagonists usually have begun an Assassin or were trained early in the exposition, Edward opts not to immediately drop his prosperous endeavors to join the hokey, cult-like nuts where strangely “Everything is permitted.” Instead we are given a full blown pirate extravaganza, sprinkled with Assassin and Templar treats to enjoy amidst the cannon smoke.
Not too far after a bit a seafaring, we are presented with the newest toy that everyone wants: The Observatory. The Templars want to use its powers to increase the assets they need to hold true reign over the world, the Assassins don’t want those guys to have it, and, now, Edward sees Reale signs all over it. During Edwards quest for the prize of that should make the lavish life a reale-ity (forgive me), we get to see Ubisoft’s take on the beautiful Caribbean locale, famous pirates, and battles on the rolling sea. Boy, do they deliver.
Unlike the colonial setting, the various towns and ports have their own feel. The immersion is much smoother as you find yourself listening to pirate antics, stands peddling their wares, and musical bliss. There are a few “copy and paste” feeling zones, but with the expansive world and the route the story brings you, it is only noticeable once grinding out collectables.
Edward Kenway may not be the deepest character, but he is damn entertaining. He brings with him some of that Ezio charm that I, personally, was missing with Conner. Major assassinations are always followed by AC’s trademark death sequences. While Ezio’s catch phrase, “Requiescat en Pace,” remains my favorite, Edward’s aloof attitude in these cut scenes are pure booty. Most have the same old Templar “vision” and that “you know nothing,” in which Edward responds with a sly TL;DR.
Where this game truly shines is with the supporting cast. From the comic relief merchant to ole Blackbeard to the various city head Assassins, you got a little bit of everything. Any game that succeeds in making me truly laugh should be commended which this game did on multiple occasions. You would be hard pressed to hate ALL of the characters portrayed, so I believe there are some gems for almost everyone throughout the game’s plot.
When you aren’t sailing the salty brine researching the focus of your animus project, you’ll find yourself in a studio full of extra content and easter eggs. If you are current, the modern storyline held a lot of “what now?” due to a shift from the games’ main character. Instead of the sexily scarred Desmond whose fate would determine the entire world’s, you’ve been reduced to a nobody. It is fantastic.
No doubt there are new players to the series with every release. This game provides a clean slate that explains enough for the newbies without bashing them with AC lore unless they look for it. As a fan of the series, I made sure to search every coworker computer, TV screen, poster, etc. to get a little piece of whatever was being offered. The twist, though predictable with enough scouring, was the perfect morsel to keep me hungry for the next game. Anyone that says that this game didn’t progress the modern day simply has glorified the reveals in the past. Black Flag presented as much as its brethren, which is always a teasing glimpse.
To wrap up this bit, it is a game about pirates. A child could predict what shenanigans these fellas are going to get into. Boy, are they some entertaining shenanigans though.
Just keeps getting better. I was impressed by the tree climbing in AC3, but Black Flag takes it to another level. The tree/jungle traversal is stunning in itself, but even the structure scaling has me showing my buds. Edward is digging his fingers in cracks, never grabs a flat surface, and, hell, he does this all with two swords, four guns, darts galore, and heavy weatherproof apparel! Crowd blending, brush stalking, and the staples of the stealthy side of things all are up to par as well. The missions keep a healthy balance between Edward’s various skill sets, and yes those eavesdropping missions exist. Let’s be honest though, if you hate these you are probably a little happy on that “run” button and wouldn’t have to replay it if you were a bit more patient! Enough about what we’ve done before, let’s look at that sexy Jackdaw.
Woo buddy, did they strike gold with naval combat. I did enjoy Conner’s Aquila and her journeys, but gramps ole Jackdaw has some spunk, son! In all honesty, I lost a day of Black Flag play when I spent the entire time plundering ships and surviving hunting parties on the tumultuous Caribbean waves. As a steadfast cheevo hunter, it takes a lot to make me stray from my planned path to 1000G. Let this be a testament to how a game mechanic can suck you in and give you a just plain enjoyable experience. Touche, Ubisoft. With more ways for your ship to attack, the option to board enemy ships, and the essential upgrades for your Lady, you simply can’t help but keep your feet wet.
Overall, Black Flag plays like the games before it. Until AC stumbles, I see no reason not to get an exciting, enjoyable game every year. Keep it coming! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; which can certainly be said for their multiplayer modes as well.
The past few Assassin’s Creed games have provided us with a counterstream option for online multiplayer. I want to go on record that more games should reach deep inside and attempt risky endeavors such as this to provide a more robust library of online gaming. Instead of kill count, rushing from point to point, and fast pace action being rewarded in Ubisoft’s online option, they force user’s to play almost a stealthy chess match. It is glorious to see a system that rewards intended gameplay so perfectly. While there are those CoD/BF boys popping their guns and soaring off buildings to nab their 100 point kills and netting upwards of 20 in kill count, the victor usually takes home the gold with single digit kills. The same goes for the cooperative playset as well. This one can be a bit more frustrating as kills are stolen for chump change or impatience negates a perfectly set up sync kill, but the veterans always leave with more xp.
As with the rest of Black Flag, the online has been nipped and tucked to make it the most accessible and polished yet. Without having to worry about higher levels ruling the matches, you have no excuse to hop in and try it out. Just try it, everyone should be doing it. Why not? It is just sitting there if you forked out for the game already.
It’s just a solid game. Fans of the series should be pleased (unless they are all Desmond uppity). Newcomers, come on! It has a built in story to ease you into the universe without cramming the past five games down your throat. The piracy alone is enough to make this worth your irl treasure horde. With this game nearly 1k-ed, I am itching to see what they throw at us next.