Charm in abundance, but is it the return to form for the Assassin’s Creed series?
Warning! This review may include spoilers.
Since the Assassin’s Creed series became a yearly franchise, the quality has noticeably dipped to the low point that was Assassin’s Creed 3. However Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag fixes most if not all of the issues that plagued its predecessor. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has the heart and soul of a game of the year contender, and on a personal level has made me fall in love with the series that I have grown so disillusioned with over the last 3 years. It not only rivals Assassin’s Creed II (arguably the high point of the franchise) but in many areas even surpasses it.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has advanced the naval mechanics of AC3 through increasing the upgrading of the ship, adding a dynamic weather system, the ability to loot ships and giving the player a tonne to explore and discover truly immersing the player into the role of being a pirate. Making the world open and sailing the Jackdaw your primary method of travel means these changes are very prominent and given that they have all been executed effectively means AC4 really stands out from the previous iterations in the series.
Away from the ocean the gameplay is more of the tried and tested Assassin’s Creed formulae. It has been built upon and polished the foundations that Assassin’s Creed had set. There are surprisingly few bugs considering the scope of the game in contrast to the vastly smaller AC3 which was riddled with bugs. The game is filled with things to do and unlike AC3 and its desire to turn the player into a businessman as opposed to an assassin; everything the game gives you feels related to the character and doesn’t feel out of place. The missions are more open than they were in AC3 it really feels like Ubisoft has listened to the series’ fans, whilst this is not always the case it is a step in the right direction, although a few less ‘Tail’ missions next time would not be a bad thing.
One of the most obvious ways Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has improved upon its predecessor is its main character; Edward Kenway is a fantastic character to play as and feels like a blend between Altair and Ezio, there is a lot of depth to the character and this allows Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag the ability to pull off both light hearted and more sober moments that the game has. It is the combination of these that really makes the narrative of the game the strongest the series has seen in a while. All of the characters feel interesting and add to the development of Edward and his story.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag does however suffer from pacing issues, especially in the last third of the game where the game suddenly remembers it is an assassin game too, not just a pirate game and rushes the development of that (almost certainly for DLC or a sequel).
The game has about the same graphical fidelity as AC3, but the art style is vastly superior. The cities have a great deal more life, and the whole environment has a beautiful vibrancy we have not yet seen in the series. The UI and menus are a lot simpler and easy to find your way around. The soundtrack is also superb, the best the series has yet had, overall the presentation is polished to perfection and looks great considering the limitations it has on the current generation consoles.
The modern day setting has moved on from Desmond and now has you as the character jumping into the animus by moving it into a first person setting. Overall I feel this is the weakest part of the game, weaker than Desmond’s story. However all the information that the player has access to about the history of both the Assassins and Templars is fascinating but the first person as greatly limited what they can do with it and definitely seems to indicate we will not see a modern day setting for the series.
Overall Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag a great game and one of, if not the best, the series has to offer. It is the game that Assassin’s Creed 3 should have been and has restarted my love for the series. I hope the dip in form of Assassin’s Creed has been put to bed for good now and the series and can use Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as a stepping stone for greater games in the future.