Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

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Charles Phipps
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Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

Post by Charles Phipps » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:32 am

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I'm going to admit, I was actually prepared to hate this game. After being incredibly excited about Assassin's Creed 3, I was bitterly disappointed to discover the sequel would not star Conner Kenway but his grandfather.

Worse, I was resistant to the idea of a sequel based around the Golden Age of Piracy. I felt this was a blatant cash grab using a time period which was far less interesting than numerous others which had been forwarded by fans from the French Revolution to Tokugawa Japan. As a result, I only put it on my Christmas list to fill it out and got it early due to my illness.

What's my opinion? I have never been more pleased to be so wrong about my misgivings. I think Black Flag may be my favorite of the series. Not only does it successfully continue the story after the original metaplot of the games was resolved but it does so in style. The character of Edward Kenway is perhaps my favorite one in the entire Assassin's Creed franchise, surpassing Connor and even Ezio.

So what is so enjoyable about Black Flag? At heart, I believe it's the fact the game isn't afraid to take a fresh look at some long-standing assumptions about the franchise and turn them on their head. The Assassins, Templars, conspiracies, and importance of the Pieces of Eden all get put under a microscope with a protagonist who can barely bring himself to care about any.

The protagonist, Edward Kenway manages to bring a roguish charm to the series without forgetting piracy is an activity built on murder and robbery. The darker side of the character comes out in discussions regarding everything from slavery (he's against it but it's not his problem until it impacts him personally) to motivation (profit, plain and simple).

The environments are rich in Assassin's Creed 4, invoking the breathtaking sights of the Caribbean in a way which feels far removed from the occasionally claustrophobic-seeming forests of the early United States. Really, this game sold me on a Caribbean vacation more than the hundreds of commercials I've seen of the region.

The supporting cast is incredible, too. While I missed the constant presence of Desmond's support crew, Blackbeard and other pirates more than make up for the absence. The fact Ubisoft chooses to go with the reality of many historical figures versus their more theatrical reputations (such as Blackbeard actually hating bloodshed) makes the game surprising in numerous ways.

My favorite characters are, unsurprisingly, Blackbeard and James Kidd. The two characters are nuanced and reflect different aspects of Edward's personality. The real-life relationship between pirates and anarchism is explored through the context of the Assassin's philosophy and it's a surprisingly interesting comparison. It's certainly inspired me to investigate the real life history of piracy more thoroughly.

The change to the gameplay is immense, too. Whereas the main campaign was the chief allure in the previous games, the side-activities were a mixture of fun and a chore. Edward Kenway's adventures, by contrast, are fun the entire way through. The side-activities are every bit as entertaining as the main campaign. Indeed, I can't think of a single activity I didn't enjoy doing unlike previous installment's feathers.

As to be expected, a chief allure of AC4 is the sailing mechanic. This first showed up as a side-activity in AC3 but takes center stage here. The battles between ships are fun, fast, and tactical with lots of enjoyable twists. Upgrading your ship requires a truly massive amount of gold and resources, which encourages lots of piracy to do both.

Unlike previous games, there's no "gold fountain" option where you can turn on the game for a few hours then have coffers overflowing with wealth. If Assassin's Creed can continue to have enjoyable change-ups like the ones in this volume, its future is fine indeed.

In conclusion, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is an absolutely fabulous game. One I heartily recommend to not only long-time fans of the series but newcomers as well. Shiver me timbers and swash me buckles, it's a good buy.


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Re: Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

Post by Beleriphon » Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:05 am

Charles Phipps wrote:Unlike previous games, there's no "gold fountain" option where you can turn on the game for a few hours then have coffers overflowing with wealth. If Assassin's Creed can continue to have enjoyable change-ups like the ones in this volume, its future is fine indeed.
I'll note on this front if you have a smart phone or a tablet (of either Android or iOS persausion) you can link them to AC4 via a free app that lets you control Kenway's Fleet of traders away from the game, and while playing AC4 it works as a second screen map function (plus some other unlockable stuff like playing the sea shanties).