A Tale of Two Games: Assassin’s Creed 4 Reviewed

25 Jan
Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag

Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag

When I wrote my review for Assassin’s Creed 3, I mentioned that the single best aspect of the game was the naval combat, and stated that I’d love to play a game with an emphasis on that. So when Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag was announced, I was overjoyed. Sail the high seas as a pirate! Parkour your way to riches and fame! It couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. Could it?

In the “real world” of the game, you play an anonymous new employee of Abstergo Entertainment. No longer confined to pure research, the animus now records memories as historical raw footage – to be used in movies and other forms of entertainment (one imagines this would save a ton of budget on actors and fx shots). You’ve been tasked with mining the memories of an 18th century pirate for a “Pirates of the Carribean” type film.

In the animus world, you play Edward Kenway – father of Haytham Kenway and grandfather of the main character from the last game. Early on, you gain control of your very own ship and take on a quest – to gather as much money as you can and have fun while doing it. Edward isn’t a terribly deep person.

As you progress, you search for an ancient complex called the Observatory – visions of riches and power in your head – and end up entangled in the age-old battle between Assassins and Templars.

This is a huge world, with plenty of side quests to keep you distracted. From assassination missions to treasure hunting to underwater exploration areas, you can spend a ton of time not bothering with the main story. Underwater areas especially offer a nice change – though I’m not sure why he has to be completely defenseless underwater when he has assassin blades on his wrists. As for collectibles, for the most part finding treasures or mayan artifacts aren’t just time fillers – you can get some nice upgrades that way. And lots of lore (including insight into Desmond Miles – your “real world” character for the previous games) can be unlocked via hacking mini-games.

Once you discover an area, you can usually fast-travel back at any time. Which is good, since the distances you have to cover in the ocean can take a while to traverse. Fortunately, you won’t mind the travel all that much. Sailing and naval combat are well done – the game is at its best when Kenway is cruising around on his ship. The combat is much as it was in the last game, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

That said, character movement has regressed – at least, it seemed that way to me. More times than I remember in past games I either climbed a wall rather than pass near it, or hung onto a fence like a statue while trying to jump into a bush three feet below to avoid detection. The camera reminded me at times of the early tomb raider games. Often, I’d be stuck at an angle where I couldn’t see anything useful – making it impossible to see enemies that were attacking me until it was too late to respond. The occasional currents in underwater tunnels were even worse – many times I couldn’t fix the camera angle at all and would just plow into every obstacle.

Overall, the wonderful naval aspects of this game mitigate the seemingly regressed land mechanic, and despite the problems I did have with the game I still found myself coming back for more. If you’re a fan of the series, definitely give this one a try. If you didn’t like the previous titles – naval combat alone may not be enough to sway you.

7 animus fragments out of 10

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