Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the fourth full game in the hit series. I’m going to be up front here and let you know that I have only played Assassin’s Creed 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3 previously and didn’t finish 3. I went into Black Flag with high expectations, especially given how much fun the naval missions in AC3 were.
So what happens when you are thrown into the middle of the Caribbean as the pirate Edward Kenway? For starters, you do a lot of sailing and running through the jungle. You are also put on the quest to find The Observatory. Along the way, you get to work with other pirates including the infamous Black Beard.
If you thought the naval missions in AC3 were fun, you will love sailing on the open seas in Black Flag. You get your own ship — the Jackdaw — which you have the opportunity to upgrade throughout the game. As you sail the open seas, you can attack and plunder the numerous ships you encounter. The plundering of ships is important if you want to have the necessary money and supplies to upgrade your ship.
There are a bunch of side quests, which include helping out the Assassins on the various islands. These feel like the normal quests. Other side quests involve killing a person or solving a puzzle or fighting four super powerful ships. There is plenty to distract you from the main quest, but most of the time you hit a point where doing the side quests becomes monotonous.
The controls are an improvement over previous AC games. The gameplay mechanics are pretty similar to previous AC games and where they differ it is pretty easy to pick up. The melee combat mechanics have improved and make melee combat challenging at first but after a little practice you will be slicing your way through most enemies with ease.
As with previous AC games there is a certain amount of freedom in how you complete a mission, there are some missions where you are required to use stealth but the majority of missions let you decide if you want to use stealth or if you would rather just go in and kill anything that moves.
The map is well laid out and in most cases it won’t take too long to sail from quest to quest, if however you would like to save some time there are ample quick travel spots which allow you to get almost anywhere in a short period of time. Both the full map and the mini-map have a bunch of waypoints so you know when you are getting close to various shops or quests. You can also set your own waypoints so that you can easily navigate to the place you want to go without constantly opening the map.
As with all of the AC games there is no manual save option so you are at the mercy of the auto-save, which fortunately runs often so you are never in danger of losing a ton of progress.
The Story is lackluster to say the least. You aren’t really an Assassin in the first place, so that means you don’t have the normal allegiances that we have come to know in the series. As has become ever more common in AC games you get pulled out of the story every few missions to run around the “real” world and do some other stuff so that you can get back into the story. In the end it is the story of a pirate set on finding a bunch of gold and exacting revenge on those that have shorted him.
The sound quality is good. You have the sounds of the environment that you are in at the time. If you are in the jungle you will hear birds and the like and if you are sailing you will hear the sound of water against the hull.
The soundtrack is pretty good. There are instrumental scores a lot of the time, but what is really fun is listening to your men sing as you are sailing.
I played this on the Xbox One and have played a little bit of it on the PS4, on both of these system the game looks gorgeous. When you are out on the open sea the graphics make you feel like you are actually sailing around the Caribbean.
While in general the graphics are good, there are times especially in cut scenes on the Xbox One where things may not show up. When I played one of the characters didn’t show up in the cut scene so all I could see was a rope floating in the air that would have tied the character to the mast of the ship and Edward interrogating the rope.
I played the game for probably 30 hours. The nice thing about the game is due to the underwhelming story it is easy to pick up and play when you have some free time. There were times where I had a bunch of projects so I couldn’t play for a few weeks and when I came back to it I didn’t feel like I had lost anything even if I didn’t remember exactly what was going on in the story last time I played.
I finished the main story and originally planned on going through and completing all of the side quests, but after a couple days of playing side quests I decided that the rest of my stack of games that I wanted to finally play had more draw than the side quests. That isn’t to say that the side quests aren’t fun they can be a nice diversion from the main quests and can be extremely helpful in preparing your character and ship for the main quests.
Overall the game looks nice and is fun to play, but as one of my friends said to me, “It is a great pirate game, but it is a terrible Assassin’s Creed game.” I feel like that statement sums up the game. The game takes some of the fun elements of the Assassin’s Creed franchise such as parkour and sets them on the backdrop of being a pirate in the Caribbean. There is a joy that comes from sailing around the open world and being a big, bad pirate who attacks random ships on a whim. But as much fun as the game is it still suffers from a lacking story.
In the end if you want a fun, good looking (at least on next gen consoles) pirate game, then this is the game for you. If on the other hand you want a compelling story then you probably want to pass on this game.