Let me start off by saying that I have never been a big fan of this franchise. I bought the first game and took a year to complete it, then bought the second and thought the only difference was location. Then I proceeded to borrow the third. But Assassin’s Creed Black Flag gripped me from the get go and it has truly ignited my passion for this franchise. It is pure swashbuckling awesomeness!
The story is perfect. We play as Edward Kenway a pirate that happens to be stranded on an island with a rogue assassin. After a bit of a chase we are left with no choice but to kill him and steal his identity. This opens a whole new world of opportunity for our tattooed protagonist and the adventure that follows is just amazing.
The world is there for you to explore, it really captures the essence of living the pirate life. Unlike previous games where I found myself just doing the main story sequences and objectives, I found myself going upon my own little side missions in order to improve my character. There are maps to buried treasures, loot spread throughout the lands, letters in bottles that have been washed ashore and shanty notes to be chased. Still, my all-time favourite is the ability to hunt. This new world is filled with animals, from rabbits and tropical iguanas to Great White sharks and White wales, all of which you are able to hunt. Although PETA will not be impressed, hunting is crucial to your characters development. In this game you cannot buy improvements beyond new weapons. Holsters, pouches, darts and even some costumes have to be crafted using the hide and bone of your kill. Sure you can buy some of the hides, but they do not come cheap. Killing a smaller animal is much like killing a human in the game – stealth, whistle and stab. But killing a shark or a whale triggers a neat harpooning mini-game.
How do you get to harpoon at sea? Well, in Black Flag as Edward Kenway you are able to sale ships and lead the Jackdaw pirates! So you will be bracing yourself and firing cannons in order to loot other ships. The Jackdaw is fully customisable and can be repaired with the parts looted from other ships. The combat system for battles at sea is quite realistic and enemies are not easy to defeat. Let’s just say I make a better cutthroat, blood thirsty pirate than I do as a Captain of a ship. But the rewards of boarding and looting are great and are crucial to gameplay progression.
The graphics are amazing. To think that the PS4 version promises even better environmental graphics is just insane! The free-running system is smooth and certain buildings, rocks and foliage trigger special free running sequences. But you do end up feeling a bit overpowering at times as you fall from tremendous heights and do not die. You are also able to pull of jumps that would make Spider-Man jealous. Also, as a single fighter with perfect timing and countering, you can take on quite a bit of enemies at once, making you feel a tad bit super serum powered. Thankfully, riflemen are often there to help balances combat out. It is also great that the guards can see you from a far and get alerted a lot easier. So if you are tight on time you might want to be a bit stealthier in your approach. You do still have that concept of bringing the player to the contemporary world, but gone is Desmond. Instead, there is a first person view for you. But even that concept has under gone a refreshing change.
The pirate life is definitely one for me. With a great story and open world to offer, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has finally warmed my heart to this franchise. In the past my answer to the question of ninjas versus pirates has always been simple. But Black Flag is making me reconsider my answer. This game shows you that fun and adventure go hand in hand and there are hours of fun to be had in Black Flag!