It’s hard not to admit the fact that the Assassin’s Creed franchise is changing with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. It’s hard for any series that is entering its sixth installment not to change.
Rest assured long-time fans of the franchise, this is the type of change you want to see.
Gone are the days of massive cities filled with bustling streets that contain the entire storyline. Gone are the days of the majority of a player’s traversal being carried out via rooftops and narrow street corridors.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag takes the amazing adventures we have come to adore to the seas of the Caribbean.
While this is definitely an Assassin’s Creed game, there is so much about it that is so strikingly different.
Just look at the setting itself. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen in any installment before it. The vibrant, colorful world of the Caribbean and its cities provide such a refreshing contrast to the types of worlds we’ve seen in previous games.
The world of the Caribbean is beautiful. The lush, activity-filled environments are extremely inviting as are the small islands and caves that players will discover as they journey through this massive world.
Being an assassin is familiar, but playing as Edward Kenway takes us on a new adventure. This adventure is about a man trying to discover who he truly is in this world. What a human idea that we can all relate to, and yet, it’s being employed so believably well that you would never know this is a game that takes certain liberties with history.
Edward defeats many of the preconceived notions that people had about him when the game was first announced. He isn’t a womanizer like Ezio was. That was a frequently assumed trait that many people pointed to prior to the game launching.
Edward sees the life of pirating as a means to an end. He just wants to earn enough money so he can retire to the standard of living he and his recently separated wife dreamt of since they met.
As you progress through the story, though, you will find out the dream Edward talks about is not as simple to acquire.
The open-world of the Caribbean is yet again an extremely addicting place to play and provides an amazing variety of missions and things for players to do. From assassination contracts, to upgrading your ship, to finding buried treasure, to overtaking ship after ship, there is so much to do.
Ubisoft did an unexpected thing for this game and revealed all of the items, treasure, fragments and other collectibles in a given location, once all of the viewpoints were synchronized.
Personally, this is quite a humble change for the series as past Assassin’s Creed games made players run around worlds with little idea of where each flag or mini-collectible was hidden.
If you were someone who enjoyed attempting to collect all of the items in a given Assassin’s Creed world, that was an extremely difficult task to complete. Often times, players would find 99 of the flags hidden around the world, but couldn’t remember where the final one was.
Thankfully having the actual location of all of these items, with the exception of buried treasure, players have a realistic shot of 100%-ing Assassin’s Creed IV.
Players do get to play in present time as a random Abstergo agent who is reliving some more of Desmond’s memories from different ancestors of his. That whole storyline is sort of weird and didn’t sit well with us.
It was better and more entertaining when Desmond and Co. were on the run from Abstergo and had their makeshift labs setup.
Not only do players act as an agent of Abstergo, but they journey through this world from the first person perspective. First person was an interesting change and was something that we thoroughly enjoyed, making an improvement over Ubisoft's previous efforts.
With the way the series is headed, it’s hard not to think we could be seeing the next Assassin’s Creed installment as one that is an RPG or MMO. The things Ubisoft and others have said point to this, and the experience we had with Abstergo only furthered that theory.
Just look at the direction Ubisoft is taking with new IPs they have coming out next year. Those are all employing elements of the aforementioned genre. Not only that, Ubisoft’s MC at the past few E3s, Aisha Tyler, has made a few hints at Ubisoft’s E3 reveal next year blowing people’s minds. Yeah, that’s an Assassin’s Creed MMO.
Side activities provided hours and hours of things for players to do, and since they lend themselves to players so well, everyone who buys Black Flag will want to try to 100% the game.
Side missions in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag are incredibly easier to find and get to. This was something that wasn’t there in Assassin’s Creed III. This, along with a new rating system showed the humble changes that Ubisoft was willing to make for the betterment of the franchise.
In reality, this is something most publishers would not do, taking in-game feedback from players for every mission they complete. That’s a bold move on the part of Ubisoft, especially since gamers are not always the most understanding.
Taking feedback and providing players the chance to 100% the game with more ease is going to speak volumes to people when they get their hands on this game.
Visuals and graphics are pretty and advanced with Black Flag, however, fans will get the best experience on next-gen. Having played and experienced this game on PS4, it truly is better on next-gen. The foliage is more responsive, character faces are clearer and more defined and the entire world just looks more fleshed out.
There were some bugs and things that needed fixing, but none were enough to inhibit the overall experience. If you have a choice, get this game on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. It really makes that much of a difference.
Shifting gears toward the gameplay we experienced in the ocean, it’s well, spectacular. Fans of the series who remember how busy and packed the streets of Rome, Boston and Constantinople were, will be impressively surprised with how similar the experience is at sea.
It’s like Ubisoft took the gameplay experience that we found in the bustling streets of Rome, and threw it all into the ocean in a brilliant manner. This of course was scaled to the size of geography that players have to cover while moving from one location to another.
The sea is filled with enemy ships, which can be engaged at the player’s will, for the most part. Wreckage filled with loot and supplies that can help improve a player’s ship are scattered out endlessly over the Caribbean sea.
Survivors of previously wrecked ships are also found to be floating at sea, once again there for the player’s choosing. There are many, many islands and side locations for gamers to visit where they can collect fragments, treasure maps and other collectibles.
Caves are incredibly entertaining and are places that players will surely want to journey through. These locations, among others, really do push the stealth in the game. You can of course be the type of player that wants to totally disregard the idea and style of stealth, but Assassin’s Creed IV really does present players with plenty of opportunities to succeed with stealth.
Main missions and activities that players will experience are improved and more diverse than ever before. The concept of having sea gameplay be a main staple in the experience helps add to the variety of what developers can do in the game.
Not only adventuring at sea and at land, but also going underwater is an extremely engaging change of pace for players. Harpooning large sea animals brings up the diversity level as well.
When you look at all of the changes Ubisoft has made to the depth and variety in gameplay, this really is a new, unique Assassin’s Creed. Some people may not enjoy how different it is, but you cannot fault developers for trying to create an experience that we haven’t seen before.
Sure wearing the Assassin’s outfit may cause the most jaded fans to say it’s the same game, but Black Flag is a different experience.
The control mechanics and fighting system are advanced and embellished upon from what Assassin’s Creed III delivered. The countering system was said to actually be more difficult, but we found it to be more practical and simple to master.
Assassin’s Creed still has some of the most brutal kill moves in gaming.
There is fantastic variety in the locations a player can go to in the Caribbean. Each of the three major cities is different in their own right and individually lends themselves to a certain style of play, which isn’t repetitive.
The same can be said about the gameplay at sea, on an island or inside of a cave. Variety is the name of the game and Assassin’s Creed IV nails it unlike any previous installment before it.
Assassin’s Creed IV furthers the multiplayer mode and allows players to take a new level of control with the their online experience. Gamers can customize their match type as well as many other small details.
Ubisoft has never placed this much control in the hands of players on an Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, but they reward people with the ability to personalize their own experience.
This is still the very best, most innovative multiplayer in gaming today. If you haven’t tried Assassin’s Creed’s multiplayer, you are missing out and need to see this thing for yourself.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag changes the series in so many ways. It’s a new direction and a new experience. This is not the same game you have played and this is not the same world you have become immersed in.
Black Flag takes the experience you’ve come to expect from Assassin’s Creed and throws a masterpiece of a curveball.
Assassin’s Creed IV takes the best aspects of the franchise and sets the series up for a historical next iteration.
- Strong, diversity in gameplay
- Emphasis on stealth
- Gorgeous, enormous open-world
- Abstergo storyline
We received a review copy of Assassin's Creed IV: Black for the purposes of this review.