Even before its release, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag had already set itself from its predecessors by making the choice to focus on pirates instead of the game's namesake, the Assassins.
Even the protagonist, Edward Kenway, is nothing like the series's other main characters. Gone is the duty driven storyline (Altaïr has a duty to the Assassin Order, Ezio and Connor have duties towards their families), and a story driven by greed and personal profit takes center stage. And it’s actually a nice change.
But otherwise, the story feels underwhelming. To be honest, I don’t remember much of it, just flitting from island to island chasing people and information pertinent to the mysterious Observatory. By the end, you hardly realize it’s the end. The last target is done away with very simply: fight off a few lackeys, climb some stuff, jump on him, stab him in the neck, and the rest is cinematics. Not to mention I felt cheated because for most of the game Edward isn’t technically an Assassin.
Another thing I wasn’t so keen on: general controls. Climbing was irritating; Edward kept making huge leaps off of buildings and climbing on all sorts of things I didn’t want him to (like chests, for example). Combat in particular was strange. At times it felt too easy. A little indicator appears over the enemy’s head as he moves to attack. All you have to do is press the appropriate counter button, followed by the attack button. If Edward’s surrounded by multiple enemies, he can usually perform a kill streak this way. This system sounds fluid. But often times, it gets choppy. You find Edward suddenly snapping out of the animation to start fighting another dude.
But fighting in this game is not all bad. In Assassin’s Creed III, using the ship was one of the things I hated the most. Here, it surprised me by being quite fun. I enjoyed exploring uncharted islands and taking down other ships. I guess there’s just something about killing a bunch of people and stealing all their stuff that…floats my boat. Plus the sea looks absolutely superb. In fact, for the most part, the graphics are quite good, save for a few glitches (Edward’s weapons go through his clothes on occasion. Hair still looks terrible. Rain looks bad.)
Another surprisingly good part of the game: the present day first-person sequences, in which you play an Abstergo employee hacking all the computers. Yeah, they got a bit repetitive, but I thought the info they revealed was cool (except for the audio tapes, I hated listening having to listen to them).
I know I’m mostly complaining here, but overall, I think this game was a success (a lot better than AC3 anyhow). I’d give it a solid 8/10.
So, to recap:
Things they could have changed/improved:
- the story underwhelming and a general letdown
- combat was inconsistent
- Edward kept climbing all over all sorts of things I didn’t want him to (like chests!)
- having to fight guys to unlock taverns (it was easy, and I know bar fights happen, but really?)
- the enemy AI at times seemed off. Once, I was climbing an eagle tower, and guards were crowding underneath me. I synchronized and all the guards disappeared, save for a couple that were standing still, as if posted there.
- crafting. I just really hate crafting. But I’ve also been playing Far Cry 3 lately so that’s possibly contributed to it.
Things that were cool:
- graphics, especially the sea
- maybe I’m twisted, but in the end I was pleased at how many of the ‘good guys’ that died in this game. Adds to the realism, I guess.
- using the ship was great. Felt like such a badass by the time I’d upgraded the cannons and hull. I guess there’s something about killing a bunch of people and stealing all their stuff that…floats my boat.
- exploration : loads of different islands and shipwrecks to explore
- I was surprised by how much I liked the first-person present day bits. Yeah, they got a bit repetitive, but I thought the info they revealed was kinda cool (except for the audio tapes, I hated listening to them).