Assassin’s Creed IV: Sailing the High Seas
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is one of the most beloved games in the AS franchise. Praised for its ship-to-ship combat, and the newest protagonist in the franchise, Edward Kenway, people still play and talk about it. Though it maintains the story and many of the mechanics of the franchise, due to its heavy focus on piracy, the game is widely considered to not actually be an Assassin’s Creed game.
While it’s true that the game doesn’t have a central focus on assassinating targets, to me that has thus far not been a defining feature of the series anyway. Despite being the in the title, assassinating targets has always felt like a secondary mode of the games, with the only exception being the first one.
Maybe my idea of what an assassination game is supposed to be is colored by experience with series like Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon or Hitman, involving stealth kills. In Assassin’s Creed the only time stealth seems to be required is when eavesdropping on conversations.
What does all that mean for IV?
Well, it means that, from my experience, it’s still very much an Assassin’s Creed game but with more fluid controls and a ship fighting mini-game. Mini-game may not be the right term, but there were only a few times where I absolutely had to do something in the ocean. Most of the time, it was just used to travel from one objective to the next with minor diversions here and there, but it definitely breathes new life into going collectible hunting for character upgrades.
I think my favorite parts were the whale hunting and the deep sea treasure hunting. I never thought that living out a Captain Ahab fantasy was something I needed in my games but, then again, in my developing years, I never thought anything more complex than Fallout 2 would ever be a thing, so I’m pretty accustomed to being wrong.
The deep sea diving with the bells was probably more challenging for me than any other part of the game. Timing in ship battles is tricky, but compared to Edward, they are indestructible tanks. Timing when to go for air, how to dodge sharks, and when to grab loot is like an elegant dance with death. That’s not to say it was difficult (difficulty isn’t really a term the series is familiar with), but it exercised a different set of skills that added to the complexity of the game.
Edward himself is a seemingly uncomplicated character. You get insight to how he became a pirate as the story unfolds, and if it hasn’t already become obvious, he’s the grandfather of Connor from Assassin’s Creed III, but it mostly just boils down to a man who wants to get rich on the open sea so he can provide for his wife and earn the respect of his father-in-law.
He becomes part of a pirate crew that gets into a battle with an Assassin’s ship and both ships sink. He and the Assassin are the only survivors, and for some reason, he has to kill the Assassin. This part of the story makes no sense but it allows Edward to take on the identity of the Assassin long enough to find out he was a deserter who was signing up with the Templars to, as usual, try to take over the world. Edward sees the war between the two and still doesn’t really care about it until pretty close to the end of the game, and then he retires anyway.
I guess that’s their way of explaining how his son becomes a Templar? It’s not clear. Ubisoft can’t tell a story with consistency.
Being outside the Animus is the worst it’s ever been.
You play through first-person view and you’re a guy who works in an office, sitting in a cubicle, playing through the memories on a computer. Glorious. I am already a nameless, faceless desk jockey for a big company in real-life. I don’t need to be one in a video game, too. Now I understand why people proclaim that what makes Origins and Odyssey better is that you don’t spend time much time outside the Animus.
The story is that you’re a character who has just been hired to go through the memories of Desmond’s ancestors to compile a video game for Abstergo, meanwhile giving them information as to the locations of more precursor artifacts. You see Shaun and Rebecca briefly, but who cares? Shaun is pretending to be a barista and Rebecca is just there so it’s a waste of time.
You also run around looking at other peoples’ computers and scanning QR codes so you can get more lore information. The lore is always cool to see, and at least the puzzle solving is fun, but the setting is just trash. The lesson here, kids, is spend as little time doing what is required outside the Animus so you can get back into the game and live out your pirate fantasies.
How does this installment rate compared to other Assassin’s Creed titles? Honestly, if there were no parts outside the Animus, I would rank it pretty high. Being set in the Colonies and running around as a pirate is great fun. The interactions between Kenway and his pirate buddies are pretty solid. The game feels good to play and it’s not instanced like III was. It took everything good from that title and got rid of what didn’t work (except for shanties), and gave us a much more likeable main character.
I don’t agree that it is not an Assassin’s Creed game. I think it very much is. It is one that has been polished very well, with new elements that were much needed to make it feel fresh. However, I know that I am in the minority when I say that it’s an Assassin’s Creed game so go crazy in the comments, and thanks as always for reading this and all the other articles that are posted daily here on EG!
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