Zombies, Ninja’s, Space Marines and Pirates, all staples of the Nerd-o-sphere, so when the folks at Ubisoft announced that the Assassin’s Creed franchise was heading to the Caribbean for its next iteration, there was some excitement.
There was also trepidation, Assassin’s Creed III failed to resonate with many, largely due to the rather overwrought and lengthy introduction to the game, and perhaps the setting of the US Revolutionary War also failed to capture the imagination of many.
In Black Flag the Assassin’s Creed credo (!) becomes more accessible. The stereotype of pirates is an easy one to grasp, and the sword and pistol play feels comfortable in this setting.
The DNA memory enhancing device, the Animus, has become commercialised, the Templar backed Abstergo Entertainment organisation is developing the Animus for public fun. As a new employee it is your job to explore the world of fledgling pirate Edward Kenway. Whilst the modern-day story in the game is intriguing – in a tongue in cheek sort of way – it will be your time as Kenway that you’ll yearn to get back to as you stumble around as a noob at the Abstergo studio.
Black Flag has two distinct modes that for the most part are seamlessly entwined. The more traditional land-based missions involving stealth, planning, guile and a bit of luck and button mashing combat are complemented by life at sea.
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Kenway gains the Jackdaw; his pirate ship, early in the game, and like his swords, pistols and outfits, the Jackdaw can be upgraded with new or stronger pirating paraphernalia as the game progresses.
Apart from a few atmospheric tailing missions through fog laden shoals, the action at sea is at times frantic. Controlling your pirate ship is a breeze, just look at the target ship, raise or lower your aim and fire!
Once crippled, boarding actions will add a spot of swashbuckling sword play including the cinematic soaring rope ride to the crows-nest at times.
Sea battles can be intense, as can taking down a shore-fort which highlights again the smooth integration of sea-based and land-based action.
There is so much to see and explore in this game, and like no other AC game before it, there is a feeling of integration. Find a cadaver clutching a treasure map, find the coordinates, look at the map and discover the hidden chest. Your reward will usually be money that can then be spent directly on recruitment of crew or upgrades to the Jackdaw.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the pinnacle of the series, more enjoyable than even the masterpiece that was AC 2, this is a must buy, even for new-comers to the series, but particularly those lamenting the choice on offer with their newly purchased Xbox One or PS4.