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Arrrgh You Rrready to Shiver Me Timbers

№181 ~7 minutes

In which I play and review (Spoiler-free) the latest offering from Ubisoft in the Assassin’s Creed -series, Black Flag. Where being a dirty pirate is the greatest fun you can have this month.

First of all, I think I can safely call this post SPOILER-FREE because even though I talk about the game, what I liked and what I didn’t like, I don’t actually reveal anything story-related. Well, nothing you wouldn’t already know having seen the trailer.

So, to all you who haven’t played the game yet and would like to remain spoiler-free, go ahead, read on, it’s fine.

So, pirates. Everyone loves pirates, right? Of course, everyone loves pirates. Expect those dastardly British and their stupid king George I who clearly doesn’t like pirates.

But aside for the former ruling monarch of England, everyone else loves pirates.

And that includes me, because Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag—from now on referred to as AssFlag because I’m not stupid enough to call it AssBlack—is an awesome game. Not without its faults but unlike the many faults of its predecessor, AssFlag has very few.

Better yet, to get it over with—so that I can talk about how much I liked it—I’ll say its faults first. Ubisoft and their tailing missions, also known as the “Hey, you there. Yeah you, you cheeky pirate. You see that guy over there? Yeah, that one. Follow him for a while without getting spotted. Whatever you do, don’t get spotted. Oh, you just did? Desyncronization-time! Let’s try that again.”

“Yeah, let’s not.”

Tailing missions suck, please stop ‘em or reinvent ‘em.

The other thing is that the “snap to objects” also has a habit of being too snappy at times, resulting in occasional and unwanted wall-humping when really I wanted to run up a perpendicular slope.

But that aside I really liked AssFlag, it brought back so many things I enjoyed about the series before, as well as expanding on their naval combat, making it into something thoroughly enjoyable.

Previously we had to endure Ratonhnhaké:ton, also known as Connor, and his quest for vengeance or something like that. I’m honestly not sure what his problem was but he was pretty whiny about it.

Edward Kenway jumping the mast of his ship, the Jackdaw.
At a jump of 160 feet, I’m pretty sure this would kill me.

This time the main character, a Welsh pirate by the name of Edward Kenway—given life by Welsh voice actor Matt Ryan, who does a wonderful job—is an arrogant and self-serving man in hunt of riches. A man who doesn’t care ‘bout no stupid creed. He’s also so much more likeable and relatable, even more than Ezio Auditore da Firenze who has been the series golden boy until this point, but who from now on is going to have to play second fiddle because Edward is my new favourite.

Clearly he’s already everyone else’s favourite too as I’ve seen “Team Edward” t-shirts everywhere whilst “Team Ezio” is nowhere to be found.

Ahem.

Other characters—though I suppose I should say famous pirates—like Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch and Anne Bonny are also in the game and for the first time it feels like these characters also have a personality of their own, unlike before, when they simply served as cardboard place holders to give you your next mission.

AssFlag also gets to the point quicker with less exposition-bullshit crammed down your throat. In fact, I felt like AssFlag got so much faster to the point that I had to go back—using the power of walkthroughs—and see, “How long does it actually take to get to the first ‘stabbing’ in AssThree?”

After I had done that and pleased with the result, I realised that I should actually take a look at all the Assassin’s Creed games, asking the same question. So naturally, I did just that.

Chart illustrating that it takes Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag 10 minutes of gameplay before you are first allowed to kill someone.
Stab-o-Meter.

Come back in a couple of days for a post titled “The Stab-o-Meter”, where I look at all the 6 main games in the Assassin’s Creed series and a few other stealth-stab-type games and put them to the test to see which game gets to the pointy point of its point first.

But that’s enough of that for now, let’s go back to AssFlag and all of its many virtues.

The balance between land and naval exploration is quite excellent, though I felt like some of the land missions—especially the tailing ones—lacked in excitement compared to their naval counterparts. The transition between them is fucking awesome though exemplified by when I picked up an Assassination Contract where I was instructed to assassinate someone who was arriving by ship.

Well, I sneaked up to the docks, whereupon seeing all the guards I thought I would shoot a Brute guard with a Berserker dart to create a nice distraction. That totally didn’t work because the instant that guard started flailing around, attacking the other guards, my target jumped back on his ship to escape the chaos.

Now usually—in many games—this would have called for a “Game Over” screen and reverted me back to the latest save point and this is what I expected from AssFlag as well. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I could still see the little cross hair above his head as he sailed away. So on my ship—the Jackdaw—I went, catching up with him and blowing the Jaysus out of him and his ship. Assassination Contract: Completed.

And lastly, thanks to the events of its predecessor, the Sci-Fi aspects of AssFlag is also significantly less annoying. Heck, I’m even a little bit intrigued again, so kudos for that Ubisoft. It’s almost as if you read my criticism of AssThree and took all of it to heart.

There we have it. I looked forward to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and for a change, it didn’t disappoint which is why, if I gave out scores—let’s all keep pretending that I don’t—I would give it a 5 out of 5.

But Ubisoft, I would still like you to fix the stupid tailing missions and add in more actual assassinations into the game. So, maybe next time?

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag still gets 5 out of 5 creed insignias.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 creed insignias.

Honest Critique Time!

Here’s how you can keep the tailing missions in your game whilst making them, you know, actually fun. Remove the stupid countdown whenever the player stops “looking at” their target, let’s face it, you don’t actually have to be looking directly at them anyway. Change the area which you have to remain inside to succeed. Right now it appears—though I could be wrong—as if it’s just a giant circle around your target. Making this into some weird worm-shape based on the pathfinding instead. Make it so that players’ who anticipate their target’s behaviour, i.e. where they’re walking, are rewarded and those who simply follow their targets’ will have a harder time. In other words, the worm-shape would be larger in front of the target and slightly smaller, than the circle is now, behind them.

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