DM's Peek of the Week: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

There's a special sort of creativity when it comes to the Assassins Creed franchise. Instead of focusing on ground-breaking elements such as a revolutionized gameplay system year after year, or pushing the boundaries of graphical prowess, the titans behind Ubisoft instead choose to highlight the beautiful re-imaginations of historical rich settings. These worlds that Ubisoft manages to capture and breathe life into are downright incredible. There's an inescapable aura to it, one that cannot be so quickly absorbed and ignored. It becomes apparently clear how much detail and how much care is addressed and considering the short developmental times, it very well leaves you in awe.

Despite the mixed reception of the previous installment, Assassins Creed 3, Ubisoft decided to press forward and stronger than ever before. This time though, the setting was quite a surprise and takes a jab at the franchise's strict chronological order. Now, I'll gladly admit that I am not finished with Assassin's Creed IV, nor am I even close. Roughly 28 hours in and I'm about halfway through the main story. Although before I continue any further, let me point out that Black Flag didn't draw me in within the opening sequences as I would've liked it to. With regards to my adoration of the franchise, this felt like the most alienated piece of the puzzle. There was a certain abruptness to the pacing of the story, a relatively disjointed lack of initial motivation to care for protagonist Edward Kenway. But as with all brilliant pieces of art, a single short-handed forray does it very little justice.

Black Flag decides to strip itself from the norm, disregarding the importance of the Assassin/Templar feud, both from the view of Kenway and the gamer. Instead, you're taken on a journey of self-importance, one that abolishes that which was previously seen as the pinnacle of direction. Edward Kenway is a pirate and yet, an oddly honourable and charismatic man among the devious figures he allies himself with. There's a certain attribute to his character that makes him feel so familiar but refreshingly capable as a leading man. His motives are not one of selflessness yet you cannot help but care for his mission and while bordering that line, you're given a remarkable second glance at an unseen nature of pirates. Some ring terrifyingly true with the stereotypes given but it may come as a surprise as to how the true nature of these "famed" pirates pales in comparison to what can be seen as "atrocities" produced by the British and Spanish armies.

Now, we've seen how Assassins Creed 3 took the time to dabble a little in the world of naval combat but sadly, to a limited extent. Black Flag takes this to an entirely different level, emphasizing greatly on "true" open world exploration and freedom, which it does so tremendously. Your ship is not just another means of travel, but an extension of yourself and the crew considered your family. Shanties ring true as you ride the waves of the ocean, plundering various naval ships, scouring uncharted lands for loot and diving to the depths of the sea to discover long forgotten wrecks of old. There's an outstanding level of care, detail and passion that is seen with representing the true nature of the open seas and it's represented to such a level that you find yourself lost among the wonders of its world.

As such, Black is not without faults although in this case, it could be purely subjective. There's an unrelenting amount of atrocious escort and eavesdrop missions that left me groaning audibly under my breath. It serves little purpose to the story and pacing, only managing to worsen the overall experience due to the occasional sticky free-running controls. Retrospectively, the Assassin's franchise has been well known for recreating some of the most gorgeous locations in all of gaming. This time around, despite having the most choice at hand, Black Flag lacks any sort of true draw or recognizable landmarks that will leave you in awe as did the wonders of Rome and the multitude of cities from the adventures of Ezio in Renaissance Italy.

On top of that, there's a modern setting to the game which plays a largely miniscule part in the entire story of things (at least from what I've experienced so far). Thankfully for those who care little for the modern events that the franchise has attempted to push towards, there isn't much time spent with the nameless protagonist of that era and the objectives given to perform are actually some of the most entertaining and creative puzzles the series has come to offer. Pushing to the realm of combat, Black Flag remains relatively consistent as it has since it's earliest entries, if not more simple this time around. What really caught my attention though was the sheer depth of possibilities with how to approach combat. While the other games technically boasted about "stealth", you were never given much aside from hiding within crowds for the right moment. Now, with the fantastic addition of a crafting system and an enormous collection of tools, I was left stunned at the countless possibilities I was given considering how dull a straight up approach to combat has become.

From what I've experienced so far, I only really became engrossed with the latest entry into the series after two dozen hours or so but it'd be a crime in saying that it so wasn't worth the wait. Edward is a powerfully addictive lead despite his mediocre supporting cast. The open seas, naval battles and exploration will drain your life away and the combat has taken a newly ingenious direction. Black Flag represents a stepping stone for the franchise, a shining symbol that the series if far from dried out and you'd be crazy to let this one pass out of your grasp. There has never been a better time to stretch your sea legs.

24 Comments
24 Comments
Edited by Immortal777

This game sucks!!!!!!!

Can't wait to play on Xbox One next week heard pretty good things.

Posted by Deranged Midget

This game sucks!!!!!!!

Can't wait to play on Xbox One next week heard pretty good things.

Bro, worst game I've ever played bro. I CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE IT!

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Posted by Dragonborn_CT

OH DAMMIT... I WAS PLANNING ON REVIEWING IT SOONER. Oh guess it makes us even since last year you wanted to review AC III but me and @samimista had beaten you to the punch :P

I will say I enjoyed sailing better here than in AC IV since the world is pretty open for you to explore, naval combat has being improved and you can control the direction your volley of weapons is going. I can't stress how much problem I had with AC III because of that. You pretty much nailed everything I like and disliked here, brah. Edward is very likable protagonist rather than a Ezio-carbon copy I anticipated (blame the advertising for that) and I believe this supporting cast is just as strong if not more so than AC II. I can't choose between my favorite supporting characters be them Blackbeard (I can't believe they made him genuinely likable), James Kidd/Mary Read, Ah Tabai (for remind me so much of Altair) and so on.

I already gone on record saying this is pretty much my second favorite AC game after AC II of course.

Edited by PunyParker

@deranged_midget: Really!?.....that bad?.....(havent played it)

I knew the Assassin part of the franchise is practically dead after Brotherhood,and didnt buy it,but......that bad?!

Posted by MonsterStomp

@deranged_midget Nice preview, mate. Very, very well written.

My initial play through of the game was kind of a let down, mostly because, like you mentioned, it lacked initial motivation. So I just breezed my first time through, taking notice of very little. I am currently going through my second time, but this time round I can see what I've missed out on.

As for stealth, I haven't mastered it yet. It lacks the versatility Revelations had and those damn snipers can point you out at a fair distance, which was an annoyance for me. Moreover, I feel like I use my blow pipe too much during stealth missions. Personally, I wish there was more versatility than sleeping and berserk darts. I agree with the tailing missions, the game is filled with them, I spend more time trying to hide and blend than actually listening to the conversation that is required for plot.

Combat as a whole wasn't as fluid and smooth the way AC3 was. If you knew the archetypes well (in AC3) you could do massive kill streaks. In AC4, there's one enemy type where the only counter would be to parry his attack and kick him in the nads. It was very rare to get in double counters. I've always liked the double counters in AC3 as it looks very neat and epic.

I pretty much agree with everything else.

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Edited by MonsterStomp

@dragonborn_ct: The only supporting characters I liked were Rebecca and Shaun. I didn't think we'd see them again, but when I did, it felt like home, back in the days with Ezio.

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Edited by Dragonborn_CT

@deranged_midget Nice preview, mate. Very, very well written.

My initial play through of the game was kind of a let down, mostly because, like you mentioned, it lacked initial motivation. So I just breezed my first time through, taking notice of very little. I am currently going through my second time, but this time round I can see what I've missed out on.

As for stealth, I haven't mastered it yet. It lacks the versatility Revelations had and those damn snipers can point you out at a fair distance, which was an annoyance for me. Moreover, I feel like I use my blow pipe too much during stealth missions. Personally, I wish there was more versatility than sleeping and berserk darts. I agree with the tailing missions, the game is filled with them, I spend more time trying to hide and blend than actually listening to the conversation that is required for plot.

Combat as a whole wasn't as fluid and smooth the way AC3 was. If you knew the archetypes well (in AC3) you could do massive kill streaks. In AC4, there's one enemy type where the only counter would be to parry his attack and kick him in the nads. It was very rare to get in double counters. I've always liked the double counters in AC3 as it looks very neat and epic.

I pretty much agree with everything else.

Yeah, in fact I I would like to add that you have a rather limited melee arsenal - other than obviously your fists, you can only carry the Hidden Blades and the Dual swords as single swords and axes can only be picked up from enemies and used temporarily. Remember when in previous games you could switch the type of blade you are carrying like giant axes instead of swords? Doesn't help that any sword set you choose in AC IV doesn't feel any difference than the last.

Posted by Dragonborn_CT

@dragonborn_ct: The only supporting characters I liked were Rebecca and Shaun. I didn't think we'd see them again, but when I did, it felt like home, back in the days with Ezio.

You gotta love Bartholomew d' Alviano or La Volpe, mate :P Besides Blackbeard is a boss here. Its great to see Shaun and Becca back, but I just wonder what was the point of them being there.

Edited by MonsterStomp

@dragonborn_ct: Guess we'll find out in the next instalment. We were being used to hack files and give them to Rebecca. I really hope the nameless protagonist isn't back in ACV.

Oh and I was talking strictly about ACIV about the supporting characters. As a whole, I loved Malik in AC, Catherina Sforza in ACII, Yusif Tazim in Revelations, Achilles in AC3.

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Posted by Deranged Midget

@dragonborn_ct: WINNING! Hah, I didn't mean to steal your thunder dude and I have no doubt your review will be far more detailed :)

@monsterstomp: Thanks bruh, I really had no intentions to write about AC IV, at least not this early on. Although, the game has really grown on me since I first started it, at which point I feel like I was really fatigued with the series. Thankfully, Assassin's Creed has always been a franchise where you need to take your time with it and allow yourself to become immersed. Obviously, I can't say too much about the story because despite putting in over two dozen hours, I'm barely over halfway through the story LOL!

@deranged_midget: Really!?.....that bad?.....(havent played it)

I knew the Assassin part of the franchise is practically dead after Brotherhood,and didnt buy it,but......that bad?!

Not sure if serious :P

Moderator
Posted by PunyParker

@punyparker said:

@deranged_midget: Really!?.....that bad?.....(havent played it)

I knew the Assassin part of the franchise is practically dead after Brotherhood,and didnt buy it,but......that bad?!

Not sure if serious :P

Im serious,i have no idea what the game is like!

Posted by Deranged Midget

@deranged_midget said:

@punyparker said:

@deranged_midget: Really!?.....that bad?.....(havent played it)

I knew the Assassin part of the franchise is practically dead after Brotherhood,and didnt buy it,but......that bad?!

Not sure if serious :P

Im serious,i have no idea what the game is like!

Well, that's what the preview is there for bruh!

Moderator
Posted by War Killer

This game has quickly become one of my favorites. Despite the negative reception AC3 received, I did enjoy the game and loved being able to play through Colonial America. I loved the advances to the combat in AC3 and happy they took what worked in AC3 and simply expanded those areas in AC4. Edward as a character has also quickly become one of my favorite Assassin's in the series, coming in right behind Ezio. His character is more complex than Connor from AC3, as a man who wants to do the right thing but is distracted by the temptation of power and wealth. Seeing him he embarks on a journey from a man simply wanting to make a life for himself, only to to be seduced by riches and fame is an interesting story. Watching him as he grows from a man with selfish intent to a selfless Assassin was a storyline I enjoyed.

Posted by Samimista

Oh wow! What a surprise. =O So nice seeing more blogs and lists from you. ^__^ I will admit, when IV was first announced, I was a bit wary. Mainly because of the yearly releases and lost interest for awhile but, IV revived my spark for the series. Really am impressed with how Ubisoft manages to release high quality games. I know not many like III and I can understand why but, even that is personally my second favorite. Right behind II.

I felt IV has a better supporting cast than III though? Really did love Mary Read and Anne. <3 Found Mary's death to be the saddest. When I played IV, I thought that Blackbeard may of become the villain so I was surprised with his death. 0.0

I like how Edward was his own person rather than an Ezio 2.0 that was somewhat marketed in one of the trailers? I kinda found the ending to be bittersweet since I wonder what would of happened with Edward and Anne. Did like the talk between Edward and Jennifer since I found that to be somewhat realistic. Was surprised with the theater from III. Good nod!

Overall though, really did enjoy IV. I found it a bit hard to take the ships down and had to grind a bit but, it was fun. Especially with the underwater exploration. Looking forward to V and hoping it'll be of Ancient Egypt.

Posted by MonsterStomp

@monsterstomp: Thanks bruh, I really had no intentions to write about AC IV, at least not this early on. Although, the game has really grown on me since I first started it, at which point I feel like I was really fatigued with the series. Thankfully, Assassin's Creed has always been a franchise where you need to take your time with it and allow yourself to become immersed. Obviously, I can't say too much about the story because despite putting in over two dozen hours, I'm barely over halfway through the story LOL!

My second run through, I'm just busy trying to upgrade my ship. I find it repetitious but the rewards are worth it. Nothing like having a beast ship to dominate the seas. There is so much to explore. If hunting was as well defined as it was in Assassin's Creed III, the game would be just about perfect. I must be about 60% through the main story.

I'd still take Assassin's Creed III over it though, even if not many people liked it. I just find Connor a tad more likeable, its just a Captain America vibe I get from him.

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Edited by God_Spawn

@deranged_midget: I just got this for Christmas, so I'm definitely going to enjoy playing this. I still don't necessarily know why so many people were so mixed of AC3. Connor is my favorite assassin to date, and I loved the game.

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Edited by MonsterStomp
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Posted by God_Spawn

@monsterstomp: Connor's mostly shaved head and Legion of Doom face paint sealed the deal for me. Plus, the ending to the game was one of the most badass things I've ever seen.

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Edited by MonsterStomp

@god_spawn: Connor was a beast at the end of AC3, I agree.

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Posted by Deranged Midget

@samimista: Yeah you're right, perhaps I'm just not far enough to experience it but I can see what you're saying. Adawale is my favourite character in the story so far. He's respectful, loyal to a fault and tactically brilliant. A nice correlation to Alfred of sorts.

@deranged_midget: I just got this for Christmas, so I'm definitely going to enjoy playing this. I still don't necessarily know why so many people were so mixed of AC3. Connor is my favorite assassin to date, and I loved the game.

Assassin's Creed 3 probably had the most intriguing setting in my opinion and it did pretty great things for the combat. Connor was a decent protagonist but I felt he lacked a motivating supporting cast or it just wasn't consistent with his virtues. Hope you enjoy Black Flag though!

My second run through, I'm just busy trying to upgrade my ship. I find it repetitious but the rewards are worth it. Nothing like having a beast ship to dominate the seas. There is so much to explore. If hunting was as well defined as it was in Assassin's Creed III, the game would be just about perfect. I must be about 60% through the main story.

I'd still take Assassin's Creed III over it though, even if not many people liked it. I just find Connor a tad more likeable, its just a Captain America vibe I get from him.

I don't know, something attracts me towards Edward. He's deviously selfish but he's also respectfully honourable. He has that sort of ambition that drives him to do better for him and his crew but he's not afraid to get greedy sometimes. It's also interesting as he's the first protagonist to absolutely ignore everything regarding the Assassin's and Templars. In some ways, it's a little odd but also interesting in the way that the Assassin's of his time react towards him.

Moderator
Posted by MonsterStomp

@deranged_midget

I don't know, something attracts me towards Edward. He's deviously selfish but he's also respectfully honourable. He has that sort of ambition that drives him to do better for him and his crew but he's not afraid to get greedy sometimes. It's also interesting as he's the first protagonist to absolutely ignore everything regarding the Assassin's and Templars. In some ways, it's a little odd but also interesting in the way that the Assassin's of his time react towards him.

That's fair.

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Posted by Lvenger

Nice blog mate, a very thorough review of what you think of Black Flag so far. I'm glad they haven't made the new protagonist a carbon copy of Ezio to lessen his appeal. I wonder if you've ever done something like this for Arkham Origins?

Posted by Deranged Midget

@lvenger said:

Nice blog mate, a very thorough review of what you think of Black Flag so far. I'm glad they haven't made the new protagonist a carbon copy of Ezio to lessen his appeal. I wonder if you've ever done something like this for Arkham Origins?

Yeah, I love Ezio to death but I'm glad they managed to craft a new character in every way possible and even distance him slightly from the debauchery of the era.

*cough* Arkham Origins? I wasn't planning on that...

Haha, I don't know maybe! I was considering tossing one up for Dead Rising and I'd definitely do one for GTA and Arkham Origins!

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Edited by Samimista

@deranged_midget: Ah very much so. ^__^ I think he has a DLC? Have not played it though. =O Aveline's DLC however, came with my copy. Really did enjoy it!