Guest Review - Assassin's Creed 4 (by Invinc)!

We've got another guest reviewer today to take a look at one of the year's most anticipated titles. Invinc reviews Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag!


Nothing is True...

For long time fans of the Assassin's Creed series, we have waged war against the Templars as Assassin Grand Master Altair Ibn La Ahad during the Crusades, followed the life of Italian Renaissance Assassin Swag Master Ezio Auditore da Firenze and fought for American Independence as the master of being downright boring, Connor "Ratonhnhaké:ton" Kenway.

This time, Ubisoft have decided to take us backwards in time from the American Revolution to the Golden Age of Piracy with Pirate Master of Douchebaggery, Edward Kenway. Before I dive straight into the Animus and discuss with you the game proper, let me get some things out of the way.

Techy Stuff

The PC port for Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is downright beautiful. The game should definitely be played on a good gaming PC rig or the Playstation 4. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag on 1080p resolution with 60+ frames per second (fps) is a sight to behold. Texture quality is slightly better on the PC than Consoles, but the details on shadows and lighting are definitely superior on the PC if your rig can handle it. Just remember to update your graphics and sound drivers! I've had some minor problems until I've updated them. If you're running the game on an old rig, you'll definitely experience extremely choppy fps and desynchronized audio.

Ubisoft has up-ed its game for the next generation and it is time for anyone gaming on a subpar PC rig to catch up. Assassin's Creed 4 is likely to be a good benchmark for the "next-gen". I'll repeat myself again, be sure to update your drivers!


The Kenways didn't start off on the right foot.

Any Assassin's Creed fan can tell you something was completely off about Assassin's Creed 3. One big reason behind that is the nature of the Open World sandbox that Ubisoft have always tried but never really mastered with the Assassin's Creed games. Prior to Black Flag, Assassin's Creed 3 was the biggest attempt at making a real sandbox title, but it completely backfired.

Players were constantly distracted by the side quests such as the Homestead missions that were large time sinks, but had completely nothing to do with the plot. Coupled with Connor Kenway's bland personality, it did not even have character development.

AC3 also introduced activities such as the Naval Combat and Wildlife hunts. While these were extremely fun individually, they did not blend together to create a cohesive game. The lack of cohesiveness destroyed any chance for us to actually enjoy the game as a whole.

Fortunately for us, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag not only does not have any of the problems its immediate prequel had, but took everything good from Assassin's Creed 3 and did it better.

A New Meta Game

The strongest aspect of AC3, the Naval Combat, came back in a huge way. It is now the core meta game, and it also absorbed much of the core mechanics of the older Assassin's Creed games to create an entirely new open world concept.

You will spend much of your time roaming the Caribbean Sea in Assassin's Creed 4 in Edward's ship, the Jackdaw, instead of running around cities, towns or forests like the previous Assassins did.

Same ole, same ole

When Edward is on land, the game plays pretty much how anyone would expect an Assassin's Creed game would play. Combat is almost entirely same as Assassin's Creed 3 and continues to suffer from the "counter everything to win" problem. It's remarkably easy but then again, Assassin's Creed games have never been about making combat a challenge. It has always been about making you look like a complete badass while decimating entire legions of bad guys.

My biggest complaint is the camera. Compared to the previous titles, somebody at Ubisoft seems to have made a decision to significantly increase the zoom on the camera. This made me feel extremely claustrophobic as your screen fills up with a couple of goons and very little space. Maybe they wanted us to get a closer look at how vicious and badass Edward Kenway is as he dual wields his cutlasses, but because of that, I've been hit by enemies many times from off the screen.

Perhaps they were trying to go for the glorious, messy, close quartered nature of fighting on the deck of a ship. If they did, then they did so extremely well and I can appreciate that. But it still feels like a cheap shot and is extremely annoying.

You're a Pirate!

Captaining your ship, The Jackdaw, feels exactly how steering a ship out in the open seas should feel. The controls are extremely intuitive and easy to use, even with a mouse and keyboard. Being able to command your crew to man the sails and fire the cannons not only looks great but sounds amazing too.

The newest feature in the naval combat is the ability to board enemy ships. Previously, we could only board enemy ships in a few plot specific missions, but now, Edward can command his crew to board enemy ships at will. All that is needed is to disable enemy ships by dealing enough damage until they are in critical condition. The ability to board ships as and when you're able to adds an amazing and distinctive pirate flavor for anyone who's trying to get their sea legs.

However, be warned! Edward Kenway no longer gains notoriety on land when killing guards and soldiers in towns the way Altair, Ezio and Connor did. Instead, he gains notoriety at sea by sinking or plundering other ships. If you gain too much notoriety before you reach port to bribe some creepy officer that seems to be everywhere ready to accept your money, you'll be stalked at sea by pirate hunters.

And a Whaler!

You'll be able to experience many things that add to the distinctive historical flavor of the Golden Age of Piracy out in the open seas. My personal favorite? Harpooning sharks and whales.

The harpooning mini game is easily the most intense and enjoyable experience as Edward Kenway attempts to harpoon the giant fish (yes, I know whales aren't fishes) before it sinks your little rowboat. Unlike hunting on land, your prey is a lot more proactive. It threshes around in an attempt to escape your harpoons, and they often attack the rowboat you're spearing them from. This entire sequence reminds me of Moby Dick and rightfully so! If you're very active in sailing the Caribbean, you may even find the illusive White Whale, the ultimate challenge in the Harpooning mini game.

And a Burglar!

If you tire of scuttling ships on the high seas for their money and resources, you could get onto dry land and use Edward's Assassin talents for your own selfish gains! Compared to all of the side activities, the plantation raids uses most of Assassin's Creed's traditional stealth gameplay.

You'll have to sneak into a plantation and steal the key off an unfortunate guard assigned to hold them. It takes quite a bit of patience and skill to get to that guard undetected and the challenge is very enjoyable. Be sure to sabotage the alarm bells because if you're spotted, the alarm would be sounded and the guards would summon an army of enemies to hold you off while the key holder runs away and vanishes.

Story and Character:

One of the reasons why fans swear by Assassin's Creed is it's amazing character-driven story that takes place in real world history. Fans will never forget the stoic and determined Altair Ibn la Ahad from the original Assassin's Creed as well as the charismatic Ezio Auditore da Firenze from the Ezio Trilogy. The greatest strength of the Assassin's Creed franchise has always been how these characters grow over the story and how they interact with historical figures like Richard the Lionheart and Leonardo da Vinci.

Edward is Fun.

Fortunately for us, Connor's grandfather, AC4's protagonist Pirate Captain Edward Kenway, is a lot more fun than the flat & dull Connor from AC3. He is no suave charismatic young Ezio Auditore, but he has a different kind of charm. Edward Kenway is a complete douche bag and you will love him for it. Right from the start, we get to know him as a drunk who gets into brawls for little reason other than because some bugger at the bar shoved him and as a money grubbing kleptomaniac (optional objective, pickpocket those poor sods you just met). All these and he isn't even an Assassin! (yet) (hint: He stole his uniform)

Compared to the previous playable Assassins, Edward Kenway is definitely a much more flawed character with myriads of personal issues (which is to be expected. As a pirate he IS a wanted criminal) that he will deal with and grow from as the game progresses. Not only does this make him a much more interesting character, it also adds a lot of depth to his tale.

The level of storytelling is back to the standard fans would expect from an Assassin's Creed game. The emotional attachment is significant as we follow an arrogant Captain Edward Kenway on a journey of self discovery as he discovers the Assassin's Creed and what freedom truly means. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag starts off like a comedy sitcom starring Captain Kenway and his pirate friends, Blackbeard, Hornigold, Calico Jack and others, but gradually takes a darker turn, throwing our protagonist deeper and deeper into battles with his own inner demons as well as the secret Assassin-Templar war.

The Modern Story continues...

When it comes to the Modern Storyline, it clarifies what happened in the awkward final chapter of Desmond Miles as depicted in Assassin's Creed 3. It also ties in with Edward Kenway's story. Without spoiling anything for you guys, it does really well in depicting the Assassin's struggle against Abstergo Industries, bringing back fan favorites Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane.

Without Desmond Miles, the modern story is now told in a rather subtle way that borderlines on Alternate Reality gaming, taking place in an Abstergo Entertainment lab where the new modern protagonist is beta-testing and extracting resources out of the Animus to create... well... Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. (In the AC universe, Ubisoft is making Assassin's Creed games for Abstergo Industries.) Very clever storytelling.

In Conclusion

Everything is Permitted...

Overall, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag may be the very best Assassin's Creed game Ubisoft has ever created. It is by far, the most original Assassin's Creed title yet, having innovated and crafted and entirely new experience despite having similar core gameplay with its predecessors.

As with any open world game, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag has its share of glitches, but they tend to be extremely hilarious and fun to watch instead of game breaking. (Go youtube it. It's is worth the time.)

I have absolutely no complaint about Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. It may not have the classic charm Assassin's Creed Brotherhood had, but I've never had as much fun with an Assassin's Creed game. It is also the only Assassin's Creed game that I could seriously enjoy as an open world sandbox experience. I've found myself sidetracked for hours, just being a pirate and raiding ships on the open seas, completely forgetting I have a main mission to get back to.

For old fans jaded and frustrated by Assassin's Creed 3, I promise you Black Flag fixes everything and will revive your love for the series. For gamers new to the Assassin's Creed franchise, I'd highly recommend you get your sea legs, put on an eye patch and dive into the golden age of piracy with Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.

It may sound like I'm just tooting this game's horns and showering it with praises but this game, is seriously ridiculously fun.

All screenshots taken from the Official Assassin's Creed website.

Special thanks to Ubisoft for providing the game!

- Invinc