A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Sailing the Deep Blue Sea – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


I know I’m slow on the uptake with regards to triple-A titles, but I recently acquired a copy of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on Steam and I’ve been playing it essentially non-stop (to the detriment of my sleep schedule) since I installed it late Wednesday night.

I’ve played a significant portion of the Assassin’s Creed series, however, I’ve only beaten two of the games: Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. I remember playing the first one and being incredibly bored with how slow it was, how difficult the fighting was, how drab the scenery was. Then AC2 dropped and WOW, the color, the combat, the scenery! Also, Ezio was a much more sympathetic character than Altair. I skipped playing Revelations because I never finished Brotherhood (but I know they’re both spectacular parts to the series). I watched a friend play AC3 and found myself feeling rather frustrated with the main character. I thought the story was spectacular and the naval combat in particular was something there needed to be more of somehow, but Connor was just permanently cranky and had (I felt) no sense of humor (much like Altair).

I was interested in getting Black Flag maybe a little while ago when I was poking through Steam and saw that it had open world sailing. I’m something of a fan of naval warfare (being a descendant of two career navy men will do that to you) and being able to sail and upgrade (and possibly customize) my own ship has always appealed to me. It wasn’t until Wednesday night where my desire to get the game overcame my grip on my wallet.

AC4 is a beautiful game. Some of the things I’ve noticed since I started playing have been the quality of the water (considering there’s so much of it, it has to look great), the weather in the game, the fact that if it’s raining, the rain will pool on flat surfaces and there will be rain drops, waterspouts, basically anything having to do with water. The characters look like a logical progression from the earlier games in the series, although there’s the occasional and forgivable clipping issue related to costumes (I got the Mayan outfit last night and there was a clipping issue with one of the arm panels when someone else came into contact with Edward during a cutscene). The environments are top notch. Gone are the extremely obvious grab points from the original games and now here are the perfectly natural looking grasping spots that look like they belong there. There’s still the recycled scenery (viewpoints made of driftwood are basically cookie cutter), but again, forgivable given the quality of everything else.

I find the growth of Edward Kenway during the game to be fascinating. He starts out wanting to make a fortune and eventually winds up… becoming something more grown up. I suppose losing your drinking buddies over time has that effect on a guy. He’s neither Templar nor Assassin at the beginning and, in fact, for most of the game. He’s just another person thrown into this eternal conflict between the two factions and I like the perspective.

I’m very close to the end of the game. Right now I’m feeling like I want to sprint to the end, to just get to the free roaming portion after the story’s all wrapped up so I can do whatever, like taking on the Legendary Ships or finishing out the Assassin Contracts. I hear the Pistol Swords you get for finishing that last one are pretty awesome.

There are some portions I’m iffy on. I’ve never been great at combat in the AC series. It has a timing nature to its flow that I’ve never been especially adept with. Further, I’m terrified of Man O’ War ships and I can’t seem to stay in their aft arc like people recommend doing in order to take out the big ships efficiently. It’s possible I’m doing something wrong there, but I just know that my poor Jackdaw can’t take sustained broadsides from anything larger than a schooner (and that’s with all but one of the hull upgrades). I find myself thanking the developers from keeping escort missions to a minimum, especially escorts where the health of the escorted party is important. I appreciate the stealth elements of the game as being stealthy helps compensate for my shoddy combat skills, but I’m not the best at stealth by any means.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and I highly recommend it. It mixes the fun of Assassin’s Creed with open world sailing and piracy. If they don’t make some sort of MMO based on the sailing portion, I think they’re missing out. Seriously, there’s maybe one game like that and it’s Uncharted Waters Online (which I’m not especially fond of since it changed hands not too long ago and the gameplay is rather unintuitive).

It’s definitely scratched that itch I had regarding sailing the deep blue sea. I was seriously craving that.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. Come for the Assassin’s Creed, stay for the sea shanties!

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