Review of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - a pirate sandbox on the high seas

Author: Krystian Smoszna
Date: 2013-10-29 10:00:00
The review was based on the X360 version. Also valid for PC, PS4, XONE, PS3 versions

I perfectly remember the day Ubisoft revealed to the world the existence of a new game from the Assassin's Creed series . There was no end to the moans and complaints, probably no representative of this cycle has met with such a negative reception at the start as Black Flag . Both the idea of continuing the story, which was originally supposed to end in the third installment, and the idea of moving the action to the picturesque Caribbean, where until recently the captains of ships were terrified by sea robbers, were criticized. Today, more than eight months after the official announcement of the "four", we already know that the creators made the right choice. Although it may seem surprising to some, this is one of the best episodes of the saga.

Before the beginning of the pirate life, I wondered if the authors would rely on the plot that is extremely important for the plot, taking place in modern times. As we perfectly remember, the "three" closed a certain stage of this story - Desmond Miles made the decision to withdraw from the animus project and it became necessary to find a new individual that would be able to reach the memories of ancestors hidden in DNA. So I am pleased to report that the writers managed to get out of this problem extremely cleverly, casting in this role ... the player. At the beginning of our adventure, we land at the headquarters of Abstergo Entertainment (the Canadian branch of the corporation founded by the Templars, dedicated to entertainment products) and we begin researching the fate of Edward Kenway - a privateer, whose greatest period of activity fell in the second decade of the 18th century. In the present episodes, we observe the action from the first-person perspective and we remain silent all the time. Why? In this way, the creators wanted to make it easier to identify with the character played.

Of course, this procedure raises a lot of questions, most of all about the actual connection of our daredevil with Object 17, which are, after all, necessary for the Animus to be used at all. The script gradually reveals new elements of the mysterious plot, effectively heating the atmosphere until the grand finale. The charm of the whole is also added by the fact that the authors played a lot with the convention . At the very beginning, it is recalled that Abstergo Entertainment is the company that helped Ubisoft create Assassin's Creed III: Liberation on Vita, providing the French giant with information about the life of Aveline de Grandpré. One of the screens presented before the launch of Black Flag suggests that it also participated in the work on the "four", which leads to an interesting conclusion. Playing the new Assassin's Creed, we are somehow witnessing the creation of this product, because it is the forays into the past that allow us to put together Edward's adventures.

Sam Kenway is a complete opposite of the previous heroes of the series. The brotherhood of assassins has deep respect for us, as well as for his fierce enemies, the Templars. The pirate is not interested in rivalry for power over the world, he treats both factions primarily as a log thrown at his feet while trying to get rich in the practice he cultivates. There are no complicated family ties, a desire for revenge or other, more or less fanciful nonsense behind Edward's inclusion in the ranks of the assassins' clan. Kenway wears a distinctive costume because he simply manages to get it - all the rest is a series of random events that eventually seriously involve him in the eternal conflict between two opposing orders. In the foreground, however, there are still Spanish realities, and rum, because the one in Black Flag is poured with liters.

The plot was carried out quite smoothly and it is followed with a real pleasure - this is the most organized story since the "two". There were some glitches, such as the possibility of accepting contracts for killings from lofts at the start of the game (Kenway is not an assassin, and the mentioned activity is officially presented only in the fourth sequence), but they are not of great importance for the whole. We are also glad that with the development of the "historical" part, the story unfolds in the present. An exemplary Abstergo employee becomes involved in subversive activities, and from files stolen from computers he manages to obtain very interesting data, which is a tasty morsel for loyal fans of the series.

There is also a lot going on in the gameplay layer - "four" is undoubtedly the most extensive game in the history of the entire series. Its monstrous content will take you several dozen hours from your life , as long as you do not limit yourself only to completing the plot itself. There are so many missions and all kinds of activities that describing them in detail would take several pages. In Assassin's Creed IV, we carry out contracted executions, attack plantations, search for treasures buried by pirates, explore wrecks of sunken ships, hunt on land with firearms and at sea with a harpoon, pursue convoys carrying gold, destroy heavily armed, legendary warships, smugglers caves, improve Kenway's boat, decorate the pirate hideout and finally - demolish enemy forts. Throw in an absurd number of different types of collectibles: chests with money, Animus fragments, shanties and Mayan discs, and you will get a complete picture of what the game developers have prepared.

The situation is completely different at the helm. All ships can be attacked at any time, and there are a lot of them in the Caribbean. There are several types of ships, differing not only in size, but mainly in armament. Some of the boats are too strong for Edward at the beginning of the game - only later, as the number of purchased upgrades increases, the advantage slowly tilts to our side. Naval battles are a lot of fun, thanks to the highly refined three mechanisms. The Kenway sailing ship has a decent arsenal at its disposal, from standard cannonballs, through loops and exploding barrels, to a mortar that inflicts monstrous damage. Dilapidated ships are a perfect target for boarding when rapiers, hidden blades and firearms are in motion. Conquering the boat results in the interception of the entire transported cargo, which in turn is necessary for the development of the Jackdaw. Some goods can also be sold by increasing the amount of cash. In short, attractions like in Sid Meier's Pirates! It's a pity that after each successful seizure of the ship, we have to admire one and the same cutscene.

The authors have outdone themselves when it comes to sandboxing. The game distracts our attention in a phenomenal way - many times I found myself doing something completely different after selecting the course to start a story mission - and so for the next half an hour. And it was my attention that caught the ship carrying a large cargo of metal (the most valuable resource in the Caribbean), and again I decided to land on an unvisited island or to hunt a whale two kilometers away with a harpoon. The coolest thing, though, is that it doesn't get boring. A large number of activities to choose from means that you can greatly diversify your struggles, despite the repetition of some sequences. This mainly applies to battles with enemy ships. In fact, such battles could be fought over and over again, because each time we successfully complete the boarding, it turns out that another sailing ship worth intervention and a whole convoy have appeared on the horizon.

The title also suffers from various technical flaws, the most noticeable of which is limping animation. While serving a gigantic area, the authors forgot to prevent Kenway from getting stuck on poorly designed elements of the environment. It is also difficult not to notice the deficiencies in the artificial intelligence of enemies. It has never been rosy in this respect, but rivals sometimes act so irrational that it is sad to look at.

Whatever the case, the game looks very good in the end. Black Flag cannot be said to be just cutting coupons from the success of the series - this is evidenced not only by a well-thought-out scenario, but above all by the gigantic content that outclasses the previous parts by several lengths. The creators also came out with the shield in the case of the present thread - I liked the adventures of the silent man from Abstergo more than the Desmond finale. The great atmosphere is also a plus. This is exactly what I imagine all productions about pirates from the Caribbean - it should be colorful, the gameplay must be accompanied by appropriate music, it must be brutal and serious, but there must be humor when the need arises. "Four" meets these requirements with a vengeance.