Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was released on October 29, 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. It was subsequently a release day game for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Like the rest of the games in the Assassin’s Creed series, this one is also a historical action-adventure open world video game both developed and published by Ubisoft. This entry in the series is a sequel to Assassin’s Creed III but is a prequel to its story.
The story follows the adventures of Edward Kenway: father of Haytham Kenway and grandfather of Connor (both from Assassin’s Creed III). Edward is a British privateer until eventually becoming a pirate where he runs into both the Templars and Assassins. Just like all of the other Assassin’s Creed games, this one splits up your time in both present day and in a historical setting. The historical setting for Black Flag is in the Caribbean during the early 18th century. An era sometimes referred to as the “Golden Age of Piracy.” Edward sails the Caribbean in search of riches as the typical pirate would have done. He meets real life pirates such as Blackbeard and other historical figures along the way.
I do not want to spoil the present day section for those of you who have not played it yet, but I will say that it was a very interesting twist on the previous games. What I can say is that during the present day section you will be able to uncover details about Abstergo, the Templars, the Assassins, and Desmond Miles (former present day protagonist; Assassin’s Creed 1-3). I actually enjoyed the present day story more than I enjoyed the historical portion just because of all of the backstory you get to uncover. This is not to say that the historical section lacked in the story department; it just wasn’t quite as interesting to me. Where the historical portion shined was its gameplay, which I will get to.
I cannot rave enough about how beautiful this game is. I played it on PlayStation 4 both before and after the 1080p patch so I cannot say how it looked on other platforms; for ideas on that go look up comparison videos on YouTube. On PlayStation 4, this game will just blow you away. Before the patch I was simply stunned at how realistic the Caribbean looked, how amazing the ships were, how awesome the cities and forests were, but there was still a problem: how the people looked. Edward and all of the non-playable characters skin looked glossed over and fake; there was almost no texture to it. Everyone’s hair looked like it was “last-gen,” especially facial hair on all of the pirates. I am happy to say that this was all resolved in the 1080p patch! Now everything looks exactly like you would expect from a “current-gen” game. I noticed this most on Edward since you play as him the entire game. I dare you to play this game on PlayStation 4 with the patch and tell me that it is not gorgeous!
The sound quality of this game is also phenomenal. I am not just talking about sound effects; I mean the voice acting, the music, and the pirates singing their Sea Shnties. Just like the rest of the games in the series, Black Flag sports an amazing cast of voice actors. It shows off yet again how amazing the voice actor field is for video games. Black Flag continues the familiar Assassin’s Creed trend of having an amazing musical score, but this time with a pirate-y twist! The Sea Shanties are songs that you can discover in the many different cities around the Caribbean. These songs will be sung by your crew when you are sailing the seas to your destinations. I LOVE these songs! They are so catchy! I found myself singing along with them more times than I would like to admit, and am now considering finding them online to download.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag stands out in front of the rest of the series because of its gameplay. The fighting, stealth, climbing, and city exploration remain the same as its tried-and-true foundation found in each of the last few games. Where the game changes things and really shines is during the naval sections of the game. Black Flag does not hold your hand through an excruciatingly long introductory segment like Assassin’s Creed III; but instead opens up the world and allows you to explore at your leisure almost immediately. There are seemingly endless things to do if you go this route. I chose that option and started exploring the Caribbean. Take it from me; you can lose countless hours without even realizing it by just sailing from one location to the next and trying to uncover all of the secrets and collectables. This however is completely optional and you can just continue the story if you wish.
While sailing the open sea, you can attack and plunder other ships. Doing so will reward you with money, crew members, and materials for upgrades. The bigger the ship, the more rewards you get for plundering it. After successfully boarding a ship you are also given the option to repair your ship, lower your wanted level, or add this ship to your fleet. All of these are valuable options so choose wisely. Upgrading your ship costs both money and materials. It will require a long time to gain enough money and materials to max out your ship so if you plan on doing so, work ahead by starting immediately! I loved upgrading my ship and testing it out against bigger and badder enemies. There are also several forts strategically located around on islands. These will attack you whenever you get close, but if you are strong enough you can attack back and take down their defenses before ultimately capturing the fort for your own. I loved the challenge these provided!
Multiplayer returns in Black Flag with a few new modes, locations, and characters but is ultimately the same as in previous entries of the series. They are all land based which I found odd. Being as this is a game about sailing the open seas and being a pirate, you would think that there would be some sort of naval combat multiplayer. Honestly I think Ubisoft missed a great opportunity here and this brings down the multiplayer portion of the game. The modes left over are still fun, but become stale if you have played them for the past few years.
The Verdict: 9.0 out of 10
The best way to describe Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is to say that it is the second best in the series. It is right behind Assassin’s Creed II in my opinion, and just barely at that. This says a lot coming from me. When Black Flag was announced earlier this year I was extremely skeptical I would even buy the game, and now I feel like I was a fool to ever think that as it has become one of my favorite games. This game was fun from the very beginning and it never slowed down. It treated you like you have played both Assassin’s Creed games and open world games before and didn’t need to hold your hand. There is still a learning curve as with any game, but this one just felt different. Black Flag added an interesting twist on the present day part of the game that was both awesome and unexpected. Meeting historical figures like Blackbeard was as awesome as it was in previous games. But what stands above everything else was the incredible naval exploration and battles. Assassin’s Creed III laid the foundation for this and Black Flag nearly perfected it! The graphics are stunningly beautiful if you have the 1080p patch. If you are looking for a launch title on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, I HIGHLY recommend picking this up. It is everything you could want in an Assassin’s Creed game. Even if you can’t afford one of the new consoles, I still believe that you need to experience this game; it is absolutely phenomenal.