All images owned by Ubisoft
I have played four Assassin’s Creed games, Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, III, and Black Flag. I have only finished two to completion. From my experience, a lot of the fun in the Assassin’s Creed games lie in the first half as you explore the universe, grind for the best gear, and have fun killing people in a bunch of ways. The second half normally falls apart as the present day stuff tries to be more relevant. The present day stuff is the worst.
After being pretty disappointed with Assassin’s Creed III, I decided to give Black Flag a try after finding it on Amazon for a cheap deal. All I have to say is that my expectations for this next installment in the series were met exactly how I thought they would be, which honestly isn’t that great of a thing.
Holy Cannonballs, I Got to Be a Pirate
The absolute best part about Black Flag is the badassery that comes with being able to be a pirate. Steering a ship in a storm as your crew sings “Drunken Sailor” and even hushing them right before a fight are all optional yet immersing scenarios. Capturing a fort and busting into the commander’s quarters and being able to choose how to kill him (sword, blades, pistol to the face, or my personal favorite, the ‘special attack’ embedded into the heavy soldier’s axe) felt incredible. Jumping from one mast of the ship to the other, killing a scout with a musket and then using the musket to blow up the enemy ship’s gunpowder was thrilling. In Black Flag you could play a straight forward 3rd person button masher, or you could play with pirate pizazz. And playing with pirate pizazz is the way to go to get the most out of the experience.
Edward Kenway was a Lot of Fun
Assassin Creed 3′s hero, Raktoivhekalsdko@#$99dk’sleivan, was a broody and way too serious mess. Even Black Flag made fun of it (more on that below). Going from Ezio to Connor was a drag, but Edward brought a lot of fun back into the main character. Edward was certainly more charming and less unbelievably morally good. His general greed and avarice was a good point of progression when he became a legitimate ‘assassin’. He went through highs and lows and you could feel them much like the incredible journey of Ezio’s youth to master assassin in Assassin’s Creed 2.
But the Pirating Offered Got a Little Bit Old, and so Did ol’ Assasining
After raiding your one millionth ship, there’s only so many ways you can make it harder on yourself to still make the game fun. At one point, I was taking over ships and forts with my bare fists for a challenge because things got so repetitive. If you’re anything like me, grinding enough will yield you everything you need money and upgrade wise and still have a lot of the game left. In terms of story, eavesdropping, tailing, defending and even assassinating, they all get old eventually and even too quickly in terms of pacing. For math fans, I would say the level of rate of fun is like a logarithmic function. A blast of escalating fun which levels out over time as you get stupidly overpowered.
Assassin’s Creed Historical Bits Still Fun, Kinda
Assassin’s Creed prides itself with the historical accuracies of some of its elements. There is a historical database that gets updated when you approach towns and buildings filled to the brim with stuff people actually had to read and write. Think ‘books’ in Skyrim. A lot of time and effort must go into them, but how many people actually read them. What’s neater is the assassinations and deaths of the major historical figures in the game are some-what accurate in real life. We all know some pirates die in a blaze of glory or others rot in jail cells, Edward Kenway just so happens to be at all of these events, sometimes being the one who causes it. With pirates, it’s a little more interesting because like The American Revolution, mainstream gamers will recognize some of these historical figures compared the real people Ezio’s or Altair’s lifetime that probably are not common household names. However other then that, as usual, names go out the window and character development only goes as far as ‘that guy did something bad to me, I’m going to kill him in the next sequence’ for most of the bad guys and names that get crossed off a list are forgotten immediately.
Present Day Stuff Took a Different Direction
Something kinda enjoyed with Black Flag was the different approach taken with the whole ‘present time’ thing. Instead of Desmond and his loosely characterized band of characters, gamers took the role of ‘themselves’. Black Flag went very meta with its present day stuff, making use of going through the mind of famous privateers for the goal of research in the entertainment center. The action we were reliving through is referenced in ‘trailers’ and gauged at audience interest. It’s a nice twist for Ubisoft to go meta on this one, with them even teasing a coming project in Feudal Japan (please based Ubisoft). My favorite meta part was the breakdown of past ‘projects’ that include Altair, Ezio, Connor, and Aveline and why they didn’t work for the entertainment industry. Things got gleefully meta when they referenced what gamers did and didn’t enjoy about some of the story plots in previous games. For example, ‘audiences’ in their fictional world liked Ezio’s charm and charisma (we did). And ‘audiences’ didn’t like Connor’s bland personality (we didn’t). Little meta things like this were a nice change up from the normal breaks of immersions to go see what Desmond and co. were up to.
But Present Day Stuff was Awful (Again) and so Was the Ending (Again)
However, it still didn’t help the overall disappointment I felt every time I had to break the immersion of the grand age of piracy. Every time I was sent to the present time I was stuck playing all sorts of crappy and annoying versions of iPhone games and Frogger. Nothing about the present time was engaging, the loads of historical notes and tape recordings were overly long and uninteresting, and nothing made sense (classic Assassin’s Creed).
And be careful when you’re coming to the end of the game. Because it was so anti-climactic I didn’t know I was doing the final mission until the credits started rolling. And of course right before the meant-to big emotional scene, I was broken out of the immersion by taking a trip to the present and doing more stupid $%^#$ hacking. I absolutely loathed the final hour or two of Black Flag because of this.
- The macro-courier system was dumb and the required ‘battle’ scenes were too long, but they were necessary to grind Reales
- The game really was gorgeous. Like incredibly gorgeous.
- The music was also gorgeous. Like blissfully gorgeous.
- Mini ship chase scenes were always a blast and slowly cutting your way through crew members to get to an officer always felt epic.
- Boarding ships was the way to necessarily cheese your way out of tough fights which break the immersion 😦
- Eavesdropping was and continues to be the freaking worst thing ever
- I had zero sense of time throughout the game. Sure Blackbeard would tell me to meet him in Charleston in a month, but when I sailed over there in 2 minutes, apparently the month went by without me knowing. This happened a lot and all of a sudden women were pregnant, I got over the death of someone close, and I had spent months in jail. Apparently months/years happened and it was weird and offputting.
- I liked being able to choose different weapons in the other games. I would’ve rather had a one handed dueling sword then a 2 swords
- Mary Read 4ever, Bonney was a whore ;D
- AC in Feudal Japan please!
Here’s to seeing if Unity is all the hype Ubisoft is making it to be. With their first foot into the newest generation, I look forward to France and gimmicks they’ll tease and test in Unity and make full blown in the next installation in 2015. (Think courier missions, recruiting, and ship battles)