by Jose Gamaliel Felongco
Assassins and pirates don’t blend – that’s what most gamers said before the release of Assassins’ Creed IV: Black Flag. As a yearly release, the Assassin’s Creed (AC) franchise has suffered from overused themes and overfamiliarity with its audience. But things are different this time around. The game was surprisingly… good, if not one of the best AC games around.
You play as Edward Kenway, a farmhand turned pirate due to poverty and the temptation of gold and riches. AC fans would remember him as the grandfather of Connor Kenway, the hero in the American Revolution themed AC 3. Black Flag takes its name from the oft recognized banner used by pirates in the age of sail. Set in the lush and blue green seas of the Carribean, AC 4 takes players into an adventure into the high seas.
As with all Assassin’s Creed, players still take control of a human reaching the peak levels of acrobatics. Edward Kenway can seamlessly shimmy across high towers and climb them without breaking a sweat.
Combat was also refined thus making defensive counters from the previous ACs toned down, forcing players to go on the aggressive. The best part about the combat is the ability to use numerous pistols, displaying Kenway’s aptitude for a little gun-kata. The rope dart also makes its return.
What takes up most of the player’s time in AC 4 is probably the exploration of the high seas. Present are lush and deserted islands that populate most of the archipelago. What surprised us was how the game world easily renders and portrays most of the Carribean without stopping to bother the player with a loading screen. The only load times I’ve encountered are those with cutscenes and in-game portals for large cities.
AC 4 won’t be considered a pirate game without the pirate ships, the treasures, and the optional “arr!” Exploration across the open water is done through Kenway’s flagship, the Jackdaw. The ship can be fitted and upgraded to make it more seaworthy and ready to take on larger ships. Ship combat is better and improved as compared to the lackluster presentation of the game’s predecessor. Battling ships is one of the best experiences to be had in this game, especially when accompanied with the drumbeats and fast tempo of the music frequently attributed to the era.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is a sequel done right. Ubisoft has learned from its past releases and they finally made something new and fresh. I was personally surprised as I initially thought of replaying the same thing, just in a different setting and number. Think of this as the redemption of the franchise. The combat is well balanced and the exploration is probably second only to the renowned Assassin’s Creed II. If you fancy pirates or assassins, or even both, then give this game a try.