While fans of the franchise were left disappointed by the more serious tone of the previous game, the new title improves on the story and pacing, and the pirate theme brings a new fun element to the game.
As with the previous titles, the story centers on the animus, a machine designed to relive the memories of ancestors. The story focuses on the main character reliving the memories of Edward Conway, a pirate and the grandfather of the AC3’s main character Conner.
Abstergo, the company who built the animus is interested in the location of the “observatory”, a device that would help them gain incredible power. Through reliving Edwards memories, Abstergo is looking to find this observatory.
Edward’s story is the real highlight of the game. He plays an opportunistic pirate who finds himself in a tussle between the French, Spanish and English vying for control of the Caribbean in the early 1700s. At the same time, the Templars are looking for said observatory and Edward is caught in the middle of feeding his desire for gold and serving a greater purpose.
The game world is massive. Outside of the three main cities of Nassau, Kingston and Havana there are more than 150 locations to discover. Needless to say, travelling by ship and naval warfare is a big part of the game.
Scouting ships and then attacking, boarding and stealing their cargo is essential to progressing the story and the fastest way to earn money. The naval combat is lots of fun: turning your ship to the side, blasting your enemies with cannons and then dramatically boarding the ship is one of the highlights of the game.
While most of the core AC gameplay remains, some of the dynamics are altered to fit the pirate theme: Edward now manages a fleet of pirate ships rather than a troop of assassins, and in order for you to liberate an area of the map you now have to attack a fort from your ship. Also, in order for Edward to upgrade his equipment, he has to find specific animal pelts or harpoon fish, somewhat similar to the dynamic in Far Cry 3.
The multiplayer gameplay remains largely the same: the character stalks a pre-determined prey, while another player simultaneously stalks him. The roles and characters are somewhat expanded and it is well implemented, tense and enjoyable, though not significantly different from previous versions.
This is a great addition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The game world is massive, the pirate theme works incredibly well and multitude of places to explore and hundreds of side-missions makes this game feel almost endless. Combining this with an engaging story and believable protagonist, the result is an addictive gaming experience.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is probably the game in the entire series.
The good: Massive world; naval warfare; core mechanics are still satisfying; fun multiplayer.
The bad: Earning money takes ages at the beginning; parkour is still not perfect.
Time to completion: Campaign 20 hours, with side activities 35 hours (so far)