Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry Review
Freedom Cry easily rectifies one of the biggest fallacies of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag at the cost of one of sacrificing one of its most redeemable qualities. This trade-off results in moving overall video game storytelling tremendously forward, but painstakingly hindering the core advancements that were made with Black Flag. Just like Edward Kenway’s swashbuckling adventure in AC4, this downloadable content exhibits many of the front line flaws that have plagued the Assassin’s Creed series to this very day. Luckily, excellent, powerful storytelling will encourage you to overlook these shortcomings for the sake of unfolding such an amazing tale.
Let’s get one thing straight — for every step back Freedom Cry takes away from Black Flag, it takes two steps forward in terms of its presentation and story. You play as Adewale, whom you would remember as Captain Kenway’s first mate and second-in-command throughout your adventures in Black Flag. Set fifteen years after Kenway’s story finished, Adewale has become a fully trained assassin but, like Kenway decades before him, has ended up shipwrecked with nothing to his name. Much like Adewale’s predicament, you know the moves, but end up progressing forward in a tale that most game developers would consider too taboo to even consider.
One of the things I hated most about AC4: Black Flag was that Edward Kenway’s tale was not engaging. For most of it, you simply played as a pirate who had access to an assassin’s repertoire of murder; Kenway simply acts and dresses as an assassin because he killed one and wore the uniform to his benefit. The later chapters were heavy on the Templar/Assassin feud, but one of the best things about Black Flag was that it offered you the entire open seas of the Caribbean for you to explore and plunder as you saw fit. With Freedom Cry, the sense of freedom is ironically taken away, forcing you into following its story with limited options in terms of side missions and exploration. Luckily, this story revolves around the powerful concept of undoing the horrors of slavery and punishing the monsters who enforced it.
Adewale attempts to liberate slaves throughout the Haitian area of the Caribbean. Much like the infamous combat system of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Ubisoft does not pull any of its punches. As Adewale, you will witness several horrible atrocities of slavery firsthand. Being a former slave from Trinidad, Adewale feels for the things he witnesses, and I did too. This compelled me and gave me an urge to perfectly guide Adewale through the plantations, islands and towns, freeing slaves and killing treacherous slave owners along the way. Some of the missions and things you witness are just downright heartbreaking. This brought about a sense of justification to the brutality utilized in Assassin’s Creed 4′s combat system; for every savage combat animation AC4 shows off, the villains in this DLC deserved every cut and bullet.
What’s more interesting is that I felt compelled to liberate as many slaves as I could. Whether it was saving a runaway slave from a hanging at the last second or rescuing an entire family that about to be auctioned off, I felt a great sense of personal and moral accomplishment that I have rarely felt while playing video games. Freedom Cry evoked a sense of humanity that I can’t remember ever finding anywhere else in gaming. Unfortunately, liberating slaves bears no huge semblance to your actual character in terms of gameplay. Freed slaves are almost Adewale’s version of the crew meter in this DLC. The actual occurrences and events of freeing slaves will become an often repeated routine, but that did not matter — Adewale’s actions genuinely felt like they was the right thing to do.
Freedom Cry keeps us on track and focused on its main story. Gone are the wide open seas. With a multitude of eavesdropping events, track-and-kill sequences and various skirmishes to repeatedly play, it feels as if Freedom Cry has reverted its level of variance to something more reminiscent of the first Assassin’s Creed title. Clocking in at about five to six hours, Freedom Cry is pretty much a quick and condensed version of the Assassin’s Creed experience. The same problems still plague its core design, and there are plenty of maneuvering mishaps to annoy you, but it’s still amazing to watch.
I recommend Freedom Cry to anyone who has ever hoped for a better story within the Assassin’s Creed franchise. There are still plenty of technical hiccups and basically all the exploratory freedoms of Black Flag are now gone (which was Black Flag’s best quality), but the story more than makes up for it. Given that Assassin’s Creed can venture into almost any point in history and tell a story, I’m glad to see that there’s finally a tale I felt compelled to follow to the very end. There’s no need to worry about a precursor race, computer hacking or being forced to explore the modern world in a slow-paced first person perspective. There’s just the good fight. No matter how deep assassins are meant to bury it or how much whiplashes are meant to hurt it, Freedom Cry will bring out your humanity.