What exactly is the assassin's creed? What's the underlying principle upon which these titular assassins base their actions? That creed has become a bit fuzzy over the several years and seven Assassin's Creed games, but the one creed which has become exceedingly clear is Ubisoft's creed to milk this franchise for every penny they can while still trying to give gamers as much bang for their buck as possible.
Expanding on the popular pirate sections of last year's Assassin's Creed III, AC IV: Black Flag puts you in the boots of blonde-haired white guy Edward Kenway as you sail the seven seas aboard the customizable ship, the Jackdaw. As you progress, you unlock more and more of the tremendously impressive Caribbean region to explore. The Caribbean is huge, gorgeous, and filled with activities with which distraction-hungry gamers can amuse themselves, like random battles and events, beasts-hunting, and the thing no pirate game would be complete without — searching for buried treasure.
The writing here is much sharper than what you get from most video games; the characters are, by and large, an interesting lot, with their own hopes, dreams, and motivations. It would have been nice, however, to see a few more female characters included in the mix. Sure, it's a game set in pirate times and some might cry about historical accuracy, but this sci-fi series has never worried much about anachronisms, so why start now?
Black Flag looks and sounds as you'd expect a big-budget title to. The character animations are impressive, with some real life and character being given to the scurvy scalliwags you come across in Kenway's journey, and the scenery appears in truly spectacular scope and color. The music swells impressively (though no single tune matches the awesomeness of AC II's chase theme), and the voice acting is spot-on. The on-land controls are par for the course with the Assassin's Creed franchise; though they're a little daunting for anyone just picking up the franchise for the first time, those who're already familiar with the games will feel right at home. Combat hasn't changed much, either, and here, it's for the worse, as melee brawls tend to devolve into spastically swinging from target to target or spamming the counter button in order to counter-kill the universe into submission. Naval battles, on the other hand, are fantastic. Controlling the Jackdaw's many armaments feels powerful and intuitive, and there are few thrills like boarding an enemy pirate ship and plundering its many treasures.
As with the multiplayer in the previous Assassin's Creed titles, here you'll primarily be playing a game of cat-and-mouse, but, at times, you'll be playing as both cat and mouse simultaneously. It's a fine addition, but even with its built-in progression system it feels a little lackluster, and if it weren't included, you probably wouldn't miss it.
There are a million and one things to enjoy in the latest entry in Ubisoft's historical sci-fi franchise. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag's massive world and hordes of activities both new and old will keep you entertained for a long, long time.
Assassin's Creed IV was reviewed on a retail copy purchased for the Playstation 3.