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This is a little bit of a different Let’s Rant due to it not being by me!

As most of you will know, Let’s Rant is a mixture of Reviews, Short Stories and other random things!

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Anyways, without further a do! Please welcome Adam Sewell, with his article Review of Assassin’s Creed 4 – Black Flag

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Yo ho matey yo ho

As the official fourth title of the Assassins Creed series the name black flag gives a sense of how far the series has come. The idea of taking on the pirating world is a big gamble, developers have tried and failed in the past to recreate a world of not only scope but scale.

The AC world has taken gamers to some pretty impressive locations so far. From the Holy Land of Jerusalem to Renaissance Italy, each title getting bigger every time. The lure of the Caribbean as a setting for the latest title is a bold move. The game is set before the events of the third installment  in the early 1700’s rather than forward and seems illogical, but somehow it works and works well.

As the game begins I feel that action and adventure are at the core of it, urging you once you can to explore every part of the stunning world around you. Having been blown into the water by cannon fire and seemingly being the only survivor, you awake on a lush tropical island. Already the graphics look stunning showing off green foliage and clearest crystal water I have ever seen. As the cut scene continues it’s clear I’m not the only survivor and I am immediately thrust into chasing down an assassin who seems more than a little annoyed about his situation.

As soon as I am given the controls I can tell that the world around me has been meticulously made with love and care with a huge attention to detail. The bushes and trees alone tells me that this world is both beautiful and deadly where a slip or fall could mean an early exit. As I progress through the prologue I am in awe of the world I’m traversing through.

After the prologue we see the player pulled out of a testing animus and find out the modern day hero is actually a nobody, who works for Abstergo who have fronted an entertainment company. The odd side mission is given here to advance the modern story of fighting the Templers but on the whole this is left to lie. Instead focus is given to Edward Kenway and his journey. This is refreshing as familiar characters pop up to ease you into the new situation after Desmond’s demise; apart from that these missions have little gravity. The real story is with Edward inside the animus.

As the story unfolds we find that Edward is a lovable rogue whose out for fame and fortune in the Caribbean and will take any opportunity to make money he can. It’s through an opportunity that Edward meets the Templers, and only after playing for an hour am I then reminded that this is actually a game about assassins. After an interesting conversation with them Edward is let loose on the world and its here that the game really opens up.

That being said, the storyline itself can drag in places and feel that you are simply going from one place to the next. There to drop a couple of bad people before getting back to being a pirate. At points it can also seem that the assassins are more of a hindrance than a focal point and simply a way of keeping the game rooted in the franchise. Perhaps this is the trade off when making a game of such scale and likability as being an assassin isn’t as cool as being a pirate, and Black Flag certainly swing towards the latter.

Through a series of events this is where we meet the second character in the game, the Jackdaw. Kenway’s ship takes on a life of its own with a crew and a solid first mate called Adewale, who Edward finds himself chained to early in the game. Almost everything on the ship is upgradable and I am encouraged to spend time doing so throughout the game. You’ll spend serious hours pirating in order to gain enough metal and materials to upgrade your ship and become master of the waves. This is thoroughly enjoyable and highly addictive; I easily spent several hours hunting down hapless Spanish ships to plunder. It’s once on the Jackdaw and at sea that you see the sheer scale of the map before you. The world is expansive, breathtaking and unpredictable. One minute you can be sailing by, basking in the Caribbean sun, and a moment later fighting to keep your ship from smashing into rocks due to the typhoon winds.

While the game focuses on exploring islands there are three main centers in the game Havana, Kingston and Nassau. Each with a distinct feel to them based upon the faction that controls it. These places add a level of consistency to the game which gives the player some grounding. The open seas can be varied and wild so the ability to run over rooftops provides a solid footing. Air assassinating a British or Spanish soldier is as enjoyable as ever and pays homage to the previous titles in beautiful backdrops. It’s in these places again that we see the level of details that has been put into making the places come alive, and it makes the player want to explore every corner of these cities.

The mechanics of the game have been streamlined and simplified. No longer do you have multiple weapons of varying size and degrees. Unisoft have kept it simple, just a set of swords and pistols. This is not to say that there aren’t upgrades, it does mean however I’m less concerned about weapons and more focused on the world around me. The beauty of this system is that assassinations are much easier and you feel a master assassin very quickly. This allows more time to enjoy pirating and assassinations making you feel a god among men.

Soundtracks to games these days are as epic as big screen outings and AC 4 does not disappoint. The soundtrack fits perfectly when on the open seas, running across the rooftops of Kingston or boarding a ship. The excitement is really captured and enhanced based upon to situation Edward finds himself in.

Combat has not changed that much but the added aid of being able to fire 4 pistols quickly (after upgrades) is a great addition. This is great when dealing with troublesome enemies after boarding a ship or stealing from a plantation. As a result this makes the choice to get into combat much easier as the advantage of being able to quickly deal with multiple enemies is appealing. The novelty of this soon wears off however, and enemies seem just one more obstacle to overcome before taking a boarded ship or releasing captured pirates.

There are plenty of side missions to keep you going. Whether its assassination contracts, which can happen on land or sea, or catching all of the shanty songs there’s a vast array of things to do and see. You’ll want to explore every island and hunt every shark or whale possible as everywhere offers something for the player to do. Whaling is especially addictive and can be just as dangerous as trying to take a man o war. My first attempts ended with a smashed whaling boat and a watery grave. Equally enjoyably is once boarding a ship and taking it over, the player has options as what to do with it. You can either repair the Jackdaw, release the ship to lower a bounty or you can send the ship to Kenway’s fleet. Sending the ship to Kenway’s fleet opens up a nice side mission, this is available in the cabin of the Jackdaw and allows the player to send captured ships on missions to trade materials for money. I choose this option and am handsomely rewarded with a ship to send to South America to trade wine for money.

Overall the game is expansive and enthralling, as a result you’ll want to play just one more hour each session to catch that pesky whale or board one more ship before lights out. What Ubisoft have done is capture the essence of all the best parts about being a pirate and put that into a game where the player is in control. As a result, you’ll easily sink 20 hours plus into the game making it money well spent at only 30 pounds for a copy. On the whole the Assassins Creed franchise has always had a big draw. With Black Flag Ubisoft has hit the mark in delivering something different while at the same time being daring. It certainly is a pirate’s life for me.

Verdict:

90%

So much to do, beautiful and being a pirate is badass. Sometimes monotonous but compensated by the size of the world and side missions. Explore, marvel, plunder.

Article Written By – Adam Sewell