Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag revitalises the pirate genre

assassins-creed-iv-black-flag (1)BY NOW, PIRATES are considered old hat, replaced by zombies as the staple in videogames. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag revitalises the genre, and it delivers the much-needed lifeblood into both the swashbuckling genre and the stealth-killing franchise, being the sixth in the series not counting the side games.

The game introduces us to Edward Kenway, a Swansea-born pirate hoping to land big and do as he pleases in the West Indies, who’s thrust into the age-old conflict between the Assassins and Templars. There’s not really much plot, which for once is a good thing as it’s a thin cover for the open world you’re thrust into.

And what a world it is. From the bustling cities of Havana, Nassau and Kingston, to the uncharted islands of the West Indies, there’s always something to do. Whether it’s looting any ship that catches your fancy, discovering hidden treasures all across the world or just sailing the high seas with your crew, Black Flag has oodles to sink your cutlass into.

The modern-day setting also takes a departure from the story of Desmond Miles to, well, you. As a new Abstergo Entertainment employee, you’re tasked with browsing through Sample 17’s memories to make a videogame. It’s pretty much a stand-in for Ubisoft Montreal, and while the new point of view is refreshing, the story is pretty much up in the air and rather unfinished.

Multiplayer dives into the same Abstergo theme, this time as a multiplayer simulation. As with all AC Multiplayer games from Brotherhood onwards, the aim of the game is to assassinate your target and run from your pursuers. There’s also Wolfpack mode, which pits you with other players to complete objectives, which can sometimes be annoying as the game mode requires tight teamwork and that rarely, if ever, happens on a public server. The online connectivity is also extended to single player, with Kenway’s Fleet being an online-only micromanaging feature, allowing players to take their captured ships and send them to missions for money and loot. Social events also turn up, such as chests and the occasional white whale to hunt down.

The game itself overhauls the many features while keeping the basics the same, such as the smooth parkour system of Assassin’s Creed III. This time, however, it blends in that seamless forest ranger-like movements with the urban freerunning in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations. Naval controls are also very satisfying, with the Jackdaw handling like the heavy brig that she is; the slower you are, the tighter your turns, which allows for some clever manoeuvring in some fights. However, while the controls are very punishing, it is very easy to get to grips with. Soon as you take hold of the wheel, you’ll soon find yourself sailing to your heart’s content, with the hearty songs of your crew serving as the soundtrack to your piracy.

That said, there are some problems. While there is an open world, it does get quite tedious going from mission to mission through the seas, especially controlling a brig reliant on the wind to catch its speed. However, the game does provide a fast travel option. The controls are as tight as ever, with Edward being as sticky as a ball of stealthy, Templar-killing glue, sometimes it doesn’t register where you want to go and Edward climbs a wall when he should just keep running. The main game itself also relies way too much on tailing and eavesdrop missions, which get old really quickly. And as mentioned earlier, the modern-day story is far too nebulous to get into, and the hacking minigames won’t be to everyone’s liking.

Overall, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is quite frankly the best addition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise since Brotherhood. It still has its mistakes and missteps, but as with all great games, the good overshadows the bad by miles. An absolute joy to play.