While Black Flag might be dated in some aspects, like the repetitive combat and pointless homestead-improving systems of recent Ubisoft games, it’s also thrillingly fresh. Nautical exploration, ship-to-ship battles, and even a bit of treasure hunting keep the game feeling alive.
It might not feature the aplomb of an Ezio or an assassin like Connor, but Edward Kenway’s quest for booty swings the series pendulum back towards quality. Clumsy traversal mechanics and dire mission types prevent the game from reaching legendary status, but slick naval combat and luxurious landscapes keep it entertaining.
Is ac4 Black Flag worth it?
Ubisoft shook things up with Black Flag, its most pirate-themed entry in the franchise. Its sea voyages are the standout element, with a range of gameplay that provides enough variety and challenge to keep players entertained.
The game focuses on Edward Kenway, a swashbuckling buccaneer driven by greed and the desire to leave his mark on the world. While the story may not be as gripping as previous entries, it does give plenty of historical context to the conflict between Assassins and Templars.
Aside from the main plotline, you can also take part in a series of naval battles and stealth missions, ranging from splicing brig crews to raiding coastal towns. Capturing a fort renders that portion of the map visible, highlighting island locations, harpooning points, and treasure chests. This gives the player a lot of freedom to explore and engage with the beautiful world around them. Unfortunately, Black Flag suffers from a few filler elements that pull the experience away from true greatness.
The pirate adventure
The game received critical acclaim and is considered to be one of the best games in the franchise. Its open-world map, improved naval combat, side missions, graphics, narrative, and pirate theme were praised. However, the modern-day story and a certain amount of repetitive historical mission design were criticized.
Edward Kenway, a Welshman who naively promises his wife that he will be only gone a year or two, decides to pursue fame and fortune in the Caribbean. He soon finds himself at the center of a Templar conspiracy.
Thankfully, Black Flag studiously learned from the many mistakes of its predecessor, 2012’s Assassin’s Creed III, which dragged its prologue before finally getting around to letting you get your hands on a ship. Consequently, you can be sailing within minutes of the title’s start and engaging in full-on piracy in no time at all. And it is a gloriously satisfying experience. Even just sailing between points of interest is an adventure, with sandbar islands, shipwrecks, and major pirate settlements to discover.
The open world
While the mainline Assassin’s Creed games have always had a sense of an open world, Black Flag is the first time that Ubisoft has made naval exploration the centerpiece of an Assassin’s Creed game. Edward Kenway captains the Jackdaw, a brig that he captured in one of the game’s early missions, and from there he can sail around the West Indies where he will discover islands, buried treasure, a multitude of ships to loot, and numerous side-missions.
The game also features a variety of land-based activities like hunting, harpooning, and exploring ruins. These are augmented by the ability to fast-travel between synchronized viewpoints, which serve as both points of interest and a way to traverse the map more efficiently. Ubisoft has even gone as far as to create an Animus system that allows you to explore your memories of the events leading up to the Assassin-Templar conflict. You can meet characters that you have encountered in the past and learn more about the millennia-old conflict.
The online suite
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is set across centuries, and Ubisoft Montreal packed a staggering amount of stuff into Black Flag. It’s a great game, even if the series needs some new tricks.
Black Flag was a critical and commercial success in 2013. Its pirate theme, open-world exploration, improved naval combat, side-quests, characters, and graphics won many fans over. Its modern-day story missions and historical story sequences received mixed feedback, however.
Online play was also a massive draw. Patrick Garratt got to grips with it in Annecy earlier this month, and there’s a huge amount to get stuck into, including an expanded Wolfpack co-op and Gamelab – a system for creating your multiplayer modes.
The Wii U GamePad can be used as a map, and most versions support the free Assassin’s Creed IV Companion App, which turns your tablet into a home for maps, an Animus database, and more. The app is available until the end of August.