Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag Review

Can you guess the two things wrong with that title? No, well firstly the guy who doesn’t like stealth games is playing Assassin’s Creed and secondly my first Assassin’s Creed game is the 4th one?! All shall be revealed.

Before I get into this, a little bit of context, for a long while Assassin’s Creed was a series I was incredibly interested to play and once I got my PS3 I decided it had to be one of my first games. I’d heard really good things about Black Flag and the navel elements intrigued me and to be honest each individual Assassins Creed game is relatively self-contained so prior experience with the series isn’t a must.

Right, I won’t spend forever on the plot, put simply you are controlling Edward Kenway, a pirate pretending to be part of the Order of Assassins and his desire to gain money through a life of piracy and making a number of enemies along the way…

First things first, Assassin’s Creed is indeed a stealth game, however it’s the type of stealth I enjoy whereby in a lot of cases you have two options: full on don’t get detected stealth or just elect to hack your way through. Although disclaimer, certain missions force you down the full on stealth route. Now the land based missions, one of my biggest annoyances. Far far too many of the missions are tail and eavesdrop missions, the greatest issue with this is it disrupts the pace of play. The way I see it Black Flag has two types of pace, slow, creeping around in attempts to kill people or sprinting across rooftops to escape. Whereas these missions occupy a strange middle ground as you can’t use either of those techniques, go too slow and you’ll fail a mission for going out of range, use the rooftop method and you’ll be detected. It just doesn’t fit the game, I’m glad to hear that the majority of these types of missions have been removed in the follow up: Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

Next up, the navel stealth, two issues here. Firstly the general concept is ludicrous, according to the game it’s possible to sit 100m behind a giant ship in an equally big ship and not get spotted, the game even goes out of its way to highlight that boats have scouts out looking for you! I know games aren’t real, but the lack of common sense is annoying. Secondly the mechanic itself is broken in the game, when looking for you ships have around a 150 degree field of vision means it’s possible to sit directly behind ships and not worry about getting caught.

The land combat, has divided me somewhat. It fundamentally relies on two buttons and mainly just spamming a single button. It’s divisive because I like that the simplicity of the system makes it more accessible to new players, I just feel they could have developed the combat to allow the player to pull off my complex moves as the game progresses. One rather bit of strange logic in the combat is that it takes around 5-6 successive attacks to kill a standard enemy, however if you wait for an enemy to attack you and counter the attack, Edward will pull off a manoeuvre which will automatically kill the enemy and you only need to press two buttons. It just feels somewhat out of place. Next the navel combat, couple points here, firstly players shouldn’t moan that your ship rotates too slowly, the developers are being accurate here, a ship of that size would not rotate 360 degrees in a couple of seconds. Secondly piece of advice, get ready to get used to fighting sideways, in most games such as FPSes you naturally shoot forwards, but remember a ship’s cannons are mounted on the sides so travelling head on into a battle will not be very effective, if you play games such as Guns Of Icarus Online this shouldn’t be an issue for you. The second issue is the fact that your 3 primary weapons are coded to a single button (in the case of PS3 it’s L1). The weapon available to you changes depended on your position in relation to other ships, so if you’re pointing towards the enemy you can only fire your forward guns not your broadside cannons. This can lead to situations where if you aren’t lined up perfectly with your target, you can’t fire the weapon you want. My solution to this? Code each weapon to a D-Pad button i.e forward gun are up, broadsides could be left or right, allowing you to change weapon whenever you like.

If you’ve read up to this point you might be thinking I hate this game, but not quite, there are a number of things I really love about this game. First and foremost this game is very visually appealing, really pushing what the system can do giving the game a cinematic feel. This game has also done well to capture the feeling on the environment. What I mean is when you swing onto a ship and plunge directly into the fray you feel like a true pirate. Secondly, while this may be true of all open world games, the ability to explore and the numerous side missions give you a tremendous amount to do even if the main story is complete. If my personal experience certain parts are immensely addictive, every time I’m about to stop playing I then think, ‘ooh maybe just one more ship upgrade’. Talking of ship upgrades, speaking to a friend of mine who’s also played the game we discovered we had two distinct play styles. I went down the route of upgrade my ship so that I always massively outgunned any ships I’d meet in the story, while my friend spent less time upgrading his ship and relied on his outright skill to progress in the story (Good going Sam!). That is very much the mark of a good game: it’s versatile. But by far and away the stand out feature of this game is… THE SEA SHANTIES. To clarify while you are sailing around your crew will sing songs if you wish and frankly they are insanely catchy and I won’t forget them. (Except ‘Johnny Boker’ search it, it’s infuriating)

Fundamentally Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, feels like something of a missed opportunity, at times it showed sparks of brilliance but is hindered by issues with its core mechanics.

SCORE: 67/100



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