The latest title in the Assassin’s Creed series moves out onto the open oceans with Black Flag.
A seamless mix of the city based rooftop clamouring, sword fighting and high diving of past titles and the added allure of conquest, pirating and open sea battles Black Flag is an open world action adventure of immense scale.
Be prepared for many many hours of swashbuckling adventure to sweep you away from drab reality and place you in the shoes of the craftiest pirate to ever sail the dread waters of the Caribbean.
With the previous Assassin’s Creed games being some of the best of the current generation, the hardest competition this series has to live up to is itself. Black Flag is right up there with the best in the series. While maybe not as gripping story wise as some of the other titles, it certainly makes up for it with the sheer scale of the game and the sinister fun that is pirating on the Caribbean Seas.
The Assassin’s Creed series have historically been very engaging and deeply engrossing games with just the right mix of intriguing history, veiled conspiracy and action adventure. In short, Black Flag has a lot to live up to (AC3 aside), and just to make it interesting it has taken a whole new approach to the genre. With a much more light hearted approach than any of its predecessors, the storyline in Black Flag is more of a romp around a fantasy Pirate theme park than any attempt at a historical period piece. Lots of fun? Yes. Deeply historically engaging? No.
Set in 18th Century Caribbean, you take on the role of rogue pirate trying to make your fortune on the open seas. Through various run ins with both the Templars and the Assassins you get dragged into the world of Assassin’s Creed. The core storyline of Black Flag is passable if not really anything revolutionary or amazing. The game however provides a fantastic platform to write your own plot and tell your own rags to riches story.
Provided you don’t try to take the game too seriously and are willing to put in the time (It takes nearly 3 hours to really get into the game) you will be rewarded with a really entertaining somewhat comical adventure across the high seas. So sit back relax and let the fickle winds of the open ocean take you on your own journey across the expanse of the open world provided in Black Flag.
Stunning environments and beautifully detailed renderings of historical worlds have always been a trademark of the Assassin’s Creed series, and Black Flag is no exception. It looks and feels vibrant and compelling which for such a large scale open world is no mean feat. Everything from small paradise islands, to large 18th century cities are presented with an astounding level of detail and as is becoming the very impressive norm, no loading times across the entire map.
However in a year with some of the best graphics of this generation of consoles (Bioshock, Tomb Raider, Last Of Us), while Black Flag is right up there is just doesn’t seem to take anything to a new level. Having said that this game was written for next gen consoles and ported back to current gen so we can only assume that the next gen version will blow us away.
While the fighting mechanics become very predictable and repetitive and controlling your pirate ship is a little ungainly (especially when trying to manage the various types of weaponry which are contextually available depending on where your view is focused ), Black Flag still provides the entertaining and rewarding gameplay we’ve come to expect from Assassin’s Creed games. With plenty of the ‘free running’ and sword play that brings a real sense of tempo to a huge open world, you’ll definitely never be bored in Black Flag. Black Flag provides a number of new game dynamics such as ship based sea battles and pirate treasure hunting which breathes new life into this series and gives the player plenty of opportunity to try different things and break out of the monotony which has hampered some of the previous Assassin’s Creed games. For the completionist though, this game is going to take a lot of dedication and time.
As with previous AC games, there are plenty of upgrades and items available throughout the game from specialised sword sets and unique costumes to customised sails for your ship and artwork for your captain’s cabin. The old free running style races are still included under the guise of chasing song sheets throughout the world, these song sheets unlock new songs (shanties) that your pirate crew will sing as you sail around the world conquering and pillaging Spanish Galleons and English Warships alike. While this is one of those nice extra touches, we really suggest that you collect a few song sheets along the way as you’ll spend a lot of time sailing the open ocean and hearing the same ditty over and over again will break down even the strongest pirate captain.
All in all, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag combines all of the great mechanics, and gameplay from the series, adds a few new distinct flavours of its own and provides a really entertaining open world experience which really brings home a real sense of adventure and conquest. If your willing to commit the time, and have a bit of a laugh along the way then this title is definitely worth adding to your collection.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag was developed & published by Ubisoft. Our review is based on the Playstation 3 version.