It’s been awhile, but I’m back and with yet another AC game to rank. Welcome back to my ranking of AC games. How this works is I make a blog for each game talking about how I feel on the game, while the rank itself can be found here. Also, I am playing these games on PC. With that out of the way, let’s get right into it.
AC4 Black Flag has you playing as Edward Kenway, a pirate out to make a name for himself and trying to get rich along the way. After a sea voyage gone wrong, he ends up washed up on an island with an Assassin. After a bad confrontation, Kenway kills the assassin and takes his outfit. He soon discovers the world of Templars and Assassin and that the man he killed was on the boat to become a Templar. After acting like him, he soon discovers what the Templars want: a Sage who has access to an ancient place known as ‘The Observatory.’ That is when he decides to join the Assassins and fi… nah. That is when Kenway gets fixated on this observatory as the prize to end all prizes and decides to hunt down this treasure for himself. In the modern era, you play as a new employee to Abstergo Entertainment, a company trying to make, well, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag using DNA picked up off of Desmond shortly after dying. But it’s not long before you are contacted to do some hacking and investigating by Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane as well as a third entity that is unknown.
Assassin’s Creed 4 feels like a big change for the series. I guess a big change isn’t too surprising considering this is the first AC on current-gen hardware, but this game feels the most different since the upgrade from AC1 to AC2. The story has you playing along side the Templars and Assassins, but for the first time you play as your own entity (for awhile). The previous games have either been one large map or multiple medium-sized maps, but this game is a really large map with a lot of small or really small maps. While ship combat was introduced in AC3, this game takes ship gameplay to another level and makes it half of the game. And for the first time (unless you count Liberation which didn’t really have a modern story), you aren’t playing as Desmond. But while the game makes more drastic changes, it also keeps a lot of the same elements of previous AC games to make it feel familiar. So the big question is, does it work. Short answer? Yes. Long answer, let’s begin.
Let’s start with the story. I really like all of the story elements of this game. It’s still not as good as the Ezio timeline, but it stands close as a good contender. Instead of being an Assassin, you play as someone who runs parallel with the Assassins but for self gain. Playing as an outsider was really refreshing story-wise and it was nice being able to be a pirate but with a good cause. Also I liked the modern plot more than the other games. Divorcing from the craziness that is the Desmond plot felt needed, and telling a simple story about some random dude (you) digging deeper into the dark side of the company you work for was generic but nice. But the highlight was the setting. I loved the pirate atmosphere, and they don’t disappoint. The pirate setting is the first time in AC where I wish I could have an open world pirate game separate of AC (though I will get into that later). finally, I found the ending to be more heartwarming and overall better than the previous games.
While most of the story elements were great, I did have one that wasn’t so. The characters. I loved rolling around with the pirate characters like Blackbeard and even some of the main characters like Adewale, but I found a lot of the Assassin and Templar characters to be weak. It’s kind of a weird balance considering this game balances a pirate life and an Assassin one meaning a lesser focus on the Assassin-Templar battles, but I still found those characters to be bland. Also, I think this game has the weakest antagonist in the series. The game never sticks with him, and while he was a Templar I didn’t find him as abhorrent as previous characters. Still, overall I would say that this game is pretty high up on the list story-wise.
Earlier, I talked about how this setting makes me want to have a pirate game separate of AC. A game where I can be pirate and I do what I want without the constraints of the two secret societies. And this to me is the highlight of the game. Whether it be through story or gameplay, AC4 does a good job at offering both a good AC game and a pirate game.
Gameplay-wise, AC4 does a lot of things. It adds big changes while still offering the AC formula and even some stuff from older AC games, and all of that is mixed with a focus on being a pirate game. It’s a trifecta of old, new, and different and the blend ends up pretty well. This game gave me my AC fill as well as my pirate fill.
The biggest change to the formula is through its map. Like I said earlier, the map is segmented into a large amount of small maps, and I loved it. The maps felt large enough to explore but small enough to not feel like I need to run everywhere for a long time. Also, the segmented map allowed for more map variety. Whether that be cities similar to what we have seen before to new things like caves, small deserted islands, Mayan temples, and more. There is a lot to explore in this game, and there was enough map variety to make it worth exploring. This map choice complements the next biggest change: ship combat. While not the first game to introduce, AC4 upgrades the ship combat in a major way and makes it a large piece of the puzzle. Ship sailing isn’t just about getting from point a to point b in this game. The waters are full of things to do. With its improved combat mechanics and wealth of upgrades, fighting other ships was a lot of fun to do. This to me was the highlight of its pirate aspects. Being able to take down a ship then board it and pillage its supplies was always a blast, and the options on what to do with the ship (repair your own, reduce the wanted level on your head, or add the ship to the trading meta game) felt useful. You can also hunt large sea life, dive deep underwater to pick up loot, attack fortresses that will clear up the map, and more. And the best part is the ship doesn’t feel like a vehicle section. At any time, you can leave the wheel, walk around the ship, and jump into the water. The ship aspect to the game is essentially half of the game, and it goes hand-in-hand with its new map. Some issues did come up with these two aspects of the game such loading into and out of certain islands, but overall these two aspects are really strong.
When it comes to being an AC game, this game is a definite improvement. While it is still an AC game, a lot of the aspects of the game are more appealing to interact with. Collectibles actually get you something worth working for. for example the flying collectible of AC3 is easier to catch and gives you a new sea shanty to listen to while piloting your ship. The controls have been improved and now feel modern. graphics have again been improved noticeably and the colors are lush and vibrant in this game. There is a smaller focus on hunting (yes, that is a good thing). I had a blast with the side activities that can be done like hunting for treasure through treasure maps or taking down convoys. Despite some hiccups like it being too easy, stealth feels better in this game. The music, whether it be its ambient music or the sea shanties, fit the tone of the game well. But the thing that really caught my eye are some of the callbacks to older AC games like being able to hire a small group of people to hide or fight with, a special outfit that takes five keys to unlock, a house where you can see your progression, and the fact that the Creed is a large force again. I loved its callbacks as well as its new improvements, and they did a good job at blending the two together.
Despite that, I did run into issues with the game. I will always complain about until it’s fixed, but the combo kill move is still there. It’s a bit harder to use, but I still feel it’s a band aid to a bad combat system. I didn’t run into many glitches, but man did the game run like crap on my PC. I know my PC is powerful enough to easily run the game at whatever I want it to at a high frame rate, but I could never get the game to run great. So the best compromise I had was the game to run smooth-ish with bad screen tearing because I had to turn off V-Sync. As a completionist, the way they showed the optional objectives was terrible, and I would often end a mission only to see the optional objectives I didn’t do because I didn’t know they were there. Finally, one of the biggest gameplay issues I had was with its meta-game. I have enjoyed for the most part AC’s meta-game of either sending recruits out to do contracts or trade, but this game had the worst meta-game out of all of them. Trading took way too long, watching cheesy naval battles that I can’t skip got annoying, and the amount of resources I had to put into trading wasn’t worth the money. No game is perfect, but I feel that the issues weren’t as big as the previous few games.
Finally, there is multiplayer. There were some singleplayer elements to it, but I still don’t really interact with multiplayer so I didn’t really play it. Also, this will be the last time I talk about multiplayer unless there is something worth talking about.
In conclusion, I think AC4 is a strong AC game. It is a good blend of old and new while still being both a good AC game and a pirate game. While it didn’t make the impact AC2 did, it still ranks very high for me. Because of that, I am putting it at number two, and my guess is it will stay in the top three by the time I hit Odyssey.
That’s a wrap. The more games I put into this rank the harder it gets, and the more I think I put some of the games on a pedestal. Still, I am having fun ranking these. Thank you all for reading and tune in for AC Freedom Cry.