Ahoy! I’ve been lost in the piratey world that is Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag (PS3) and thoroughly enjoying myself.
(This review is best read with the following music playing in the background!)
I’ve always been fascinated with pirates. From Horrible Histories to Pirates of Penzance, to the funnier yet horribly rated The Pirate Movie (the full movie has been posted on YouTube – go now and spend 98 minutes in Australian musical comedic 1980s heaven!) to Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (Wii). Now, I didn’t think I could love a game more than Lego Pirates of the Caribbean , which combined my two of my favourite things: Lego games and Pirates. But Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag is certainly trying!
NB: I haven’t really played any Assassins Creed prior to Black Flag.
The game whips into action with you starring as the tattooed pirate, Edward Kenway. You steer your pirate ship into a battle that requires using all the buttons on the PS3 controller; firing cannons, avoiding oceanic obstacles and dropping explosive barrels. This is a tiny taste of the shipmanship to come and grabs you in from the first bang of gunpowder.
Basically, Edward Kenway is your typical pirate, trying to find money and fame on the high seas and enjoying the riches on land. As you play through the main plot, you can step aside and find collectibles, be a hired assassin, dig for buried treasure, hunt wild animals and pickpocket to your hearts content, all the while building up Captain Ed, his ship and crew.
Oh yeah; this is an Assassin’s Creed game, so there is the main story where you are discovering Assassin secrets blah blah. I don’t really care out the main plot because free adventuring is so much more fun. And there seems to be limitless islands with viewpoints to discover and ships to plunder, so this pirate’s life is more for me.
I have been playing through Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag on PS3 and the look is just amazing. Whether you are surrounded by water, different waves lapping against your hull, or jumping acrobatically, you will find yourself gasping at the sheer prettiness of the world Ubisoft have created. I love wandering around the streets of Kingston and admiring the seemingly historical accuracy of characters’ clothes, the brickwork of the buildings and the architecture in the churches.
I am a pirate king! I am free to climb sails, sail oceans, dive through underwater caverns, plunder plantation warehouses and recklessly swing by the face of authority as I so desire. I feel like the wind is rushing through my hair as I set the sails for full speed, sprays of water flinging aside my metaphorical whiskers. I feel like I am one of the sailors when we break out in a sea shanty (caught throughout the map to save you from hours of long ocean with no radio) and I know all the words.
“Leave her Johnny, leave her…Oh leave her Johnny, leave her!”
You spend a considerable amount of the game on your ship, sailing. Reality check: probably what most pirates did! I myself have a strong personal fear of large masses of water (particularly in storms during the 1700s) and was initially confronted as though the Ocean is the major boss of the game. Indeed, the Ocean is created with much respect; waves influenced by the wind, rogue waves that can destroy ships in a sweep and water spouts that spryly swoosh by.
As I sailed more, I became more familiar with the handling of the controls (tricky during ship battles and storms) and gradually grew at ease and even calmed by her majestic presence and power. Now I choose to sail to destinations instead of fast travel and take a moment to appreciate the tiny island with a treasure chest waiting to be looted, or the innocent, adrift sailor rescuable with a press of the button.
I had the pleasure of also getting the OST (Yay! Skull Edition!) which has provided me with the best driving music of all time. Yes I will drive along like I’m slinking through Havana. No I will not be influenced by my epic pirate music Officer.
There seems to be a lot of Assassin’s Creed mythology that really … bogs down the general fun of being a pirate. As I haven’t played the other games, the entire “real world” plot (you are actually a researcher for a ‘gaming’ company reliving someone’s memories to create a game / protect the greater good) is such a drag. Who cares about the ‘real world’! I have enough real world in my real world. I don’t need any Matrix business snapping into a game where I am playing a character in the real world playing a game.
I wonder if Ubisoft could have just made an awesome pirate game (as they have!) and not attach it to the AC legacy? Perhaps they needed to rope people in. Link it to the brand, yada yada.
I also found myself a little frustrated with Edward’s incessant desire to climb or jump up on absolutely everything. While ‘free running’ (legitimate sport, ask Hugh!) is so liberating, your mojo is completely destroyed when you cling awkwardly to the side of a sea shack as Musketeers literally stab you with their muskets.
Do you love pirates? If the answer is yes, get this game now.
Enjoy hours of ranshackled shenanigans with a bit of weird historically twisted sci-fi thrown in.
I love my gender-bending movies, be it Barbra Streisand acting as a Jewish woman being a Jewish man in love with a Jewish man who loves another Jewish woman… or Julie Andrews acting as a poor singing woman being a posh man who sings cabaret as a woman and is in love with another man.
Believe it or not, Black Flag contains a lovely (yet ridiculously obvious) gender-bending, based on truth, side character.
I won’t tell you the name (no spoilers here… unless you haven’t seen Yentl or Victor/Victoria yet…) but be prepared to fall in love with a woman who everyone thinks is a man.