Thank you Assassin’s Creed IV. I thought this franchise was beyond saving but you have shown me that there is life still left in the yearly (ugh) franchise. I had given up hope after Assassin’s Creed 3, which I never got close to finishing for the simple fact it was boring…as…hell. They were working with one of the most fascinating time periods ever and managed to muck it all up.
Not so here!
The team on AC IV have taken the central idea that occupies the mind of anyone that looks for more out of life; “what I wouldn’t give to be a pirate”. Seriously, who has not thought that? If you haven’t then you can start now…
I will wait.
Ships, booty (treasure), swordplay, booty (not treasure), sending people to Davy Jones’ locker. This is the tale of Edward Kenway, a man who leaves his wife to try and make a better life for them only to become one of the greatest pirates (and assassins) of his day. The story begins with Edward killing an assassin and taking his identity. He is a pirate after all. He is then sucked into the familiar war between the Templars and assassins that we all know so well by now in the AC series. I loved the fact that it was introduced in a new way by having Edward weasel his way into it by taking on someone else’s role all while in the search of a great life-changing treasure. One of the many changes that worked.
Soon after, Edward becomes captain of a ship, which he christens the Jackdaw, and you are off to sail around the massive world with an assortment of wonders awaiting you.
You can feel the effect of Far Cry 3 all over this game and not just by the looks of the locale. If the theory that Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed share the same world began on the Rook Islands in Far Cry 3, this idea is only furthered on the open seas of Assassin’s Creed 4. The crafting system has been brought over, albeit in not as big a way. You will go from location to location in search of deer, monkey, jaguar, etc. to further expand your abilities. You also have the ability to craft new outfits on top of the ones you can purchase. There is one that looks like Oliver Queen’s island outfit from Arrow…you know I had to go for it.
The naval battles in AC 3 seemed to be a testing ground for what is the biggest part of your pirate adventure. Sailing the open seas is so damn refreshing that I often found myself setting out in whatever direction just to see what trouble I could get into. The Jackdaw has its own set of upgrades that are required, not suggested, to survive life on the water..
At first it can be daunting to take on ships of a higher caliber but after making the right additions, you will own any ship that comes your way (except the fabled legendary ships). During every battle, when you have weakened an opponent, you have the choice to destroy them or board them and take their supplies. The bigger the ship, the more you must do to take it over. Where a level 17 may have you kill ten crew members, a level 36 Man O’ War will ask you to kill 20 crew and the captain as well as make your way to the top of the enemies mast and cut their flag free.
Combat has been made much more simple and has a certain Arkham series feel to it. It is your basic block and counter but I never felt overwhelmed when surrounded by enemies. It will be hard to go back to any previous AC game again after getting used to it.
Thankfully, one of the improved areas in AC IV is its story which is actually pretty easily followed even with all the time jumps, Templar and assassin history and trips to the present day for some first-person Abstergo action. Don’t let that last part scare you off. It is not near as intrusive or mind numbing like the Desmond parts of…well any past AC game. These segments do not last very long and if you get into them you will be given some hints about the possible future of the franchise (wild west AC? Hell yeah!).
The farther you travel into Edward’s story it becomes easy to say that he is the best protagonist this franchise has ever had. He is a fully fleshed out character whose goal is very clear even if his way of getting there is unique. He has more personality than all characters in previous entries combined. Maybe that comes from the freedom of the time period and profession the developers have used here. Either way, I would not mind more adventures with Edward even if we all know his ending.
There is so much more I could touch on about what this game holds. I spent over 40 hours sailing and boozing and assassinating and still have quite a bit to do. Whether it is using the diving bell to search for deep sea treasure, sneaking into enemy territory to loot warehouses for ship supplies or just finding random ships to pillage, you will never be left wanting. AC IV does fall into the traps of previous entries sometimes with way too many follow and eavesdrop missions but it does not change the fact that this is easily the best entry in the entire series. My favorite Assassin’s Creed (II) now, finally, seems obsolete.
That is a good thing. Let’s hope Ubisoft can keep the momentum going forward.