Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag – Review, 7 Years Late

assassin's creed 4 Late review
  • Release Date:29 October 2013
  • Developers:  Ubisoft 
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Wii U

When Assassin’s Creed 4 came out, players complained that it shouldn’t be a part of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. And after having played Odyssey, this makes me laugh. Players had no idea of what the franchise was going to become, and I am quite sure neither did Ubisoft. But it hardly matters, Assassin’s Creed 4 isn’t just an entry in this popular franchise, it’s also one of the best pirate games ever made. And if you ask me, Assassin’s Creed 4 is a game worth playing. The characters and the music of this game are unforgettable for me. 

As you might have guessed, I am a fan of this game and to make sure I don’t keep praising the game throughout this review, I played Assassin’s Creed 4 again, but this time I tried to look at this game from a critic’s perspective. I still enjoyed it, a lot, but I also noticed many problems which I always kept ignoring.   

Naval Battles

If you have played Assassins’ Creed 4, you know this is the best part of this game. The freedom to target, ram, shoot and plunder any ship is undoubtedly awesome. This system is so good that often while playing this game, I find myself sailing with Jackdaw while listening to those fantastic sea shanties. The sun’s reflection on the water looks gorgeous, rogue waves and stormy weather make the battles tense and more thrilling. The sea has it’s own charm and is always filled with something to do. 

When Edward takes control of Jackdaw, it’s a weak vessel. But you can upgrade it. Upgrades require resources like metal, wood, cloth and of course, money. And if you want these items, you need to find and loot enemy ships, you have to play like a pirate. 

In-game currency and upgrade-system are well balanced. At no point, you will feel too poor or too rich except after getting more than 50% synchronization which isn’t easy. Some Jackdaw upgrades are quite expensive, and some even require blueprints that can be found in buried treasures. Each upgrade significantly affects the gameplay, and if you want to be the deadliest pirate, you can’t skip any upgrade.

Assassin’s Creed 4 fixed everything that was wrong with naval battles in Assassin’s Creed 3. The aiming system is more efficient and controlling the ship is easier. And overall, the combat feels fluid, and with a little bit of practice, you can control Jackdaw without thinking too hard.

Ships to attack and board can be found throughout the map. Some areas are filled with bigger ships like men o’ war, carrying better loot. But if you haven’t upgraded the Jackdaw, fighting and defeating a man o’ war is close to impossible.  

Big Problems With Naval Battles

Upgrading Jackdaw is important if you want to progress in the story without any difficulties. But after upgrading Jackdaw to the max, the same Naval battles that once felt fun and challenging became boring and way too easy. Even if you are done with 70% Jackdaw upgrades, you start noticing how easy the game is. I know it’s supposed to be this way as you don’t want to feel like a weakling even after spending so much time upgrading your ship. But, I still believe that it could have been done better.

Jackdaw is faster than most of the ships and can turn unrealistically quick. Even you are surrounded with more than 5 ships, you won’t have too much difficulty in escaping or sinking them. Your crew can reload cannons faster than your enemy’s crew. Heavy shots are overpowered, reload quickly, and if fully upgraded you can take down a man o’ war with less than 4 attacks.

You can board any ship even if you are in the middle of a battle and surrounded by enemy ships. And I have exploited this game mechanic a lot. If my ship is falling apart, all I have to do is board an enemy ship and restore Jackdaw’s health while my enemies patiently wait in the background. So convenient.    

Open World And Side Activities

Even a pirate needs a break. And if you are bored with plundering rum and sugar, you can try harpooning a whale, explore shipwrecks, search for chests and buried treasures, recruit crew for the Jackdaw, take control of enemy forts, fight legendary ships or loot warehouses. The open-world of Assassin’s Creed 4 always has something to do. 

Like almost every open-world game there are a lot of collectables in Assassin’s Creed 4. Animus Fragments are scattered throughout the world, collecting them is somewhat fun and makes you use the game’s parkour system. Sea shanties are like almanac pages from Assassin’s Creed III, but this time collecting them is more meaningful as they are used to teach your crew new sea shanties. I like to imagine Edward sitting on a table teaching his crew a new sea shanty. 

Mayan Stones, used to unlock the Mayan Outfit, are found after completing simple puzzles. There are 16 Mayan stones, but collecting them is worth it as the Mayan Outfit can deflect all enemy bullets. This isn’t the only unique outfit in the game. Templar Armor significantly reduces the damage you receive from enemy attacks and is unlocked after completing 4 templar hunt missions. And these missions are quite fun.   

Combat System

assassin's creed 4

The combat system in Assassin’s Creed 4 works, but it’s bad and undoubtedly the weakest aspect of the gameplay. Guards aren’t a threat in this game as long as you press the counter button on time. The combat isn’t as fluid as Assassin’s Creed 3 and feels like a complete downgrade.

The frequency of double-kill animations has been reduced. Sometimes you can play this game for hours without seeing a double-kill. Ubisoft decided to reuse most of the animations from Assassin’s Creed III. And to be honest, after seeing the kill animations from Assassin’s Creed III, I was quite excited to see some cool moves with dual swords, and only I know how disappointed I was. The way Edward used dual swords felt so wrong that I started using hidden blades for most of the time as it looked better and had no affect on the game’s difficulty.

Small weapons are gone, and you can use knives only for ranged attacks. You can have only one small knife at a time and I never really cared to use them.   

Story

The gameplay isn’t what comes to my mind when I think about Assassin’s Creed 4, it’s the story. Edward’s character development, from the moment you start controlling him in the middle of a battle to the last moment when he patiently waits for his daughter’s arrival, is full of emotions.

Edward became a part of the Assassin-Templar war, acting as a slave to his greed, but this war took everything from him. Edward’s story is full of tragedies, he is a character with many flaws, and he makes many mistakes throughout the game. This makes Assassin’s Creed 4 special, a character with flaws trying to make everything work without worrying about the consequences.  

Modern Day

Believe it or not, modern-day is logically the most important part of the Assasin’s Creed franchise. And after seeing Desmond’s tragic end, I expected a lot from the modern-day story. But all I got was a faceless Abstergo employee and some totally random encounters with Shaun and Rebecca. It was a big disappointment, and I am sure you must have felt the same. But after playing Origins and Odyssey, I am trying to make my self believe that Ubisoft has a plan.   

Verdict

Assassin’s Creed 4 is one of the very few games I can never uninstall from my PC as I have so many good memories with it. This game isn’t perfect and has many flaws but Edward’s story, music, memorable characters and the feeling of sailing with Jackdaw looking for some trouble, will always keep bringing me back to this game.

Gameplay
4/5
Story
5/5

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