Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is not the same Assassin’s Creed you’ve come to love over the past half decade. This is a good thing.
We’ve seen franchises become complacent with their gameplay, setting, mechanics and characters, but we have yet to see that from Assassin’s Creed. This is a franchise that has not been afraid of change and actually welcomes it with open arms.
The American Revolution took players back to colonial America where players had to overcome to oppressive rule of the British. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is taking gamers back to the era of pirates with the gorgeously stunning backdrop of the Caribbean.
So what change do we speak of when we talk about Assassin’s Creed IV? We are talking about a world that truly feels more open than any other installment before it. This feeling comes from the amount of exploration that players do, as well as the amount of locations players can sail to.
Players are no longer kept within the limits of one city or two or three. Assassin’s Creed IV takes us to a massive world that is largely dominated by the sea, islands and a handful of towns along the way.
In the hands-on demo we were able to explore, we came to the conclusion that Assassin’s Creed IV is going to be mostly about the sea and the Jackdaw. Sure there are various cities, caves and islands for players to explore, but this game is not about those landmasses.
Really, this idea was first threatened with Assassin’s Creed III and while it was a slightly worrisome thought, after playing through some of Assassin’s Creed IV, the realization set in that this is the perfect setting for the next installment.
Black Flag employs a strong presence of gameplay at sea, which is filled with countless amounts of loot and enemies along the way.
In previous Assassin’s Creed games, we would walk down tightly packed streets, filled with civilians and enemies. That type of feeling is still strongly present, but in the form of all of the ships, surviving shipmen and loot the Caribbean waters possess.
Sailing through the Caribbean is not a dull experience at all. There, we find plenty of hidden treasure maps, letters and enemies to keep us busy for hours. Each island has various collectibles and objectives to complete. Some have life in the form of enemies, while others contain many animals.
Black Flag still plays to a lot of themes that we’ve seen in prior installments, but it takes these ideas and utilizes them in such a masterful manner. The ship is your city to build up, and you end up wanting to upgrade it as much as you can.
Yes, land gameplay still has a strong presence in Assassin’s Creed IV. We had the chance to see this in town of Nassau.
While this city is not the typically large piece of land we have become so use to in prior installments, Nassau brings with a new, fresh vibe. What almost resembles certain characteristics of a shantytown, also delivers plenty of hidden curiosities.
We ran through the city collecting treasures from chests hidden throughout Nassau. We scaled large buildings, towering wooden poles and enormous trees to complete all of the city’s viewpoints. There were several assassination contracts for us to complete, and while previous iterations required us to complete a special objective for 100% synch, Assassin’s Creed IV simply pays more for it.
The storyline missions we carried out were entertaining and carried with them similar purposes that we’ve seen in previous games. Recruiting more men for your crew is mirroring how we increased our assassins in Brotherhood.
Nassau provided ample challenges and things to do, but it quickly sends you back on your way to the sea.
As we went back to the waters, the lure of additional quests and missions, lying in front of us was ever so present. Prior to sailing to the main destination, we decided to attack a fort that was along the way and took it for our own.
Gameplay was fluid and had us hooked from the first cannon to the last bullet. The Jackdaw’s weapons really don’t make players wait for them to reload during battles, unlike how we felt in Assassin’s Creed III.
After you have used your ships main cannons and while they are reloading, players can use secondary cannon gun fire. This really kept our attention on the battle and made our ship feel very powerful.
After incapacitating a ship, players had the choice to destroy it further and take the leftover loot, or they could board it and take more resources. Of course, we decided to board many ships and found strong, seamless gameplay awaiting us.
All of this was a major concern about going heavy with the sea gameplay. Could sailing a ship across the ocean be entertaining for 30 to 40 hours and more? From what we’ve seen thus far, the answer to that is yes.
Everything we were able to play was running on the PlayStation 4 and the environments were exquisite. The lush, vibrant world of the Caribbean is captured so beautifully.
For example, when we were stalking a guard to takedown, we hid in a nearby bush, and as we moved along, you could see each individual leaf moving, as you would expect it to in real life.
Water is of course stunning to sail and swim through, coupled with exceptional sound effects. The comparisons between current and next-generation games will be interesting, given how impressive the PS4 version of Assassin’s Creed IV looks.
We will have full review and feature coverage of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on current and next-generation systems come this October and November. For all of our latest exclusives, previews, reviews and features, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Game On.