Ahoy, me Hearties! Now, from where do I start? Oh yeah, Blimey! Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is damn good game!
Ubisoft’s done it again! The latest installment Black Flag maybe the best Assassin’s Creed game to date. Why “maybe”? I’ll explain it more as go through, but for the moment know that you are in for a treat with Black Flag. Pirates have always been cool, the whole “culture” or their way of life and that period has always been interesting, but we haven’t really seen a great portrayal of that, especially in games.
Black Flag redeems that and gives us the best look at what living in that time looked and felt like, if you don’t take in consideration the whole Assassin’s Creed fiction running in the background. And that is my first problem with this whole pirate setting and the way it connects with the Assassin’s Creed fiction. I f*cking love Assassin’s Creed, I think it’s the best universe ever created. Mixing real life events with amazing real and fictional conspiracies, I can say it’s the best thing ever. And I loved every Assassin’s Creed game to date, the excellent story, the excellent conspiracies/secrets and the gameplay, with every game expanding on the last. So where is the problem I have with Black Flag you might ask?
Well, the main reason I love AC games is the story and that sweet AC fiction thrown in. It started with the first Assassin’s Creed mind bending ending, continued throughout Ezio’s adventure and Haytham’s/Connor’s life, culminating with the fantastic ending/alternative ending of Assassin’s Creed 3. Now comes Black Flag…
*****SPOILERS***** Desmond is dead, he was fried at the end of Assassin’s Creed 3 when he choose to save the world and released a bigger evil into the world being that Juno. Now knowing the genius writers of the team over at Ubisoft and taking in consideration what they have done so far, I was expecting to be blown away by Black Flag’s story, but I was kinda let down. As I said Desmond is dead, but thanks to the new advancements of the Animus tech, anyone can tap into someone else’s memory and relieve the experiences of their ancestors. The concept is extremely cool and as many of other reviewers have said “The possibilities where the story can go now are endless”, but I think, at least to me, it lost the charm that made the universe of Assassin’s Creed the most unique and special of them all.
I really liked Desmond, even though he was a tool most of the time, but still I liked him. Seeing how he grew from a random bartender to a hero, it was done in a nice way and I somehow connected to him, felt what he had gone and was going through. And seeing how the writers just killed him that easy or that his Assassin friends let his body fall into the hands of Abstergo without even trying to recover him, I don’t know… it felt wrong. But what I know or I want to believe is that he will be back in a glorious way and will be the one that fights the evil that is lurking inside Abstergo’s servers, but I don’t wanna go into more spoilers so *****END OF SPOILERS*****
In the present day you play or control a nameless and voiceless dude who works for Abstergo Entertainment in a first person perspective. WTF is Abstergo Entertainment you might ask? Well, it’s a front for the “evil” Abstergo to finance it’s operations through monetizing ancestral experiences or so it seems. They sell the experiences as games, movies, books to everyone, so basically they provide entertainment using the material extracted from different subjects. The Animus has also changed and it’s now a Oculus Rift type headset that anyone can buy in stores and use to experience everyone’s “memories” as long as they have the access. This whole concept is cool, but it also doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I mean Abstergo kidnapped Desmond and kept him prisoner for god knows how long to go through his ancestral memories, in the utmost secrecy, but now they are selling the technology to everyone???!!! For entertainment???!!! Yes, in the game they say that these “experiences” will be heavily edited to suit the market, but still having random employees searching throughout history’s darkest (or brightest) days with all of the secrets, conspiracies and all kind of sh*t that can change the whole world…still doesn’t make any sense. Sure your character comes across Shaun and Rebecca, the two Assassins from the previous games, but how you get involved with the whole Templar vs Assassin ordeal feels fake and stupid. If I or any other person would come to uncover the secrets your character comes across in the game, I would freak out and get the hell out of there as fast as possible. But the dude doesn’t feel or say anything and continues to work for both Abstergo and the Assassins following orders like a robot.
But enough about the present, let’s jump a few hundred years back in time to The Golden Age of Piracy. It’s just perfect. Like I said in the Assassin’s Creed III review I wrote months back, as soon I got into the open sea with Edward and the Jackdaw I remembered Bilbo’s quote “I am going on an adventure!” And what an adventure it was! You play as Edward Kenway, Connor’s grandfather, a British privateer-turned-pirate and eventual member of the Assassin Order. Life in Britain was hard for him and his family, without a job and penniless, he set sail for the Caribbean hoping for greatness and treasures beyond the imagination, but things didn’t really go as planned. The game starts in the middle of a naval battle between Edward and what appears an Assassin, but Edward doesn’t know that. Both ships are completely destroyed and the only two survivors are Edward and the Assassin. Shipwrecked on an island, Edward starts chasing down the Assassin ultimately killing him. While searching his corpse, Edward finds an interesting letter talking about a big reward for the man he just killed. So Edward take his clothes and heads to the destination as the Assassin to collect the promised reward spoken in the letter, but little did he know. He reaches the destination to find that the man he killed was an Assassin who turned on the Order to go work for the enemies, the Templars, and the story picks up from there. Without knowing, Edward gives the Templars a map with all the known locations of the Assassins in exchange for the reward. Stuff, that I won’t spoil, happens and Edward is introduced to the whole Assassins vs Templars ordeal and Edward starts the “quest for redemption”.
This was really cool, cause we haven’t really seen this done before in an Assassin’s Creed game. Edward is a pirate so for the first few hours in the game, he is both an Assassin and Templar, meaning that he will do tasks for both of them as long as they pay, until he learns the ugly truth behind the Templars and their agenda. That’s the true portrayal of the pirate spirit, free to do whatever pleases him and treasure/coins before everything else. But that’s not entirely true. Now I don’t know if what was said in the game is true, but the pirates wanting freedom from the King, kinda got together and worked toward a bigger goal, that of a free Pirate Country, an independent country. And seeing the work done by the pirates toward this goal, was just fantastic. But Edward wasn’t alone in this, real-life individuals like the legendary pirate Blackbeard or Charles Vane and Benjamin Hornigold etc. joined him. I can talk for hours about what, how and why the pirates did these things, but that would spoil the excellent (sometime heartbreaking) moments in the game.
As I said, Edward learns about the Templar’s agenda, their evil plan so he starts fighting and hunting them down as we have already seen in the other Assassin’s Creed games. We see him grow as a person. At first he worked for coins and treasure, but later he starts fighting for ideals and for what is right, that’s the Assassin spirit taking over. And this growing is done in a such excellent way by the guys at Ubisoft, making Edward the second best (Ezio FTW) Assassin ever. I mean at first when he learns about the Observatory, this powerful tool or weapon if fallen in the wrong hands that can spy on everyone, Edward wants to use it for personal gain. To get information about trading routes, ships filled with gold, blackmailing etc. normal stuff for a pirate. But these thoughts change, when he sees the real power of this machine. Now he is set to destroy and bury it, so no one person or faction could have all that power. And as I said, it’s amazing! Sure the story gets a little complicated in the middle. We in Albania have a word for this and that’s “koklavitur”. Pirates betraying one another, Assassins and Templars doing the same thing, switches in ideals and concepts, things that were difficult to follow… it all got really messy at some point, but it all made sense in the end. A powerful ending if I might add…