Assassin's Creed Pirates is an enjoyable mobile game if you have the right device
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag was as I have previously stated, one of the best games I've ever played. Everything was fine tuned to near perfection, but what stood out was the excellent naval combat. I'd never played anything like it before, it was just fantastic! So I got pretty excited when I heard about Assassin's Creed Pirates coming to iOS and Android devices.
So what is Assassin's Creed Pirates? Well, basically it's the naval combat system from Black Flag, or a "dumb down" version of it, made into a touch based mobile game. Does it "work"? Well, it depends on what your expectations are. If you loved the naval traversing and combat one Black Flag had, you'll like the one Pirates is offering. You get to control a ship and sail through the seas of the Caribbean completing missions or different errands and engage in combat more often than needed.
It is touch based, meaning that you have to press buttons on screen or swipe to do stuff. You control the ship's speed by raising or lowering the sails by tapping buttons on the right side and you control it's trajectory by swiping left or right the ship's wheel. Tapping the buttons is very responsive and intuitive, swiping, in the other hand, not by a longshot. However there are alternatives or "fixes" for that, like the tilt controls and that's what you should use! Sailing across the sea at full speed using tilt to control the ship is just great. Or you can use the top-down map where you can drag and draw a course for your ship to follow. It is faster, cleaner and very intuitive. The map is filled with fog of war, so most of it is invisible until you explore it or synchronize with a viewpoint in a Assassin's Creed fashion.
As I said apart from sailing there's also combat. In Black Flag it was just awesome, but it also became boring after a few hours. The one present in Pirates is not awesome, it's OK, but it also becomes boring not after a few hours, after just a few minutes. The first encounters are fun, cause you don't really know what is going to happen. The combat is kinda turn based, meaning that after you've attacked you have to wait for the cooldown to re-attack and meanwhile the enemy will attack you. You can fire a cannon barrage by holding your finger to aim then releasing it from the screen to fire. You also have the swivel guns, which works like a sniper and you have to aim at the ship's critical point, if it appears, to deal massive damage.
The enemies attack too and once he has initiated a cannon barrage attack, you have to dodge the incoming balls by moving left or right. It's extremely easy and it get boring after the tenth time. The other attack the enemy ships have is I don't know what to call it. Basically it will fire cannon balls, throw gunpowder barrels and explosive boxes at you. And to defend against these, you have to swipe and cut Fruit Ninja style the cannon balls, just tap the barrels and do nothing for the boxes. Again it's extremely easy and it get boring after the tenth time.
Missions are just the basic: so there is race through checkpoints; collect that thing and bring it back; Assassination missions where you have to get to the target without being seen and destroying it; find treasure through the telescope; rescue sailors and pick up loot from the sea etc. The 100% synchronization system present in the other AC games returns here, where you have optional objectives like a time limit etc. and if you complete them, you earn bonus loot.
Loot is used to upgrade your ships and it is earned by destroying other ships, completing missions and objectives or can be found in the open sea. The upgrade system is cool as you can upgrade the speed, armor and weapons of the ships you have unlocked and bought. The more you play, the more you level up, the more stuff you unlock as in new ships, new crew mates you can hire, new perks etc. You can hire crew mates and hiring them unlock new perks and abilities for you ship. These can be passive like increase the field of view or fog of war dispersal rate or active like speed boost or a powerful cannon barrage. And there are a lot of these that make things interesting in the long run.
As we all know by now, the mobile games market is plagued by those damn microstransactions that most of the time completely ruin the game cause the devs design the games in that way that you have to throw in real cash if you want to advance further, cause you want to fill that bullsh*t energy bar. And it does not matter if the game is free or even if you have payed 5 or 8$, nope you still can buy your way to the top. Well, luckily and I thank Ubisoft for setting an example, Assassin's Creed Pirates has none and I mean no bullsh*t microtransactions or energy bars. Once you pay the £2.99 or 4,99$, you won't spend another cent!
By now you must be asking yourself "Why is he not talking about the story and what happens?" and you are totally right. I usually start by talking about the story, but since the one present in Pirates is bad and, to me, has nothing to do with the Assassin's Creed universe, it's not worth mentioning. But since you've asked here's the rundown: You are Captain Alonzo Batilla, a douchebag Duke Nukem personality like pirate who captures the interest of the legendary notorious pirate La Buse and after a chance encounter, you're given your own ship to fulfill your wildest desires. See that's...bleh. And the way the story is told by using just hand-drawn stills of the characters followed with text is not interesting.
Presentation wise, it looks really good. The sea and water look fantastic and the weather effects like rain or fog look kinda good. Also the lighting is pretty good. The models as in ships and terrain, however, look bad. Each map is big and rendering it in real time is quite difficult, I guess, but still. It's like the 3D models have this fuzziness on top of the, sometimes, really bad textures. But since you'll spend most of the time in a "third person perspective" like when you activated the Travel Speed in Black Flag, these "problems" do not matter. Sounds and OST are really good. The OST from Black Flag will start playing in combat or when traversing and it sounds awesome. Also the crew will start to sing the sea shanties making sailing across the ocean even more enjoying, although it would have been even nicer if we had the ability to "switch on" the pirate radio.
Now in terms of how it runs however, well, that's another story. I mostly played it on an iPad Mini, the one with A5 processor and the frame rate was really spotty. At times it dropped extremely low making it extremely unpleasant to continue playing and other times it ran just fine. Also it crashes, like a lot and that is not good. I understand that it maybe the hardware's fault, but I also played it on a iPhone 5S and it still crashed a few time, even though it ran smoother than on the iPad Mini. So my advice, if you have an old iOS device don't get it, it is not that well optimized.
Assassin's Creed Pirates is an enjoyable game if you have the right device, the newest one, the better the experience. Combat is OK, it is repetitive as f*ck, but it's a mobile game with AAA qualities. Sailing is very pleasant and there's a ton of content to be payed and explored. Also having no bullsh*t energy bar or bullsh*t microtransactions is a Big Plus. However I am not going to say neither buy it nor don't buy it, it's your choice, just keep in mind what I said above.
Thanks for reading!