Barroom Gamer

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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4): Yaarrgh! A pirate game that fires on all cylinders (A-)

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ACIV: The Pirate Hiest Trailer

Can’t be knocking out Assassin’s Creed games so quickly, they say. Ubisoft is diluting one of their key franchises they say. Well, as a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, I’ll go on board and say Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has been by far the best Assassin’s Creed game released by Ubisoft. Never had I imagined a game about pirates would do so well given that there just aren’t many games about them. What separates this game from previous titles in the series is the amount of freedom you have by navigating the West Indies on a pirate ship. Events [from AC III] leading up to Assassin’s Creed IV ends with you controlling a nameless employee whom just joined the Absergo Entertainment family and is tasked to conduct research on the game’s main protagonist. You’re assigned to your own Animus work station where the quest to complete your objective begins. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, published by Ubisoft, was released in November of 2013. This review will focus on the PS4 release.

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Although it doesn’t necessarily take away too much from the actual game, I feel AC IV could have done well without the tracing aspect of the Animus work station. It was interesting back on the first Assassin’s Creed, but I get the feeling now it’s just forced in order to keep the series faithful to its roots. As I mentioned earlier, you’re a nameless employee chosen for your genetic connection to the game’s main protagonist and are initially tasked with researching whatever you can find out about this man in hopes to produce a genuine live action pirate movie. Eventually you are conned into hacking computers around the organization that better helps you understand the motives in creating this film. The computer hacking consists of silly little puzzles that doesn’t really take too much of your time to solve, but the files you receive upon completing the hacks are definitely worth your time to read or listen too.

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The main protagonist of the game is a man by the name of Edward Conway. Unsatisfied with his financial status among society, he leaves his wife in pursue of high financial gain via pirating. Upon receiving a tip about a mission set in the city of Havana from an assassin he eventually kills, Edward quickly makes his way towards that destination on a ship owned by a trader whom eventually becomes his good friend. Little did he know what would become from this initial event, but I suppose at this point, that would be for you to find out. The story takes place in the early 1700s at the beautifully depicted Caribbean Islands. Edward will eventually cross paths with infamous pirates like Blackbeard and Calico Jack making the role playing more genuine. The game’s story is great, but I’ll digress from explaining it further because it’s just better to experience it on your own. Just know Edward is a pirate, he runs his pirate ship, the Jackdaw, and that you are playing an Assassin’s Creed game, which means you’ll be dealing with Assassins and Templars.

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Fighting is relaxed a bit from previous games, but for good reason. After all, this story IS about the legacy of Edward Conway. He is built to be far more skilled than anyone you face in the game so losing in itself should be a difficult thing to accomplish. There are only a few certain types of enemies you will face along the way, but as long as you recognize their patterns, you should have no problem disposing of them. ALL enemies can be defeated instantly by approaching them by stealth. Again, this game puts an emphasis on the legacy left behind by Conway so leveling the play field wouldn’t make much sense. You have several items at your disposal to help you battle your way through swarms of enemies. Utilizing them wisely will prove to be more efficient than running into a pack of enemies itself. These supplementary items come in the form of people, firearms, swords, darts, etc. Fighting is paced out well and also optional to some extent, so it doesn’t get too repetitive. The animations are well made and beautiful to relive using the PS4’s sharing system. The battle system is simple, yet very satisfying.

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Customization in this game will feel both limited and expansive. There aren’t many different weapons and costumes to unlock and purchase, and they won’t necessarily improve Edward’s attributes, but the gear will definitely improve him aesthetically, which is very satisfying.  Who wouldn’t want to sail across the West Indies wearing Captain Morgan’s suit? Crafting items will help improve the efficiency of certain abilities or gear. These special items are obtained by hunting wild animals on land and sea. If you morally don’t like the idea of killing these animals for game, the crafting items will become available to you at general stores at some point. You are limited to what you can upgrade in each category of the game, but having to upgrade Edward, his home, and the Jackdaw using the same currency is expansive and expensive, taking a very long time to complete.

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The map is filled with plenty of activities that will help improve Edward’s legacy throughout the game. Viewpoints have become fast travel points, which make traveling across islands much easier. Policing the local taverns will allow the ability to recruit a crew as well as gain tips on Royal Navy convoys for high game. Repair shops and general stores allow you to purchase equipment for Edward and his ship. This aspect helps justify the importance of gaining money, which was never really importantl in prior games. Exploring beautifully depicted sunken ships and caves help amplify the pirate role playing experience as well as benefiting Edward’s efforts in his main objectives. You can get away with not involving yourself with many of these side quests, but as you may have caught on to by now, there is plenty to be gained from these activities and is definitely worth your time to explore.

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Running the Jackdaw sounds like a complex task, but is really quite simple and enjoyable. Maintaining the ship is semi-automatic so that the focus can remain on your main objectives. Scrimmages help bring the pirate out of Edward as he swings across ships, take down opposing captains, and destroy enemy flags. Hiring a crew, who helps you in your fighting efforts, can be accomplished several different ways. You can hire them via taverns after a short scuffle with hoodlums. You can also rescue pirates when they are placed in a hostage situation by the local militia. Finally, you can recruit them after sinking ships from scrimmages you’ll partake in at sea. Upgrading the ship’s defenses and ammunition capacity will allow the ability to take on larger opponents for more financial gain and loot. You also have the ability to change the Jackdaw’s appearance through unlocked items found within treasure chests located throughout the map. Edward will eventually be given the ability to run his own fleet by recovering ships damaged during scrimmages. His fleet can then be used for trading goods and collecting rare items and treasure maps. I’d say overall, running the Jackdaw is the best part of Assassin’s Creed IV. We got a small glimpse of the concept in AC III, and I’m just glad Ubisoft decided to take the idea and run with it in AC IV.

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I think I’ve ranted long enough about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but for good reason. The game is fantastic and is definitely deserving of the well praise it is currently receiving. If all this information isn’t enough to entice you to play the game, the PS4 version includes exclusive features not found in other consoles. For one, there is exclusive downloadable content featuring Aveline de Grandpre from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation that can only be played on PS3 and PS4. Like the Wii U and its’ tablet, AC IV can be played on a Vita via wifi and remote play. The option to use the Vita as a supplementary screen is also available in case you wanted quicker access to the game’s map. The full Assassin’s Creed experience is only found on the PS4 and is the version I recommend the most. My grade for this game is just short of perfect with an A-. The Animus features could have been a little better or simply removed, but it does not take anything away from the pirate adventure that awaits shortly after. I hope you’ve enjoyed my review for AC IV and would love to read your thoughts down below, or on Twitter. Cheers everyone, I’ve got more writing to do!

Oh by the way, there is a multiplayer feature as well haha! Enjoy!

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11 Mike H., the founder of BarroomGamer.com  is a 30 years old, married-with-kids, undergraduate at the University of California San Diego. He enjoys playing and talking video games with anyone, as well as enjoying delicious alcoholic beverages to accompany him in his gaming experiences. He’s new to the realm of blogging, but  loves the idea of sharing his thoughts about video games, or anything related to them,with the world. He loves to discuss, find him on Twitter @barroomgamer

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This entry was posted on December 16, 2013 by in Game Reviews, PS4 and tagged , , , , , , , .
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