4th installment of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ makes up for lackluster plot with killer gameplay

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“History is our playground” has been the motto of the “Assassin’s Creed” series since the first title hit shelves in 2007. With the sixth installment of this unique franchise, this motto continues to hold true. And never in any “Assassin’s Creed” title has the playground been so massive and dense, with a truly open-world feel.

Part of what makes this title so great is the period of history in which “Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag” is set — the Golden Age of Pirates. While pirates make frequent appearances in pop culture, the video game industry rarely delves into this time period. The sandy beaches, palm trees, clear blue seas and architecture of the cities truly create the feeling of being a true swashbuckling pirate. “Black Flag’s” map is both expansive and dense with smugglers’ coves to find, treasures to discover, ships to plunder and cities in which to run free. This game rewards the player for exploring and straying away from the main path.

In “Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag” you play as Edward Kenway, a privateer-turned-pirate who comes to the Caribbean in search of fame and fortune. Edward, unlike his much more stoic yet somewhat boring grandson, Connor Kenway — the protagonist in “Assassins Creed III” — is a deeply interesting character. He displays a more charismatic and outgoing personality, representing the typical persona of a young and dashing Welsh pirate looking to be a man of wealth and power. Unlike his grandson, however, who joins the creed for duty and a sense of purpose, all Edward cares about is money and the rewards the assassins (or even templars) can grant him.

While “Assassins Creed II” introduced us to the genius of da Vinci, “Black Flag” introduces us to the many eccentric real-world pirates who dominated the seas of the Caribbean in the early 18th century: the notorious Blackbeard, the ruthless and treacherous pirate Charles Vane, the cautious and witty Benjamin Hornigold and the merchant-turned-pirate Stede Bonnet. “Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag” has one of the most eccentric casts of characters ever presented in a game.

The cast, however, is not featured enough to overcome the lacking plot. Kenway’s pirate persona is grand and entertaining, making him a fantastic character. But he does not fit well into the lore of the Assassin’s Creed series, which ultimately hurts the plot. His only motivation is money and power — assassins fight for freedom of humankind and the betterment of humanity. Contributing to the stagnant state of the plot is the fact that the cast of entertaining characters isn’t present long enough to have a lasting impact on the story. The actual gameplay (especially the naval portion) of “Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag” is what makes it worth buying.

Where “Assassins Creed III”’s naval portion mostly consisted of simple side missions about opening up trade routes and hunting down ships, Assassins Creed IV’s naval portion is integral to the game. After all, this is a game set in the Golden Age of Piracy, so Edward’s ship, the Jackdaw, holds a firm position as the second main character of the game. Upgrading the Jackdaw and Edward himself brings great rewards to gameplay, allowing the player to battle bigger ships and loot more cargo. “Black Flag” gives the player incentive to spend his or her hard-earned money for these crucial upgrades.

For the fourth time in the series, multiplayer has returned, and with it comes new game modes, customizations and an ambitious new feature — the Game Lab. The Game Lab allows players to create their own mission types to play with their friends and share with the public. This feature brings players closer to the multiplayer experience and is a great addition to the multiplayer component. Customizations and game modes mentioned previously, however, don’t add much to the already solid multiplayer component.

 While “Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag” may not have the best storyline, the open world, colorful protagonists, improvements on naval combat and drive for exploration make this game worth buying, especially for next-generation consoles.

Contact Evan Carr at [email protected].