Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Wii U) Review:

A Pirate’s life is the life for me.

Yo ho ho and all that.
Yo ho ho and all that.

Assassin’s Creed IV did something quite incredible – it gave the series a likeable protagonist again with Edward Kenway, after the douchebags of Assassin’s Creed III. With one narrative change to the series, Assassin’s Creed IV largely brought us back to something missing in the series – fun.

The move into pirates really helped Assassin’s Creed IV, and the game is set around the fact that you are a pirate, we are introduced to the updated ships, which after III’s limited use, are fantastic, it really feels great to just roam the high-seas on your ship, from which you will discover islands, fight off enemy ships, go deep-sea diving, find caves, take on enemy forts and even hunt whales and sharks. You start off with a basic ship that has low fire-power and a pretty rubbish hunting boat, but you can upgrade your ship with money found and received in the game, it’s a cool system and it adds yet another layer to the already impressive amount there is to do in Assassin’s Creed.

Deep-sea diving, pirate style.
Deep-sea diving, pirate style.

Like III, Assassin’s Creed IV places you in the Americas, and as such, the locales are similar, but all has been given a more colourful appearance, which gels with the overall less-serious tone of the game. Indeed, the beaches, seas and tropical fauna are rather striking – all in all, Ubisoft nailed the pirate aesthetic well and although many of the little islands look similar there is more than enough variation in locale.

Gameplay-wise, not much has changed outside of the ships, but this is no bad thing as Assassin’s Creed IV lives up to the smooth combat, stealth and free-running that the series has become known for. Everything interesting from Assassin’s Creed III was retained in this game and as such you still hunt, and use similar weapons such as the rope-darts that can be used to hang enemies from trees. The size of the game can be a little daunting and it does feel sometimes that despite the amount of effort and detail put into to each area of the vast map, you never need to stay anywhere for very long. Perhaps it can be taken as a coup for the developers, as each town seemed unique, but I feel like with a smaller map each town or area to explore would be appreciated more.

Target practice.
Target practice.

Included with the game is a kind of naval command mini-game in which you are in control of a number of ships and you send them off for missions that can take up to a few hours of real time for in-game currency. In this mode you can also do small ship battles that almost work based on your ship’s speed, fire-power and size. It’s a neat little distraction from the main game that ultimately runs in the background and can help you kit-out your ship or Edward Kenway’s equipment.

So, yeah, gameplay-wise, Assassin’s Creed IV is fun and there is a huge amount of content (an overwhelming amount actually), but does the story stack-up in comparison? Yes and no. To begin with, Assassin’s Creed IV comes across as sillier than other games in the series, perhaps thanks to Edward Kenway’s character. However, in the second-half of the game, things start to become more serious and more boring. Perhaps an issue with the size of the game, Assassin’s Creed IV seems to get lost within its own plot – it becomes a tad confusing.

He was going to tell people that Ubisoft can't write great stories.
He was going to tell people that Ubisoft can’t write great stories.

Oh, and there is one character (there always has to be) that gets on my nerves – you’ll know the one when you play the game as his voice is just annoying. There are also a small handful of characters that have some importance towards the end of the game that just seem to appear. All together though, the story and characters of Assassin’s Creed IV is far more enjoyable than that of III, and finally, there is no Desmond! I’ll just let that sink in for now.

However, Assassin’s Creed IV falls into pitfalls that only Ubisoft games seem to create – annoying, edgy characters? Check. Too much focus on ‘cool’? Check. Takes itself too seriously? Check. So essentially, this is Assassin’s Creed – you know what you’re getting into.

Summary:

Assassin’s Creed IV is a step up over III, but it comes across as a little too big and perhaps even a tad overwhelming. Despite early indications that this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it falls down and becomes less interesting in the second half of the game, particularly towards the end. However, ship battles and exploring the high-seas is great, and the gameplay is as good as the series is known for. This is game with tons to do, with lush visuals and smooth gameplay only let down in the end by the fact that Ubisoft wants it to be taken seriously.

My personal favourite Assassin’s Creed, it’s fun to be a pirate.

89/100

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