On the fourth day of gaming, Ubisoft gave to me, ruling over the West Indies!
Did you know that the word “duck” not only refers to the animal, but also to sail canvas? Who said that video games couldn’t be educational?!
A few months ago I didn’t even consider the fact that I would play an Assassin’s Creed title. My normal gaming genres are MMO, RPG, strategy, puzzle and a variety of Indies. I’ll occasionally break the mold for games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, but the AC titles never got my attention in the past. As increasingly more PlayStation 4 launch titles became delayed, I decided to give Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag a chance.
I honestly thought that AC4 would be a game I’d tinker around in for a few hours before leaving it abandoned for my husband to play. Instead I’ve played it at least 4-6 days each week since getting my PS4. Yeah, you can say I’m a bit addicted. Let me tell you a story of my love-hate-love relationship with Edward Kenway.
This is the closest to a holiday card you’ll be getting from Edward.
The story begins in 1715 with pirates ruling the seas of the Caribbean. Edward Kenway, captain of the Jackdaw, is the anti-hero of this story, both a pirate and assassin rolled into one. Employing stealth, skill and leadership, this captain will wreak some serious havoc on the West Indies during a time in history dubbed the Golden Age of Piracy. Throughout your adventures you’ll meet historical figures such as Benjamin Hornigold, Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack and Charles Vane.
A long string of missions, varying in difficulty, lead you through the game and unlock more features as you progress, including the diving bell and rope dart (which I still haven’t unlocked at nearly 70% completion). The seas offer far more than just story: wrest control of the forts to keep the seas firmly in your grasp, explore both charted and uncharted locations to collect treasure, uncover Mayan keystones, hunt exotic animals and much more. Following through with Edward’s vendetta against the Templars of the West Indies will net you a very beneficial outfit (pictured above).
In any open world game I play I absolutely love exploration. In games such as Skyrim, one of the first things I do is just run around trying to discover everything I can. Assassin’s Creed IV does not disappoint for explorers: not only are there many locations to discover, but also many special things such as viewpoints, treasure and shards to collect at those locations. You can easily spend an hour or two in bigger cities such as Kingston just trying to “collect ‘em all!” Conquering forts will unveil sections of the map, showing not only enemy ships but also all nearby locations, whether or not you’ve been there before. It’s well worth the time to take over all the forts—once you have a good circling tactic in place, you should be able to take down any of them, even the ones far above you in difficulty level.
“Sing ‘So Early in the Morning’ one more time despite knowing 34 other sea shanties. I dare you.”
After I took over my first fort I saw an icon labeled “Legendary Ship” on my map, down in the far southeast corner. “Neat, I’ll go see what level it is real quick,” I thought. I had just taken over a small fort despite not upgrading my ship more like the game recommended I do first, therefore I clearly must be invulnerable. The game silently cackled at me, and as I approached I had a few brief seconds with my spyglass to see “level 75” before sudden warnings about Legendary Ship fights popped up and fog obscuring everything rolled in. “AUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I yelled while my husband laughed and laughed at me fleeing in terror as this monstrous ship barreled down upon my meagerly upgraded ship. Lesson learned: get most or ALL your ship upgrades before trying your luck at a Legendary battle! Currently, with a 75% upgraded ship, battles with level 49 man-o-wars are sometimes hairy when they have some frigate buddies hanging about.
Now that’s all about being a pirate, what about being an assassin? Oh don’t worry, there’s plenty of that. Along with needing to frequently employ stealthy tactics during missions, you’ll also find yourself performing air-assassination strikes, kill streaks (still trying to complete 5-man kill streak challenge, best is three), using a blowgun to make enemies go berserk and slaughter one another and many other creatively fun and downright crude tactics. Most locations have at least one or two (or more, in larger towns) assassin contracts that you can fulfill to earn some extra reales (the currency used in AC4). I’ve learned that the best way to get the stealth bonus money is by using your berserk darts and smugly sitting back to watch your target fall to his own protectors’ blades. You don’t get the blowgun until partway through the main mission series, so if becoming the most prosperous pirate is your aim, you may want to hold off on completing contracts until you have it.
Being prosperous is a constant battle of its own in AC4. Just when you think you’ve gotten a leg up monetarily by collecting a bunch of treasure, you turn around and watch it all drain away as you upgrade your ship, improve your hideout, upgrade your ship more, acquire new swords and pistols, upgrade your ship even more… have I mentioned that you’ll be upgrading your ship a lot yet? The elite hull I upgraded to last week, which was the fifth and final hull upgrade, cost me hundreds of wood and metal as well as 30,000R. Might want to hold off on buying that art for a while if you have any intention of your ship being a threat on the seas!
“That last ship upgrade cost me everything, so BACK OFF THE CLAMS BEFORE I DAGGER YOUR EYES OUT, BUDDY!”
One fun way you can rake in some cash is through the fleet mini-game. It’s introduced during the main mission and gives you the choice of capturing ships you battle and sending them to your fleet to perform trade missions. A total of 15 docks can be unlocked, so you may have to make some hard choices to diversify your fleet. You’ll utilize a simple battle interface to make the travel routes safe and then send your vessels on missions to trade supplies (which you obtain from the travel route battles) for reales. As more and more trade routes open up you’ll find yourself needing a few large ships such as frigates and man-o-wars to be able to execute the missions. These missions take time, too, consuming anywhere from three minutes to 24 real life hours.
Adventure, exploration, amassing power and riches, and stealthy assassinations… they’re all very fun! If you recall, I did mention early on the word “hate” as well. There are a few facets of Edward Kenway and AC4 that drive me bananas.
First off, chase missions. The first one I did nearly caused me to rage-quit the game for good. It took me at least twenty attempts and memorizing the entire chase route before I finally tackled the lout. At one point I “AUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH”ed and threw my controller down on the bed with so much force that it bounced and landed on my sleeping cat (disclaimer: no cats were injured in the playing of this game… she was unharmed and just disgruntled with me). With Edward parkouring onto everything, one slight misstep will make a chase mission a living hell as you are forced to replay the same thing over and over until you get it right. It can be a frustrating experience, and I’ve learned to be more attentive to the most efficient run paths during chase missions, even if I still inwardly groan whenever faced with one.
It doesn’t matter how sexy Edward is here, that harpoon is going to miss every damned time.
Next up is harpooning. I’m simply terrible at it (the Caribbean is littered with my poorly thrown harpoons) and ultimately ended up purchasing whale and shark hides from a general merchant to avoid going out to harpoon for my Edward upgrades.
Finally, there’s underwater exploration. Thankfully there are not many underwater locations in the game and I dread needing to dig out ship plans from them. My good exploration vibes die in these places. I don’t mind that there are hostile obstacles, but when I’m fleeing into a shipwreck to avoid the shark chomping my rear end and wind up swimming through a jellyfish then die by face-planting into the sea urchins, I’m bound to be annoyed. I do enjoy when there are underwater areas that end inside a hostile hideout with Edward left to his own cunning devices and zero weapons, though. The chance to be creative instead of playing a game of “dodge the smelly fish” will always win me over.
The good by far outweighs the negatives for me. It’s rare to find a perfect game and in the end, what matters is how much you enjoy yourself. The Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag story runs much deeper than it appears on the surface and is well worth the time I’m spending on it. My plan is to finish up my exploration and unlock the Mayan door by the new year, then finish the main story and move on to the newly released DLC, Freedom Cry. Playing Edward’s first mate, Adewale, as an assassin? *tosses money at her monitor*
Geode better watch out, ya hear?
I had a few more pictures that didn't make the cut, but you can check them out in our ACIV gallery!
Ann "Cyliena" Hosler, Managing Editor
Follow me on Twitter! @Cyliena