Cutscenes Dialogue: ‘Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’ takes imagination to world’s endPublished 10:06am Thursday, November 7, 2013
By Trey Mewes and Eric Johnson
Though they are released in an annual fashion, the “Assassin’s Creed” series is one of the most interesting game universes seen in recent years. These top tier titles are deeply immersive, intriguing and chock-full of the kind of extra details people appreciate in games like “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.”
In case you hadn’t heard, “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” was released on Oct. 29 to much fanfare. Many have become enthralled with the story of Edward Kenway and his 18th century high-seas adventures on the Caribbean Sea as a pirate, fighting an evil conspiracy from a group bent on world domination.
Eric Johnson and I are fascinated by this great game, and so we took an extra week to review what promises to be one of the best action platformers this year.
Eric: Flat out, I’m just loving this plot. I suppose it’s just the love everybody (don’t lie) has for pirates. I like the idea that this isn’t as dark as past episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Ezio Auditore de Firenze and have no problems with the stories of “AC II through AC: Revelations” or even “AC III” for that matter. It’s just nice to see things going in a new direction. That being said, I’m still a little cool in regards to the modern day Abstergo Industries modern day story. You’re basically a nameless, featureless subject walking around in first-person. I still have a lot of the game to go, but after becoming so vested in Desmond Miles, it’s just hard to care about this subject.
Trey: I agree, the present-day gameplay suffers in comparison if you’re a long-term player. The switch from third-person adventures to first-person espionage feels a little forced, but I like the concept in bringing in Abstergo Entertainment as a company marketing the Animus experience as a social media and gaming wunderkind. It’s fascinating to see how the previous games have been tied in to “AC IV” and I like what I’m experiencing thus far. I also am really enjoying the meta-jokes within the game. This title is chock-full of bold references to developer Ubisoft’s view of the game, from the little developer fights within entries in your database to the blend of reality and fantasy by claiming Abstergo Entertainment was behind the “Assassin’s Creed” games. It’s fascinating to incorporate the game’s universe into real life as a reversal of Ubisoft’s approach with this game, incorporating history into its universe.
Eric: I may not get as excited over this as you do, but I did smirk at the opening credits where Ubisoft is followed by the moniker for the fake entertainment wing of Abstergo. The effort of going a bit further to integrate fiction and nonfiction is a neat element.
Trey: Let’s talk about the soundtrack, though. Many action games can get overwrought with moody music, but this game has an incredible sound to it. I love the music, simply put, and I especially enjoy the developers’ decision to incorporate very, very old sea shanties into “AC IV.” I have not stopped humming “Whiskey Johnny,” “Running Down to Cuba,” and “Leave Her, Johnny,” since I picked this game up.
Eric: You’re rocking the shanties and I’m in complete agreement. I don’t even mind chasing down the rogue sheets of music randomly laying about just to hear my crew sing some baudy jingle from the golden age of piracy. The actual music composed by Brian Tyler is so good, it’s natural. I’m a huge fan of the music from all the games, especially Jesper Kyd, but here Tyler soars. How do you not jump up with a yard stick and swash-a-buckle about the house.
Trey: What really impresses me is the smooth controls this time around. In “Assassin’s Creed III,” I had a tough time free-running with Connor, that game’s protagonist, because of the improved animations to his actions. Problem is, he would get stuck in the oddest actions at crucial times, which would end up costing me. It’s funny to note how Connor used to put his back up and lean on a wall to blend in, but the game feels far more natural and smooth to me when Edward just stands next to people near the wall.
Eric: I was so depressed with “Assassins Creed III.” The history, the story, the idea were ripe for the picking, but what we get is an open-world game that seemed almost too big for its britches. Probably the most frustrating part was the controls. Tricky and certainly not precise, I don’t know how many times I randomly jumped off something or started climbing something when all I wanted to was go straight. “AC IV” is so fluid, and the layout is game-changing for the series. Combat is equally smooth with very little in the way of problems.
Trey: Speaking of problems, I enjoy the naval gameplay here compared to the previous game. As you well know, I had a huge problem with “AC III’s” naval combat, and the last naval mission was almost impossible to do properly if, as an enterprising gamer, you completely upgraded Connor’s ship. “AC 4” doesn’t have those issues, thank goodness. The ship feels a whole lot easier to turn and manage, though I haven’t delved much into boarding and taking over other ships yet.
Eric: For me, this is where the game explodes. Seriously, how cool is it to cruise around the Caribbean at the helm of the Jackdaw? I loved the naval combat series in “AC III,” easily one of my favorite parts. Like the game itself, naval combat has been streamlined. Gone is needing to open a menu up to pick your shot. Now it’s automatic depending on your angle to the opposing vessel. Some people may not enjoy having that kind of control taken away, but for me it’s just one less thing to worry about that opens it up to enjoy the combat more. The boarding is effortless with several ways to actually get to the enemy that makes you feel more Errol Flynn than Herald employee.
Trey: Hands down, this is a 4.5/5 game for me. This series made some serious improvements here, and I’m in a trance over “AC IV’s” plot.
Eric: I don’t believe in perfection and a five-star game should be so rare as to be impossible, but considering how disappointing “AC III” was, this comes dangerously close. 4.999? Anybody? Bueller?