Assassin’s Creed IV:Black Flag or Where Do We Go?

First of all: You’ll find shitloads of spoilers here! Sail at your own risk.

Second, one paragraph about classic review stuff: Black Flag brought fun back into the series through less linear missions, more things to do and giving us a huge naval sandbox to explore (should we call it a bath tub instead of a sandbox then?). It is not perfect though: Those fucking tailing chores, the awful diving controls and Kenway’s Fleet being online only – meh. Yet, it’s pretty easy to look past these inconveniences after you have brought down a whole fleet, including two Man-of-wars, or after having bombarded a level 3 fort …

But the one thing where Black Flag definitely stands out is the story: Ubisoft combined the present and the past (and the distant past) on an ingenious level; at the beginning, nothing makes sense and everything seems loose, then you slowly start connecting the threads until you realise John/Roberts/The Sage are all one person, Aita, Juno’s former lover, who has been trying to resurrect her. Piece by piece, collecting bottles with messages from “another” Sage, Robert’s strange character and John’s erratic behaviour form one arc spanning time and place. Well done, Ubisoft.

But that’s not where it stops: In the past, Edward’s story differs from the other assassins we’ve known – throughout most of Black Flag, he doesn’t give a monkey’s shit about creeds and orders, he only cares about money, the pirate life and the occasional tail for most of the game, and yet he is a pretty interesting character perfectly fitting the hedonistic pirate theme. True, his ending is pretty weak, but at least Ubisoft acknowledges him settling down and introducing Haytham James B. Kenway with the ironic achievement “saw that one coming…”

Speaking of irony, how did you like to play as Abstergo’s puppet in the present? First thing, Black Flag starts with Abstergo Entertainment as a developer , and then our faceless and nameless avatar is bound to help Abstergo unearth countless mysteries. In the light-hearted beginning, it was all fun and easy-going, and true, not everyone there is a bad, bad person. Again, well played, Ubisoft.

Of course, it doesn’t take long until we meet Rebecca and Shaun, and our friend John asks us to deliver some information, and that’s how the present story comes into motion. Basically, evertyhing that happens at Abstergo, the hacking, the dialogues, the way everyone there is presented, is a nod to Ubisoft itself (maybe they were showing off their own studios) and finally a sign that they’re not taking themselves too seriously. And it mostly because of this leisurely and fun atmosphere (as if games development was that – leisurely fun …), the lockdown and the confrontation with Johnaita later on have more impact by showing us Abstergo’s “paradise” before we get glimpses of the obviously darker truth.

But where do we go from here? With Abstergo’s Olivier disappreared, Juno still too frail and the Assassins severely weakened yet still in the game, the next Assassin’s Creed will have to answer these questions: How will the the present day story evolve? Who will be our avatar, and fingers crossed he’s not nameless and faceless again. And will we be able to stop Juno? Of course, there’s also the big questions: When and where will the next Assassin’s Creed take place? Feudal Japan? China? Victorian London? French Revolution? Ancient Egypt?

Rabidgames muses: Black Flag hit the bull’s eye with a musket. Good gameplay, decent characters, and three timelines uniting in some pretty cool twists. The big arch about the First Civilisation has progressed in an intriguing way, even though it seems to have sidelined. But the best thing is the fact Ubisoft is not taking themselves too seriously. They had fun, and we had fun in the Carribean waters.

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