Archive for Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed’s Timeline or Full Circle

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2017 by Rabidgames

With Assassin’s Creed Origins just out, why not take a look at the history of the series? For this purpose, we’ll only look at the main games (Liberations not included as it is considerably smaller), and if they’re worth visiting again. For this purpose, Rabidgames has played each game for at least 5 hours.

Assassin’s Creed

The Setting: Medieval Middle East during the Third Crusade. We can explore three cities, Jerusalem, Acre, Damascus, as well as the hub and assassin hub of Masyaf. And we meet a real life Templar leader …

The Story: Pretty much just killing Templars to obtain the Apple of Eden, a powerful artifact (it’s a long story). In present times, we are introduced to Desmond, Lucy and Abstergo, the modern-day Templars.

The Gameplay: Repetitive. The first Assassin’s Creed is 9 assassinations – the good thing is you can do them however you please (to a degree), the bad news is you have to repeat the very same steps leading towards the assassination 9 times. Oh, and you better enjoy gathering a million flags …

The Verdict: Hard to get into now. Essentially a tech demo.

 

Assassin’s Creed 2

The Setting: Renaissance Venice, Florence, the family hub of Monteriggioni and a few more locations. You get to meet folk such as Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, Bartolomeo d’Alviano, Lorenzo de Medici, the villainous Borgia and uncle Mario.

The Story: Experience how Ezio turns from spoilt playboy to feared Assassin leader who takes on the corrupt pope and meets members of the first civilisation (who created the Apple from AC1 and lived on earth before humanity). In present day, Desmond meets a few more Assassins.

The Gameplay: More varied, more counters, more tools. If you’re into puzzles, you can explore caverns and tombs, or you can solve glyph puzzles that give you some insight into the world of Assassin’s Creed.

The Verdict: The story is still great, the gameplay feels a bit bare-bone now though. Still worth experiencing though.

 

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

The Setting: Renaissance Rome, including all points of interests and the outskirts. Also, you can explore present-day Monteriggioni. Most of the cast from AC2 appear again. Desmond gets a bit stabby at the end of the game.

The Story: Monteriggioni is attacked. A wounded Ezio arrives in Rome to take revenge. And take revenge he does …

The Gameplay: Well, mostly a refined version of AC2. Plus you can now recruit and command assassins and send them on missions. We learn more of the perennial bad girl Juno. For whatever idiotic reason, multiplayer gets introduced. Who asked for this?

The Verdict: Commanding your brotherhood never gets old. Still fun to mess around with.

 

Assassin’s Creed Revelations

The Setting: Istanbul/Constantinople. The city looks and feels different from the previous games.

The Story: Ezio travels to Istanbul/Constantinople to discover an important secret. Also, we get to know more about Altair. Desmond is stuck in the Animus.

The Gameplay: More of the same, but with bombs and more mobility. Sadly, no more glyphs but a poor Tower Defense mini-game. Unfortunately, multiplayer is still in.

The Verdict: This game has a same old, same old feeling sadly. Lots of extra stuff not worth your while.

 

Assassin’s Creed III

The Setting: The American Revolution. Set in the wilderness, protagonist Connor’s homestead and rather rural looking Boston and New York. A stellar cast, including Franklin, Washington, Jefferson and many more.

The Story: The American Revolution. However, the game deviates from its predecessors by telling the story in different shades of grey. We also get a bit of a Vader/Luke situation. Also, the end of Desmond’s story and Juno’s release.

The Gameplay: A few changes, but mostly just redefined from previous games. A hint of naval battles and trekking through the wilderness – a highlight in deep snow – as well as hunting gave AC3 a different feeling though. There are also quite a few segments in present day with Desmond. Unfortunately, multiplayer is still in.

The Verdict: Tough one. The story is great, the gameplay can be fun, but it is a few chapters too long and the crafting and economic system are mostly useless. Still, Ubisoft dared to touch this sensitive topic and delivered a game neither neglecting the will for freedom nor how the freedom was exploited quickly.

 

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag

The Setting: The Caribbean. Pirates. Ships. Your ship. Three major cities; Kingston, Havana and Nassau, a multitude of little islands and your very own hideout island. You meet quite a few famous pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard.

The Story: A pirate (father/grandfather of the protagonists of AC3) turns Templar turns Assassin (and stays there). The story actually spans 3 different times, and present day is narrated from the eyes of an Abstergo employee. Juno says hello, and the Sages are introduced.

The Gameplay: On land, not much changed. Except for awful tailing missions, the low point of Black Flag. The naval battles are an absolute highlight though. You are an Abstergo employee in present day – anonymous and clueless. Unfortunately, multiplayer is still in.

The Verdict: Great and different. Sailing the seas and sinking ships never gets old.

 

Assassin’s Creed Rogue

The Setting: The Atlantic Ocean near the Northern American coast, a smaller map with more islands, New York. And your ship. Not much happens in present day.

The Story: You play as an Assassin turned Templar! Nice change, eh?

The Gameplay: Same as Black Flag, plus a few extras here or there. Thankfully, minus multiplayer.

The Verdict: The story ties together the American saga ACs (although the beginning of Unity is related, too). It’s a bit short in terms of story, but again – sailing and sinking. Oh, and fighting Assassins, of course.

 

Assassin’s Creed Unity

The Setting: Paris during the revolution (the French one in case you’re wondering). A very lively and nicely looking Paris full of details and atmosphere. You get to meet characters including Napoleon, Marquis de Sade and Robespierre.

The Story: Entirely forgettable. Not much happens in present day either.

The Gameplay: A few new systems, but fighting was way too clumsy and not intuitive. Co-op missions are in for whatever reason, another thing no one ever asked for. Speaking of shit no one ever asked for – locked chests you could only open with a companion app – a low point.

The Verdict: Broken at release, now Paris is a joy to explore, but a chore to play through. Boring protagonist and the revolution just happens around you.

 

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

The Setting: London in Victorian times, including the Buckingham Palace, the Tower and Big Ben. And a bit of London during World War 1. Your base is a moving train. You get to meet the likes of Marx, Dickens, Darwin, Florence Nightingale, a young Arthur Conan Doyle and Winston Churchill.

The Story: Two twins take over gangs and take down a Templar conspiracy in London while London oozes Victorian and proto-capitalist (poisonous) air. Something very important happens in present day. And the Assassins save the queen. Obviously.

The Gameplay: Sleek and refined. There are also Hitman-style assassinations and you can develop both characters differently. Diverse and rewarding side missions make sure there’s always something to do in London. Oh, and no more fucking mutiplayer, yay!

The Verdict: The best gameplay, hands down. And a great protagonist (Evie, not Jacob) make the game a joy to play and mess around with gangsters and cops.

 

To sum it up, while Unity can very easily be called the weakest game due to its forgettable story and nothing important really happening (even if we forget about the technical issues at start), it’s difficult to name ONE game to be the best Assassin’s Creed game – story-wise, Assassin’s Creed 2 wins. Brotherhood has the best feeling of being an Assassin leader, while Black Flag’s offer to be a pirate is hard to refuse. And then we have Syndicate with the most fluent and refined gameplay.

Rabidgames ponders: Perhaps Origins really is the best game in the series. That would decide it easily without thinking too hard about the best Assassin’s Creed …

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Assassin’s Creed Rogue or Same Old with a Twist

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on November 24, 2014 by Rabidgames

Let’s say what we’re all thinking. The Assassin’s Creed double release insanity was idiotic. Period. Because of that, many, many people will probably miss out on Assassin’s Creed Rogue because opting solely for Unity … a big shame.

Arguably, Rogue could well be the better game – sure, there is not much innovation at first glance, and there are no massive crowds to be found, too. But Rogue runs stable and solid, and it ingeniously combines the wilderness of Assassin’s Creed III with Black Flag’s naval battles. And then, there’s the twist: After you think “more of the same stuff”, all of a sudden, a tragedy occurs (and believe Rabidgames, it is a proper tragedy, not just the usual “ooooh my family” routine) and our dear Irish protagonist Shay Cormac turns his coat and joins the Templars! (No spoilers here. You know that already.)

Thankfully, fighting Assassins introduces new gameplay mechanics in Rogue – you’re not just the hunter, you’re the hunted now, too. Just as we’ve been doing for years, Assassins now lurk in bushes and hiding spots searching for you. Taking down a “boss Assassin” has him fleeing, throwing smoke bombs and stealth attacking you, so stealth should be priority here.

Apart from that, Rogue is a big basket of fan service – synchronising viewpoints? Check. Collectibles (more than ever this time)? Check. Raiding warehouses? Check. Naval battles? Check? Your own fleet? Check. Taking control of areas? Check. If that’s good or bad, well, up to you. Mind you, there are small changes to the formula – there’s more verticality, some new or tweaked weapons (for Shay and for his ship, the Morrigan), and some new sidequests.

Besides, there are lots of areas in Rogue to discover and explore – you have a pretty big portion of New York, the Arctic Ocean resembling Black Flag’s map, substituting tropical flavour for icebergs and snow, and finally the River Valley; waterways and lots of wilderness and almost as big as the ocean map … and a tiny, oddly familiar location named Sleepy Hollow, among other things.

So far, Rabidgames has only found one complaint with Rogue: Some sequences are too heavily scripted, and one storywise important section felt exactly like ripped out of Call of Duty History Warfare. But if you don’t mind Rogue feels like a best-of with the best parts of the series, this should be your “safe” Assassin’s Creed to get this year – at least until Unity is properly patched.

Rabidgames nods: True, Rogue is fan service, but hey, it’s what we wanted – less tailing, more naval fun, lots of ground and water to cover, and after all, refined gameplay that feels mellow and relaxed and invites you to experiment with all these well-known tools. Since it’s also the swansong on the old consoles, it’s a gentle goodbye … with the twist of a blade, of course.

 

 

Risen 3 – Titan Lords or Of Black Flags and Walls of Texts

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by Rabidgames

Remember Risen 2? A good foundation of a solid story, a cool tropical setting and good (as in not too cliché) humour, albeit hampered by tons of glitches and bugs and a pretty much boring combat system (to put it mildly) …

The bad news is that the combat system still feels a bit boring in Risen 3 – Titan Lords, at least until you can finally upgrade it once a couple of hours in. Still, fighting the same set of enemies over and over again feels rather bland and boring – especially if you go the melee way. Magic and guns are better implemented though, but it’ll take quite some time to get there. Hint: Do many escort missions early on and let your companions do the fighting – you get the glory aka experience anyway.

The good news though is the rest of Risen 3 – Titan Lords. Yes, there are a few bugs and glitches although the 360 version at least runs relatively stable even prior to a day 1 patch. And yes, it is not really polished in places (the frame rate comes crashing down during each and every autosave), but the atmosphere, the heaps of dialogue and the sarcastic humour make up for it. Speaking of the dialogues – prepare for some reading and listening. By some, Rabidgames means walls of text everywhere … After all, this is a proper RPG! Sometimes, Risen 3 actually tests your reading comprehension – so better don’t click away everything …

Fighting aside, there is much variety to be had in terms of gameplay: You can transform into a parrot or a monkey to reach otherwise inaccessible places, you can talk, blackmail and intimidate your way around the tropical settings of Risen 3. You can have some fun in mini-games such as knife throwing or arm wrestling if you like, too. There are also 3 different magic schools to “research”, different melee and distance fighting styles and your usual alchemy/smithing skills etc. One of the selling points of Risen 3 is that you can explore to your heart’s content (each of the 6 islands has caves, hidden paths and sometimes even puzzles on offer).

It is the exploring that reminds Rabidgames of Dragon’s Dogma, plus the story that some demon rips your spirit out of your body in the beginning (granted, it’s not a dragon ripping out your heart, but the similarities are still there). Oh, and the tropical pirate setting and some sequences where you control your ship make the game feel just like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag … There’s also some Dragon Age Origins/Mass Effect 3 feel to the story arc “unite all the factions against an overwhelming fiend” – but it all works out fine in Risen 3, partly because the game doesn’t take itself too seriously at times.

Here’s the catch: You can only join one of the three factions in one playthrough! You’ll be on friendly terms with the others, yeah, but you’ll miss out on some decent skills and abilities. Coupled with the ability to be a kind spiritless man or a soulless terror, there are 6 possible ways to tackle Risen 3. You can join a native tribe to practise some voodoo on your enemies, you can join proper mages who teach you elemental magic, or you join the Demon Hunters who focus on melee with a hint of underworld sorcery, the choice is up to you. Just remember you’ll learn the other stuff in yet another playthrough. There’s also the choice of being a benevolent spiritless dude by being nice to your fellow humans – or you don’t give a fuck and slowly turn into a soulless demon yourself – again, this is up to you!

The scope of Risen 3  is also satisfactory: Rabidgames is already 20 hours in, and it feels like one third of the way … Nice to see some game that dares to devour our time instead of just having bare minimum content for 8 hours. There’s also an achievement for completing 300 quests – that looks like it would take a while. While some subquests are more of the fetch category,  they are still presented with some background, sometimes coupled with choices.

One word about pre-order DLC: True, it is not as bad as Sacred 3 and a whole class hidden behind the paywall, but two areas of Risen 3 are blocked off for gamers who feel like buying it used – yet another dick move. Yes, there is enough content anyway, but it is time developers and publishers stop this bullshit! We don’t need day 1 DLC – under absolutely no circumstances!

At the end of the day, Risen 3 can be a rewarding game with tons of contact if you like reading shitloads of text and if you don’t mind the rough edges. Expect AAA gaming and you’ll be disappointed though. But for anyone who wants to play a RPG with a different setting and for anyone who wants to spend dozens of hours with a game, Risen 3 might be just the game to go to.

Mind you, after 20 hours, Rabidgames is far from finished with Risen 3, so there might be more to come story-wise, who knows … but so far, it has been a fun journey on the southern seas and islands.

Rabidgames applauds: Finally, a proper RPG for consoles, after some years’ wait. You, know, the old-fashioned kind: Stats matter in combat and everywhere else, tons of dialogue where the “evil” option is not always at the bottom, and the tropical setting makes Risen 3 stand out from the fantasy worlds of yesteryear … While it is not polished as it could be, it is still time for some good old RPG fun, if you ask Rabidgames!

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

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , on December 13, 2013 by Rabidgames

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.

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag or The Best Pirate Sim

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , , on November 8, 2013 by Rabidgames

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is one of those games where you expect the same old, maybe some improvement here or a refinement there. And then BOOM, out of nowhere, you find out the old gameplay and the new elements work together perfectly.

Black Flag is only an Assassin’s Creed game in the second place. First, it is a pirate sandbox, and a damn good one at that. A good sandbox game makes you do whatever you feel like for hours, without caring about time flying by or missions. And this game does exactly that: Rabidgames has spent hours on the open sea, lurking behind enemy ships, attacking, sinking and the occasional fleeing – without thinking about Assassins, Templars or pieces of Eden. Why? Because Black Flag invites you to explore the seas, to weather the storms, to take a risk against two frigates, to take on a massively defended fort or to fight just one more hunter before finally losing notoriety …

And then, there’s Kenway’s Fleet, a simple yet addictive mini-game where you send ships you’ve just captured minutes before in the Carribean seas to various destinations in return for some coin. You also battle enemy ships to unblock your trade routes. If you liked sending assassins to missions in previous games, this will be your main pastime in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. There’s just one issue: Since it is online (you can speed up friends’ ships, and they yours), it keeps you throwing out all the time. Well, just most of the time. Okay, sometimes. Yet again, we witness the age of always-online is not ripe … yet.

But what about the core Assassin’s Creed experience, like stabbing and shit, you ask? Relax, it’s still there. You get to assassinate, eavesdrop, fight and stealth your way through Templars, Englishmen and Spaniards in Black Flag as well, and it is mostly fun so far (the controls are not perfect, and there are too many “follow these guys and spy on their conversation just like the NSA” type missions).

Let’s not give any spoilers for the present day stuff, but rest assured it’s interesting and you’ll get to know some background info about Desmond – and more, including some poisonous propaganda twists.

Rabidgames preys upon Abstergo: Black Flag is surely a pleasant surprise. Instead of pulling another Revelations, Ubisoft listened to us and gave us an adventure full of naval battles AND our annual dose of Assassin’s Creed. It might not be perfect, but so wasn’t private life, matey!

Assassin’s Creed Reloaded or From Animus 1.0 To 4.0

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Revisited with tags , , , , on October 29, 2013 by Rabidgames

With Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag around the corner, why shouldn’t we take a quick look at how the series evolved from its not that humble beginnings? Well, let’s at least have a look at the console games … the handhelds don’t really count after all, do they?

Assassin’s Creed (2007)

Basically, the first Assassin’s Creed is a tech demo. On the plus side, it is a breath taking one. Three huge cities to climb and explore, a story that combines the middle eastern past witnessed by protagonist Altair with the dystopian present (the game was set in 2012), and awesome assassinations. On the other hand, the gameplay was repetitive to no end (9 assassinations, and the preparations played out all the same) and collecting hundreds of flags felt even more pointless than shooting pigeons. There was some gameplay depth missing, and the only things standing out were the interesting beginning and the amazing end of the game. But the game laid the foundations for the Assassin’s Creed series – from introducing the perennial war between Assassins and Templars aka Abstergo, the pieces of Eden to the mind-boggling reliving history through DNA arch we now take for granted.

Assassin’s Creed II (2009)

We switched from Altair to Ezio, a playboy turned Assassin. The second game did a much better job in progressing the story with many new gameplay ideas, and diversity in mission design. This time, we had 2 big cities, 2 towns and one village which doubled as home base. Above all, Assassin’s Creed II was fun; Ezio was more cheerful than the stoic Altair, there was a more fleshed-out backstory taking place throughout Italy, the gameplay included fighting, sneaking, silently assassinating to races, an economy system, tombs to explore Tomb Raider style and puzzles to solve to unlock “The Truth“, and of course this fourth wall breaking ending of the game:

Of course, it wasn’t perfect. There was some feeling of repetition in the middle of the game, and the removal of sequences 12 and 13 to be given back to us as DLC was truly disgraceful. But let’s be honest, that’s just nitpicking …

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (2010)

The bad news: We went from 6 locations to one, Rome. Although the city was huge, there was a certain element of freedom missing. The good news: The rest of Brotherhood. Be it commanding a full-fledged Assassin’s guild including the arrows storm and sending your soon-to-be Assassins across Europe, the many guild challenges, the Metal Gear Solid style Leonardo missions or the puzzles from Subject 16, the Desmond stuff in the present … Brotherhood had it all. Oh, and Rabidgames should not forget to mention that awesome cliffhanger at the very end of the game! That’s how it’s done.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations (2011)

For many, Revelations is the low point of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Rabidgames agrees (actually, he never finished the game). Assassin’s Creed II.3 felt like a mere add-on to Brotherhood. Constaninople felt rather weak (different from other cities through architecture only), the Desmond sections went quickly from interesting to fucking boring as hell, the minigame Den Defense was one of the worst tower defense incarnations ever to see the light of virtual day, and the whole game felt a bit stale. If it hadn’t been for the exploring and the refined Mediterranean Defense minigame where you sent your Assassin recruits to missions across Europe once more, Revelations would have been completely boring. Revelations was not entirely bad, but it was several steps below the rest of the games, lacking innovation and surprises. Not exactly the revelation Revelations was hoping for …

Assassin’s Creed III (2012)

Goodbye Ezio, hello Connor. And Haytham first … Assassin’s Creed III was mixed box of entertainment: there was tons of awesome stuff, from hunting (bar the fucking QTEs), climbing trees, the entire frontier, the funny investigations, the decidedly grey story of the American revolution and the treatment of the Indians – and of course, naval battles, the highlight of AC3! Unfortunately, 2 protagonists meant 10 hours of tutorials, the game was full of bugs and glitches, the economy system fell flat on its face, and the missions were even more linear than before. Oh, and while the ending in the past was weak, the ending to Desmond’s story was fucking abysmal, especially because of a dea ex machina and not giving us a damn colour-based choice! At the end of the day, Assassin’s Creed II was a good game marred by questionable design choices and a rather bad technical side. Let’s hope Ubisoft learns from its mistakes.

Rabidgames is looking forward to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013): Why? Assassins and pirates, of course (let’s hope for ninjas, too)! Naval battles, a huge with many islands world to explore, several cities to freerun, a new protagonist and us being Abstergo agents promise an interesting experience.