Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag released a month ago but we patiently waited for the arrival of our Xbox One before purchasing the title. Digital copy downloaded and we’ve both played it. Neither of us has yet finished the title, but hubby is well on his way.
First things first, the game is beautiful.Colors are deep and rich and the lighting effects are superb. It was worth waiting for a month because let’s be honest here, the 360 is quickly going to fall out of use here (even though I still have a ton of unfinished games).
I was immediately happy when I loaded up the game for the first time and realized that Ubisoft seemed to have taken all the best elements of previous games and rolled them into this title. It gave me hope. Gone was the caped crusader nonsense of Connor in AC:III and back were stealthy missions.
All of that hope was quickly dashed however the longer hubby has played (he has more play time this week because he’s on vacation and I’ve gladly let him unwind with the controller). The game isn’t an Assassin’s Creed game it is a naval simulation game with some minor Templar vs. Assassin missions thrown in as an aside. The starting mission and the beginning missions in Havana were all decent homage to games past but then, it all goes to hell when in order to progress you are forced into sailing around the Caribbean to do pirating. Yes, I know, it’s a game about pirates but it is first and foremost, an entry into the Assassin’s Creed lore. It is disappointing.
Ubisoft seems more content to develop lore for the franchise outside of the games then to tell actual stories any more. The writing for the series has diminished with each new game released. Gone are the days of Ezio and the rich world created for his story. Now it is a random bunch of yahoos thrown together in some loose semblance of a story line. This game is not an Assassin’s Creed game, it’s a pirate game dressed up in Assassin’s Creed wrapping.
I think the ultimate downfall of the storytelling in the franchise has much more to do with the implementation of multiplayer in the game than anything else. Single player game feels like it is tacked on to a multiplayer game that is the primary focus of Ubisoft. If most players spend their time in multiplayer, than there is no reason for Ubisoft to concentrate on writing compelling and rich single player stories.
I’m not quite ready to write off the franchise yet but Ubisoft and it’s creative team need to figure out if they want to tell stories in the Assassin’s Creed universe or develop multiplayer games. Ubisoft’s story telling capabilities in this franchise are far, far below that of it’s competition. I will struggle to complete this game only because of the constant need for sailing and pirating. I am thrilled about how happy the naval simulation gameplay has made my husband but it has the exact opposite effect on me.
And lastly, the shimmering (flickering) in the game on larger television screens is annoying and frustrating. The game doesn’t experience this problem on last generation console but both new generation console users are reporting the same issue. Trees and foliage have this horrible shimmer affect that makes them shiny and sparkly in bright sunlight and bright blue ocean. The issue is popular on the Ubisoft forums, and is of course being ignored by Ubisoft themselves (reminiscent of their failure of acknowledge problems with DLC for AC:III). This is the only game that suffers from this issue on our Xbox One. It may be the direct result of porting a game designed for the PS3 and the 360 to next generation consoles but whatever the cause, Ubisoft needs to step up and fix the issue. Or at least admit there is an issue, even if the resolution is sorry but there is nothing we can do about it while trying to design games that fit on multiple platform generations.
All in all, I don’t think the game is worthy of all the high praise it has received from game sites. Yes it is beautiful and fun, but it is in no way an Assassin’s Creed worthy game. It is a naval simulation based around pirates. The single player aspect of the game is poorly written, poorly conceived, and an after thought to the development team’s first love of multiplayer. I will finish the game, although I can’t promise it won’t be with me handing the controller to my husband to successfully complete those annoying sea battles. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.