Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag Review

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag adventure

The first three hours of Assassin’s Creed 4 are a tough test of mental stability. You are given a couple of minutes to steer a ship, and then you are locked in a tightly closed city to complete story missions. Well, at least they give you guns relatively quickly.

But you want to be on the sea right away. After all, that’s the whole point of the new series! Let those assassins and templars go to hell, we will be plundering ships, trading sugar, and digging up treasures. That’s the life. Compared to that, the rooftop jumps and backstabbing, which have been going on for the fourth game in a row, seem like boring routine.

But AC4 continues to tease us, and instead of the excitement of boarding in the debut numbers, we get Old Parkour, Plot Setup, and practically nothing else. Well, the story is the story.

Sailing the high seas

While you will be repeating the basic focuses of the three parts of Black Flag and three parts of the Batman: Arkham series until they become automatic, the game will tell you about the main character, Edward. He finally doesn’t belong to the Assassins or the Templars, but is simply a pirate with good physical training and ambitions. The first allows him to become a real assassin in the third minute of the prologue, and the second allows him not to hesitate to impersonate a deceased person in order to complete his mission and gain money from this maneuver. The employers identify our friend relatively slowly, but when they finally do, everything starts spinning: Edward begins his great pirate career. That’s how it goes.

By the way, don’t expect the teenage pathos of the eternal conflict between Assassins and Templars, which AC4 seems to get rid of after the prologue, it very soon returns and doesn’t let go.

Well, and yes, the postmodern twist that all the Caribbean and other adventures are actually a simulation, hasn’t gone anywhere either. But! By the fourth time entering the circus arena, the developers finally capitulated, admitting that these tricks don’t actually lead anywhere and aren’t really necessary. The circle of simulation idiocy has closed, and according to the “modern” part of the plot, the gamer in AC4 is engaged in… creating a game about pirates. Thank you all, you’re free.

But now, new AC games can be made about samurais and/or the USSR. With combat bears in ushankas. Dumber than a simulation of a simulation, in which the player plays a game within a game to explain why in the game, which is in the game, you can’t go beyond the map and climb over certain fences, nothing can happen anyway.

Plus, it’s worth enduring the aforementioned starting disco, and we are finally allowed into the sea, where everything that was promised in the announcements and videos actually exists!

Exploring the Caribbean

Games about pirates can’t get any cooler, except maybe games about pirates in space. Someday Assassin’s Creed will get to them, but for now, you can enjoy a healthy Caribbean sandbox with a bunch of different goodies.

The first great thing is that you can sink every first ship you encounter. Besides the pure pleasure of taking down passing ships in battle, it gives you various strategic and not-so-strategic resources, as well as a boost to your popularity. Boxes with different spices and alcoholic beverages are simply sold, and there are options to upgrade your ship with things like iron, wood, and fabric. The popularity, on the other hand, is expressed in the burning desire to sink your ship to the depths; the intensity of the passions is reduced by giving a monetary gift to the right people in the ports.

The naval battle itself goes like this: first, you need to properly bombard the target with cannons. You can choose from different side weapons, mortars, and barrels of gunpowder. After damaging the enemy to the desired degree, you can either completely tear their ship to pieces or start boarding. Relatively small ships surrender after you kill five of their crew, in larger battles you will need to quickly complete some quests. For example, kill two enemy officers or cut the flag off the enemy mast.

Unraveling the pirate's tale

Boarding is advantageous, firstly, because of the great satisfaction from the process, secondly, because of the great loot. Plus, starting from a certain point, the captured ship can be added to the fleet named after Edward Kenway.

This fleet is engaged in roughly the same activities as in Tropico 2. That is, it sails through the Caribbean Sea in the background mode and completes quests. Upon successful completion of these quests, gold and trinkets are received, which Edward stores in his own mansion located in his personal pirate cove.

Yes, we will have our own island with a cove, a settlement, and a mansion. This is a wonderful second aspect. To achieve all this happiness, as usual, one needs to complete a certain number of story missions, but there’s no other way. The island operates in the best gaming traditions: shops are built on land, a personal staff is recruited, and the aforementioned mansion is constructed. With a tower, a garden, a fountain, and a basement with treasures.

Isn’t this a worthy goal to sink half of the local ships and search every first atoll for unclaimed chests?

And by the way, this is quite a challenge. Wonderful aspect number three: there are many large locations in Black Flag. Very many, Skyrim-style many. Here, planters are waiting to share their wealth with someone, there, smugglers have taken a liking to a cave, over there, you can harpoon a couple of sharks near that island, and that atoll suspiciously resembles the land drawn on a discovered treasure map.

The assassin's journey continues

Naturally, different types of side activities are approached in different ways. To rob the same planters, you will need to secretly comb through the plantation alone, find and kill (stab, shoot, strangle, as you prefer) the overseer, and open the door to the coveted barn with the goods. Smugglers should simply be robbed, but if you want, you can also give them some lethal blows. Fishing is a separate mini-game.

And so on. If one thing gets boring, there is still plenty of unexplored territory. There is an abundance of content. With all this variety, it is a big question why one should bother with the standard story missions. Probably for the sake of diversity. However, it is better to diligently complete one task after another until a certain point. You can stop, it seems, after Edward is given a Caribbean diving bell and taught to salvage treasures from sunken ships. After that, we can finally set sail freely.


From a technical standpoint, Assassin’s Creed 4 is relatively well done. Assuming the client launches at all (some AC4 games tend to freeze at the very start on the internet, but personally, I haven’t encountered such a problem), players may encounter only a few FPS drops and bugs reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls. In other words, they are more amusing than annoying, like ships moving back and forth in the background of cutscenes.

Overall, it is a beautiful game, both literally and figuratively. The general smoothness and seamlessness of the sea adventures are particularly pleasing. There are some loading screens in certain places, of course, but for example, jumping off a ship, swimming to a small island, then crossing over to a randomly encountered burning brig, looting all the valuable items from it, and returning to your own vessel – the client shows all of this without any loading pauses.

Confronting treacherous waters

The main advantage of AC4 is the fact that you can play it, ignoring the actual Assassin’s Creed. Rush forward, cut down everyone you meet with swords, and only when the story really pushes you against the wall, crawl a little through the bushes (if desired, of course, you can crawl through the bushes all the way). Unliked elements from previous parts of the series can be taken occasionally in small doses, and the rest of the time, devour huge chunks of scattered entertainment on the map.

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag
PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Action, Adventure, Multiplayer
Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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