Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by JaySevenZero » January 13th, 2019, 12:31 pm

Here's where you can contribute your memories and opinions of Assassin's Creed Black Flag for potential inclusion in the forthcoming podcast.

Friendly reminder to all that where feedback for the podcast is concerned, we love it - but self-editing (brevity) is appreciated. We do want to include a breadth of opinions where appropriate, but no-one wants a discussion podcast that’s mainly reading. Better to save yourself time and cut to the chase if you can.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by kintaris » January 15th, 2019, 10:49 am

I could talk all day about AC Black Flag as a rare Assassin's Creed super-fan, but I will try to keep it short!

Black Flag remains one of my favourite entries in a series I unashamedly adore. Few games nail the pirate vibe particularly accurately, but Black Flag presents a morally dubious and violent world that seems much more realistic than most pirate fiction -- despite having one of the daftest Abstergo storylines in the entire series running alongside it.

I've often seen people cite Edward as their worst Assassin's Creed protagonist, but he may well be my best. He's the closest to a true anti-hero I've seen in video games; a genuinely flawed and un-likeable character who despite having moments of redemption ultimately can't save himself from misery (or indeed death -- in the extended universe we learn that Edward is the only AC protagonist to be unglamourously murdered and his son converted to enemy ideologies).

The depictions of classic pirates are perhaps the closest the series has come to highlighting the subtlety of the literal Assassin's Creed; it's not about a life free from rules, but a life in which we take responsibility for our actions. No matter how noble their philosophies, none of the pirates of Nassau truly grasp this and their demise is both sad and satisfying to watch unfold.

Gameplay wise there are certainly problems -- as usual the map is too large and filled with pointless collectibles, and the combat is average at best. But ship-to-ship battles and riding through storms feels spectacular, while clambering fluidly over ancient ruins never gets old for me. This is probably the best iteration of the series' unusual multiplayer, particularly the 4-player co-op mode. All in all, Black Flag is well worth a play and a good jumping in point for anyone looking to start the series on current generation consoles.

Fun fact: The strange word capitalisation in the subtitles isn't an editorial oversight; it's an homage to the historical works on the life of pirates that inspired Black Flag's writers.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by Alex79uk » March 2nd, 2019, 12:06 pm

This game is where the series lost me. I'd done them all up to this point, but ended up abandoning ship around halfway in to Black Flag. There was a lot to love - it looked gorgeous, sailing was excellent, and the world vast. I think I was just burned out on the series by the time I got here though, and it was all too repetitive and ultimately dull. The story was hard to follow, the characters unlikeable and I just didn't feel like I wanted to press on.

HOWEVER - Last year I embarked on a very slow playthrough of the series, after picking up the Ezio collection. I plan to play through all the main games over the next few years, and oddly enough this is the one I'm most looking forward to going back to!

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by KissMammal » March 21st, 2019, 5:36 pm

I have a real love/hate relationship with this game. Assassin’s Creed is a series I have no interest in and this was the first (and only) one I have played. The reason for my interest in this one in particular is my general fondness for pirate-themed stuff, and I had long wished for an open world pirate game. Since no one was making one, this was the closest thing available. My first impressions were that for a series supposedly based around stealth and traversal, I actually found the stealth gameplay and controls very janky and difficult to get to grips with, and saw the main missions more as something that had to be gotten out of the way so I could enjoy the pirate stuff, which was mostly very enjoyable. The seafaring brought back fond memories of Wind Waker, and the varied objectives were fun, if a little copied/pasted around the map a few too many times.

The open world initially seems huge and arriving at a new port or fort was always fun, however I sometimes got the feeling that the developer was perhaps too conscious of the possibility of the player getting bored of sailing, so there never seemed to be a lot of time to sit back and soak in the atmosphere without something or other interrupting, and for me the distances between landmasses felt relatively tiny for the size and speed of your ship. Far from creating a liberating feeling of setting sail on the open seas, the sensation often seemed closer to that of navigating a shopping trolley round a crowded supermarket.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by The_reviewist » May 15th, 2019, 9:27 am

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is the best AC game since Assassin's Creed 2. It's the high water mark (excuse the pun) of the series once 2 laid out the groundwork for how the games would progress, but took the wise decision to step away from a lot of the Assassin/Templar stuff and let the player just enjoy being a pirate. Something that apparently the gaming audience never knew they really wanted. But considering the landscape since, it's obvious the impact this game had.

It's a great balance of the traditional AC collecting, stabbing and hiding in bushes, taking the best of the maligned AC3's strengths, but throwing in a likeable protagonist and side characters, and weaving the story into the others and setting up future stores (something that Rogue would double down on, amongst other aspects) Another great idea was to all but substitute the narrative of charisma-vacuum Desmond & his saving the universe antics, for a first person mystery infiltration-lite of the Abstergo complex. A nice change when you get bored of the open seas. The other great refinement was the trading mini-game which could be played from a phone or tablet, and allowed you to earn ingame cash when not even playing. Bravo.

Despite all this, if I had a crib, it's that the game is more than a little repetitive, and I may be in the minority with this, but after a while I began to long for the more tactical sea battles of Assassin's Creed 3, which were shorter, but markedly different. Still, an absolute gem of a game.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by Superuser » June 23rd, 2019, 1:41 pm

ACIV is either the best or second-best AC game, after 2/Brotherhood (I played all up to Unity).

Firstly this is one of the most atmospheric games ever made. It's one of the very few games that led to me dreaming about it, imagining the beautiful waters of the Caribbean sea. This is by far and away its greatest strength. I also thought that there was an appropriate amount of variety from place to place, though the smaller islands naturally weren't as iconic as the more restricted locations of past settings. The game's graphical and audio quality is of the first order, and I genuinely think it will be timeless... famous last words.

The setting is unabashedly romanticised. Unlike many depictions of the golden age of piracy, it also includes slavery - which I would have liked more commentary on, as well as the real, anticlimactic way it ended, which was amnesty for the pirates' crimes.

The exploration element was very strong. Hopping around wildlife is much less buggy than in 3 or especially Liberation, and the city settings are richer, if a little less distinguishable. Sea voyages are rarely too long and often present themselves a welcome break. You spend a good time in the Jackdaw and it feels good to control.

The biggest improvement for me is that the side content is almost entirely optional, but presented in a very inviting way. Some may scoff at the collectibles interface appearing every time you enter a town or on-screen reminders for countless things on land or sea, but it actually got me to collect them and engage with the parkour and other mechanics. Ultimately, I'm grateful that all these have been made more obvious.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, but it had less memorable moments than the Ezio trilogy, focusing on characters over plot. Only late on does an overarching narrative that links with AC lore really come in. This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that the game encourages you to complete side content, forgoing the main story. It was enjoyable and Edward is slightly more complicated than Ezio but still too much of a goody two-shoes despite his profession. It's a clash that's never really addressed. At least Kiryu quits the gang in the Yakuza series so it makes some sense, but Edward's plunder is less justifiable. This is something the story plays on, but ineffectively.

I quite liked the modern day plot being a parody of an office, but it often kicked it at the wrong times, like on cliffhangers in Edward's story. The use of a silent, blank slate protagonist was better than a separate character as we had in Desmond. That said, the AC lore got even worse here as a third faction (that creepy bearded dude) going after the apples makes an appearance. There seems to be no end to it. I doubt it recovers from this point, but the last one I played was Rogue.

On to the negatives, which are severe but overlooked on account of the above. The pacing is generally strong and I'm happy to accept open world freedom. It's frustrating though that the game withholds certain upgrades that improve quality of life until later in the game, a notable one being the city you find yourself in while still assuming the dead man's identity.

The other is the combat. On land, it continues to feel as irresponsive as AC3 but to an even greater extreme. It feels like every press of a button launches into a long animation, and you can get through almost any fight by mashing. It's far too easy and I was never proficient in the DMCs of the world, which speaks for itself.

The naval combat is much stronger as it offers a fair challenge and changing conditions, but was again too easy by approximately the midpoint of my time with the game. To keep the game engaging, I stopped buying upgrades. It shouldn't be up to the player to correct the game's sole difficulty setting.

Tailing missions have been reduced and modified but continue being annoying. There are also some overly scripted missions with highly specific fail states. These are getting worked out of the series over time, but they're still a bother in IV and not particularly engaging.

This is not a perfect game. Individually, it's a mess. Because of their optional nature, many elements of the game do not cohere into a grand whole. This is just the balancing act that open world games have to perform. But it also has so much right with it, chief among them being it's well-realised setting and that you can still go through it without being particularly bored, even if you never get quite thrilled either. For me, Black Flag or AC2 are the games I recommend to people who've never touched the franchise, and not without reason. It has that magic that only an AAA budget and an ambitious historical setting can bring, and in that, Black Flag is still a unique and worthy experience.

Three-word review: Caribbean Cruise Deluxe

-----

I'll finally throw in a recommendation for Akella's 2003 game Pirates of the Caribbean and the Build Mod. This wasn't really a licensed game, but a retitled Sea Dogs 2. It's more of an action-RPG with much more realistic ship combat and a more deliberate pace, as well as a huge and mysterious, sometimes menacing environment to explore, both on land and sea - with cool quests to boot. Along with ACIV, it is my favourite pirate game and perhaps still my favourite RPG. You may wish to first play it without the Build Mod to get a taste.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by MarkHoog » June 27th, 2019, 1:30 pm

Assassin's Creed: Black Flag is my favourite AC game, mainly because it is not really an AC game - it is a pirate game. While it may not be as historically profound as AC3 or the underrated Unity, it was simply the most fun I've ever had in Ubisoft's sprawling and overly convoluted assassinverse (even the present day Abstergo stuff isn't all that excruciating this time around!)
There's a joyous sense of adventure in Edward Kenway's story, and the exotic locations inspire a sense of wonder and mystery (I didn't fast travel until late in the game, which is always a good way of measuring my immersion). Often I would sail the seas at a leisurely pace, step ashore at some remote, deserted little island and just stand on the beach, listening to the waves and admiring the vastness of the ocean. Heck, just typing this makes me want to travel back to the virtual Caribbean - the only thing stopping me is the scary shark bits. I don't like scary shark bits.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by Worfendorf » June 28th, 2019, 2:36 am

Vast. This game was vast.

I had just moved overseas for my first-ever full-time job--to teach English--and I was finally getting settled in. This was about a year after graduating college (university) with no job lined up. For that year, I'd found myself in a directionless transition phase: What was I going to do with my time? What was I going to do with my life?

So I played Black Flag when it first came out on my brand new gaming laptop. I'd Frankensteined together PCs in the past from discarded friends' and family's computers, but this was the first time I'd ever indulged and bought one new. Immediately, I cranked the graphics all the way up to Ultra...and then lowered them to Medium in resignation. Still, Black Flag had the most convincing waters I'd ever seen.

Thinking back, this game helped me realize something about that confusing, overwhelming time in my life: There was a moment...

I was sailing in that sparkling blue-green sea under that wide-open sky with my crew and nothing but the ambient noise of waves, birds, and creaking wood. That's when one of the rowers started singing out from the quiet, his voice fumbling its way into key: "I dreamed a dream the other night..." And he was joined by the rest en masse: "Lowlands...Lowlands away me John". The singing felt natural. The game's detail and its trust in the player to find their own way pulled me into the world. At the same time, in the real world, I remember it was sunny with a perfect matching breeze coming through the window. I was there, in the Caribbean, and I could go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wanted to do.

When I think back to Black Flag, I think back to the time in my life when my mindset changed: when confronted by the vastness, either of the sea or of my adult life, I stopped considering myself lost and began to embrace the wonderful freedom.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by leady129 » August 4th, 2019, 2:34 pm

Playing this game about 2 years ago, I found Edward to be instantly likeable despite, or possibly because of, his shaky moral compass and often selfish decision making. His misadventures were often wildly entertaining and while a few missions had me questioning whether I had completed them as the game intended, or simply cheesed my way through a haphazard alternative they were, broadly speaking, well designed, providing a decent challenge.

However...

As the world continued to open up and the game progressively threw more distractions between me and my next mission marker, I couldn't help but feel that the pacing of the narrative slowed to an absolute crawl. I take some responsibility for this as I tend to be something of a completionist, but when the game expects you to remember specific characters faces (already a tougher ask in games compared to film) or minute plot details, far too much of the moment to moment story was lost on me.

That was until about a month ago when I watched through a YouTube video of all the cutscenes (and story crucial gameplay moments) run together. What I found in that three hours was an expertly paced narrative that told a tight and often surprisingly relatable story. One that had me frequently chuckling at the absurd moments and cheering Edward on as he slowly found redemption.

This puts Black Flag in a weird position. As a game, I loved the moment to moment gameplay. The navel gameplay in particular is a blast. On its own terms, I also love the narrative and the colourful cast of characters that make up this world. However, put together a strange dissonance is created that cheapens the overall experience in favour of more map markers.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by Brendan California » August 30th, 2019, 8:41 pm

I played Assassins Creed IV on the Wii U at a time when I only owned Nintendo consoles and was mostly naive to the musings of video game journalists and websites. The realism of the world blew me away, which seems quaint now as I play on all systems including Xbox One X and PS4 Pro with a 4K television. No Assassin's Creed game since has sucked me into it's world in the way this game did. Perhaps I have become more jaded toward Ubisoft games but AC4 felt like a sublime virtual vacation. The Game World felt alive and vibrant, I'll never forget that moment first playing the game clambering up the greenery to the highest peak and swan diving to the pristine Caribbean water below.

Three Word Review: Video Game Vacation.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by macstat » September 1st, 2019, 4:32 pm

Im probably the rarest type here. AC fan that thinks Black Flag is very overrated. Its not necessarily a bad AC game, but for me it stumbles in some places.

Sailing is probably biggest innovation ... or is it ? Sailing was first introduced in AC3 as a set of side missions, while AC Black Flag expanded on that idea incorporating sailing into open world traversal. Overall they did a great job, water has astonishing physics, sea chantys are fun but i preferred how your ship felt in AC3. It was more bulky, harder to steer, it had weight. In Black Flag some controls were tweaked to make ship easier to steer, it makes sharper turns, its easier to aim etc. You could say its more gamey. I understand why they did that but i still miss the more "authentic" feel of its predecessor.

Second issue was a bit of downgrade in terms of animation. It wasnt a huge step backwards but i tend to be very picky when it comes to that. Majority of my issues comes to how dual sword combat was animated. Some moves are weirdly sped up and Edward looks at times like he's chopping cabbage as compared to how Connor moved. I assume its partly because at this time very talented Johnatan Cooper left Ubisoft to do animations for Naughty Dog.

Story was also a hit and miss. At first i was disinterested, then the character grew on me but in the end i had no clue what actually happened. It felt like a company that works efficiently day to day but doesnt have a bigger picture.


Lastly because this game was ment to be new and fresh take on AC franchise it lost a bit of what i enjoyed the most in this seried. AC was always first and foremost a platforming game for me. I enjoy running around cities, climbing on stuff (and sometimes killing someone by accident). Here because its so focused on sea aspect i definitely felt that something is missing.

There were a lot of things to like as well. It was first game that limited "real world" story line which was a good thing. World was beautiful. Sneaking got a nice upgrade with those cool animated bushes. Overall i enjoyed my time with AC Black Flag. Its just not even close to my favorite part of the series.

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Re: 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by Alex79uk » September 1st, 2019, 6:35 pm

macstat wrote:
September 1st, 2019, 4:32 pm
...but in the end i had no clue what actually happened.
Every Assassins Creed game.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (8.9.19) - 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by The Baboon Baron » September 6th, 2019, 1:53 pm

I had taken a break from the Assassins Creed series for a while- 3 had taken a period of history I had found fascinating, and somehow made the war of Independence dull. When I eventually gave Black Flag a go though, I was instantly gripped and enjoyed it throughout.

Largely it was more of the same, but with a little more spit and polish than the previous editions. However, several small inclusions made a massive difference. I got the feeling that for Black Flag Ubisoft really did their market research on what people wanted- people wanted battle ships, warfare, stabbing people, unlikable characters, some historical figures we all recognise and most of all, we wanted some wish fulfillment.

And they nailed it- Pirates! Who doesn’t love pirates! And they successfully captured the swashbuckling, rum soaked Libertarianism of real pirates very well, not reducing the characters to Disney-esque captain Jack sparrow types, but thinkers, warriors, thugs and adventurers all at once. They were interesting people doing interesting things, in an interesting place. It seems so obvious when written down, but those 3 elements are often missed in open world games.
Also, its worth mentioning that Black Flag benefited from being the least Assassins Creed game yet. It had less Assassin- there was a lot less creeping over roof tops and hiding in bushes. And a lot less Creed- there were fewer powerful maguffins of world domination, less shadowy cabal and no tedious Desmond.

But it maintained the parts that have made Assassins Creed such a staple- plenty of the standard running, stabbing, blowing things up, and Parkour- a formula that has served well and looks rather spectacular on the current gen of consoles. Running around the jungles and shanty towns was always a great pleasure, with a thicker sense of atmosphere despite the smaller towns. And Wind Waker aside, the feeling of soaring across the ocean was uniquely brilliant.
I’ve not kept up with Assassins Creed as much as I probably should- Unity and Syndicate didn’t seem to have the same pizzazz as Black Flag. But it does show you an old sea dog might just teach you a few new tricks.

3WR- Embrace Pirate Acapella

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Re: Our next podcast recording (8.9.19) - 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by Simonsloth » September 6th, 2019, 4:01 pm

Apologies this is long and meandering but adds some context to my opinions.

My journey with Black Flag starts and ends as all good adventures do....with a queue. It was the night of November 28th 2013, a bitterly cold evening when I decided foolishly to join the back of the queue at the PlayStation Lounge in Covent Garden and wait for the midnight launch of the hallowed PS4. I was excited not only to be able to buy my sparkly new console at the moment of its launch but also snap up the next Assassin's Creed as a huge fan of the series. We were promised entertainment and sustenance throughout the evening which ended up being (hip at the time) Tinnie Tempah performing just out of sight around the corner and the dregs of the pizza which the front of the queue didn't want. The entertainers who worked the crowd were out of ideas and prizes by the time they got us to us at the back of the queue with many of us unprepared for the wait with depleted DS's, Vitas and phones. We were given Launch Day PS4 blankets and eventually after many hours in the ice cold got into the store around 1am having watched bright eyed well fed customers scamper off as the queue grew smaller. By the time I got home it was about 2:30am. I turned my PS4 on and put the game in to which I received an on screen prompt saying a mandatory update was required. I went to sleep.
The next morning I played an hour of Black Flag and thought was all that really worth it. I then spent the rest of the day upgrading the hard drive before trying again.

To me it sat somewhere in the middle between a pirate simulator and an Assassin's creed game which was both good and bad in equal measure. To a certain extent an element of fatigue had set in with regards to the Ubisoft open world formula so this variation in theme was welcomed but it didn't seem like the next generation leap I thought it would be. When out on the open seas partaking in the "looting and plundering" the game excels but it still bogged down by the myriad of icons on the map which offer very little purpose and detract from the experience. The long intermissions of item collecting and pointless side quests between story beats made the narrative less impactful and the characters extremely forgettable. I resented a lot of my time with it and as my sole purchase on the console I felt pangs of regret. I still finished the game and when the credits rolled I thought again was all that really worth it. I sold it almost immediately.

When I heard the game was being covered by Cane and Rinse this year I bought the game again second hand and popped it into my console for a final chance at redemption. I was greeted by a notification that an update had joined my download queue. My memories came flooding back and I thought I'm not waiting for you again, not this time. I sold the game. This will always be the odd Assassin's creed for me. Not the worst, not the best but the one that makes me the angriest. I will not wait in a queue for you again Desmond

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Re: Our next podcast recording (8.9.19) - 386: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Post by Magical_Isopod » September 6th, 2019, 7:15 pm

AC4 is one of those games I wanted to love. I loved the setting, and I actually learned a lot about life in West Atlantic that I previously had absolutely no awareness of. But ultimately, the game suffers from the same problems as every AC game of the era - lots of cheap deaths, inconsistent rules for stealth, and way too much collectathon busywork cluttering up what could be a good or great game. The AC series is always just short of greatness, and this is one of the better ones I've played.

Additionally, I had a serious moral crisis of sorts when the game forces you to hunt and skin an ocelot... I legitimately sat there for a few minutes asking myself if I even wanted to. I absolutely loathe forced hunting in games, especially when it's a situation like this where it's not about survival or ritual. If I remember right, it's just to make a bag. And that made me deeply uncomfortable... I didn't hunt a single animal in that game aside from the forced segments.

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