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Assassin’s Creed has always been a divisive game to me. I enjoyed the first one, but as more and more came out each year, my enjoyment slowly waned. Assassin’s Creed III came out last year and it was more than lackluster. Though I gave it a positive review last year, the more I’ve played it, the more glaring its problems became. So, when Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was leaked, then officially announced, I was a bit skeptical. Now, after reading more on it and hearing the creative director speak about it, I’m more optimistic. That does not mean that I’m still wary about it. Here are five optimistic and five pessimistic takes from today’s reveal.
1) The Naval Warfare is Back and (Seemingly) Better than Ever
I have been a staunch supporter of the naval missions in Assassin's Creed III since the first time I set sail, so, when I heard the next game would be pirate-themed, I was pumped. Taking to the seas, raiding islands and attacking ships seemed like a dream come true, especially given how well ACIII pulled it off. After reading and hearing the naval aspect of ACIV I can say that I am very optimistic about it. 60% land missions to 40% sea missions is a great ratio to me. Being able to upgrade your ship and crew is even better.
2) Edward Kenway is Far More Charismatic than Connor
Connor is my least favorite assassin. Even though he was just as quiet as Altair, he was far more annoying and complained about nearly everything. If what’s been revealed about Connor’s grandfather, Edward Kenway, it seems as if Ubisoft has gone back to the charismatic assassin, ala Ezio. Kenway is a pirate to start the game, and in the debut trailer, Blackbeard himself states that Kenway is one of the most feared pirates to sail the Seven Seas. As long as the man himself lives up to the hype, I can’t wait to fill his boots.
3) Guns, Guns, Guns
Edward Kenway is a pirate. Pirates aren’t the stealthiest of characters. Thankfully, Ubisoft has followed the lead of Far Cry 3 and allowed Kenway to upgrade his arsenal. He can carry up to four guns, which can be fired in order, one after the other, or saved for single shots. In the trailer, Kenway boards and enemy vessel, unloads to shots into two soldiers, grabs his third and fourth pistols and blows another two away. Blackbeard says he’s never seen a man clear a Spanish vessel so easily.
4) Seamless Land to Sea Transitions
One thing that stood out to me in ACIII was the odd load times. Sometimes in the middle of a scene or fight, a load screen would appear. It’d be jarring and take me right out of the experience. Ubisoft has said that players can now jump from their ship and swim to the closest island without a load screen in sight. Though I can believe that this is possible with the power of next-gen systems, I’ll have to wait and see if current-gen consoles can pull this off. I remain optimistic, however, that Ubisoft can come through.
5) Sea Hunting
That is all. Just kidding. Ubisoft has not gone into detail about how hunting has evolved from ACIII to ACIV, however they have stated that you can use a harpoon to hunt fish and sea creatures from your ship. The decision to make the ship an integral part of the game is seeming like a great one. We’ll have to wait and see how hunting from your ship affects the game.
With my optimistic reasons out of the way, there are still many things that are pessimistic to me about this Assassin's Creed sequel.
1) The Present Day Story Seems Weak
If you haven’t finished ACIII avert your eyes …. Desmond saves the world by sacrificing himself. Yes, it was a heroic move on his part, but I for one am thankful he’s gone. Unfortunately, Ubisoft feels a need to stay in the present, so they’ve decided that the gamer themselves will be the hero in ACIV. They elaborated by saying you’ll be working for series baddie Abstergo, trying to access Desmond’s ancestors memories for a yet unknown reason. I was never a fan of the present day storyline and I wish they had just left it end with Desmond.
2) Ubisoft Might Be Rushing It
This might not be an actual gripe against the game itself; maybe this is about gaming as a whole. Was there really a need for another Assassin’s Creed? Money makers say yes, others say no. I say, it could’ve waited another year or two, maybe even three. Make a fresh game. Get away from the storylines and characters you’ve built up and finished. Let us marinate in your assassin stew for a little while before serving another course. If you don’t you might rush the game to completion and ship it with the same amount of bugs that plagued ACIII.
3) Let’s Hope the Side Missions Are Better
The side missions of ACIII were dull and time consuming and after trying a few, I never gave them a second thought. If ACIV makes the same mistakes as its predecessors, gamers are in for another shell of a game that lacks content to take you away from the main quest. Though you always want to play the main quest, you also want to take the time and see the world and complete engaging side missions that either help evolve the story of the campaign or are just plain fun. Not doing that is a disservice to fans.
4) Make the World Alive
As huge as the frontier and towns of ACIII were, they were dead. Sure there was wildlife traipsing about and the random Redcoat patrol for you to hunt down, but everything in between was empty. Getting across that empty space was an exercise in itself. Ubisoft needs to make the Caribbean come alive. Put quests in places that are logical but also beg to be explored. Have random encounters littered about. Just make the world seem as realistic and filled as possible.
5) Be As Faithful to the Setting as Possible
Everybody loves pirates. They’re mentioned in the same breath as ninjas in terms of coolness. Ubisoft has said that they’re not going to ‘Disney-fy’ pirates and I sure hope they stick to that. Pirates were bloodthirsty animals with a taste for rape and pillage. They drank too much and fought too often and were always wanted by authorities. If Ubisoft can capture what it truly meant to be a pirate, not some fantasy world that is politically correct, then they’ll have a gritty game that’s refreshing and different from what people think they know.
Ubisoft has a lot riding on its Assassin’s Creed franchise. ACIV: Black Flag is no different. Currently, I’m sitting on the fence between optimism and pessimism. I want this game to be good; pirates have always been criminally underrated by the gaming industry. I just really hope the Ubisoft knows what they're doing and doesn't screw it up.