Review: Assasins Creed 4: Black Flag

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I’ve recently started playing Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag on my Xbox One. I saved this game to be one of the final launch games I played because I knew that if I ended up enjoying it, it would swallow my life whole for a few weeks and push all other games to the wayside. The keyword here is “if”, because I haven’t had the best experiences with this series as of late. I didn’t enjoy the Fort Defense mechanics in Assassins Creed Revelations, and to be honest by that point in the series the game play mechanics had become very stale to me. I was after beating AC 1, AC 2 and Brotherhood and not only beating but completing all side quests. By the time Revelations was released I was really only excited about what was going to happen in the story arc.

The release of Assassins Creed 3 did nothing to help these feelings. I found myself completely disinterested in the first 2 excruciating hours of the game. With an unbelievably slow paced prologue, seemingly never ending cut scenes, and utterly disastrous game play mechanics. I even went back a second time, months later to try to get through it, just because it was wrapping up the Desmond story arc, though this attempt was futile. I gave up around 5 hours in.

So, here I was, spending 70 dollars on another Assassins Creed game, with hopes that Ubisoft would be able to turn this franchise around with a fresh, new installment of what used to be one of my favorite IPs (that’s Intellectual Properties for the casual gamer). I was excited of the premise of an Assassins Creed set in the Caribbean and playing as a cut throat pirate who stumbles into the Assassins Order by pure happenstance.

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The lifestyle of these men always intrigued me. There’s something alluring about the life of a pirate from the 1700s. The mundane, normal life in society was not for them.  They decided to live the life of an outlaw on their own terms, even if the consequences, had they been caught would certainly be death. Movies and popular culture seem to always portray them as having some different type of honor. An outlaws set of morals, though different from our own has something about them that pulls you in to see their side of the coin, and to empathize with them.

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The story begins with a bang, as you see our new protagonist, Edward Kenway and his band of pirates locked in a vicious naval battle with a British ship. This concludes with both ships being destroyed and Kenway being shipwrecked and washing ashore, but; not before locking eyes with the Assassin Duncan Walpole on the other ship. Once on the island, Edward, intrigued by this strangely dressed man, decides to stalk him to find out more. A battle ensues resulting in Edward defeating him and finding out he had a big payday lined up for delivering stolen items from the Assassins.

At this point in the game, the protagonists main and really only concern is money. He decides to steal this man’s Assassins uniform, disguise himself as Duncan and make his way for Havana. From here Edward Kenway gets wrapped up in a large war that had been raging for centuries in secret between the Assassin Order, and the Templars.

The game revolves around something called the “Observatory”. It is a secret place made by the precursor civilization known only in legends. It allows whoever is controlling it to see into the life of any man or woman in the world. Think crystal ball but with a kick. The Templars are using any resource necessary to find this secret place, and the Assassins are doing everything they can to stop them, knowing that the Templars would only use this for evil. Our anti-hero turned hero, Edward, unwittingly gets wrapped up in this war. He begins as a simple pirate, out for money and nothing more. As the story progresses and he begins to see the honor and courage possessed by the Assassin Order, something changes in him. He begins to realize that there may be more to life than just how many coins are in your pocket. I won’t go much deeper into the story as I want you all to find out for yourselves🙂

While the story was well written, and interesting I couldn’t help but be distracted by all of the other things Assassins Creed 4 had to offer. I believe where this game really shines is in the side story and gameplay. You become the Captain of a ship very early on, which Edward names the Jackdaw. Ubisoft claimed the Jackdaw was essentially the second main character in the game and I must admit that this isn’t far from the truth. Your ship can be fitted with dozens and dozens of new weapons, stronger armor, and a battering ram, to name a few. You also have nearly a hundred different upgrades at your disposal that change the look of your ship. If you’re going to explore the West Indies, you are going to need to familiarize yourself with this ship and get ready for some intense naval battles.

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The map is nothing short of astonishing. It is gigantic and there is easily a hundred hours of exploring if you want to find every collectible in every nook and cranny of this, the largest Assassins Creed game to date. I’ve personally sunk over 80 hours into the game and though I’ve finished most everything, there is still plenty to go back to if I get that itch to be a completionist on this game, which I likely will.

Returning from Assassins Creed 3, is the Hunting System only this time they went all out. Hunting is done in order to craft new outfits, pistol holsters, ammo pouches, etc. The game gives you the ability to hunt things such as Hammerhead Sharks, Killer Whales, and more. The mechanics behind this is actually incredible. It makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of Moby Dick! (Call me Kenway, get it?!)  Rather than explain I thought I’d record a clip from my Xbox One DVR to show just how fun this is. Sorry in advance for the poor commentary on this video. I made this quite late at night while I was quite tired, but stay tuned for some better videos in the future!

There are so many other things to do in this gigantic world. One such thing that I enjoyed thoroughly was capturing naval forts. These are scattered throughout the map and belong to different countries which are heavily defended. You must use your ship strategically in order to destroy their defenses and be able to dock. From there our hero must take to land and defeat the captain while a large battle takes place within the fort. It’s incredibly fast paced and is superbly executed.

In this time period, the Spanish, French and British were all battling it out to colonize the new world and as a result you will regularly see naval battles on open water occurring. These are a great opportunity to swoop in and take down a large number of ships once both sides are weakened. Taking down ships is an essential part of Assassins Creed 4. Each ship is carrying different types of cargo. These different things such as steel, wood, and cloth will give you the things you need to upgrade your ship. You can also steal rum and sugar, and trade these for money.

All in all, I must say I had a great experience with this game. There’re so many moving parts, and they put it all together in such an intricate way that everything flows almost flawlessly. This truly was redemption for a franchise that was running the risk of being shipwrecked itself, but Ubisoft weathered the storm beautifully and churned out what has been my most enjoyable experience with an Assassins Creed game to date. I give this game a 9/10. I just want to reiterate again that I reviewed the Xbox One version of the game and even though I’m sure they’re all quite similar I just wanted to make it clear for those of you thinking on buying the game based on my review.

Thanks for coming back to the blog guys! Sorry I haven’t been back in so long but I promise to be more consistent in the weeks and months to come. I want to thank my buddy Michael MacArthur for once again editing the blog and helping me out with some wording! You’re the man bubba! I am going to be bringing game clips that I will be editing and recording some voiceover for what I hope to be some funny videos! If you have any requests for which game you’d like to see me play, leave it in the comment section below! Also if you don’t mind taking this little poll I set up for yall that would be great! See you next time gamers and gamettes ! Don’t forget to hit me up on xbox live @ mitcHELLspawn or PSN @ shadyAShell .. Later🙂

Games, my life and more.

Hey there!

Welcome to my blog, this will be my first such attempt at this so please forgive me if at first it’s not the greatest writing but this is an outlet for me. My blog is going to mainly focus on video games, and though some may think it’s a silly topic, or; doesn’t deserve any serious writing or reflection, in my experience that’s just not correct. Video games are very important to me.

I’ve loved gaming ever since I can remember. Some of my fondest and earliest memories are of my family and me playing the NES. At that time it was all about Mario! I also have happy memories of playing Mike Tysons Punch Out with my uncle. I will mention that was a game that was released the same year and month I was born. I, of course; didn’t begin playing then. I mean, I was a baby.. give me a break! but it wasn’t long after. My parents tell me I began playing at the tender age of 2! And not only playing, but winning. Can you imagine that? I picked up that controller and haven’t looked back.

My first days of gaming were done on this bad boy!

My first days of gaming were done on this bad boy!

Growing up, gaming was always something my friends and I looked forward to after a long day of school. I remember living in Ontario as a kid and every Friday after school my mother would take my best friend, Justin and I to the local Blockbuster to rent a game for the weekend. Back then games were largely targeted towards children, with games like: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Earthworm Jim, Sonic The Hedgehog and many others.

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As I got a little older, the home consoles became ever more powerful, and so came the rise of 3-dimensional space gaming. With that, the PlayStation was born and the mood began a subtle shift towards more mature games with adult themes. Games such as: Final Fantasy 7 and Metal Gear Solid and so, too, did I begin to grow out of the children’s games and began wanting more realistic games. To this day I still find time to beat Final Fantasy 7 at least once a year. I think most gamers have that one game, which gives them that large, wonderful shot of nostalgia. For me FF7 is it. The story is beautifully written, with close parallels our real life ongoing struggle with the destruction of our planet, for profit and oil.

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Gaming stayed relevant to me in my teenage years, always owning the newest console and playing some great games along the way. I should say as I am being completely honest, gaming fell to the wayside, as did most of my favorite things during these dark years of my life. I began using drugs consistently in my teenage years, and cared more about partying than I really cared about anything else. I won’t go into great detail on this part of my life as it�s not the proper time, perhaps one day in a later entry but just for now take my word for it, that these were very dark days indeed.

Some years later when I decided enough was enough, I began working towards becoming a better person and the first step was to distance myself from the people, places and things that were keeping me held down in that life of hell. For quite some time I was confined to my house because that was really the only way to combat my addiction in the early days. Thankfully, I found solace in something that I had enjoyed my entire life, and that was video games. Any recovering addict knows that the biggest enemy to their sobriety in the early stages is Boredom. I found myself escaping in the beautifully made world’s in which developers such as Bethesda, Ubisoft and Square Enix (to name a few) had made.

It amazed me to no end how far gaming had come in the few short years since I abandoned it. One game that stands out in my mind is the original Mass Effect game. It was so intricately detailed in every way: the story, background, character development, dialogue, the beautiful and grand world design, game mechanics and graphics. I found myself lost in an engrossing world for days at a time. It literally took me from my horrible and messed up life and transported me light-years away from it. Something that was needed so badly in my life at that time.

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Now before you start to scratch your heads – don’t think that I’m promoting going out and getting so wrapped up in a game that your real world relationships fall apart. That’s just ridiculous, I’m just talking about myself at that particular point in my life, and it was just what I needed. Over time I learned once again how to function as a normal person. I became more able to get outdoors to experience many other things I enjoy and not become triggered being out with friends. Though I’ll never forget the role gaming had on my road to recovery.

Since those days I’ve become very vocal on video games. I personally believe these games are the most relevant and wonderful works of art of our time. Just as Cinema had its Golden Age, I believe video games are experiencing the same type of renaissance. One doesn’t need to look much further than this year’s releases to understand what I mean. With the releases of games like Tell Tales: The Walking Dead, The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite it shows just how far gaming has come. Some of these stories have resonated with me much more than anything in the theatre’s these days.

So now, here I am – 26 years young and my favorite thing to do in my spare time is to play video games. Does that make me immature? Is it causing me to neglect my responsibilities as an adult? Does it mean I should just stop because real men aren’t supposed to game?  I think those questions can be answered by where I’m at in my life right now. I’ve just recently bought my first home with my best friend and most amazing girl I have ever met; I have a great job that has begun to turn into a very promising career. I have a small, yet very close group of friends that are there for me when I need them and vice versa.  I have a very healthy relationship with my girlfriend and family that have never been stronger.

With that, I think I’ll wrap it up for this week!

I hope you guys enjoyed my first entry into what will be my weekly blog centered on my life and the wonderful world of gaming. I apologize for the seriousness of this first entry but it was just something I felt was necessary to get off of my chest. I assure you that in the weeks to come there will be much humor and light reading.

Just a few things to look forward to in the coming weeks is my hands on review of the new generation of gaming on the Xbox one and what the first few weeks have been like as well as my impressions on the beautiful and massive Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag.

Until then, happy gaming folks🙂