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Playing Through The Backlog – Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

For years now I’ve been sick of the goddamn Assassin’s Creed games. I played the first one for a few hours, and it just never appealed to me. Two years later the second Assassin’s Creed was released and it seemed like everyone loved it. So I thought I’d give it a shot, once again I just didn’t care for it. I just couldn’t get what all the fuss was about. After that I completely stopped playing attention to the franchise. Yearly releases came and went without me so much as picking up a game box to look at the back. I don’t really know what possessed me to pick up Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but I somehow ended up getting it. I’m very glad it brought me back into the series.

This game is almost deceitful when it starts. Running around an island chasing a guy felt quite a bit like what I hated about the older Assassin’s Creed games. I almost put the game down and walked away from it at that point. But the odd stealth mission here or there and my overall interest in the world kept pushing me through until the game opened up. This game really starts to differentiate itself from others in the series when you become the captain of your own pirate ship. And this time instead of having just a city or two to explore you are given the open sea.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story of Assassin’s Creed IV. I actually enjoyed it much, much more than I should have. At some point during my 30ish hours in the world I started to really care about Edward Kenway and his journey. But the real fun happened when I was just sailing around doing pirate things. Sure, there was a fast travel system in the game, but I never felt like I wanted to use it. I felt like fast traveling would get in the way of the fun. If my next objective was way off on the other side of the map I would spend hours sailing there doing pirate stuff along the way.

So many fun pirate things to do while at sea. I could never get borer of taking over enemy ships. Just sailing the sea and observing a ship on the horizon. Changing the course of my ship so I can start my attack. Then eventually boarding the ship to start tearing through enemies myself. After a short while of slaughtering their crew they eventually give up. Then all their cargo,  crew and even the ship itself becomes mine.  It is a more exciting and fulfilling experience than most in gaming today.

This open world also might be one of the first few to actually be too big. There might be way too much to do. There are forts to take over to reveal big sections of the map. Huge fish to catch, and animals to hunt for materials to craft weapons and equipment. There are treasures to find, Assassins to help in exchange for Templar keys. Viewpoints to synchronize and Sea Shanties to chase after. Oh, the Sea Shanties.

The Sea Shanties were a nice little touch that actually added a lot to the game. Whenever you synchronized a new area of a city and/or island one of the collectables revealed were Sea Shanties. When you get near them they start floating away, so you have to chase them across rooftops and tree branches. Then once you catch the shanty you can teach it to your crew. Your crew will then sing these songs as you sail long distances from island to island. The Sea Shanties were so much better than they should have been. They were such a small simple touch, but when your crew starts singing a shanty while you’re sailing it all comes together so perfectly.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. I finished the story of Assassin’s Creed IV at 10:15PM the day before the release of Watch Dogs. I zoomed out the map of Assassin’s Creed and decided platinumming the game just wasn’t realistic. So I went to the midnight launch of Watch Dogs instead. But for the first time in the series history I care about Assassin’s Creed. I don’t care to go back and try any of the older games. But I am helps excited for Unity and cannot wait. October can’t come soon enough.

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