25 Nov 2013

Media - The Black Flag

You need to understand how much I loved 'Sid Meier's Pirates!'. When visiting mates who owned the game, as a young boy I'd hound them to play a bit of the game. Oh I loved it. It wasn't until 2004 when the new remastered version was published that I was able to sit down and dedicate my life to the high seas. I had the game for my PC but for some odd reason my Xbox Live version was the game that got the most love.

I also liked Assassin's Creed. When the game was first being shown I had never seen such movement over terrain before. Add in the historical setting and I was sold to the creed. After playing the first game I was happy with it but it had some issues, issues I would hope they could sort out. Sort out they did in the following four games. AC 2, AC: Brotherhood and AC: Revelations were a great epic tale of my favorite Assassin of the past, Ezio. AC 3 had some great elements to it and I loved the first two acts of the game.

Assassin's Creed 4 is my favorite of the series. It's a score of 5. I have a hard time calling it Assassin's Creed 4 without adding in a Sid Meier's subtitle since it took so much from that game.

The first thing that jumps out at you when you first play the game is the lack of loyalties. Edward Kenway, father/grandfather of the two player characters of Assassin's Creed 3, is neither a Templar or Assassin. The two faction that vie for power and freedom throughout history with the aid of the first civilizations lost relics has been the crux of the story since the first game. This is the first time in the main series that you play someone not affiliated with either side. Edward has his own reasons for being out and about the West Indies and many of those reasons resonate with my current situation. His lack of worthy work and desire to provide really hit home with me as I struggle to find work in my field or look at branching out in new fields that may not pan out. The meta plot set in present time is a odd ball but well done call back to the work done in the previous games. Once you got to exploring the little sandbox with your nameless tester, you appreciate the previous meta plots of past games.

Movement in the franchise is key. The games have been getting better each time. Assassin's Creed 3 was the best of the movers until this iteration. The natural terrain is brilliant and Edward can really move in the jungle. The previous games already mastered the building jumping and roof running and the folks at Ubisoft did not ruin the work of the past. Moving about the ships took some getting used to and I admit I was pretty dumb until the last act of the game when I spent a good few hours just raiding the West Indies for materials and money. Moving about the rigging and launching myself from place to place aboard the ships is about navigating the maze of ropes and beams instead of looking for the quickest route to where you need to go. Not doing so will lead to Edward falling off and if you land on the deck of the ship rather the cool waters of the Caribbean ending in much pain and my frustrating game overs.

Stealth in the series has never been a strong suite. Mark of the Ninja, Dishonoured, and Splinter Cell do stealth much better. Assassin's Creed had you mostly staying out of your opponents view and melding in crowds or blending in with the folks at rest. Stealth makes it real debut in the franchise with this latest game. I love moving from hiding spot to hiding spot getting the drop on guards. I love luring them in for a quick kill and spending whole missions never getting seen by my opponents. I gives that same level of power over the enemies that the Batman: Arkham series gives when Batman is working a room full of guards.

Collectables has always been a part of the series. Assassin's Creed was brutal and I gave up on the hunt. Assassin's Creed 2 I found everything and got them all. This trend continued for the most part until Assassin's Creed 3 where I once more went full OCD and found them all. Searching for the bits and bites through the series has been a mix of hidden frustration and traversing puzzles. This latest game works on the success of marking each of them down once you've explored the area and making most of them a less painful collection experience. As of now I have only 32 chests left about the rest of the uncharted overworld and even fewer fragments. My game sits at 94% and I'm slowly working on picking up new parts and portions every time I jump on and work my fleet.

The mini games since Brotherhood has been hit or miss. Sometimes they are a worthy time sink that pulls you away from the running around in order to establish your hold in the area. In Brotherhood, having your recruits becoming full fledged members of the Assassins really made a game difference. Future games tried new things and some portions were a success and others felt like an offshoot of activity that wasn't worth leaving the main game for. Kenway's Fleet the current subgame offering has you moving captured ship about on missions and opening other lanes of trade with your base of operations. Trade routes will become more dangerous and you may spend time sending out ships to secure those routes allowing your boats to suffer less chance of failure at their assigned missions. I avoided this game since it was boring. Upon discovering that some of the items you get in the game come only from this offering I jumped in late in the game to take control of the sealanes. It's a wasted effort that once you realise that captured Man-o-war's are almost nigh invulnerable to failure and they bring in the most money. Capturing them is easy once you're past the halfway mark of the main quest line and I've quickly built a fleet of huge don't fuck with me ships who slowly bounce along the seas in my name. It's an ok offering but it could have been better with more control over your ship battles and been less tedious. OCD has me coming back for more, not the desire to play with Kenway's fleet.

Combat is getting better and you're no Batman being able to kill dozens of men with little effort. Getting ganged up on is easy in the ship battles and I found myself having to make a hasty retreat every so often or pulling out the double brace (that's 4) pistols and gunning down folks for breathing room. This was not worked on much and I was ok with that since the developers seemed to have spend much of their efforts on the ship combat. I've got only two legendary ships to put down and I've maxed out the Jackdaw (Edward's ship). Still naval combat is thrilling and rewarding. Working the waves of the ocean in order to get the better shot or navigating the charge in order to give instead of get a ram is always fun. This is where the team put time and effort and it was worth that time and effort. Bravo.

The odds and ends are bright with effort and rewarding. I love the sea shanties you collect for your crew to sing as you sail about. I'd rather be able to pick and chose my playlist as some of the songs were not as much a gift to the ears. Some of the songs I've caught myself humming as I go about my day so this is collection of songs is a good thing. 'Poor old Man' is my favorite, and 'I say so, I know so'. The Mayan puzzles were ok and the viewpoints were on par with past games.

Sid Meier's Pirates! brought to you by Assassin's Creed is a brilliant open world game and my favorite of the series. I hope more games take place with Edward post credits and you can explore England and other locations with the salty dog. I find it too bad that his story is tied so closely with the plot failure of Assassin's Creed 3's great first act and miserable third act so I want more with Edward before his sons and grandson. Assassin's Creed was the game that really ushered the 7th generation of consoles and it pushed the systems to their limits as the games developed. This final song of the series on this generation is grand way to cross over and is worth anyone's time. It's a brilliant that is worth your time and has everything you're looking for in an open world 3rd person action game.