I played the first Assassin’s Creed and dabbled in the second one (I think I got it on Steam), but have mainly not been that interested in the series. The whole Assassin concept was not too compelling, I am much more into RPG exploring and leveling as far as adventure games go. I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on the Playstation 4 for over 12 hours and while I feel like I have only scratched the surface on the game’s entire story, I have seen and played enough to have some commentary.
First of all the game is gorgeous. I was ready to not be too entranced by the resolution of the next gen consoles because at 720p and 1080p, they are essentially the same resolution as the last generation. So it was a surprise to see such vibrant colors, wide dynamic range, excellent anti-aliasing and extremely high resolution textures. Dynamic range is the levels of greyscale in an image, the more levels you have the more detail you can see. When you take a picture with an older camera for example, if you look at dark areas such as shadows and people’s hair, you see the area is often “crushed”, basically a blob of darkness with minimal detail. On newer cameras, you can see a wider dynamic range, where shadow areas have detail and shades. It makes pictures much more vibrant.
The next generation consoles have very wide dynamic ranges and along with the saturated colors, the imagery really pops. Ubisoft went full 1080p with this title and released an update that incorporates some excellent anti-aliasing. This technique smoothes out jaggies and makes for much more realistic scenery, especially when looking in the distance. The textures are the first thing you notice on next gen consoles. Typically with last gen consoles, if your character looked down while walking on a dock by the sea, you would see a rough approximation of wood texture, usually not too high res, and a murky, pixelated sea. But this game has very detailed textures, the wood grain looks great and the sea looks just about as it does in real-life, with deep blues, greens, sea foam, reflections and accurate and realistic waves. I often stop and just soak in the amazing visuals, especially if the sun is just rising on the horizon or a sudden wind and rain storm begins to brew.
Enough staring at water, how’s the gameplay? Fun, very fun. The game does not have a difficulty setting, but it remains a not overly hard game. Some segments are a challenge and take several tries (rescuing people or chasing someone) and it’s here where the game gets a little grating with running the player through repeated attempts. But overall I have yet to feel that the game was hard or easy, just a nice solid challenge. You go on various pirate adventures, exploring, fighting and going on missions, and most of it is very fun. Unfortunately the game producers assume you’ve played all the Assassin’s Creed games, instructions in some areas could use a little (or lot) more hand holding. Often a screen full of commands pops up as you jump into a new and dangerous scenario. Learning quickly is the key. I recommend the official game guide which you can get digitally via Apple’s iBooks. Speaking of digital, there is a companion tablet app to the game which syncs with your progress. I won’t get into a whole review of it, let me just say get it..it’s amazing how they’ve incorporated the tablet and PS4 game.
All in all the game mixes a lot of different game styles and genres such as combat, questing, sailing, sea battles, exploration, treasures, leveling up and many more. It’s never boring and you can always take a break from the story and go explore the current open world for side quests and loot. One thing the game does right is it keeps the story in the cut scenes. Unless you are in a story-advancing segment, there is no dialog and no text to scan through. There are various text items you find through the world that explain more of the history, and you do have a progress and tracking screen where you can get more background info, but what won’t happen is endless text conversations with random people. The games sticks to action and adventure and it’s a much richer experience because of it.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a surprise, it’s a game I had low expectations for and it’s kept me busy for hours with exciting gameplay and adventures. The biggest bonus is the way it looks. It just looks gorgeous, colorful and vibrant on the PS4, with stunning locations and exacting attention to detail. The developers did a great job crafting a dense world with lots to see and do. The story moves along organically and the script never gets in the way of having a good old swashbuckling time. There is a distinct lack of role playing games for the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, those will arrive in the coming year. For now, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and living the life of a pirate in a beautiful open world, is the RPG game to get.