A gorgeous, relentlessly entertaining open-world piracy simulator packed with interesting 18th century rogues.
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need to know
Expect to pay: £40 / $60
Release: Out now
Developer: In house
Multiplayer: 4 player co-op
Link: Official site
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag doesn't really want to be an Assassin's Creed game, and I don't blame it. It seems keen to shrug off the oblique, convoluted lore surrounding the eon-long Assassins vs Templar power struggle, which managed to reach new peaks of ludicrousness even after that bit in the second game when you punch the Pope into unconsciousness in order to access an alien hologram. Black Flag stuffs all that into a box labelled 'whoops', throws it down a deep, dark hole and sends you on third-person free-running murder missions on the high seas instead. By Blackbeard's bushy eyebrows, that is a welcome move.
You are Edward Kenway, a rogue who loves money enough to leave his girlfriend in port and sail to the West Indies in search of a vast fortune. In the opening scenes he steals an Assassin's hooded garb and wristblades and accidentally falls in with a crowd of Templars, a team of comedy evil caricatures led by a bearded grand master and backed up by a plate armoured man-ogre who throws axes at people. They're searching for the Observatory, an ancient device that enables its user to see the location of anyone in the world at any time. The Templars want it because it'll make coups easier, the Assassins want it to stop the Templars, and Kenway wants it because it's probably the most valuable thing on the planet.
If that sounds a bit removed from piracy and plunder, don't worry. After the two-hour hand-holding tutorial section – mercifully shorter than in previous Assassin's Creed games – the Observatory is relegated to distant long-term objective status, and the story refocuses on the building of the pirate paradise of Nassau: a lawless little utopia maintained by a collection of criminals seeking respite from the attention of the law.
That means Kenway isn't exactly an Assassin. He has all the free-running, jumping and killing skills of the sect – a genetic bonus, it's implied – but his relationship with the series' morally ambiguous order of murder monks is fractious. That keeps the plot's severest absurdities at arm's length and lets you just be a pirate and do pirate things. Hang out with famous brigands like James Kidd. Watch affable rogue Edward Teach become an unhinged, scenery-chewing Blackbeard. Sail across the ocean, rob ships, fight the British, take sea forts for yourself, harpoon whales, explore large coastal cities such as Havana and raid ancient Aztec ruins for treasure. All this in a beautiful tropical open world that's at its glowing, hyper-detailed best on PC.
On land, much is familiar. Hubs such as Havana and Nassau are large, but there are no urban spaces to match the size and spectacle of Rome or Constantinople. A shame, certainly, but there's still a huge amount to explore in scattered settlements across Black Flag's massive archipelago. You'll sail between stilted pier towns tucked away in rocky alcoves, tropical islands sprinkled with treasure chests and larger townships like the manicured, orderly haven of Kingston. As always, you have to climb to high perches to scout sections of town, revealing chests, stores and sidequests in the area, the latter including a welcome increase in open-world assassination missions and warehouse raids. These place targets in open areas patrolled by British or Spanish forces and invite you to solve the problem creatively.
Such missions feel closer to the original vision for Assassin's Creed than the scripted story segments which, while much improved over Assassin's Creed III's restrictive and buggy offerings, are still rather over-reliant on lengthy follow tasks. To raid a warehouse, you must first scan the area for the key holder, pickpocket it off him (or rob his corpse) and then make your way to the door without being shot dead by elevated musket snipers and roaming guards. Stealth has been tightened up to make this more interesting. Pervasive jungle foliage offers constant cover and targets can be marked using Kenway's magic 'Eagle Vision' mode, which lets you track guards through walls – a serious advantage, yes, but you no longer have access to the silent, ranged instant-kill throwing knives that made similar challenges trivial in previous games. Instead you have the blowpipe, which can temporarily knock enemies out, or send them into a berserk rage.
The snipers are a pain, perched on high guard towers that overlook most restricted areas. They have long-range muskets that can drop you to half-health in a single shot. The blowpipe is an obvious counter, though the short duration of its sleeping effect inspired several comical races to kick its victims back into unconsciousness before they awoke. You can also hug a nearby enemy to use them as meat shield moments before a sniper pulls the trigger – another trick carried over from Assassin's Creed III.
With the addition of explosive barrels that can attract multiple enemies, and outhouses as hiding places, there's some room to get creative with your approach to these open challenges. I particularly enjoyed turning guards against one another. I used guns dropped by friendly-fire victims to pick off the snipers that killed them, shoved brutes into their own tossed grenades and then scooped up their abandoned axes to butcher crowds of lesser enemies. Your foes aren't smart, but they're fun to massacre.
You'll want to take advantage of the environment in this way a little more than in other Assassin's Creeds, as Kenway's kit has been slimmed down from previous instalments. You can pick dropped weapons from the ground and wield them expertly, but you can't carry knives or broadswords around, sadly, which put an end to my favoured assassination technique of lobbing claymores at enemies across rooftops. Instead, Edward's hidden blades, a pair of sabres and a brace of pistols are his go-to close combat problem solvers. Your one shot mini-muskets can be fired rapidly mid-combo to loudly thin out surrounding enemies, the rest are easily put down with brutal instant-death counter moves. More skilled enemies and brutes – easy to spot thanks to their size and their tendency to casually roll grenades into a fight – must first be distracted with a block-breaking move before being infinitely stabbed. Very large numbers present a challenge, but combat is mostly there to make you feel deadly. I'd like to see more tough fights with more precise strikes, and to get rid of the pointless disarm move, but fighting remains an effective and violent power trip.
There's plenty to do on Black Flag's many islands, but you'll spend half your time on the waves, on your ship, the Jackdaw. The archipelago map operates in a similar way to the smaller city ones, in that you're unable to see all of the available activities in an area until you've conquered a region's fort. Once that's done you'll be able to identify whaling spots, British and Spanish convoys and sunken shipwrecks. You can use a diving bell to travel underwater to investigate these watery remains, dodging sharks to reach the treasure within.
Sailing is lifted almost wholesale from Assassin's Creed III, with some additional concessions to accessibility. By which I mean your boat handles like a bus. Wind direction has little meaning. You can stop without dropping anchor and can magically taxi sideways into ports when docking. I say this to pop any assumptions you might have about Black Flag as an authentic sailing sim, not to suggest that it isn't good fun. Furthering the boat-bus analogy, you shift up and down through four gear settings to determine your speed. At slower speeds your ship can take tighter turns, at its highest the camera pulls out to offer a majestic view of your vessel carving through the waves. Most of the UI fades so you can see more of the ocean, and your crew start singing echoing sea shanties. You'll see no bloody gums or men overboard here. This is a romantic vision of piracy in the early 18th century, and no less absorbing for it.
In Assassin's Creed III, sailing was an experimental section, quite separate from the rest of the game. Black Flag meshes naval exploration with Assassin's Creed's traditional free-running and combat systems to excellent effect, particularly when hijacking ships and taking forts.
To take a ship you have to first reduce it to a flaming wreck using your cannon, mortar, fire-barrels and various forms of shot. Your weapons are selected contextually based on the direction you're aiming. Point the camera out of the sides of your ship, and you'll deal damage with your broadside cannon using narrowing trajectory indicators that let you arc shots over the waves. Aim past the bow and you'll fire chain shot that tears up the enemy's sails and slows their movement. Aim rearward and you'll find yourself throwing fire-barrels overboard, which serve as floating mines.
If you pulverise a vessel without sinking it, you can draw alongside and board by ordering your men to use grapple lines to pull both ships into a single battleground. Then you're free to charge the enemy deck by leaping between their interlocking masts, or with an audacious Errol Flynn rope swing.
It's an impressive technical feat, and one of the most exciting things I've done in a game this year. Considering the feature bloat of their recent games, it's a relief to see Ubisoft successfully bringing formerly disparate systems into coherent events like this. From Far Cry 3's plant collection and animal skinning to the pointless homestead-improving minigames of Assassin's Creed III, successive sequels have shipped with additional irrelevant systems while the existing ones have gone unrefined. In Black Flag such systems, like the economics model that lets you improve the Jackdaw, are far more worthwhile.
In the latter, you improve your weapons and armour using the materials and money you earn pirating. That lets you take on larger ships, which present different challenges at the naval and close combat level. Bigger ships come with advanced weaponry, and carry captains, crow's nest snipers and other tough enemies on board. As you commit more acts of piracy, your wanted level increases and you'll be pursued by hunter ships, notable for their ominous red sails. At the highest level, you can take on huge 'legendary ships' hidden around the map. It's a good economics system, designed to gate a series of escalating challenges, not to provide unnecessary padding.
Black Flag will try to waste your time a little bit, however. The ship upgrade system is good, but the sidequest that lets you send captured boats on missions around the world for monetary rewards is rubbish, supported by a painfully weak turn-based ship combat minigame. The near-future sections make an unwelcome return, and are more pointless than ever. The gormless Desmond Miles is gone. Now, in first-person, you wander around the smug offices of evil corporation Abstergo, as an employee charged with digging through Desmond's genetic memories for fun pirate moments to go in their latest entertainment product, an entertainment product, it's implied, that you are playing right now. It isn't half as clever as it thinks it is, but these bits only take up about five minutes every few hours of main-mission progression. Far Cry 3's crafting system has also been air-dropped in, which means you're obliged to hunt animals in order to skin them and use their bones to upgrade your gear, or add extra pistols to your body-holster.
That busywork is easily sidestepped in favour of the dozens of available alternative tasks. Much the same can be said of multiplayer, which returns in familiar form. As in previous editions, you can take part in up-to-eight player sessions that cast players in predator and prey roles. In predator mode you have to hunt players as they attempt to disguise themselves and hide in small city-block arenas, scoring extra points for exotic kills. As prey, you take up a hidden position and hope for the best. It's still an interesting idea for a multiplayer mode, but there aren't enough ways to bluff and counter-bluff opponents to keep it interesting for more than an hour or so, and more traditional modes such as control-point capture are too chaotic to sustain competition. There's a cooperative 'Wolfpack' mode as well, in which up to four players charge around killing labelled foes to add seconds to a rapidly expiring timer. The rush to murder enemies before your allies removes any coordination or finesse you might want to bring to each objective, which means you're not assassins, you're just a stabby mob. Multiplayer is a novel diversion for a few hours, but there's plenty more entertaining action to be getting on with in the singleplayer portion.
Whatever Assassin's Creed was trying to be in 2007, it's now buried under generations of feature creep, but that's no bad thing. Black Flag is best regarded as a collage of the games and technologies Ubisoft have cultivated over the past decade. There are strong notes of Prince of Persia in the platforming challenges of the archipelago's Aztec ruins. You can put on hunters' rags and travel the world in search of rare prey. The sailing is a great element unto itself. Some of these aspects have been bettered in other games, but by brute force, Black Flag's varied components merge beautifully to create rich and constantly interesting world.
When the tutorial section is done, the game sets you free on the ocean and places a distant objective marker on the western edge of the map. It took me four hours to reach that marker. I was drawn into a dynamic naval battle between British and Spanish forces. I navigated a storm and looted trade ships wrecked by its water twisters. I harpooned a bull shark. I docked in a curious little cove and got into a fistfight in a bar. Forget the Assassins, the Templars and their nonsense war. Loot, pillage and steal instead. The rewards are so much greater.
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Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
A gorgeous, relentlessly entertaining open-world piracy simulator packed with interesting 18th century rogues.
Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a smart, sprawling sequel that wisely places an emphasis on freedom and fun while trimming most of the fat that bogged down Assassin's Creed III's ambitious but uneven adventure.Why was AC Black Flag so good? ›
Black Flag isn't designed solely to satisfy returning players, but instead to elicit maximum player enjoyment from its rich setting and colorful cast. Black Flag liberates itself from its past, and thus stands as arguably the best Assassin's Creed game yet.How long does it take to beat 100% in Assassin's Creed Black Flag? ›
When focusing on the main objectives, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is about 23½ Hours in length. If you're a gamer that strives to see all aspects of the game, you are likely to spend around 60½ Hours to obtain 100% completion.Can you continue playing Assassin's Creed Black Flag after beating it? ›
If you want to play the game again it's absolutley mandatory that you sit through all 40 minutes of credits.Will there be a Black Flag 2? ›
The Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag sequel is absolutely massive, Ubisoft confirms.Which is better Odyssey or Black Flag? ›
Depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for a classic assassin's creed game that's arguably one of the best in the series, Black Flag 100%. If you're looking for Ubisoft's RPG copycat of Witcher 3 that you can sink hours into with a decent amount of fun, Odyssey.How long does it take to beat assassin creed 4 Black Flag? ›
4 Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag - 22.5 Hours
Fighting jaguars and crocodiles or a notorious group of pirates as the dynamic Edward Kenway makes the game well worth the playthrough. Completing this game will take 22.5 hours, even if fewer filler sections could've appropriately shortened its length.
#12 - The Worst: Assassin's Creed Unity (2014)What is the most violent Assassin's Creed game? ›
Assassin's Creed Valhalla
The most violent and bloody game in the saga to date, Valhalla took the long-awaited inclusion of Vikings to the franchise and ran with it, giving us a game with huge scope and a compelling story and antagonist.
It is likely that he expanded his skills after joining the Assassins, presumably blending martial arts techniques in with his style. Master Swordsman: Being trained by pirates and later, the Assassins, Edward was extremely skilled in the use of swords, even wielding one in each hand.
Assassin's Creed's Valhalla is the series' venture into Norse history and mythology. It's easily the series' biggest game; the average time to complete its main story is 60 hours, according to How Long to Beat (15 hours longer than the next biggest, Odyssey).What is the hardest ship in Assassin's Creed Black Flag? ›
In terms of difficulty the El Impoluto is probably the hardest of the legendries. It packs a nasty surprise: a huge naval ram. This ram can take out an entire health bar with one hit, so avoid it at all costs. The best strategy against it is to avoid the ram attack and smash her with heavy shots and broadsides.Can you get drunk in Assassin's Creed Black Flag? ›
A tavern can be found in Nassau. It's one of the first locations you will visit during the main story. Walk up to the bar and interact with the bottle to start drinking. You have to drink at least 5 times to pass out.How old is Edward Kenway at the end of the game? ›
10 Edward Kenway
During Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, he is roughly around 22 years old. He tragically dies at the age of 42 at his estate in London.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin's Creed Rogue take place before Assassin's Creed III, but portions of the past are not properly understood if you don't follow the order according to the official release.Is Edward Kenway based on a real pirate? ›
Edward Kenway is a fictional character, while Edward England was not. They may have used this pirates name and status as inspiration. Edward England was associated with all the same pirates that Kenway is, but we never see Edward England in the game.Is Black Flag a prequel to AC 3? ›
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a 2013 action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the sixth major installment in the Assassin's Creed series. Its historical timeframe precedes that of Assassin's Creed III (2012), but its modern-day sequences succeed III's own.What if Shay never left the assassins? ›
Shay at the time was respectful to the brotherhood as he showed manners to Achilles and wasn't so brash thinking and naive. If Shay never betrayed the brotherhood he probably would have been a master Assassin.What is the best outfit in Black Flag? ›
Captain Morgan's Redingote is by far one of the best-looking outfits in Black Flag. The attire will remind players not only of Captain Morgan but of the pirate captain caricature in general. The DLC mission to unlock the outfit is slightly underwhelming, but playing through the monotony is worth the effort.Is Rogue better than Black Flag? ›
Rogue has a better story and protag. You get your ship stuff faster and it's less of a grindy slog too. Assassins Creed Rogue has a stronger story, more tools and weaponry, a bigger world, and refined mechanics.
Fans are in agreement that Assassin's Creed Unity really set the standard in the franchise when it comes to graphics.What is the shortest Assassin's Creed game? ›
This game is the shortest Assassins Creed game with only 7 main memory sequences.What level is jackdaw in ac black flag? ›
In sequence 10, Black Bart's Gambit, aboard Nossa Senhor Man-o-war if you look at Jackdaw through spyglass you can see its level. If you've fully uprgaded the ship, it'll show level 45.Who is the scariest assassin in Assassin's Creed? ›
Ezio is one of the most popular characters in the entire Assassin's Creed franchise so it's no surprise that he takes the top spot as the deadliest assassin.Who is the weakest assassin in Assassin's Creed? ›
Arno himself has to be the weakest assassin ever in the series and his fighting is awful. He would get massacred by any assassin in the series if he locked horns with them.
Assassin's Creed 2 features a mix of stealth, combat, and parkour movements. The game is often considered to have some of the best parkour mechanics in the series.Which assassin has the most games? ›
Finally, we arrive at the most successful Master Assassin of the franchise, Ezio Auditore. He's so popular and iconic that he has the most Assassin's Creed games.Which assassin's Creed has the biggest map? ›
Origins, Odyssey, & Valhalla Have The Largest Assassin's Creed Maps. The first effort from Ubisoft in creating an open-world map that was suitable for an RPG, with Assassin's Creed Origins, comes in at the smallest of the three maps, with a reported size of around 31 square miles, according to Nexus Hub.Was Edward Kenway a templar or Assassin? ›
Edward James Kenway (1693 – 1735) was a Welsh-born British privateer-turned-pirate and a member of the Assassin Order.Who was the first Assassin? ›
Member of the Levantine Brotherhood of Assassins, Altaïr was the first historic Assassin introduced in the original Assassin's Creed game.
In the book AC: Brotherhood, Ezio would use a sword and a dagger at the same time while fighting. I'd say that, while Edward is the dirtier fighter, and a hell of a fighter himself, Ezio's more refined fighting gives him the edge. I'd say Ezio 7-10. If projectiles are allowed then it's Edward all the way.What is the longest game in the world? ›
What's the Overall Longest Game? According to HLTB, the crown for longest overall video game belongs to Melvor Idle, a Runescape-inspired idle/incremental game with an estimated playtime of 3,126 hours.What Assassin's Creed game takes place in the oldest time? ›
The earliest time period seen in any of the main games is in Assassin's Creed: Odysessy. Set during the 5th century BC, Alexios and Kassandra are the oldest playable characters who travel across Greece during the Peloponnesian War.In what order should I play Assassin's Creed? ›
Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and Assassin's Creed: Revelations (Ezio Trilogy) Yes, yes, Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and Assassin's Creed: Revelations are three different titles and should be played in that order.Does the jackdaw sink? ›
It is unknown what happened to the Jackdaw in the intervening years, but at some point prior to 1735, the brig had returned to the West Indies, where she sank off the coast of Hispaniola due to unknown circumstances. Its figurehead was later recovered from the wreckage by Adéwalé.Can you steal ships in Assassin's Creed Black Flag? ›
You don't have to battle a ship to capture it. Simply maneuver into a ship's path, climb out of the Jackdaw and board the enemy ship and you can kill its entire crew. Once this is done, return to your ship and you can pull up alongside it and capture it.Does Black Flag have cheats? ›
Once you complete enough challenges, go to the challenges menu on the pause screen. From there, go to the "cheats" section, and turn on anything you want. Remember, while cheats are turned on, the game will not save.Does Black Flag have Ezio? ›
Altair's, Connor's and Ezio's outfits can be unlocked by playing previous Assassin's Creed titles on the same Ubisoft account: Play one previous title to unlock Altair's outfit. Play two previous titles to unlock Ezio's outfit.Does Black Flag have Desmond? ›
Despite his death, Desmond remains a powerful asset for the Templars and Assassins in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.What assassin creed is in 2023? ›
Assassin's Creed Mirage will release on 12th October 2023. Alongside a glimpse at the gameplay features and world, the release date was revealed to us at PlayStation Showcase in May 2023 and lines up with previous rumours that the game was internally delayed from August to some time in the autumn.
Ubisoft has been very secretive about their development of the title since then, it was revealed that the game would make its debut in 2023. Assassin's Creed is a long-running stealth-action-adventure franchise that dates back to 2007.What year did Black Flag end? ›
Black Flag played its final show on June 27, 1986, in Detroit, Michigan. In his book Get in the Van, Rollins wrote that Ginn telephoned him in August 1986: "He told me he was quitting the band.How long does AC Black Flag span? ›
The latest game, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, is set during the 18th century and features the real pirates of the Caribbean, not the whimsical Disney take. The game's story introduces protagonist Captain Edward Kenway (the father and grandfather of protagonists in previous editions) and spans 1713-1722.Who is the oldest assassin in Assassin's Creed? ›
Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad (1165 – 1257) was a Syrian-born member of the Levantine Brotherhood of Assassins and served as their Mentor from 1191 until his death in 1257.Will there ever be a Japanese Assassin's Creed? ›
Assassin's Creed is finally going to explore Feudal Japan as its historical setting. The next mainline game in the series, currently named Assassin's Creed Codename Red, will come after Assassin's Creed Mirage and will be developed by Ubisoft Quebec.What will be the last Assassin's Creed game? ›
Assassin's Creed: Valhalla (2021)What is Assassin's Creed Infinity? ›
Assassin's Creed Infinity is not a new game in the popular stealth franchise. Instead, it is a hub from which you can hop into a series of different Assassin's Creed games, acting as an Animus (the device used to leap into the past canonically in Assassin's Creed) on your gaming platform.Will we ever get a modern day Assassin's Creed? ›
The franchise's modern day setting will live in Assassin's Creed Infinity. The next era of Assassin's Creed will see the modern-day storyline told through a separate hub, rather than interrupting the historical stories. That's the right move to make.What is the next Assassin's Creed going to be called? ›
Assassin's Creed Mirage will release on 12 October 2023, as confirmed during the PlayStation Showcase in May 2023. We only actually found out the name of Mirage in September 2022, following months of rumours and leaks.Why did Black Flag break up? ›
6. The reason for their break-up in '86 is unclear, but the band didn't like Rollins' 'fight violence with violence' philosophy.
Edward later married Tessa and had his second child with her: Haytham Kenway.What is the longest Assassin's Creed game? ›
Assassin's Creed's Valhalla is the series' venture into Norse history and mythology. It's easily the series' biggest game; the average time to complete its main story is 60 hours, according to How Long to Beat (15 hours longer than the next biggest, Odyssey).