Wot I Thimpressions – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

By Alec Meer on November 19th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

(The ugly portmanteau in the title is because damnable Uplay’s damnable cloud saves system destroyed and rewound over three hours of my progress, which has kept me from getting quite as far into Black Flag as I’d hoped. It also meant I lost a bunch of sea shanties, which was what upset me the most. Is this is Wot I Think? Is it mere Impressions? It’s both and neither. Isn’t that helpful? PS: in the name of all that’s holy, turn off cloud saves in Uplay before you start playing AC4).

It’s the best Assassin’s Creed yet! Which is 90% because Black Flag, a a third-person action adventure about pirates in the Caribbean, isn’t really an Assassin’s Creed game in the traditional sense, and 10% because the lead character is from Swansea.

I went to university in Swansea, you see. It’s a crap town if ever there was one, but I can’t help but be fond of it. Also it’s where I played Half-Life. AC4’s piratey protagonist Edward Kenway has an accent that appears to be on a cycling tour of the British isles, but when it does settle on a Welsh lilt it fits – it fits the rogueish, laddy character, and it fits this much more playful AssCreed. It’s a relief, after the dour AC3. I had thought that game’s joyless hero Connor (Kenway’s grandson, chronologically-speaking) wasn’t going to make any appearance in AC4, but then I realised that the ship’s plank was surely an homage.

Anyway, pirates. I suppose you could argue that they can loosely come under the definition of ‘assassin’, what with all the killing, but let’s not pretend this series has ever had much interest in what that word implies. The secret society and ancestor race bollocks which has made what should have been a light-footed tale tediously heavy is still in some evidence, but the vast majority of it has been downplayed in favour of Just Doing Some Piracy. This also entails an admission, of sorts, of what Assassin’s Creed games are really about – the pursuit of wealth and power, rather than justice and subtlety. This is a game about blowing up every ship that moves for its loot, finding every icon on ever island for its loot and hunting every animal, both on land and at sea, for its skin (i.e. loot). It is greed, it is the celebration of greed, and it is refreshingly unabashed about it. There is a redemptive narrative thread for good ole boy Kenway, whose jack the lad nature decreases somewhat as the game wears on, but really we’re all in it for the yo-ho-ho and the Master and Commander-lite naval battles and blowing up island forts and air-assassinating ocelots (that last is a real in-game mission objective, delivered with an impressively straight face).

While the controls are characteristically convoluted and in some cases discordant (for instance, the run button for on-foot mode becomes the fire cannons! button in ship-captaining mode, which causes no end of trouble), generally it’s a pleasure to take the wheel of Kenway’s ship, the Jackdaw. The naval component is clearly as much like steering a real boat as drinking vodka is like exercising, but even in its cartoonish ease there’s a satisfying weight to turning against the wind, a heft and chaos to unleashing a volley of cannonfire, and a ‘we’re the kings of the world!’ rapture to leading a boarding party onto a defeated enemy craft. When you’re out on the seas, it’s wall to wall destructive celebration. Press play on both of these at once, basically:


THE END.

In any just world, it would be, but I’m afraid I’ve got a bunch more to say. I might do a list, actually:

- I threw my toys out of the pram in the first couple of hours of the game, as it went straight into same old, same old roof-running, exposition and Infinite Tutorial. I’m still psychologically scarred by Assassin’s Creed 3’s approximately eight hours of telling me how to do things I’d already been doing for four previous games, and the thought that I was in for it again was unbearable. While AC4 is also about 50% tutorial, most of it is for new stuff involving naval exploration and combat, and in both cities and seas it lets you off the leash very quickly, even if it does sit you down and start teaching at you again once you return. This did mean I had to endure being told how to do several things I’d worked out for myself already – please, Ubisoft, make the tutorial in future games something we can outright skip if we want to. There is no Cosmic Law that says story and tutorial have to be bound together like this, and while I appreciate you don’t want to scare away series newcomers or people who are rubbish at games, this is not the way. Bad Monolithic Publisher-Developer With A Hundred Million Employees, Bad!

- It’s almost more Far Cry 3 On A Bloody Great Boat than it is Assassin’s Creed. The most unfettered joy comes from the single-minded pursuit/murder of assorted rare wildlife and methodical destruction of every enemy camp in order to unlock more of the map, only dipping into the storyline quests because you know they’ll probably unlock more of such things. Rather than enemy camps involving sneaking and disabling alarms and optionally releasing angry bears into the mix, here you sail up to a fort, bomb the hell out of its walls and artillery with your ship’s cannons, then go ashore, and carve your way through an all-out navy vs pirates battle until you find a couple of chief dudes, at which point murder, ho! The fort becomes friendly, and reveals assorted other points of interest/greed/murder in the nearby vicinity. Like every recent Ubi attempt at open world games, it’s very much a Cleaning Up All The Icons affair, but it’s a party rather than a slog, and unlike Far Cry 3 it isn’t laid low by a garbled attempt at an arch, self-defeating meta-narrative.

- The seas (in both sun and storm) and ships and islands are truly beautiful to behold, but the people still strive for uncanny valley-dwelling photo-realism that doesn’t quite work despite being clearly lavish and expensive. I’d love it if they could be a little more stylised.

- There is plenty of the more traditional landlubbing, free-running, target-following, floaty Achievement-hunting thingies stuff too, and you won’t go short if you that’s what you’re buying the game for, but the cities – e.g. Nassau and Havana – are a fraction of the size of those in ‘normal’ ACs. Most of the time Black Flag was as keen to get back to boating as I was, but occasionally it tries to force a game engine which was inexplicably never designed for it to do stealth missions. Tall vegetation which enables auto-hiding has been added in order to achieve this (and because there aren’t many houses or cathedrals on Caribbean islands), but crossing between two bushes for even a micro-second makes Kenway stand up in plain sight, like he’s forgotten where he is and what he was doing. The AI is designed to overlook such transgressions to a point, but there’s a great deal of pointless smoke and mirrors and over-complication going on just to save adding in a crouch button.

- The meta-game, the idea that these historical adventures are the virtual reality simulations experienced by a guy in the near-future, still exists, but with the divisive Desmond’s tale apparently having been resolved in AC3, this moves to a mute, unseen futuro-protagonist, played from a first person perspective. Who, it turns out, is basically a QA tester for Ubisoft, who have now made Assassin’s Creed about them:

Guh. Maybe there is a joke to be made there, but this telling of it certainly doesn’t bring any belly-laughs. Self-reference aside, the future-segments are far better realised and more baggage-free than before, and there’s some pleasure in scouring a game developer’s office for scraps of secrets, though inevitably it outstays its welcome when there’s piracy to be done. I’d still rather the series had the balls to be purely historical action, but this is a definite improvement on its continuity-bloated predecessors.

- In addition to treasure maps and cannon upgrading and rum-selling and whatnot, there’s a Moby Dick mini-game, which sees Kenway strip to his smalls and take a rowboat and some harpoons out to try and hunt the giants of the sea (and then turn their skin into purses and things). Lobbing spears at enraged sharks and whales is probably the most ridiculous aspect of the wholeheartedly ridiculous AC4, but also one of its most compelling: solitary man versus wild creature, in single combat. On a boat. Which you can upgrade. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” – no you’re not, you just need to spend three thousand sea-dollars on sticking some bits of metal to it.

- The embracing of a more overtly outlandish tone (from a historical accuracy standpoint this is pure pop, even by AC’s standards) has freed the game up to fold even smaller features into some kind of in-game purpose rather than just bitty panacea for completists. For instance, the floating letters and pages on rooftops are no longer for nebulous achievements and unlocks, but to add a new sea shanty to your crew’s repertoire of rowing songs. Why? Just because sailing across the high seas accompanied by a chorus of melodically bellowing men sounds and feels awesome. Sea travel rarely takes long, as your ship moves cartoonishly quickly and handles agreeably easily, but the closest the game has to downtime is a couple of minutes of singing’n’sailing, and it works well.

Best AC ever, then, but while the nuts and bolts of the series are in there – and again it’s still an icon-chasing game – it does feel more spin-off than sequel. If the series is playing for time before it has to truly rethink and expand upon near-exhausted systems that it has relied on for the best part of a decade, this is a splendid way to do it, and after four over-similar, increasingly flabby games in a row, Hey Ho Let’s Go was very much the right response. I’m not sure it could get away with it again, though.

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is released on PC tomorrow in North America and Friday in the UK. Perhaps it takes its lavishly-rendered oceans so seriously that it thinks they somehow exist on the internet. Oh, and a reminder in case you forgot during the last 1500 words: Uplay is awful and unreliable and do not on any account allow it to cloud-manage your savegames. Settings-General-Uncheck Enable Cloud Synchronisation before you play even a moment of Black Flag.

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92 Comments »

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  1. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Are there qte’s? Far cry 3 without qte’s, or turret sections, or mission areas… That would be nice

    • SteelPriest says:

      I like turret sections!

    • Shadow says:

      Cuties? Pirates must have them cuties.

    • Jonas says:

      If you get attacked by an animal, there’s a two-step QTE for fending it off, but if you’re stealthy enough at hunting that won’t happen. It’s the only QTE in the game.

      • Spoon Of Doom says:

        That kind of animal-fight-QTE has led to an experience in AC3, which was part funny, part annoying and which I like to call The Infinite Bear Loop™.

        I was running through the woods, molesting all kinds of animals and killing them for loot on the way (and in the game, durr hurr hurr). When I came to a river, there were two bears there, one of which attacked me and thus triggered the Bear Battle QTE. After I pressed X to not die and kill the bear instead, the other bear was in range and immediately attacked me, triggering another QTE. I pushed the button again and successfully survived the double bear assault, but by now apparently another bear had spawned right there, which again attacked me immediatly after the end of the last QTE.

        This process went on for five or six bears, at which point it dawned on me that the bears will not let me go that easily. If they couldn’t best me in QTE battle, they would bury and suffocate me under their corpses, if they had to. After each QTE, there was a short, blink-and-you-miss-it time window in which Connor could be pursuaded to listen to my controller input before the next future bear corpse was flung at me. So I tried to move, making about an inch per bear, in a desperate attempt to free myself. After another six or seven bears, I actually made it and was far enough away to run without triggering another fight, and a feeling of pride, joy and personal achievment rushed through me.

        I chose to believe that this was all planned by Ubisoft; a powerful, metaphor for breaking free from the daily routine and achieving personal freedom. Since that day, I’m not sure if I love or hate QTEs.

        • Grargh says:

          Heresy! None can challenge Horace, the Endless Bear and live to tell the tale!

          • Spoon Of Doom says:

            I’m pretty sure it was Horace’s retarded cousin Bob, so no worries.

            Also, I totally would have made a reference to Horace myself, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name at the time of writing.

  2. GamesInquirer says:

    How is the performance? I found 3’s performance uneven to its crummy looks.

    I was quite excited for it too, thinking it would be the equivalent to Metal Gear Solid 3 with all the hyped features. Little did I know it would be among the worst in the series.

    By the way, is the fighting still all about exploiting counter aka win buttons with no skill? I don’t understand why every modern game is copying that too, from Batman to Sleeping Dogs.

    The first Assassin’s Creed was quite assassin-like, for me it’s a shame that instead of improving it they kept moving further and further away from it. I blame it all on the criticism for its lack of variety. You have your variety now, all the mini games, collectibles, gauges, xp and icons, I hope you’re happy.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Performance is solid and it looks utterly gorgeous on the highest settings. Sadly, my creaking rig can’t maintain such settings, so g’bye god rays.

    • bit.bat says:

      AC3 was weird for me because performance did not seem to improve at all when playing around with the settings making the game unplayable in towns. I wonder if this is true for this one as well.

      • GamesInquirer says:

        I’ve been reading the GAF AC IV performance thread and it seems that settings do make meaningful impact this time, with environmental quality set to the highest having the biggest effect. It apparently adds Tomb Raider style tessellation to the environment. It’s said it still doesn’t perform as well as you’d think so say goodbye to 60fps unless you have a seriously beastly PC but it should at least be better than III. For some it isn’t. We’ll see, I guess.

        • tyren says:

          The in-game Vsync setting murders my framerate. I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to be a common problem. I had to download D3DOverride and use that to enable Vsync. (I tried doing it through my AMD drivers but the screen tearing didn’t go away, not sure what’s up with that.)

  3. Dave Tosser says:

    We ought to have some version of what Destructoid called ‘Wolpaw’s Law’ for DRM. Namely, if a game’s intrusive DRM makes it clear it doesn’t want you to be playing it, you don’t play it.

    • montorsi says:

      Install the game, set Uplay to offline mode and the DRM ceases to exist in any meaningful form.

      • Rukumouru says:

        Except the one that matters, being in your hard-drive, polluting your system for absolutely no good, justifiable reason.

        • tetracycloide says:

          I wouldn’t say that’s the ‘one’ that matters are there are obviously other ways that matter too but it’s a worthy consideration all the same.

    • The Random One says:

      But this DRM wants you to play the game! It wants you to play the game so much that it’ll delete your saves so you’ll can enjoy the opening all over again!

  4. skullBaseknowledge says:

    moby dick? sold.

  5. marlin says:

    Wallet… untroubled.

  6. S Jay says:

    So the protagonist in the near future works for Ubisoft? Looks like someone’s brainstorm joke got into the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      It is pretty much that. Including snarky commentary on really odd design and casting decisions in this and the ficticious game.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      They have completely jumped the shark.
      After needlessly remaking Assassins Creed 2 several times, and in the process letting the one interesting part of Assassins Creed as a franchise – the in-the-future-plot – fall into quicksand and slowly suffocate, they’ve now completely killed it.
      There is no way in hell any future plot (if they ever tried to go back to it) would have any kind of gravitas after turning it into a bad joke with self-insert mary sue publisher fiction (a world first?).

      • Nenjin says:

        I can’t say I loved the meta-plot of the AC series…..but I vastly prefer it to Ubisoft breaking the 4th wall and thinking it’s funny.

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          The sections are just farcical.

          “OH, hey guys? You know what would be good? If we take the player out of the massive Caribbean playground and have him work in an office!”

          • DodgyG33za says:

            Another reason to give this a miss. As if Uplay and interminable tutorials hadn’t already done it for me anyway.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Seems to me that what they’ve done is listen to people saying “stop it with Desmond already and let me have fun!”, and they’ve set up a pretext for that and have had a self-deprecating poke at the same time. All good news for me.

        I mean, look, they’ve killed off Badname and have turned the Animus into an entertainment product. How is that not an improvement?

        • Premium User Badge

          FriendlyFire says:

          I’ve seen some of the sections and I find them amusing. Self-deprecation, poking at their own stuff and in-jokes. I don’t see anything wrong with that, and it’s definitely more palatable than the hurr durr serious business of the past entries.

        • S Jay says:

          Certainly they could have had nothing instead of that? Like “ok, this time no future shenanigans, you are the assassin, have fun”

          • dE says:

            The big book of re-using art assets clearly states, that all art assets must be re-used for as long as possible.^1,2

            1 – In case the art assets reach a critical state, it is necessary to apply first aid. Please locate your nearest Sharpen Filter and Shader Smoothilator.
            2 – If the first aid does not work, you’re required to re-animate the lifeless art assets by forcing them into position by any means necessary, we can’t let ethics hold us back. You are to use pixel pushmancy and coverup techniques. In case you lack the necessary skill, please see our marketing department for special training in the latter.

      • tormos says:

        I see that the rose tinted spectacles are strong with this one. the AC meta-plot has long been the worst thing about the series, and virtually any change to the formula (including this one) is quite welcome.

        • Nenjin says:

          There’s no reason they couldn’t have closed the past plot line, and started a different one that also isn’t like “Durrhurr, Ubi is Abstergo!”

          I don’t mind self-deprecating humor. I mind when it clashes with the actual storyline I’m being presented. Say what you will about the previous plot line, at least it and the game story were in alignment.

      • belgand says:

        I know it wasn’t terribly popular, but to me the Desmond plot was the only thing that kept me going to complete the first game. It was just a mess of dull, unpleasant, repetitive missions with uncreative assassinations that required no planning, thought, or, though the game wanted to disagree, investigation/research to accomplish. I’d just trudge through a mission and keep waiting for a chance to get back to Desmond and read a few e-mails to find out what was going on. That they didn’t even bother to resolve it was entirely unexpected, but it sounds like they more or less dropped it in the future and from what I played of ACII while they improved the actual gameplay they cut out so much of the Desmond plot that it was effectively ignored as little more than a mediocre framing story to explain why you have an interface everywhere.

      • The Random One says:

        For me, Ubisoft is my favourite big publisher exactly because they’re willing to pull weird inane shit like this. You wouldn’t see a CoD level in which the Russians are trying to bomb Activision HQ due to their dilligent assistance to the US army’s PR efforts. They’re willing to try to do stuff no one else would do, and it falls flat on its face more often than not because it’s a slow juggernaut of a business that flattens all creative expressions with its very breath, but at least it’s aware of that and it tries.

        Besides, since AAA games have the plot equivalents of schlock B-movies from the sixties, I enjoy it when they are deliberately stupid instead of just stupid. I can see that at least someone inside Ubi is having fun with this.

  7. airtekh says:

    Nice to hear. Assassin’s Creed is my annual guilty pleasure.

    Any big changes to the multiplayer does anyone know?

  8. Mr Bismarck says:

    So you’re saying vodka isn’t exercise?

    What about rum?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Anything that makes you sweat is exercise. Therefore whisky is the healthiest of boozes.

  9. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    Truly, Andrew WK makes everything better.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Arathain says:

    I’ve never played an Assassin’s Creed game, and I don’t think I’ll be picking this up either, but nothing makes me want it more than ‘unlockable sea shanties’. Brilliant.

  11. Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

    It’s too bad they didn’t just make a proper pirate game. Instead they try to cram a square AssCreed peg into a round seafaring hole, which leaves me uninterested in both.

    • pepperfez says:

      “cram a square AssCreed peg into a round seafaring hole”
      Oh dear.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    I went to Swansea Uni too! Both as an undergrad and for a Master’s degree. Did you also study English?

  13. johnxfire says:

    After the (in my humble opinion) terrible, terrible AC3, which, even at 50% off wasn’t worth it, I’m probably going to actively try to avoid AC4. Which is a shame, as I loved AC and AC2-the-Trilogy.

    • dongsweep says:

      It is a lot better than 3. I loved all the AC games and was disappointed by 3. I wasn’t going to get 4 but then buying a PS4 necessitated that I try it and I am glad I did, I am truly enjoying it. This is coming from someone who hates collecting things in games, for some reason I actually enjoy it in this one.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        3 bored the hairs from my head. I’m actually now bald.

        4 is a smack in the face with a fun hammer (and a free toupee).

  14. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    Any one ordered the Thief DLC?

  15. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    [I AM A GENERIC INTERNET IDIOT]

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Why the brackets?

      • tetracycloide says:

        He’s trying to say that’s why other(s) were saying with their comments but it’s unclear who exactly or for what reason and therefor doesn’t have an impact. 1/10 condescension.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Dingbatwhirr says:

    The combination of Master and Commander and Party Hard was a glorious one. I shall write to the relevant persons forthwith and demand a new director’s cut with a revised soundtrack composed primarily of Andrew W.K. songs.

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    Gap Gen says:

    The protagonist better be the Welshest. I better hear the word “boyo” once a sentence or I’m setting fire to everything.

  18. Stratovarius says:

    Fun fact, the day it releases in Europe is the same day Edward Teach (Blackbeard) was killed 295 years ago.

  19. pilouuuu says:

    This is great news, especially after AC III. Even the future stuff seems too be better and we finally have a likeable main character again.

    I wish they build on what works in the future and create a next-gen Assassins Creed, with more realistic cities, better townies, better stealth, etc. They really need to update the game. But whatever they do, please keep sea navigation. It is the best feature ever!

    This is like Sid Meier’s Pirates 2013 and it’s much more amazing because of that.

  20. Jimbo says:

    Sounds a bit rubbish really. I tend to like Ubisoft games, but their insistence on moving everything towards the ‘Clear the map of icons!’ school of design is starting to wear thin. If the story is going to play second fiddle to stacks of padding activities, I’d rather they’d just drop it entirely and make it more of a Pirates!-esque simulation where you just have the world and go make your own fun in it.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      Depends, really. Is it padding if the activities are actually fun?

      I mean, shooters are all about shooting bad guys for 90% of the time. Is it padding to add new levels if the shooting is enjoyable?

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Shooting is an integral part of shooters, so I’m not sure how that comparison is appropriate. Ubisoft’s insistence on appealing to ADD “gotta catch ‘em all” gamers arguably detracts from the overall narrative in many of their games. I’m thinking of AssCreed and Far Cry 3 in particular.

        On the other hand, it made Driver San Francisco a whole lot more fun, so there’s that.

      • Jimbo says:

        That’s fair, if it’s just an excuse to do more of the thing the game specializes in and assuming that thing is fun, but Ubisoft have a habit of just throwing any old shit in. More often than not the side activities in these games consist of a selection of busy work (hunting, herb gathering, collectables), dumb mini-games, or a poor attempts at some other genre (eg. terrible racing).

        Those things are ok in moderation, as the occasional palate cleanser to break up the primary gameplay type/s, but Ubisoft are increasingly relying on them to make up the bulk of their games. It’s just easier to do that and rely on the compulsive nature of clearning the map of icons -coupled with the obligatory XP/upgrade/unlock pat on the head for doing it- than it is to design actually good gameplay which people will feel compelled to play just for its own sake. They’ve stopped concentrating on improving the bread and butter gameplay of their franchises and are compensating for it by just throwing more and more junk activities on the map.

  21. PopeRatzo says:

    Every year, I read reviews like this and lay out full price for a new Assassin’s Creed, which I look forward to and then tire of before I get close to finishing the story.

    I’ll probably do it again this year, but not today, because today…today I play Need for Speed: Most Rivals. Hoping against hope that Criterion has at last made an updated Burnout Paradise – with Cops.

    • Premium User Badge

      welverin says:

      Rivals is by Ghost Games, so I’m going to go with no.

      • Rukumouru says:

        Listen to this man, PopeRatzo.

        30 fps hardlock (non-unlockable, fps is tied to game speed so it would play in fast forward) and a metric crapton of unskippable bollocks every time you fire up the game.

        Go watch TotalBiscuit’s take on Rivals. You’ll see.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      Prepare for disappointment :-(

    • realitysconcierge says:

      Prepare for disappointment :-(

  22. Soleyu says:

    Speaking about tutorials, it would be quite interesting, or shall we say far far better than what we have now, if the game would track what things exactly you have already done, and skips those.

    So if the game detects that you have jumped quite a few times, then no jumping tutorial necessary, same with all other systems, but of course, you could check them later if you need them.

    That way the game could keep it’s flow if you know or don’t know how to play.

    Because right now? all tutorials are basically insulting the intelligence of every one, what with the repeating of everything, and to hell with that.

    • Aiun says:

      The tutorials trigger a touch of dissonance. It’s always kind of amusing when you encounter scenarios like when you’ve cleared out every fort across the map, revealing all its sections, except for one stubborn section which refuses to uncloak… because it’s tied to the fort-taking tutorial mission.

      • Soleyu says:

        I hate that, it breaks the flow of the game immensely, and it’s so, so stupid. It’s one of those things that frustrates me to no end. It’s one of those things that I feel insults my intelligence, and hell, if you are giving the players enough freedom to explore the game, at least take into account something like this.

    • Rukumouru says:

      This… Is actually pretty damn brilliant.

      Noted for future game design endeavors. Thank you very much, kind sir.

      • Soleyu says:

        Quite glad you like it, and I hope it serves you well.

        Now, if you would allow me to elaborate. Being an aspiring designer as well, though one with a long way to go still, the idea came to me a while back, and even tough I have not been able to implement it into a game yet, I do have been thinking how to best make it.

        To that effect, I would give you two recommendations.

        First, it’s important that the game tracks the number of times the action has been done and skips the tutorial only when it has been done more than once. That way if someone did it by accident and does not know how exactly he/she did it, the tutorial would still trigger.

        The second recommendation would be to give quite a few chances to use that ability before the actual tutorial starts. This is because, even if you know how to do an action, if you have no incentive to do it again, then you would not use the move all that much, therefore triggering the tutorial instead of skipping it.

        So let’s say one of your abilities is, let’s say, a wall jump. Before the part of the game where the wall jump is absolutely needed, where the tutorial should start, there should be a few things you can see in the level that look interesting, like optional loot, but the only way to get to them is with the wall jump. That way the ones that know how to use it, would go and get the loot, thereby proving that they don’t need the tutorial and those that don’t know how to use it, if enterprising enough, would try to figure out on their own how to do it. So only players that really need the tutorial would be the ones that get it.

        As an aside tutorials should only trigger when the ability the tutorial is trying to teach, is absolutely necessary to advance, no sense in bogging down and boring players teaching things they don’t need.

        I hope I didn’t bore you with all this, I tend to speak/write a lot when it comes to things like this. In any case, again, I’m glad you like the idea and hope it will be useful to you in some way or another.

  23. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    I am really, really unsure about this one — AC3 was bloody awful, and the only one in the series that I haven’t completed. Tutorial for three hundred years, and then when it actually lets you do things, most of those things are really dull, not helped by the main character’s one emotional state being ‘surly teenager’. The comparison to Far Cry 3 worried me too, despite suffering from kind of the inverse problem; it started out pretty interesting, and then when it gave you actual missions to do, they were rubbish, especially the stealth aspect whereby if one person so much as caught half a second’s glimpse of your shin, all five hundred of his mates immediately knew your exact position.

    In short, not much confidence in Ubisoft games of late.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      After that game I decided I was pretty much done with the series. It just wasn’t delivering what I wanted from it anymore..

  24. Scumbag says:

    The main question: All in all, how many trailers did it have?

  25. realitysconcierge says:

    I miss the potential of the first game that they gave us. That conspiracy and figuring out how best to assassinate people just seemed like such a sublime concept and now we’re here. It makes me sad.

  26. jonahcutter says:

    I’ve generally fallen pretty strongly onto the ninja side of the age-old ninja vs pirate dynamic. So somehow, at least personally, it’s fitting that as AC has moved further away from ninja-like stealth assassination gameplay and more into pirate-like spectacle and swashbuckling gameplay, I’ve found it increasingly tedious and boring. I haven’t managed to finish one since Brotherhood, and even that felt like a bit of a chore by the end. If not for the charm of Ezio, I may not have made it. It’s really unfortunate that the quality of his character’s design and writing is the exception, and not the rule, for the series’ protagonists.

    It literally is pirates at this point. Just the idea of laboring through the map-clearing and no-skill-required fighting makes me feel tired. It’ll be more efficient to watch a few minutes of a couple Let’s Plays, to experience the spectacle of the ship battles, old-man-versus-the-sea shark-hunting, and absurdly out-of-place hooded assassin costume the protagonist will wear in the sweltering tropical heat, than to invest actual playing time and money whilst inevitably giving up well before the halfway mark.

    It’s questionable whether this will even qualify as a GoTY Edition-sale purchase, depending upon the unlikely event that I’ve managed to whittle down (and not actually add to) The Eternal List of That Yet To Be Played.

  27. sandineyes says:

    Ugh, now I just don’t know what to do. AC3 completely ruined all goodwill the series had earned from me with AC2. Somehow the controls were even worse than before, the trading and shipping mechanics were not even well explained (at least they weren’t for the part I got to), and insistence on showing every single significant historical event with very little in between just made me lose interest. It was an absolutely frustrating experience and I gave up after about 8 hours (after I missed a homestead event in that big wilderness that I hated travelling around). And now you tell me, after I had sworn off the games, that this new one is the best ever? I’m just not sure I’m ready to give the series another chance.

  28. racccoon says:

    Great review. the thing I don’t get is what really has Assassin Creed to do with a straight up follow up of time! 3 to 4? makes no sense!
    I believe the company should of just made a Pirate stand alone game and been done with their fetish and fever for it, Instead of placing AC in this. The story seems to of back-fired into what is seen as a cult following PIRATES! Placing AC in it was a loss that would of greater been planted into the Last one as one great package. I see no point in this silly cult move into a Pirate game following the AC storyline. This was a bad mistake story-wise, they should of just created a PIRATE game! with no silly house jumpers and high peak PEAKERS.

  29. E_FD says:

    Can I wear a pirate hat instead of that stupid hood?

  30. jonahcutter says:

    Btw, the Andrew W.K. with Master and Commander is quite ridiculously, hilariously brilliant.

    Starting the song at the 31 second mark of the vid results in some pretty decent timing. Yes, I nerded out and played around with the start timing several times… :P

  31. Caiman says:

    Gah, my wife would love this game (hell, the entire AC series), except she hates the shitty modern day / sci-fi whatever gubbins that surrounds all the historical stuff. Are there any mods out there that remove it?

  32. Premium User Badge

    Xantonze says:

    Played about 10 hours of this. First 3-4 hours are great fun, then it starts to get really samey.
    The re-use of assets and boring missions (eavesdropping again, really?) is appalling. Even the gorgeous environments start to look copy-pasted after 3 hours in.

    First impressions tend to be good because the game looks truly gorgeous and the seafaring part is nice (for a while…then you realize it’s so dumbed down that skill has nothing to do with it, only grinding for upgrades), but this is a 30 hours game where aside from the sailing, you do the same boring stuff you’ve been doing on repeat ever since AC1, and it suffers from the same terrible handling on foot.

    If you’re tired of the lazy AC formula, avoid like the plague, or turn off after a 3 hours round cruise of the seas.

  33. bstard says:

    Its maybe wishfull thinking I dont read those ‘l’s in the subtitle.

  34. KenTWOu says:

    turn off cloud saves in Uplay before you start playing AC4

    People, don’t listen to this guy! His solution won’t help you in all possible situations. Because Uplay save game management just sucks, so BACK UP YOUR ENTIRE SAVE GAME FOLDER (c: Program Files (x86) Ubisoft Ubisoft Game Launcher savegames [username]) from time to time. Or after another update Uplay will stop synchronize your saves for specific game, partially delete your saves when you’re trying to reinstall it, change save game subfolder for whatever reason but won’t synchronize it properly like it did for Steam version of Splinter Cell:Blacklist recently, stop read/update/create saves in offline mode, rewrite your current savegame with savegame with zero progress…

    So remember, BACK UP YOUR ENTIRE SAVE GAME FOLDER manually from time to time, especially before downloading the next Uplay update.

  35. Shawnious says:

    Whoah, everyone should know about this game, I’m going to SPRAY PAINT THE WALLS

  36. Funso Banjo says:

    “Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is released on PC tomorrow in North America and Friday in the UK. Perhaps it takes its lavishly-rendered oceans so seriously that it thinks they somehow exist on the internet.”

    It’s out now in the UK, we’re playing it right now on uPlay in Britain.

    Get your facts right. “Journalist”, yeah, right.

  37. Eight Rooks says:

    Yup, pretty much the writeup I expected. And pretty much the frothing pit of snakes in the comments section I expected, too.

    But then I’m speaking as someone who really liked AC III despite all its very obvious flaws – it was miles better than quite a few big-name AAA games over the past couple of years. Never had any real problems with stealth – it was obvious it wasn’t good enough to get all the optional objectives done without a great deal of swearing on occasion but this and other reviews made it sound as if you couldn’t even approach an enemy from the rear without doing handstands while bashing saucepans together with your feet or something. No such frustration for me. After the screaming about the tutorial I was pleasantly surprised to find out I quite liked the first few hours, and Kotaku’s piece on the final story mission just felt ridiculous. Took me maybe three attempts, it was over in about three minutes in the end, job done. Compared to some of the similar things other games have expected me to do it was laughably easy. Despite Connor’s general attitude of being a sourpuss and the Forrest Gump-isms I also liked the story, overall – far, far from the best I’ve ever played but still far more poignant and genuinely thoughtful than Bioshock Infinite (blech). How many other games have the courage to basically say “Yeah, all that trouble you just went to? All for nothing. Didn’t count for jack. Doesn’t human nature suck, eh?”.

    So yes, four or five hours into Black Flag and it’s taken the best bits of AC III and the very few good bits from the awful Farcry 3 and made them prettier and better to the point where merely running around cleaning out the map and Looking At Things is an absolute joy. So you keep your “Tish, pshaw, I don’t play videogames to do this“, thanks, folks, if Ubisoft keep turning the sequels out at this level I’d still buy them day one, and any improvements will just be gravy.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      “Yeah, all that trouble you just went to? All for nothing. Didn’t count for jack.” I’m not trying to troll or cause a riot, but that quote sounds pretty much like the ending of Mass Effect 3. Fully aware that hate on the internet, no matter how large it grows rarely speaks for everyone, I doubt that many who played it appreciated that Bioware had the courage to do that. I know that you weren’t talking about ME3 here and perhaps AC 4 did it in a better way, but I still couldn’t help but notice the similarites.

  38. Grargh says:

    “Is this is Wot I Think? Is it mere Impressions?”
    It is… meer impressions!

  39. Damien Stark says:

    “air-assassinating ocelots”

    aaaaand skipping the rest of the review, adding game to cart, shoving dollars at my screen…

  40. ACgamer says:

    After watching all the game trailers and actually playing the game, I must say it was everything I expected. Aside from the multiplayer which I didn’t really like, everything else was spot on.. http://assassinscreed4blackflag.org/

  41. Incision says:

    The save game fiasco is NOT Uplay. It’s the game code.

    Here’s how to spot it: The in-game save icon will keep spinning and WILL NOT go away. When that happens, quit your game, because your saves have just stopped working.

    Disabling UPlay cloud sync will NOT help you.