Pricking A Pirate’s Conscience: Back In Black Flag

By Alec Meer on November 28th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

This doesn’t happen to me too much, given the siren call of the virtual stack of videogames that wobbles atop my mental to-do list each day (oh woe is me, etc), but I keep finding myself drawn back to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. In a ‘secretly looting Spanish frigates when I’m supposed to be working on something else’ sort of way. For several days I have attempted to keep this hidden from my colleagues for fear of getting an earful, but it’s time to come clean (and at the same time at least vaguely justify my clandestine nautical habit): I have a piracy problem.

I’m surprised by this, and at myself. I’ve had a turbulent relationship with the Assassin’s Creed series, which is best demonstrated by this infographic:

Or more professional words to that effect.

In short, I was resigned to the fact that Assassin’s Creed had become Call of Duty – my sense that this was the Massive Great Mainstream Action Behemoth That Could was all but eroded. Black Flag is different, even though it’s as guilty of recycling technology and concepts as any other game in this self-cannibalising series, and even though the reason I keep going back to it is at least as much to do with Blizzardlike compulsion to upgrade endlessly as it is how well-realised the pirate fantasy is. I don’t like it, or myself, for that: I know that some reptilian set of cells deep in my brain responds to having short-term rewards forever dangled in front of me, and I know that Black Flag is exploiting that as consciously as does the most malevolent Zynga game. I’d feel better if I just put the game down and sneered at it from a distance.

But the reason I don’t is because I’m not simply pressing a button, being given my treat and then desperately hitting that button again. I’m taking the wheel of a pirate ship, I’m travelling across very pretty and sometimes ominously turbulent seas, I’m spying a British or Spanish brig or frigate or man o’war from a distance, I’m lobbing a mortar at it from about 500 feet to get its attention and soft it up, I’m prepare for ramming speed, I’m – THUD – ramming, I’m – BLAM BLAM BLAM – unleashing multiple volleys of cannonfire at its side, I’m – yo ho ho! – leading a boarding party from my boat to the other boat, to a soundtrack of fire and smoke and I just feel like the king of the fucking world.

The game’s doing everything it can to make this happen – I realise that too. I realise that it is catering to me rather than challenging me, that this is a test of how much time I want to put in rather than how much effort or skill I can. I realise that I am being fed a power fantasy, rather than anything meaningful or that stretches my ability to learn or to co-ordinate between my eyes and my hands. I realise also that, despite any praise I might bestow on the graphics’ realisation of broiling waves or the controls’ dependable sense of heft and force for ship-handling, I spend so much the game looking at the mini-map, and its smattering of icons and casual-friendly red-for-danger colouring.

Just as in recent GTAs and Saints Rows and Sleeping Dogs, the mini-map is all, the supplier of the drug I come to these games for. It tells me where my great hunger can next be sated, and I go there because there is an icon there, rather than because I truly believe there will be some great happening, the seed of some great anecdote I will relate to others. There won’t be: there will a conflict or a brief climbing puzzle, and I will be given a reward. That reward might be enough to upgrade my ship’s hull or cannons or ram, or perhaps give my character a better pistol or more effective sleep darts, but whatever it is I won’t actually savour it. I’ll use it as a step to reaching somewhere else, defeating some more fearsome enemy, and the greater rewards that will then result.

That’s what even the briefest moment of analysis and self-reflection tells me. If I think about what I’m doing I feel guilty, I blame myself for wasting time and performing the same actions time and again with no ultimate purpose behind them. But my eyes and my heart and my blood tell me something different, because however much one might sneer at the sky-high budgets and preposterous resources Ubisoft throw at these games, here there’s an almighty pay-off once I arrive at my destination and take my eyes off that damned mini-map.

Much of it is in the animation and sound, I think, for underneath it all pulse the same, mechanical systems that have been the foundation of this series’ every instalment. In Black Flag, there’s so much on-screen activity for what could have been distilled to just a couple of key-presses – repeatedly shoot cannons at ship, press button to board ship, repeatedly shoot all the men, press button to tear down flag. But here that plays out as a very convincing sense of hauling several tonnes of shuddering wood and metal across a treacherous sea, the world shaking and choking as a couple of dozen cannons lob their dread loads towards a foe that bears down like an oak juggernaut.

I’m just shooting another faceless enemy with a gun that’s slow to aim, snarls my inner realist.

No, I’m the commander of a pirate ship, in a pitched battle on the high seas in which anything could happen, fighting through a haze of fog and smoke and sulphur and splintering wood, retorts my inner fantasist. Listen to my crew, as they call ‘captain’s saltin’ himself!’ when I dive off the edge of ship, or cry ‘captain’s aboard!’ and cheer when I return. Look at the way my quartermaster respectfully moves away from the wheel as I approach it. They all live for me. They all worship me.

‘Pfft, mere routines. It’s got nothing to do with you or what you’ve done’, the realist snaps back.

‘The plank for you,’ says the fantasist with a grin. ‘Introduce him to Davy Jones, boys!’

Both are correct. The look, sound and feel of Black Flag sells the fantasy, makes it corporeal, and while this is as guilty as any game of being the bitty pursuit of icons, that MSG kick for more, more, more, here I’m happy to be smoke’n’mirrored by its lavish appearance, by the couple of dozen different, dramatic ways I appear to stab dudes with swords, even if the reality is pressing the same couple of buttons. Boarding a defeated ship is a giddy highlight every time – essentially simple forward motion propels me onto a rope, which swings me automatically and heroically towards the other vessel, like Luke’n’Leia in the Death Star, and then I plunge downwards, landing with my swords planted neatly into someone’s back. I HAVE ARRIVED.

More animation, more smoke and mirrors as my crew battle its crew, neither side achieving a great deal (snarls the inner realist), but there’s so much activity, so much going on, and I’m in right in the middle of it, having a whale of a time stabbing and shooting and climbing up masts and making barrels explode and tearing down British and Spanish flags. It’s all so ridiculous, clearly, but Black Flag sells every moment of it.

There’s so much that doesn’t work, or at least grates, about the Assassin’s Creed games: the hours-long tutorials, the aggravating follow missions, the self-obsessed, lost-to-its-own-lore sci-fi meta-narrative, and most of all a control set that tries to second-guess the player but frequently gets it wrong and throws them off a building (or mast) they’re trying to climb up. So much of the game needs rebuilding from the ground-up, rather than recycling into sequel after sequel. I’m amazed that putting another layer on top of this succeeded, but it did. The inherently slower nature of captaining a ship rather than a man on foot reinstates the precision that the free-running system often undermines.

And as I’ve said previously, the roleplaying concept is much stronger: you’re a pirate, a lad who’s fallen sideways into the war between Assassins and Templars, and filthy lucre rather than justice/revenge/duty is his goal. That adds logic to the endless pursuit of icons and loot, and it assuages my guilt: it’s OK, I’m not being a time-waster, I’m being a pirate! And a pirate’s hunger for more wealth doesn’t end.

As, at present, doesn’t my own desire for more loot, more boats, more icons, more upgrades, more micro-adventures that make me feel like I’m somewhere else, someone else. Someone with a South Welsh accent, a pair of swords, a suit made from cheetah hide and a dicky moral compass. The game’s doing its very to ruin this escapism with a narrative that slowly forces more of a conscience onto me, and more of an active role in the bullshit ancestor race backstory that blights this series, but I’m doing my very best to ignore it. So far, it’s working. Icons ahead, cap’n!

, , .

55 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Anti-Skub says:

    My AssCreed infographic is pretty similar to yours, only shifted to the right one place, with the original game sitting at the mid point and the second game at the peak with the other games on the downward slope and Assassins Creed III sitting somewhere in the 7 circles of hell where satan is forcing the damned to play the same game over and over for eternity.

    • Ollie32 says:

      Im making over $7k a mℴnth working part time. I kept hearing ℴther peℴple tell me hℴw much mℴney they can make ℴnline sℴ I decided tℴ lℴℴk intℴ it. Well, it was all true and has tℴtally changed my life. This is what I dℴ……….

      http://www.Jobs81.c­ℴm

      • benzoate says:

        …gold-farming in Asscreed III?

        I know, don’t encourage the spam…

    • Shadow says:

      Personally, I believe what makes AC4 better is the addition of much-needed variety, in the form of the significant naval side. It’s otherwise mostly the same mechanics, but the new elements delay the feeling of repetitiousness considerably.

      And yes, while I find the concept of the First Race interesting, exploring it so thoroughly, across so many games and especially via that utterly superfluous modern pseudo-metagame is terrible. I wish they’d drop it altogether for the next AC, but at this point it’s become a pillar of the series, with everything looking like a glitchy simulation, the (de)synchronization BS and all that.

      • Blackcompany says:

        Agreed.

        This series would be far, far better if:

        -They drop the sci-fi meta-narrative
        -Loosen up the mission structure. Just give me the target/goal, and let ME figure out HOW I want to accomplish the goal
        -Forget “eavesdropping” ever existed as a mission type. Seriously, this makes escorting walking NPC’s look positively appealing

        All things considered though, I am rather enjoying the game. Its rare I buy a game this early on, for this price. Rarer still that I’m happy I did so. And I have no regrets here, all things considered. I just hope Ubi learns something from the mission rating system.

  2. Premium User Badge

    lowprices says:

    Don’t do it Alec, piracy is why PC games are dead!

  3. Komutan says:

    All those icons on the mini-map, constantly nudging me to complete the side objectives… I get tired by just looking at them.

  4. Conrad B Hart says:

    Well, this article is exactly how I feel about Payday 2. At last, I’ve managed to put it aside for a while. But I was stuck in a terrible hamster wheel of grinding through Rats, Firestarter, or Ukrainian Job, always looking for the next upgrade or perk. But when Payday 2 works, oh boy does it work: I just smashed the glass, put a quick bullet through the closest guard’s throat, cable-tied some civilians and made off with the loot. Oh, and here I am with my friends holding off against impossible odds, supercharged policemen dropping like flies and I’m moving purposefully through these dilapidated houses, switching weapons and calling out targets, ducking back to reload every now and then… it’s a grind, but my brain gives me that rush of adrenaline anyway. It’s enormously addictive.

  5. Creeping Death says:

    My inner realist knows better than to try and show up when I’m playing games.

  6. MrStones says:

    Why oh why can i not get those shanties out of my head. I’ve spent practically all week wondering what should be done with the drunken sailor or telling everyone about how I dreamed a dream the other night (Looow-laaands, low-laaands awaaaayyyy).

    Definitely one of the most atmospheric games I’ve played in a long time, the sound design on the ship is just amazing.

    • Premium User Badge

      Snidesworth says:

      The shanties transform what would otherwise be a tedious slog across the map into a high seas adventure. As you said, the game totally sells itself with its atmosphere. The only disappointing bit of sound design I’ve come across is the slow motion finishing kill bits, which just make the animations look janky and replace satisfying sword sounds with weird whooshes.

      • AngusPrune says:

        Not if you’re a fan of Folk Rock it doesn’t. You just end up wishing that version of Poor Old Horse was performed by the Albion Band, or that this was the Ups and Downs performed by Steeleye Span, or that Over the Hills and Far Away were performed by John Tams. I’d pay any amount of money if they actually had vocalists who really belt out the songs, not just mew them pitifully. Also, even more money if they went full UBIsoft and made a minigame in singstar mould where you had to join in with the singing.

        • yurusei says:

          Because every pirate was a professional and accomplished vocalist that sung with perfect intonation and timing, otherwise it was Davy Jones’ Locker for them, amirite.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Snidesworth says:

    I’ve been absorbed in this over the last few days myself and it it’s utterly mesmerising. Ship battles never get old thanks to the spectacle, but mechanically it’s also a good deal more interesting than the on-foot stuff. I’ve evaded cannon fire by hiding behind islands and roiling waves, battered down a fort as twin waterspouts tore through the sea around us and escaped from a swarm of Spanish ships in the midst of a ferocious storm. The movement and the occasional presence of land means you’re constantly thinking about what direction you’re heading in, whether you’ll be exposing yourself to enemy fire or finding yourself almost slowed to a halt by sailing into the wind. Boarding also makes the combat shine better than it does elsewhere; the chaos and tight quarters make for short, frantic skirmishes. Also kicking people over the rails is endlessly entertaining.

    The game also does a better job at stealth than before. The tailing/eavesdropping missions are still pants, but then they’ll give you an area to sneak and murder your way through and it’s good fun. Still suffers from clunky stealth and really dumb guards, but it’s enjoyable.

  8. meepmeep says:

    In all the years of gaming, no-one has yet made a decent high-seas simulator, and this is the closest thing yet.

    We all want to be pirates.

    • DuneTiger says:

      I disagree. The Sea Dogs series (morphed into Age of Pirates) is an excellent high seas simulator.

      • Premium User Badge

        Xantonze says:

        Age of pirates 2 + combined mod = awesome!!!

        • Prokroustis says:

          How does it compare to Sea Dogs 2 (for some reason named Pirates of the Caribbean)? I remember loving that game.

  9. eQuality_Ninja says:

    Another stonkingly good article, Sir Alec of the Meer.

    Can we take this as a recommendation?

    • Shadow says:

      It seems to be a bit of a guilty recommendation.

    • Premium User Badge

      P7uen says:

      Hear hear, it’s great to read about the joy (guilty or otherwise) of something you want to play, regardless of if it’s in the mountainous inbox or not.

  10. Geebs says:

    How to make yourself sad after playing an AssCreed game: go back and look at the original reveal trailer, way before the first time your first thought on hearing about Future Desmond was “well that idea sounds shit”, and think on what could have been.

  11. Ultra Superior says:

    Abstergo challenge completed:

    Alec Meer addicted.

    • Blackcompany says:

      This is odd. My brain read this in the voice of the “You have died and respawned” Hyperion Robot chick from Borderlands 2.

      Which made it utterly hilarious, for some inexplicable reason.

  12. dE says:

    I have a feeling I may find myself getting this game some time down the line. If only for the whole piracy twist. The assassin stuff, I’ll happily ignore at the best of my ability. But damn will I enjoy the ship.

  13. reticulate says:

    The sea shanty side missions really sold it for me. You hear a couple of those, and you suddenly want every one of the damn things.

    It’s a game that has often frustrating mechanics but sells the pay off so fucking well that it doesn’t matter.

    You’re a goddamn pirate and there’s all that ocean and all those booty-laden ships you can shoot right up and board and now I’m trying to find contract missions to make the cash to upgrade my ship and catch more shanties on the wind and oh god it’s like Farmville for the Action Adventure Game set. Your crew sing their songs then you lay out mortars on a distant Man ‘O War laden with cash and then you’re in the thick of it and the music swells and it’s all fucking great to look at and maybe a storm kicks in and then it’s giant (GIANT) waves and trying to aim cannons over the crests and jesus effing christ it’s addictive. Then you fast travel to a friendly harbour to sell your booty and when you get back on board the crew cheer you.

    They distilled it almost right. Almost right enough that I’m addicted.

    Also: look up the soundtrack on Youtube and tell me that doesn’t want to make you pirate all the seas.

  14. Amnesiac says:

    I’d still rate the first as my favourite of the bunch.

    The more improvements that they make the further away it gets from what I want. An interesting historical setting rarely seen in games and assassinating people from the tops of buildings.

  15. DuneTiger says:

    The thing that gets me about this game is that – if reports are accurate – Patrice Desilets was making this piratey game for THQ before they collapsed, Ubisoft took him back in, stole all his stuff, then unceremoniously walked him out the door. Then Ubi decided to tack on all that stuff that Desilets was working on into an AssCreed game. I have already given up on this series, but from accounts of friends who have played it, they all say a similar thing – it feels like two games. There’s the excellent pirate game that everyone seems to love, and the same old AssCreed crap that Ubi has been churning out of their sweatshop for the last few years.

    Maybe I’m totally off the mark on how I understand how things went down. Anyone care to enlighten me?

    • Blackcompany says:

      I won’t claim to know how things went down. Though I hope that’s not quite how it happened.

      On the whole “two different games” thing…yes. Yes, it does feel like two different games. And the Pirate one is far, far better than the AC game shoehorned in here. And there’s the rub of it; this doesn’t even feel like an AC game with pirate bits shoved in. To me it feels like its the other way round: A pirate game with Assassin’s Creed rubbish needlessly shoved in at the last moment in a desperate attempt to justify making a pirate game.

      Which, as it turns out, doesn’t need the justification. Seeing as its the better of the two ventures included here – by a margin so wide its not really worth measuring. Its just a lucky thing that the AC bits don’t drag the rest of the game down far enough or often enough, or for long enough at a stretch, to ruin the gem of a pirate game.

      Hopefully, Ubi’s next foray into “Mini-AAA” will be an open world/sandbox pirate game on this engine. I dare say it would sell quite well. Don’t even bother with a narrative. Just the land and sea side contracts and the pirate bits.

      • DuneTiger says:

        Well that’s what makes me sad about the way I understand how things went down. If that is exactly what happened (and it may not be entirely true), I lament for the game that Desilets was actually planning because it sounds like whatever piratey stuff he was working on worked very well. Without having to tweak it for AC, it might have well been the pirate game that everyone’s wanted. So far, for me, nothing has really dethroned Sid Meier’s Pirates! and that’s not even a sim, but I have always enjoyed a good piratey romp. The last good one I played outside of Pirates! was Age of Pirates 2, but it has its flaws and can be very clunky (but the open-sea warfare is very awesome and Master and Commanderish).

      • Jimbo says:

        ‘Needlessly shoved in’ as far as the game itself is concerned perhaps, but probably not ‘needless’ in terms of the game being commercially viable. It would have been hard to justify throwing this level of resources at a random pirate game, so having the AC brand painted on to it isn’t that high a price to pay if it means the game actually gets to exist at all. I do think that if it didn’t also have the AC side of the game, people would quite reasonably complain about the pirate side being so barebones.

        Hopefully now that they’ve established this as a thing people want, they will be able to justify spinning the pirate side off into its own fully developed thing while also trying to get the AC games back on track. The city-based AC games did need a break, but they’ve had that now and I’d expect the next AC to return to a major city. I think being able to alternate between Pirate Franchise and AC Proper each year would be a big advantage for them in terms of stopping everybody getting sick of these games.

      • Hungry_Horny_and_Loaded says:

        I also feel the pirate game is the better one.
        And the pirate game’s name is SID MEIER’S PIRATES!

      • Shadow says:

        “I do think that if it didn’t also have the AC side of the game, people would quite reasonably complain about the pirate side being so barebones.”

        I agree. While great, the naval side of the game wouldn’t stand on its own without significant enhancement. The sea bits are quite plain, the upgrades dull and the action repetitive after a while (all in true AC fashion) for a proper pirate game. Sid Meier’s Pirates! comes to mind as an example of such, with many ship types, wind actually being a factor, meaningful upgrades beyond shoot more, damage more, resist more, and higher complexity in the naval battles themselves.

        But I should stop talking, lest I wake up my inner realist and convince myself to stop playing when I’m actually having a good time despite everything.

    • reticulate says:

      Desilets was part of the THQ buyout in 2013. Assassin’s Creed 4 was in production for about two years before this time, and they lent their ship engine to to the AC3 team in order to make the side missions that were the highlight for just about everyone.

      He was working on 1666 for THQ, but that was after the Ubisoft Singapore team had started a pirate game.

      I don’t agree with how he was kicked out. The guy clearly had an eye for design, and frankly Ubisoft would have been a better studio for keeping him. But the idea of a ship-based AC game was not stolen from him – it had been in development for a while before he was bought from the THQ firesale.

      Edit: It’s worth pointing out that Ubisoft are pretty much a 24/7 development studio. They have their frankly massive joint in Montreal, then throughout Europe, then into Asia. They have people on code every hour of the day. It’s the reason they can do Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Tom Clancy out of the same “studio” and still ship games. This isn’t even getting into all the other stuff.

      Ubisoft does not work on some standard model of game development.

  16. Jimbo says:

    I liked AC 1 & 2 well enough but I thought Brotherhood was brilliant. Easily the pinnacle of the series for me. Revelations was a waste of everybody’s time and AC3 was just dire.

    AC4 doesn’t quite reach the heights Brotherhood did, but it’s a pretty impressive return to form I think. A little more ‘game’ behind all of the gorgeous environment and endless icon clearing and it’d probably be the best so far.

    What still sets Brotherhood apart I think is that it had the gorgeous environment and lavish production values going on, but if you were disciplined enough to stick to the optional ‘100% Sync’ objectives there was actually a pretty engaging and challenging game to be had there as well. It was clear that those objectives had been carefully thought about and it was like there was this whole other (better) game going on there that most people wouldn’t even experience. It really offered the best of both worlds to both sides of the audience: a more involved game, without alienating the mainstream audience who just wanted to Rambo through every mission.

    AC4 still has the optional objectives, but they’re pretty half assed here in comparison to Brotherhood, clearly just thrown in to encourage the player to mix things up a bit rather than in a deliberate attempt to craft a more challenging experience.

    • reticulate says:

      Anecdotal, but Brotherhood actually helped me navigate the bits of modern-day Rome I wanted to visit. It’s condensed, sure, but plant me on the Palatine Hill with nothing other than knowledge of the area but a videogame, and I could still make my way around.

      Same goes for AC2 and Florence.

  17. Premium User Badge

    HighlordKiwi says:

    Someone should really take AssCreed’s excellent animations/visuals/sounds for sailing a ship and fighting people… and then make an actual game out of it.

  18. EOT says:

    I had zero interest in AC4 until this week’s Bombcast informed me that it had collectable sea shanties.

    That’s all that was required to sell me on it. Now I just need to finish (well, start first I guess) Brotherhood.

    • Jimbo says:

      The sea shanties are a brilliant touch. It’s a shame they hid them behind the most frustrating ‘fight the janky controls’ mini-game.

    • reticulate says:

      You will try and find every one of those bastard music note mission markers, trust me.

      It might be the most effective attempt at motivation for a gamer, ever. Climb all the viewpoints, find all the music notes, chase all the shanties. Your crew will thank you.

      • Blackcompany says:

        The game could be nothing but this, pirating, harpooning, side contracts on land and sea, and upgrading my ship and hideout…and it would not only still be my favorite game, but probably a better game for what was removed.

  19. Hungry_Horny_and_Loaded says:

    For everyone feeling like they’re chasing icons and staring at the minimap: turn off the hud. Seriously, give it a spin, you’ll be surprised.
    You’ll find yourself actually using the binoculars to peer around and scan the horizon.
    There will be one downside tough: for every icon that you actually want to chase you will have to tab into the map and put your marker on it; Which can get a tad tedious.
    However, the in-game icon that guides you will be a lot less immersion-breaking than the minimap, and like the review sais, immersion is the bread and butter of this game and turning off the hud will only improve it.

    On another note, I also feel like there’s two games here molten into one.
    I also feel the pirate game is the better one.
    And the pirate game’s name is SID MEIER’S PIRATES!
    ACIV didn’t copy the entire formula of the Pirates! series, but the parts it did copy are exactly the same.
    The ship upgrades,
    the sea roaming,
    the treasure hunting with the help of maps,
    the sink the ship for flotsam and survivors vs board it mechanics,
    the collect the mayan puzzles and combine them for sweet treasure side quest,
    even the assassination side missions: hunt down this guy hiding at that port, sink that ship, board this ship, it was all in Pirates!
    Part of what makes Sid Meiers game so great is that it is mainly sandbox; a challenging sandbox (swashbuckler, anyone?) With the optional objectives driving forth the main story + side stories; instead of “upgrades”
    And losing didn’t mean “desynchronization” it set you back in resources, but the game continued
    (You would lose your ship/ get shipwrecked on an island/ have to pay a fine/ be imprisoned/ get mutinied upon …etc.)
    One of the great things that got copied where the immensely challenging but rewarding “legendary ship” challenges.
    All the actual assassin’s creed gameplay feels kind of glued on. The Main cities in the game are almost optional, how much time do you actually spend there when completing the story unless you go off chasing collectibles? In the previous AC games they were at the heart of the stories: the very places and people you were protecting, not this time around. (Nassau seems to be a place the main character cares about and wants to protect, but someone somehow forgot to mention that to the player.)
    What i shouldn’t complain about because it’s mostly opinion, but am going to anyway, is the lack of realism in general.
    *Sail into the wind? No problem.
    *Carefully aim a broadside? Why? My crew can reload the cannons faster than i can reload a pistol.
    *Worry about incoming damage? No need. So what if they splinter a bit of wood on my ship, my crew, cannons and masts are cannonball-proof.
    *Crew vs Crew? Nah, the men fighting aren’t really fighting it’s just a meter going down and environment filler for me to complete my boarding objectives in.
    *Boarding objectives. (Would be fine if there was actually a morale meter that would go down when taking out the captain, flag, etc.. but there isn’t. I hear you thinking: didn’t you just say earlier a meter is a bad thing? Well this is morale, it’s present but intangible representing it as a meter makes sense; crew on the other hand would be better represent by, i dunno, actual crew?)
    *The fact that there are ONLY military ships sailing around (and they don’t come in many variations, either.) Nothing stirs the inner pirate more than spotting a hapless spanish treasure galleon on a desperate errand sail into range. Seriously, where did all the merchants sail off to? Why are there only five kinds of ships?
    *Now to sum up the swordplay: m1 m1 m1 m1 E! m1 m1 m1 m1 m1, oh a big one! space m1 m1 m1 m1. Enough said.
    Now if you’re thinking: you’re asking for way too much realism! Just watch this:

    now don’t you feel silly?

    In all honesty, i enjoy this game a LOT (the best fishing simulator, ever), but whenever i’m savouring one of the awesome features they implemented from Sid Meiers Pirates! i’m reminded of the ones they didn’t. And it pains me to think how great this game could have been with just that little bit of extra layer. Don’t tell me coding a simple trade driven economy simulating AI, or a morale based AI with different behaviour based on merchant/military is a lot of hard work for a team that coded AI driven on-the-fly calculated nav-mesh for shipboarding.

    • socrate says:

      Quite frankly i find the game horrible its just a big in game cinematic game the entire game is based on it looking good with in game cutscene or uninterruptible killing animation that take probly 90% of the game its just one big illusion but then again gamer today lack brain cell so i guess removing control and making you feel good by pressing 1 button with 0 skill is a good thing these days.

      45% of the storyline was a big tutorial still you would think after so many AC game they would drop that…but no

      also this being near 2014 and having no physic or destructible piece on a game that push ship battle in this age when age of empire 3 had it show how retarded this generation of gamer is at and how we can get away with crap like that and still sell load of game to a generation of gamer who would buy any kind of crap at this point that is overhyped and give you instant satisfaction at 1 push of a button promp….seriously all i was doing was watching a health bar go down…hitting the masts add a “STUN EFFECT” actually you dont even have to actually hit it you just hit with the chain ANYWERE..WTH…seriously…

      and like Hungry_Horny_and_Loaded said you’re crew reload your cannon in like 1 second its just weird and take like 1 sec to down a enemy ship…and boarding is like he said again just a big timer bar that goes down…its really a boring experience and i really don’t get how people can see through all that simple mechanic and enjoy the “game” if you can call that a game really.

      its also extremely sad that AC series tend to render people even more dumb in the domain of history and ends up doing the same things hollywood does and end up misinforming gamer at how history was in a time where stuff were actually really interesting…but i guess drinking pirate and yarr dee arrr arrr and stealing rum is more interesting i guess.

      oh and lets not forget the fact that a company that as been extremely aggresive toward pirating is now making a game about pirate..not that they are related or anything…not like they are making a game about hacking either.

  20. Logeres says:

    I wish they would get rid of the 100% sync objectives. In a well-designed game, the player sneaks because it makes the game easier and gets him more rewards. In the AC series, on the other hand, you sneak because the game tells you to, even though you could just slaughter your way through the whole garrison without much trouble (or at least less trouble than the damn controls give you during sneaking).
    I know that the sync objectives are optional, but years of gaming have given me this almost OCD-like obsession with side objectives. Not fulfilling them is just immensely frustrating for me.
    For me, the AC series really shines the most when they just give you an objective and let you figure out the rest yourself, like with the warehouse raids; you can sneak, and it gives you a nice money bonus, but you can just sabotage the bells, or kill the soldiers before they ring the alarm, and get the money anyway.

  21. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    So here’s the thing: I know Revelations is a useless cash-grab, and that AssCreed III is more of the same. And I want to play Black Flag.

    But…I stopped at Brotherhood. And I’m one of those people who can’t skip forward in a story, even if that story is awful and stupid. So I feel I have to slog through Revelations/AssCreedIII first, and who has time for that? Me, when I am in a particularly self-hating mood.

    • Jimbo says:

      If the story were only awful and stupid I might agree that you should play them anyway, but the truth is that whole over-arching story has a effectively been given up on now. They limped through AC3 with it, clearly had no idea how to continue it in AC4 and so just didn’t bother. They don’t care about that story at all anymore and neither should you.

      It’s about as important as being up to date with the Elder Scrolls lore before jumping into Skyrim.

  22. The Random One says:

    That graph makes a shape suspiciously like the Assassins’ logo. Maybe Ubi’s approach is even more meta than we could fathom.

  23. lordfrikk says:

    If AC is the new Call of Duty then everything is okay with the world IMO. The series probably made the best use of recycled technology, I don’t feel like I’m paying the company to erase the previous number and slap on a new one with a coat of polish. Some of the games have been steps back but despite that Ubisoft never made the same game twice, they always changed the formula a bit and Black Flag is so much different yet so familiar.

    I wish the series a long life and Ubisoft energy to improve and change the formula with every installment.

  24. AngusPrune says:

    The thing that really epitomises Black Flag for me, and the thing that really made me angry when playing it, is that all the treasure maps have coordinates on them telling you exactly where the damn treasure is, making the actual picture on the map supremely pointless.

    It just underscores that this game was made for lazy morons. Even Wind Waker, a game which I’m sure was intended for a younger audience than a game about murdering thousands of innocent sailors (who are all unaccountably marines, not seamen) trusted you to match up the location in the map with overworld map. Has the intelligence of the gaming public regressed so much since then that a simple treasure hunt is now frustrating rather than enjoyable?

    • Darth Grabass says:

      The default settings for the HUD are cluttered and redundant, and yes, it can feel like it’s catering to the lowest functioning player. But it’s customizable of course, and the more you remove, the more you are drawn back into the environment and you begin noticing all the visual cues that replace the mini-map. And then you feel like you’re playing a game made for smart(er) people.

      • AngusPrune says:

        That maybe so, but too late. I’ve already found something worse about this game to hate. I’d say SPOILERS, but who am I kidding? (Hah. KIDDing.)

        Ever since Captain Kidd was introduced and marked as an important NPC, I’ve been unable to enjoy any of the plot. It’s just been one constant drumbeat of “Oh, god. That’s a girl, and inevitable love interest. Please don’t do this awful thing. Please abort plot thread. Please don’t do awkward game romance. Lets pretend this never happened, that he’s just a bloke who is voiced by a woman due to lack of British people in Canada.”

        Now I just got to the “shocking” reveal, which considering her disguise is worse than “Bob” from Blackadder, wasn’t very shocking at all. And it was every bit as bad as my imagination painted it. I thought she was going to kiss my character at one point, which would have caused me to quit at once, but she was only threatening to cut my balls off… which is… better? Question Mark? Ye gods, this is dreadful.

    • foop says:

      I’ve uncovered about three treasures now using the maps. I’m pretty sure that if I had to locate the islands from the treasure maps by cross-reference to the main map, I’d not find a single one.

      That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an entertaining challenge. I just don’t think I could do it with the map interface as it stands.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Borodin says:

    You know what? The sad thing is that this is just an accident of popularity as far as Ubisoft are concerned. They will learn nothing from the success of this release, and keep failing to understand the difference between good games and bad ones. They have learned nothing from the actual successes of the companies they have bought out and absorbed, and callously assume that all that is needed is a famous brand name for a product to do well. Ubisoft is a company of ignorant and unimaginative accountants who want a formulaic approach to making a profit. Expect to see a slew of pirate games now, because that’s clearly what the market wants.

  26. tetracycloide says:

    My asscreed graphic would flat-line at AC:II when they introduced that horrid DRM and I stopped giving Ubisoft money for anything ever. Until From Dust which they super swore wouldn’t have DRM… but then surprise it did! Seriously, fuck Ubisoft. I know they altered the DRM later so that it didn’t require a constant connection but (correct me if I’m wrong) you still have to signin to UPlay each time you want to play the games. No thanks.