Assassin’s Creed IV: The Review (Of A Casual Gamer)

December 8th, 2013

—- If you haven’t finished the game yet, do not read this post. It will contain a lot of spoilers!!! —-

Today I finally finished the latest chapter in the AC franchise and now I have few things to say. First of all, let me set the scene. I’ve always been a huge fan of the franchise! AC is the reason why I bought my first console, and it’s also the only game that I buy new without waiting for a bargain on the used market.

Now, let’s dive into the game!

For many aspects, AC IV has been a real surprise for me. They are getting better and better with the open world interaction and this time with an entire ocean available, it was really fun! Going around boarding ships and stealing treasures gave the game and incredible longevity. This level of interaction is for sure what intrigued me the most.

Unfortunately that was the only good point of this game.

From a story point of view, I find it really hard to made it fit into the other AC chapters. This time you play as Edward Kenway the pirate, a selfish man trying to find fortune for the seas, that happen to stumble upon the never ending fight between Assassins and Templars. Initially he only wants what’s best for him, not paying attention at the repercussion of his actions over other people. Then suddenly after visiting the Assassin’s village, guided by James Kidd/Mary he start a journey of “redemption” going after all the Templars on his way.

The problem for me was that Edward side with the Assassins, but he could have sided with the Templars very easily. This time there is no sense of fighting for a “greater purpose”, there’s no saving the world or preventing an impending disaster, there’s just a guy guided by pure greed and then eventually revenge.

In this chapter you are also a bit more active in the “present” world. Unfortunately you never say a word and you never see your character. After losing Desmond at the end of AC III, you are now a faceless person wondering around the Abstergo tower. The present gives you the opportunity of “hacking” into some computers, rescuing various pieces of intel. Oddly enough you can learn more about the connections with the previous AC storyline from these bits and pieces rather than from the game itself.

Even when you briefly see Juno, the monologue is vague (and surely hints at a future return of the Gods from the previous generations) and doesn’t add any real value. The same can be said by the attempt of murder of the modern-day Sage, driven by jealousy but still not easy to connect.

Going back to the past, one other element that was disappointing for me was the definition of the locations. The first two chapters (and their expansions) had always a great focus on the cities: Rome, Florence, Venice, Istanbul were gems; perfectly portrayed in the game. It was fun to explore but there was also a sense of reverence toward the impressive work that made this possible. From AC III the attention shifted more toward the open-world: Connor had a gigantic forrest while Edward had the Ocean. Despite being technically challenging (even more than a static city), they were created with the same modularity of a city. After some exploring in the forest you could find the same group of trees allowing you to make the same kind of stunts. If modularity can be camouflaged in a city, in an open nature it definitely stands out more.

In AC IV the attention definitely shifted away from the land, concentrating mainly on the water. The experience of steering a ship is incredible, the dynamic weather and all the effects are spot on, but as soon as you put foot on land, all the magnificence is gone. All the small islands are almost identical to each other, while the bigger cities offer less fun the before.

Before signing off, I need to discuss the finale of the game.

If you have read this post so far without having finished the game (even if I told you not do it), now it’s really the time to leave because there’s a major twist coming your way.

The second after Edward kills the last Templar a letter is given to him from one of the Assassins: his wife in England is dead and her daughter is coming from England to find Edward a go back home.

Yes, Edward is leaving all the blood and the Brotherhood’s Creed behind to go back home to be a good dad. While this ending is very sweet and very family oriented, again there’s no room for that in the AC saga. Once again the selfish side of Edward is revealed.

Then the final scene in a theater in England is just perfect. An older Edward with a new son, a young guy trying to make a move on the daughter that gets upsets because she’s called with the father surname that she rejects….wow…

So, what can I say to summarise? I liked the new dynamic in the ocean and few additions to the game play experience (like the new killing-moves), but I totally didn’t see the fit for this story in the bigger framework of the franchise. If it was just a pirate game it would’ve been almost perfect, but because it was a new AC I don’t feel I can give it a good overall judgement.

Seeing an older Edward at the end of this game made me think that he’s not going to be there in the next chapter. Also I’ve heard the news that Ubisoft is thinking of spinning-off the pirate theme to its own saga.

Both signs of a possible bright future and a return to the roots of Assassin’s Creed.