Arrr Matey, are ye hearty enough to read me first review, or are ye land lubbers to drunken on rum? As you could probably guess from that, if you didn’t read the title, I’m reviewing Ubisoft’s latest sequel in the Assassin’s Creed series, and it went down as well as a sunken frigate. The game came out last year, mid-November, so if you’re interested then it is definitely worth the money. Alas Matey’s, all hands on deck as we sail into the briny waters of this review.
So, without giving too much of the story away (SPOILER ALERT!!), it is set in the mid-seventeenth century in the age of piracy, where the seas of the Caribbean were shared between the British, the Spanish and privateers, all fighting each other. The protagonist of the story is a young Welshman by the name of Edward Kenway, who like most seafaring boys at the time, wanted to live a life of prosperity and happiness through the life of pirating but it isn’t that simple and one vigorous sea battle he gets thrown ashore with an assassin, and the story begins. Along the way you fight alongside with some of the most notorious pirates of the Seven Seas, swashbucklers like Blackbeard and Benjamin Horningold. Also, if you have played some of the more recent AC’s, you will also admire the new style of the modern day gameplay parts, where you will be surprised that the majority is based on hacking and is also all in first person.
As I played through the story, I got the feel of how Edward is controlled and he is by far the smoothest and most responsive character to be controlled yet, with a lot of the free-running shining whilst chasing those annoying shanties, or trying to chase down a courier who looked at you funny. As with all AC games, everything you see Kenway do is all handmade, no silly morph suit with snowballs stuck on, but there will always be those glitches where he jumps to his death much to your anger, or decides to run up the same wall three times. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably about as close as you can get with the introduction of being able to slide under different types of obstacles and whole new ways to scale buildings. The fighting is a lot more fluent as well, with the counter move clearly giving you the four choices of what sadistic way you want to kill your feeble foe, and the addition of two swords and four guns at once makes for some pretty interesting and awesome combinations, and if you’re lucky, you may even make a few double counter kills. The silent and ranged combat is also more useful in this one, with the introduction of a blowpipe, which allows berserker darts and sleep darts to be used, silently taking out those keen-eyed watch tower guards., and a silent kill with the hidden blade now means you can keep your momentum more fluently after the kill.
On land isn’t the only style of gameplay, it makes up 60%, the other 40% is at sea with your first mate and your loyal crew. You gain, as you go through the story, a brig with the name of the Jackdaw which you can upgrade as you progress. The upgrading system works by gaining valuable resources like metal and wood either from storehouses or by capturing and sinking other boats out at sea. The sea battles have upgraded massively since AC 3, with the use of mortars, heavy shots, fire barrels and a ram at the helm of your ship. You can identify ships with the use of a spyglass, destroy them with your powerful weapons and then leave them to the mercy of the sea or your crew, which brings me onto capturing ships. When boarding a ship, you get five shots with a swivel gun then you can rope swing onto the enemy ship where an objective will be waiting for you such as tear the flag down or destroy the ships powder reserves, along with a kill objective. Not only do you go aboard, but your crew do too, or sometimes as I have seen, they rope swings right across the whole enemy ship, leaving some hilarious results.
The oceans are yours to explore, along with many different results such as storms to pass through, waterspouts to dodge and rogue waves to avoid. The exploration on the game is massive, and unlike AC 3, it is available right from the start. On land you can traverse jungles, villages built on water, Mayan ruins and desert islands. The variety of side quests is unbelievable, with some older ones being included like assassin contracts and collectibles like chests, but new ones have been introduced such as naval contracts, treasure maps, collectible shanties for your crew to sing and animus fragments. After a while, some of these will begin to take their toil though, some of the assassin contracts get repetitive, and the shanties become frustratingly quick to catch, but there is always something else to do if you get bored of one thing. Hunting has been reintroduced from AC 3, allowing you to craft those ever important health slots and pistol slots, but this time from things like whale skin or shark skin, as harpooning has also been introduced making a very Far Cry 3 esque style of hunting. Diving underwater in massive submerged mini-missions is also a brand new feature which has its novelty at the start, but after you start running out of air too often, attacked by sharks you didn’t even know were behind you or bitten and stung by several eels and jellyfish, the novelty wears off and turns into straight up anger. I would rate this though as one of the most expansive and free roaming Assassin’s Creeds yet.
The online has become a massive feature as well, with the release of the internet based Xbox One. Uplay has never been more in use in a game, with you being able to participate in community challenges, special events and leader boards, and this is just in single player. Along with this, they have introduced a sort of mini-game called Kenway’s Fleet, where you have your own fleet of ships that can do quests and battle for you, much like the past games where you had your own assassin army at the tip of your fingers. The multiplayer part has also expended hugely, having its own story and the customisability being the biggest yet with you being able to set traps for other players and the tutorial being the most involved so far with its own storyline and special target for you to assassinate. The old game modes are back, such as wolfpack mode and some new ones like The Game Lab mode where you can create your own game type, all with new and exciting settings to play in and new ways to annihilate the opposing team with new character and weapons. The DLC that has been released and is said yet to be released also looks like you get the bang for your buck as well, with a new storyline featuring your old friend and right hand man Adé.
Overall, through some of the glitches and annoyances this game has, the game time you will play just form the exploration side of things will be worth your money, not to mention the interesting and historical storyline, the links to past Assassin’s Creeds, the all new multiplayer modes and the fluent and comprehensive gameplay. If I’m honest the Assassin’s Creed before, number 3, wasn’t the best, so if you didn’t enjoy that, don’t be put off because this one is miles better, and if you are a fan of the entire series then I really see no reason not to buy this game. So, get ready to board the Jackdaw and become part of Kenway’s crew you scurvy seadevil’s, as you plunder gold, cannon ships and get ready for the sail of your life.