Well I’ll eat my hat… I really wasn’t expecting Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag to be much fun after refusing to complete Assassin’s Creed III on the basis that I didn’t sign up for a pirate memory game. I remember seeing the box in Tesco back when I still had an Xbox, seeing the title and the ship in the background, and shaking my head.
However, desperate for some AC action and perhaps having my eyes opened to a wider type of ship-based gameplay by Odyssey, I picked up Black Flag for a pittance during a sale in the PS4 store and started playing with an open mind. It was more of a revelation than Revelations – here was the origin of the ship-based stuff that worked so well in the Greek instalment, a good storyline and hunting which didn’t seem as tedious as in AC3, and Welsh main character to boot.
Also, for a retro game, the combat and movement seemed better than I remember in AC3. I recall having awful trouble guiding Connor through the tree tops in that game. Although Black Flag is an old game it looks good on the PS4 – once you switch on ‘boost mode’.
If you want to get pissed at a bar and wake up in a haystack then this game’s for you. If you liked Pirates of the Carribean then this game’s for you. If you want to sail the seven seas and listen to sea shanties while trying to track down whales to harpoon, then this game’s for you. If you want to blow up coastal forts with your upgradable weapons aboard your mighty pirate ship and get cheered every time you take the wheel, then this game, yes you guessed, is for you.
Honestly I was a total pirate convert by the time I’d finished playing the game. My only gripe is the ‘real world’ stuff at Abstergo Entertainment which was dull and on rails. Sure I liked the puzzles hacking into computers and some of the back-story elements but would’ve much rather stayed on my ship shouting ‘ah-harr!’ and drinking rum.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is another blast from the past. To all intents and purposes it’s a rehash of Black Flag but with different characters and locations, although every effort is done to tie it in to Black Flag, AC3 and surprisingly also Brotherhood. The remastered graphics don’t need boost mode and in places the scenery and towns depicted look gorgeous. Unfortunately some of the character graphics show their age and at least one of the voice actors is dreadful.
As with Black Flag there are lots of collectibles to be had – viking swords, templar artefacts, tribal stones, letters, diamonds that raise your earning potential from renovating buildings etc. There are three different sets of armour to acquire from these collectibles and also the addition of grenades as well as the usual sleep, berserk (my favourite) and noisy darts. The new grenades are a lot of fun and come by virtue of the main character being a rogue assassin who joins the Templars.
Below is a good review of the game, to save me the bother of trying to be original in writing about it. It certainly makes for an interesting game by looking at the Assassin’s Brotherhood from a different point of view – painting them as naive and clumsy idealists who, by trying to active Precursor artefacts are putting the world in danger.
I agree with this reviewers gripe about the movement – I accidentally jumped to my death on several occasions despite being on a synchronisation point and therefore entitled to the ‘leap of faith’ miraculously landing in a haystack or hay cart without a broken back. Also during sequences of gameplay when I was asked to chase someone down it was super frustrating to end up climbing up the wrong thing or jumping off something when I wanted to stay on. Gameplay in this respect has come a long way in AC.
However, I loved the ship battles in both of these instalments. Taking on man-of-war behemoths with side cannons, puckle guns (whatever they are), mortars and fire barrels sure beat the heck out of the lame ass arrows and spears of the more recent games.
I enjoyed my retro gaming so much that I am sorely tempted to get hold of Freedom Cry which is a kind of sequel to Black Flag. It’s another instalment I missed out on because it was originally available only as downloadable content for Black Flag.
However, you can have too much of a good thing and I was more intrigued by the three Assassin’s Creed: Chronicles ‘2.5D’ scrollers China, India and Russia available as a triple pack from the PS4 Store, and that’s where my money went. I’ve dipped into China briefly today and it’s looking like a very nicely designed platform game.