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    dkirschner's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (360)

    [January 13, 2017 11:52:43 AM]
    This is likely my final Assassin's Creed game until Ubisoft significantly shakes things up. It's hard to believe I've played five of these. AC3 was mediocre (and I didn't make a log for it, weird!), but I was intrigued by the American Revolution setting. AC4 was definitely better; in fact, I enjoyed a good portion of it, but the many things that annoyed me about it are just old AC staples.

    For example, the hundreds of, or maybe even one thousand, collectibles (200 animus fragments, really?) is obscene! When I play AC games, I usually get most of the things because the platforming is pretty fun and there are rewards like money in chests or upgrades. This time though, after my first couple sessions, I vowed to ignore them unless they were right in front of me. Boy, did that speed things up! And even though I didn't upgrade half of the stuff that requires money, only found like one buried treasure chest--in short earned hardly any rewards from object hunting--neither Edward (main character) nor The Jackdaw (his ship) were ever that weak. I handled everything the story threw at me.

    Doing all the extra stuff outside the main story would easily double the game's length. I'm looking at the "progress tracker" right now, and I completed 91% of the main sequences (I guess there are some other story-ish things I didn't do, probably at Abstergo), 11% of side missions (assassin contracts, etc.), got 32% of the collectibles, and completed 41% of the side activities (ok, not sure what the difference between side missions and side activities is). 58% "total synch." So yeah, double the length more or less.

    It's difficult to like AC4 that much since I played the Witcher 3 DLCs before it. In fact, I hope that the Witcher 3 hasn't ruined open world games for me because it was so great. When I was first playing AC4, I really wasn't into it. In the Witcher, every side quest is very meaningful. They all add to the story, or to the world, or to your understanding of Geralt. Side missions/activities in AC, and pretty much all the extra stuff, add next to nothing. The assassin contracts sound something like this: "We found a templar. He is bad because he is a templar. Kill the templar." You can save pirates from guards, but you just kill the guards every time and the pirate joins you, but he is nameless. You can catch couriers, but you just chase them down and get some items. They are basically running treasure chests. It's disappointing that these extra things feel so instrumental to getting money and not fleshing out anything about the story.

    And there is stealth in AC games, but I had just played Splinter Cell: Blacklist too, which is a really fun stealth game. AC4's stealth is simple and boring and unrealistic compared to Blacklist's, so I was like "well, this isn't fun."

    But, after a while, you finally get your ship, The Jackdaw, and eventually get to wander the West Indies, and when the game opens up, there's good fun to be had. That's the big, new draw for AC4 is playing as a pirate and owning a ship. Instead of focusing on upgrading your hero like all the other AC games, in this one, you focus on upgrading your ship. The game takes place in the age of pirates, like early 1700s, and there are various colonial conflicts in motion. Therefore, you'll see all sorts of ships sailing about; some hostile, some not, but all affiliated with some country or another. As yours gets more powerful, you can attack and loot bigger and bigger ships. I never got to where I could take out the biggest, but ship battles are a lot of fun.

    Other new things introduced by pirating are: attacking forts (this replaces the old attacking towers for territorial influence of previous games), finding sea shanties and listening to your crew sing (so cool!), recruiting crew members and using them to board enemy ships (very repetitive), using a diving bell to search wrecks for treasure (avoid sharks, jellyfish, and sea urchins!), scary storms on the open ocean, complete with rogue waves and sea devils that you have to sail straight into and avoid, respectively. Sailing from place to place listening to my crew sing about an old horse or girls in Spain or whatever was one of the best parts of the game. But by the end I was just fast traveling everywhere.

    As with other AC games, I wish they would just give us a story of assassins and templars in a particular time period. I hate all the Abstergo metastory stuff. Its main consequence is to suck you out of the fantasy of being an assassin, which is a bummer every time. Yeah, please bring me back to the office where I work so that I can hold a PDA, walk slowly, listen to my boss refer to me as "you" because I'm nameless and it sounds really stiff and awkward, and I can hack my colleagues' (whom I never meet) computers. Some larger plot about templars running Abstergo and the COO goes missing from a conference. OMG who cares, let me get back to pirating!

    BUT, I will say that Ubisoft loaded this metastory with jokes about game companies and working for one. The idea behind Abstergo Entertainment is really cool, especially after watching Westworld, and I would have much rather just learned more about Abstergo Entertainment rather than have it mucked up by a templar/assassin's plot.

    The pirate story has its highs and lows. Ubisoft did a good job of building up Edward as a character, including his relationships with friends and family. There are several key moments of character development, like toward the end when he gets piss drunk and hallucinates how shitty he has been to a lot of people and vows to change his ways, and the end of the game is actually quite funny and sweet.

    One thing that stood out to me is that after every memory (main mission), Ubisoft asks you to rate it out of 5 stars. Huh. Interesting. I wonder how useful of feedback they got from this. I rated a couple, then stopped. I don't recall seeing this in any other games (yet). Are there others that ask for player feedback in the game? All sorts of methodological problems with this method. Does how long you've played in one sitting affect your ratings? Who is more or less likely to rate? Anyway, done and done! Later assassins.

    **edit** I forgot to add, and it's been running (ha) through my mind the last couple days, that I wish there were more skill involved in the platforming, and that there was more of it. The old AC games had a lot of cool platforming challenges that were tricky and required some precision too. AC3 introduced this "free running" system, which means you hold R1 while moving and your character will just run and jump and climb and do whatever platforming automatically. You don't have to do much of anything. A side effect of this is that I get serious trigger finger since I spend most of the game with my right index finger pressing R1 to move. I feel it's over-simplified a key aspect of AC, which is movement. And when it doesn't work, it's really aggravating because it's not really anything you're doing. Sometimes your assassin will get caught on a fence, or won't properly scale a ledge, or attempts to jump up to the right or left of the correct path. And all you can really do it re-push R1 or mash A too or back out of it and go again. But it should feel smoother than this. That is all.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 14th, 2017 at 16:39:37.

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    dkirschner's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (360)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 8 January, 2017

    GameLog closed on: Friday 13 January, 2017

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Really repetitive sidequest and collectible stuff already. Love the setting though. Can't wait to captain a ship. ---------- Captaining a ship is indeed fun. Still, game becomes repetitive. Better than AC 3!

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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