Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag Post-Game Thoughts

There is a part of me that just wants this entire post to be a single sentence: “It’s more Assassin’s Creed, with extra sailing.” If you want the tl;dr version, that’s it.

The reason I waited for about two-and-a-half years to play Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is because it came out almost exactly one year after Assassin’s Creed 3, and I just didn’t feel the need to play that much Assassin’s Creed that quickly.

Of course, since Black Flag released in 2013, the Assassin’s Creed series has seen three more mainline releases: Unity, Rogue, and Syndicate. Clearly, we’ve gotten to that point where adding numbers starts to make it ridiculous – this is the step in which Ubisoft confuses everyone with its naming conventions. That step precedes the one where they make the gritty reboot of the series that’s just entitled “Assassin’s Creed.”

That’s not to mention the 5 spinoff titles released in 2014 and 2015.

If you couldn’t tell, I am¬†tired of Assassin’s Creed. This is too much too fast. Who wants to play 3-4 Assassin’s Creed games every year? I’m sure there are some series diehards who eat up every game on day 1, but even they must be struggling to keep up with this pace.

Now, before I go further, I have to give Ubisoft some credit. Black Flag was great. Sailing is fun, sea battles are fun, pirating is fun. So the core of the gameplay is strong, more so than its predecessor or successor. The voice acting is spot on all over, and the story is on par with other entries in the series.

It’s an excellent game. Simply as that.

Yet despite the tweaks in climbing and combat, and the emphasis on sailing, I never really let myself get invested. The formula is familiar, the AI is immersion-shatteringly awful, and the plot twists aren’t surprising. While protagonist Edward Kenway is interesting in his relentless, anti-heroic, self-destructive pursuit of glory and riches, there still wasn’t enough here to actually get my attention. It’s probably one of the most boring 9/10 video games I’ve ever played.

I blame the series fatigue for a great deal of this. Because I’ve basically seen all of this before, I went into the game with an impression that is was “just another AC game,” and nothing I encountered really shook me away from that. It’s been less than a week since I completed the game, at the time of writing, and I’ve already forgotten most of what happened. I remember it was fun, and I remember that pirating felt really good, and that the sea shanties were awesome.

But mostly, while playing, I felt very little of anything. Frustration, sometimes, at irritating stealth-based missions. But mostly, from about the midway point, the overwhelming feeling was, “let’s get this over with.”

It was an odd feeling, being 10 hours into a game and thinking, “This game is really fun, GOD I wish it would be over¬†already.”

It’s not typical for me to play games with this mindset. Assassin’s Creed 2 and AC2: Brotherhood took me several dozens of hours because I had about 95% completion percentages for those games. Black Flag took closer to 15-20 hours because I was around 50%, and didn’t care to do much more. This is the first AC game in which I didn’t even care to get to every synchronization point. I just wanted to be done with it, say I’d played it, and move it out of the backlog.

I’ve done that, and I’m happy about it. It’s not a game that will leave a lasting impression on me, and if it left an impression on those who played it in 2013, they didn’t give much time for it to simmer before thrusting Unity at them six months later at E3.

If you’re the type of person who follows these games closely and will eat up whatever the next offering is, more power to you. Even the weak games in the series are still solid entries, but the lack of variance between titles combined with the fact that they’re getting more annual releases than sports franchises means I’m taking a break for a while.

Maybe I’ll catch up when the reboot comes out.