"Yo ho ho a pirate's life for me"
The Introduction: Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag is the fourth numbered entry in the Assassin's Creed franchise and it follows the story of Edward Kenway, a pirate, as he stumbles his way into the conflict between the Assassin's and Templars. Edward is not your typical protagonist in the franchise, and cares little for the ways of the assassins and rather looks for a way to make a quick buck. The version of the game I've played is the PS4 version.
The Fabulous: This game makes you feel like a movie pirate, it sets the atmosphere and tone of the game so well that it becomes easy to just want to keep exploring it's world. It certainly helps that the game is pretty, like really seriously pretty. Another welcome addition is that the free running feels refined from what it has been in the past, it's much less often that I find Edward running up a wall I didn't intend him to run up. This was always one of my biggest pet peeves with the series and it's good to see it tightened up in this entry. The strong focus on naval combat is the most fabulous thing in this game. It's a joy to say that no matter how many times I play a naval battle it never ceases to be fun. Cutting the rope on a lift and running from the mast of one ship to another jumping down and stabbing a british officer through the neck never gets old.
Stealth. Wait wait wait, did he just say stealth? In Assassin's Creed? Seriously? Yes I did, ACIV makes it much much easier to play stealth missions and to actually be something that resembles an assassin. It makes the stealth elements that we are often forced to play in the series more of an enjoyable experience than a chore. Finally, the story is entertaining, Kenway can be a bit of an ass at times, but James the Kid, Blackbeard and Adewale are all excellent characters that keep the story moving at an enjoyable pace. So all in all ACIV does a lot of fabulous things.
The Meh: But what about the meh things in ACIV? There are a few of those here too, main being the combat. The combat in the Assassin's Creed Franchise was at it's peak in the second installment, and most of that has returned here, but the lack of the weapons wheel and the lack of a need to upgrade your swords or pistols at all to succeed is a bit of a disappointment. The counter button appearing over a enemy rather than over your own head makes for enemies who will sometimes attack you from off screen with no way to counter. Also, enemies will for most situations just stand around and wait in line for you to run them through with your sword. It just looks kind of awkward. The combat is fun, enough, but it's not fabulous, it's meh.
The collectibles is something else I'm going to call out as meh, the animus fragments in particular are not worth the effort put forth to find them all. This is partly because I have collectible OCD, but at times some of the more immersive parts of the game were broken because I was running navigating by mini map looking for collectibles. Hunting was also kind of meh, it has more purpose this time round in that it's necessary for upgrades, but it still kind of feels tacked on.
The Unfabulous: The only thing that really felt truly unfabulous to me was the parts of the game outside of the animus, anytime you played the faceless nameless Abstergo employee I rolled my eyes and hoped to get myself back into the shoes of Kenway.
The Conclusion: Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag is an extraordinarily pretty, fun game with a few things that hold it back from being a masterpiece. It probably should not have been a Assassin's Creed game, it could have stood on it's own as an excellent pirate game without the tacked on experience in the present day. I often wish this in the Assassin's Creed series and wonder why the developers feel the need to tie the franchise into the modern day rather than just exploring the stories of Assassin's and Templars throughout the ages.
I give ACIV Black Flag 8.5/10