23 More Illuminating Hours With Assassin’s Creed IV

23 More Illuminating Hours With Assassin’s Creed IV

When a new year starts, I go back and finish the previous year’s Assassin’s Creed. I spent early 2013 rediscovering AC III. I’ve rung in 2014 by playing 23 more hours of Assassin’s Creed IV. I have some more thoughts about this one…

Actually, first, I have a lot of videos to show you!

These videos show many of the things I did long after I finished the game’s main storyline. Technically, I guess some of them are spoilers in that they show some of the rarest weapons and best unlockables in the game.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

First of all, I finished all the Mayan puzzle sites and gained this awesome bulletproof Mayan armour

That’s right, the armour is bulletproof

I leveled up my berserk darts so I could play the role of master assassin…

I spent a lot of time collecting little things that I’d missed…

Sometimes, I earned crazy stuff as a result, like these gun-swords!

I made sure I used weapons I had neglected…

I hunted great white sharks…

I dove to the game’s most impressive depths…

I searched for treasures in gorgeous places…

I finally got four guns and got a Trophy for using them well…

I made my ship a killer…

I went to war with level-four hunter ships…

I went after this insane legendary ship…

And I finally took it down…

And, sometimes, I just went to the bar and then caught a lovely moonlit sight…

I played the game a ton!

I’ve admitted before that Assassin’s Creed games pretty much hit my sweet spot. I like open-world games. I like conspiracy stories. I like third-person action and platforming. I like games that can serve as historical tourism. And I love, love, love good sidequests.

I’m also forgiving of a messy game’s faults if the game is properly ambitious, which is why I probably tolerated more of Assassin’s Creed III‘s flaws than others did. And it’s also probably why I had a such a good time going back to AC III to discover its more polished side content. That game’s New York and Boston underground levels are excellent, gritty re-workings of the AC formula. That game’s Homestead missions flesh out the personality of the game’s protagonist. Only by carefully going after every treasure chest and other collectible in III did I come to appreciate the rich amount of gameplay hidden in the game’s seemingly bland forest.

Assassin’s Creed III requires a lot of extra effort to really “get”, I think. In contrast, Assassin’s Creed IV is more immediately appealing. Its scenery is more visually striking. Its interface — weapon selection, item switching, map-checking, crafting — is all snappy. The game runs better. Fewer things get in the way of the fun. The improved fast-travel system and a map loaded with icons representing things with which to interact give players a bounty of options for entertaining themselves.

It would almost seem like AC IV, unlike AC III, has nothing to hide. In a way, that’s true. The 23 extra hours I spent with IV did less to alter my impression of that game than my bonus nine did with III. But they did change some things…

My Assassin’s Creed IV revelations:

  • The city stuff is tired. Really tired. As much as I love these games, I don’t know how much more I can take of climbing the sides of buildings, catching an overhang, running across a roof toward a guard to stab him, hiding in a pile of hay, hearing the twinkling sounds of a treasure chest, grabbing said treasure, getting caught up in a fight against four soldiers and then charging into an assassination mission in which I need to spot an enemy within a green circle on my mini-map and then kill him.

    I’d played a lot of the land stuff in AC IV already, back when I reviewed the game last year. When I returned to the game this year, I initially did a lot more of the naval stuff. After having a great time on AC IV‘s high seas, I went back to Havana to do everything I could do in that city. It was boring. It was beautiful, but boring. Mopping up the leftover missions in Kingston was a little better, because that city was a little more unusual. It’s divided by a body of water, a la AC Revelations‘ Istanbul. Including III and Liberation, these newer Assassin’s games have suffered from being set in less-than-fascinating cities that are devoid of landmarks or any real character beyond, at least in IV, some distinct visual identity. These cities are full of missions that are feeling more and more same-y. Something needs to change.

  • The diving missions are good! It took me a while to get what AC IV‘s developers were going for, but I’ve come to think quite highly of IV‘s underwater missions. The ones set in the game map’s easier northern half aren’t inspiring, but the southern ones are varied and offer some great sights. You can dive through a massive upended boat or swim through some caves into a not-so-abandoned smugglers’ hideout. Since you don’t have good fighting gear on you, those diving missions that lead you into on-foot hand-to-hand combat wind up being some of the more interesting and challenging sections of the game.
  • The sailing is indeed excellent. OK, this isn’t a new thought. It seems that everyone liked the naval combat in Assassin’s Creed IV, which is a good upgrade from the rough draft that was in III. It’s fun to chase a ship and fun to be chased by them. The more you fight, the more you learn how useful fire barrels are (that’s the revelation!), how effective a strong broadside is and how… ok it’s not all perfect…how tedious boarding eventually becomes.

    Ubisoft can do a lot more with this sailing stuff, playing with more kinds of ships, adding more personality to the crew, and maybe even giving the player a fleet they can commandeer of their own. The sailing is the one aspect of the game that actually feels a little light in content, which probably just means that it’s good enough to leave me hungry for more.

  • Edward just is not as interesting Assassin’s Creed lead as his descendants. I hadn’t liked Edward as much as his son and grandson, AC III‘s Haytham and Connor, respectively. I had liked Haytham from the moment I first played AC III. He was a surprise bonus character, and a rogue at that. He’s intriguing. Connor was notoriously much harder to like. He was annoyed most of the time. His voice-actor delivered his lines flatly. As I’ve mentioned, the side content in III fleshed Connor out and recast him as more of a Robin Hood, a man of the people who scowled at the authority figures in the game’s main missions but showed a warmer, more likable side when dealing with regular folks in the game’s side adventures.

    Edward was defined in IV‘s main story as a greedy, somewhat homesick, very reluctant assassin. That’s fine. But, for better or worse, I got no greater sense of Edward’s character from the extra 23 hours of the game that I played. AC IV is a more gameplay-driven game than III and the extra 23 hours bore this out. Edward was a useful avatar. He was fun to upgrade — to arm with cooler guns and swords and gear. But the game doesn’t have much to say about him. There are no hidden depths. He’s just the blond guy I have steering my ship and stabbing templars. That’s too bad. I wanted more.

I do recommend that other AC IV players go back and play for another few hours. Getting the hang of naval combat and upgrading your ship until you can take on the legendary ships is very rewarding. Plus, the game is just so beautiful that you might as well indulge in a second virtual Caribbean vacation. I’m glad I made a return trip.

Next up in my early-2014 tour of recent AC games: I will finish poking around in Abstergo!

Oh, and, once more, just because it’s amazing…


  • I’m excited by the rumors of Ubisoft doing a stand-alone, open-world pirate game. The one thing i wanted from ACIV, the one thing, was to be able to get better and better ships. To go from a sloop to a galleon, with all of the upgrading of each ship in between.

    I’m looking forward to that prospect now in the next possible game in the theme.

  • As I mentioned in TAY, I really hope they expand on the sailing aspect. Working with currents, wind and a more complex navigation would really appeal to me. Right now I just stare at the minimap 90% of the time.
    I also want to be able to manage my crew in a more hands on manner. Managing them against a mutiny would also be interesting. That makes me think that leading a mutiny would be a great way to start a pirate game.

    • I have that mini map turned off for that exact reason. It begs you to stare at it. Turn it off and your eyes are drawn to the beauty of the game world. You don’t need it to navigate.

      Seeing these videos make me realise just how cluttered and superfluous the AC4 HUD is. Nothing beats a HUD-free AC game. There’s almost no reason to have the AC HUD on. If you know the basic controls, the only thing the HUD does is cover up the game world, distract you and reduce the immersion.

  • I seem to do the same, I really crack into AC in the few days between new year and return to work.

    Agree with Spencer about ship upgrades – extra option to “keep ship yourself” after successful boarding, and then be able to upgrade. “Grand Theft Galleon”, maybe. Also, smaller ships like schooners (or rowboots!) would be able to get into coves that larger ships wouldn’t, but larger ships would cope with storms and enemies better, so there’d be fun gameplay options there.

    And definitely share phlaiman’s thoughts on the sailing – the wind direction seemed to make more difference in AC3 than AC4. I didn’t use the minimap that much, but not being able to go straight upwind and having to tack a bit would have made the longer sailing more interesting. As it is, pretty much look at map to see whether to keep land on one beam or the other, and head straight for waypoint, ignoring the wind.

    • There’s wind in AC4? I’m not being sarcastic, I genuinely played the game to 100% completion without noticing any influence from the wind other than the obvious rogue winds.

        • Yep that’s what we’re sayin: the Jackdaw travels in any direction regardless of the alleged wind direction.

          It’s a shame the game doesn’t have a difficulty setting, with hard having more realistic sailing. It’s just a bit odd that they took out even the mild wind effects of AC3’s sailing (“Get out of the wind, Captain!”). Love the game, don’t get me wrong, but think that the sailing could have been a little more challenging.

  • “But the game doesn’t have much to say about him. There are no hidden depths. He’s just the blond guy I have steering my ship and stabbing templars. That’s too bad. I wanted more. ”

    Simply not true in the slightest. I definitely saw a heavy amount of guilt in almost every instance he spoke of anything that wasn’t his present day. Every direction his life takes seems to lead to ruin and begins to try to make the right decisions despite having kept himself in the dark his whole life on what those actually might be. I also found his lack of interest in the opposite sex refreshing, simply because it wasn’t necessary; he had an emotional and spiritual attachment to the women in his life. At the very least, simply calling him “blond guy” is momentously unfair. I feel like it’s pretty sad that actors and writers can try and taker things in a subtle direction only have people entirely ignore them. Especially in an industry where we can somehow point out all the injustices faced by a single group when there’s no evidence that the writer even properly understands the language of storytelling.

  • I own all the Assassins Creed games because I kept trying to convince myself I would get into them one day however each time I tried I got bored or frustrated.

    This is the first one that has really sucked me in and made me have a really great time. I really like Edward, I had a great time in AC3 at the start but when it switched to Connor I just got so bored.

    It still has all the rubbish parts of the AC series that annoys me however the good stuff really makes up for it this time.

    PS. Is there a way to sprint without holding the action button or whatever it is, its so frustrating running around and constantly leaping onto things or grabbing things or running up things.

  • I kinda got bored of the sailing by the end of the game. Maybe bored is a bit harsh, but by the time I got to the end I had definitely had my fill and wasn’t left starving for more. It’s graphically beautiful and unlike any other game, it’s visceral and novel, living the life of a pirate and sailing etc, but there’s not really much strategy or nuance to it. Most ships can be sunk the exact same way without having to switch up your tactics. Like pretty much every aspect of Assassin Creed games there’s little to no real challenge so it ends up being more of a visual treat than a mechanically fulfilling one.

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