Reflection is good. It’s nice to look back on was has been and, remember the great achievements of times gone past. I’d like to think that’s why Game of the Year awards are so popular, not just so we can screech at each other about supposedly wrong opinions – something that’s sadly all to common in the world of video games. We’ve admittedly left our Top Ten Games of 2013 list a little later than most but, we did so that we might better experience all of last years big titles, in the hopes we don’t leave any great experiences unrepresented. 2013 was a fantastic year that saw some truly staggering games hit as the last generation systems gave way to the next. Captain Kenway and his crew sail in at #4.
Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag – Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
After Assassins Creed III I think it’d be fair to say there weren’t many people out there with high hopes for Assassins Creed IV. Connors adventures during the American War of Independence were mired by an unacceptably long run of tutorials, Ubisoft held my hand for literally hours, then when it finally started the story was meandering, and dull; obsessing about the future when all I wanted to do was play in the past. Even worse many found Connor himself was hardly the charismatic hero they expected – though strangely I had no problem with him. Hopes were low for Assassins Creed IV, Connor’s grandfather Edward had his work cut out for him as he took the series in new territory – the sea and, piracy. He didn’t disappoint.
Unlike it’s predecessor Black Flag didn’t muck around with tutorials, it didn’t force players to walk a certain path holding their hand the whole way, incessantly bossing them about. After a short initial mission players are given a ship; cast out into the West Indies to plunder, explore, discover hidden treasure, and visit it’s many bustling towns. Freedom is the name of the game – build a crew, sink tens of rotten Spanish and English ships or explore every cranny of the islands Edward didn’t care what I did or when. The West Indies are sprawling; sprinkled with an unfathomable amount of things to do, rolling out seemingly forever – and I could do whatever I wanted. Black Flag captures the essence of adventure perfectly.
Even Edward’s tale is less rigid than the former heroes, he doesn’t shuffle around cities looking for evil Templars who threaten his creed – no Edward isn’t even an Assassin. Everything he does is motivated by money, right or wrong it rarely matters – get rich or die trying. It’s lighthearted in tone which matches the setting nicely, Edwards pirating pals are mostly drunkards or, somehow likable monsters who terrorise the seas. Learning of a place known as the observatory, a place of myth hiding a powerful artefact, Edward decides to track it down before either the Templar or Assassins get there first. Decidedly neutral in their conflict it was a fascinating outlook to inhabit, much more laid back than his relatives fervour.
Pirating is a dangerous business, not just on land where combat sticks to the series admittedly tiresome “wait and counter” combat, but naturally on the sea as well. On the roaring waves naval skirmishes are thrilling – a ship battle in a storm is quite simply breathtaking. Ships rise up on waves stores high, lightening pierces the sky, rounds of cannon fire splinters wood and, ships are dragged to their demise by the hungry sea. Add in that Black Flag is very pretty, especially on next gen, and you’re looking a game that captures the action packed spectacle of history at a level higher than it’s older brothers.
As Edward travels he can engage is countless activities which will reward him treasure and, experience. They’re plenty of weapons to buy, armour to wear and, ship upgrades to purchase. Across the map he can hunt animals, climb viewpoints, collect sea shanties, take on assassination contracts, take on naval contracts, attack enemy forts, battle enemy ships, go deep sea diving, invade smuggler dens, explore mysterious locales, explore three cities, help out the assassins, command his own fleet, explore ruins, gather treasure, uncover buried chests, upgrade his own cove, the list of content stretches on and on and on.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is easily one of last years biggest games. Unlike other entries it does not constrain players to a few cities, the mammoth amount of land and sea between them is also accessible. Naval combat is awesome, Edward is wholly likable, the daft fervour of Assassins v Templar is diminished and, there’s an incredible amount to do. AC fan or not, Black Flag is one of 2013’s best.