#1 Edited by GoranP (1115 posts) -

My Assassin's Creed Past

Assassin's Creed has always been a supremely frustrating franchise for me. I love the idea behind it, but the series has always broken down for me gameplay wise. I played AC 1, 2, and Brotherhood, but never actually finished any of them due to games boring me to death. The problems with the fist AC game have been well documented in reviews and comments throughout the years, so I won't focus too much on that game. Most of them applied to my tastes. The only thing that I want to mention about it is that until Black Flag, I found AC 1 to have the most interesting historical setting.

I thought that AC 2 had an incredibly slow start, but I slogged through it in the hopes of the rest of the game being worth it. However, I soon discovered that none of the activities interested me and I was not particularly interested in the main story to boot. The same applies to Brotherhood, though in mind's eye, the slow start was much quicker than in AC 2. I played about half of Brotherhood, and a quarter of AC 1 and 2 (each). I'm generally interested in all sorts of histories, so I know a few things here and there. I enjoyed how these games presented themselves because they always felt more authentic than a popcorn movie, even when you consider the incredible liberties that the series takes. Settings and presentation were not enough for me though, and the aforementioned games left me with a simple conclusion: playing them was not worth what I was getting out of them.

I found the combat to be mind numbingly boring, and it occurred far too frequently for my liking. Waiting for a counter so that you can basically insta kill your opponent (I'm over simplifying here of course) and then chain other kills became very tedious for me. It was almost like the grinding that you have to do in a typical JRPG for me. I found that I didn't really have to think about what I was doing and every combat scenario was met with a big fat sigh. The freerunning element of AC was easily my favorite since I'm generally a big fan of exploring and traversing environments in games. However, there is only so much world to explore. Apart from hunting for secrets or cool spots, I also admired how impressive the AC worlds were from a game development perspective. As a small time developer myself, it really put in to perspective what these huge teams with a lot of resources can do. But as I already said, there is only so much world to explore. The freerunning mechanics don't help the longevity either, as the game kind of plays itself as much as it can. Obviously you're in control and everything, but the world and mechanics are designed to be so streamlined that you don't need to think that much about it. It's part of the reason AC is so popular with what we might call "casual" gamers.

What changed with Black Flag? Why I am I enjoying it so far?

To answer the first question- surprisingly, not a lot. I jumped into the combat with zero problems since playing Brotherhood upon release, and I still find it to be rather tame and boring. Maybe I'm misremembering the previous games or something, but the combat in Black Flag seems to go by much quicker which is a huge bonus for me. I don't mind it in small bursts, and I've found that the frequency of the battles is toned down. Yay! And to be totally fair, I have actually enjoyed a few battles so far. Boarding ships is awesome, and even though the mechanics of the fighting are totally the same, the atmosphere, cinematic quality, and mood of the whole ordeal go a long way. I've played about a quarter of the game thus far, and I want to play more as opposed to stop.

Apart from climbing synchronization points and traversing the environment, my favorite aspect of the gameplay is the whole ship element. Fighting other ships is pretty awesome as is sailing to all sorts of islands and looking for treasure/raiding warehouses/etc. The warehouse raids are pretty fun because you get to feel like a badass but have to be on alert at all times. You need be careful with your movement and as you know already, I like it when the game makes me think. As I just mentioned, the ship stuff does a lot for me. I love upgrading it and building up the crew, but the actual act of sailing and controlling the ship is fun itself. I gotta give a big fat salute to the 4000 Ubisoft studios that made sure controlling a ship on a controller would be a fun experience.

The biggest reason behind me enjoying Black Flag so far is the setting (it also helps the slow start felt quicker than before). I'm extremely familiar with the game's period/locations and have a general interest in both, so I get a much bigger kick out of the world than in previous titles. I'm not the type to get angry because of how many liberties get taken with the history, it's a freaking work of fiction for crying out loud. I get much more satisfaction out of this world than the other AC games, and I'm finding that there is a lot more to explore than ever before. Since I find the world so interesting, I'm automatically curious about the main story as well. It hasn't been exception so far, but its definitely been enjoyable.

So where does this leave me for the rest of Black Flag and the rest of the franchise?

I know that I will get tired of the combat, and I can imagine myself getting tired of the ship battles as well. We'll see how it goes as I play more of the game, but like I said, I actually want to play more this time around. I ultimately feel that every gameplay mechanic of Assassin's Creed is generally too shallow for my liking, though of course, I don't have too much experience with the ship stuff yet. So in order to make up for the gameplay, every other part of the game has to be really engaging for my tastes. So far, Black Flag is on point in that regard. Despite this, I worry that this game could be a one off. The chances of them nailing a historical period that I am especially interested is probably not that high, and I will continue to be disinterested in most of the franchise's mechanics if they continue to be as streamlined as they are.

Finally, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that these games need to be made with me in mind. I have my tastes and that's simply that. I know they have their audience and businesses need to make money. I can only hope that I will enjoy the rest of Black Flag and that future AC games may interest me.

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the AC series? Cheers.

#2 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5353 posts) -

Favorite aspect: Multiplayer

Least Favorite aspect: Bad assassin missions (CHARLES LEE, Robert de Sable, and so on)

Oddly AC4 is actually not that great on the multiplayer front so far, I mean to a novice you probably won't notice the difference but they did kind of make my favorite mode terrible (Wanted). That said the remaining modes are still functional/actually better and Wolfpack continues to improve. The singleplayer is just so damn amazing relative to every other AC, even AC2 and Brotherhood pale by comparison, the problems that AC3 had just aren't here; but it still has the bizarre charm that all the peripheral stuff did in AC3. 9 men's morris is still impossible despite ostensibly being tic tac toe, Fanorona is still fun, and so on. I suspect they'll eventually fix AC4's multiplayer so it'll be probably second in the series behind AC3 while the singleplayer is one of the best games of the year and even the generation.

#3 Posted by SteadyingMeat (1153 posts) -

I love this game, but hated the other ones. AC II I found especially terrible.

I'm guessing the reason for this is just because.......I have no idea. I mean, the game doesn't really feel anything like AC II to me, so that's something, but maybe it's the more open world nature? (Even if the world is still fucking full of " do you wish to travel to ___? " screens).

If I had to change one thing, I'd defintely make the character progression not end so soon, and make the world truly open world.

#4 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5353 posts) -

@steadyingmeat: Full character/ship progression takes ~25-30 hours, that seems fine to me, technically it even takes longer since you get yet another ship mechanic upon destroying the 4(5) legendary ships. You don't get the best guns until you do all the naval contracts as well, and those are quite significant since they kill fatties/captains in one shot.

#5 Posted by BBAlpert (1445 posts) -
#7 Posted by SteadyingMeat (1153 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: For some reason, my first reply was just blank when I posted it and I don't really wanna type it all out again. D:

Basically, the ship stuff definitely makes up for the disappointing Edward progression for me, but I would have still definitely liked to have more meaningful upgrades for him. Particularity health.

#8 Edited by Stete (731 posts) -

I was blown away on how gorgeous the game looked, then I had the first "tail this guy but don't get too close or too far or too close YOU'RE TOO FAR, YOU'RE TOO CLOSE desync" mission and I gave up. Why is this series stuffed to the brim with tediousness? Why can't they just leave all the good parts? For fucks sake, it's been 6 games and they still repeat the same mistakes over and over.

#9 Posted by Yodasdarkside (276 posts) -

This topic has me moments from buying it. I too have not enjoyed previous AC games...well, to be fair, I only played AC2, to the part where you travel to another town...? it's been a while. I couldn't get a handle on the combat, got bored really fast with the mechanics of blending in etc.

BUT, each gameplay video I see of this makes me feel like it's not really an AC game? It looks more like an historical Saints Row, all guns blazing and raiding shit? Am I wrong, because of all the launch games, this is the one I'm closest to buying, but as I'm going all-digital, I am weighing every purchase SO carefully now, which is actually a great aspect of the digital age, asking 'do I REALLY need to play this?' Hence why I have not dropped anything on Lego Marvel or NfS Rivals, the only other games I have interest in.

#10 Posted by Abendlaender (2788 posts) -

So....why did you buy AC4 if you didn't enjoy the other 3 games? I don't quite get that.

#11 Posted by Yodasdarkside (276 posts) -

@goranp: Great blog btw, you've virtually made my mind up about the game. Feels weird jumping in to IV, but I think this might be the one for me.

#12 Edited by GoranP (1115 posts) -

@yodasdarkside: I've asked my friends about the other stories, they say that it doesn't really matter that much as long as you know the basic dynamics between the Assassins and Templars.

@stete: Those missions are so terrible! I also don't get why developers still insist on making them.

@yodasdarkside: As a big Saints 3 and 4 fan, I wouldn't really compare this with those games. I think this AC is more "action packed" than the other ones but definitely not Saints Row style.

@abendlaender said:

So....why did you buy AC4 if you didn't enjoy the other 3 games? I don't quite get that.

My friend was streaming a bit of it on PS4 and that got me interested in checking out other videos and eventually I decided hey this seems like something I may like. Also I never bought 1 and 2, they were borrows from friends. Brotherhood was the first one I got because the mp seemed really neat and a bunch of my friends played it with me as well (I would go on to not really like the mp that much).

#13 Edited by Oni (2098 posts) -

I'm in full agreement. This is probably the best game in the series. They haven't changed a lot at all, mechanically, since 2, but the reduced emphasis on land-based missions, more infrequent combat and abundance of stealth areas make it much less of a hassle. Also combat is really easy to cheese with smoke bombs and berserk darts, if you're so inclined. I love the pirate theme and sailing around doesn't really get old. There ARE too many tailing/eavesdrop missions still, but they're generally very easy and forgiving, and checkpoints are never far off. I'd say if the game looks appealing and you're in for the pirate stuff, it's totally worth getting as it satisfies on that front.

The story/characterization is also the best it's been yet. Edward is up there with Ezio for me, but all the secondary characters are really well drawn and the voice acting is great. I love James Kidd, Ed Thatch and all the other pirates. There's an air of inevitability, men struggling against their growing irrelevance, that reminds me of the somber overtones of the end of the Wild West era in Red Dead.

It's a great goddamn game.

#14 Edited by natetodamax (19192 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: What have they done to Wanted to make it terrible? I've only played IV's multiplayer for maybe an hour or two but it seemed the same to me.

#15 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5353 posts) -

@natetodamax: There are presently no escape sequences, so if you're doing well ( or poorly really, sometimes the dude in 6th or 7th or just joined might get 4 pursuers for some reason) you might have 4-6 (!) pursuers and the only way to get rid of them is to stun them. Basically it makes everyone play like it was the early ACB days when no one had any clue how to play; it's by far the worst rendition of Wanted, coming after 3 which was the best. You can run and run and run with no penalty other than score, and score isn't sufficient to make people stop if they're still able to kill you. In AC3 I could deal with 3-4 pursuers and did with regularity, in fact having more pursuers means its easier to kill your target since they'll always come to you, but you did need some way to get rid of them and that was chase/escapes (after you stun 1 or 2/kill your target its time to run, if you're conscious of where to run to you can get away and get points from it in the other games, in this all you can do is keep running). In AC4 you're lucky if you can deal with 2. This doesn't really affect DM so DM away if you like, but that gets a little old/doesn't fully explore the maps. Even though I just had 2 excellent DMs against extremely good players I'm still not super excited about playing it again and again and again, big thing with AC3 is just straight up variety, Wanted was good, DM was good, simple DM was good.

The reason there are no escape sequences is to try to fix Assassinate I gather and/or try to make people play more stealthy in Wanted though its having the opposite effect there. Assassinate is better but it was already a busted mode because of the players, you can't get rid of those players very easily since they're the only ones that play it. I mean there aren't 150 people with over 20k scores on the Assassinate leaderboard so that's definitely an improvement.

#16 Edited by natetodamax (19192 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: Ah, okay. I definitely noticed that nothing was happening during a chase (no meter or any other indication) and that is disappointing. I'll have to play around with it more.