Everything Right With Assassin's Creed: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed Black Flag was a masterpiece in many ways, primarly on how it claimed the title for most in-depth and complete sailing game at the time. Years later some of the same developers have announced Skull & Bones, the sailing spiritual sequel without it's Assassin counterpart.
But Black Flag was a lot more intricate than just a sailing game, and the Assassin portion added a huge design element to all of its components. Let's take a look at Everything Right with AC: Black Flag.
A simple tool yet a core mechanic of AC4, the Spyglass allowed players to scan the horizon manually for a number of reasons.
It could list the cargo type and quantity of ships.
It could zoom quite a bit.
It could highlight and mark something on the map, giving it a waypoint, such as ships or locations of interest.
It could identify the nation which a ship's flag was flying under.
Many of these features were very important, knowing which cargo a shipo held allowed playersa to hunt for specific resources needfed to upgrade specific parts of the shipa as desired, highlighting things on the HUD was a qualify quality of life mechanic, as was zooming, and noticing which flag the ships held allowed players to lurk as the AI battled itself in order to attack when they were weakened in order to take bigger prey.
All of these mechanics being so useful allowed the player to constantly have reasons to use the spyglass, which added to the captivating experience that transpoerted players into the game, giving it a "real sailing/pirate-like" experience.
- * Seamless transitions into Ship Boarding Battles and Exploration
Being able to quickly lock the player in a Boarding Battle without loading screens or transitions allowed for ship hunting to be quick and effective and less repetitive, also allowed the player to engage in multiple battles at once without being damaged by other ships while bording, which added to the cinematic experience that AC4 was. As well as allowing the player to dock pretty much anywhere and anchor down in order to dive in the water and swim to nearby shore, exploring Islands and lost covers and hidden caverns and more.
- * Repairs and rewards from Ship Battles
After each boarded ship the game would ask the player what to do with the prize, being allowed to use it to repair the ship from damage done in the previous battle allowed the player to continuously hunt as desired, the ammo resources how ever was not replenished as much so at some point the player would have to take a Port break to resupply but after many many prizes, and without feeling underprepared after each battle.
The ship had multiple levels of speed and handling, but one special addition was the Travel Speed. It was only available outside of Storms or Battles and allowed the player to move just enough faster in order to cover larger distances which encouraged exploratoion as opposed to Fast Traveling, and the camera was placed in a very cinematic angle as well which provided an amazing sailing experience.
- * Ship fighting mechanics
The ship had plenty of ways to engage combat which diversified the gameplay and added optional strategies. From using the long range and high damage but slow firing Mortars to using the Chaser Guns that only fired Chain Shots from the front of the Ship, to the Fire Barrels deoployed at the back of the ship as a form of landmines and the expected broadside which used 2 different ammo types for long range and close range complements. As well as an poptional battering ram.
- * Multiple additional gameplay elements
AC4 managed to remain interesting for dozens and dozens of hours by also offering different activities for the player. Such as Harpoon Hunting locations with fully unique mechanics for hunting whales and sharks and the like, a Diving Bell which allowed the exploration of deep water wrecks for treasure and collectibles and resources while avoiding the dangers of the ocean, and different occurences in the overworld such as Forts to take down and conquer and Legendery Ships to battle and hidden caverns and other types of locations.
Black Flag used the core Assassin's Creed gampley to its advantage, being able to climb the many ropesa and rungs of the ship during Boarding Combat, utilizing patches of seaweed to stay hidden and stealth away from deep water predators, it offered a very responsive and interesting "on-foot" gameplay as well as in the Ship, creating a world that was full of life and complex.
The ocean is impressively well done in AC4, the waves feel heavy and can drastically effect the gameplay by creating cover during battles and altering manourverlability, simulating storms and variations of weather and tide, as well as being as charming and treacherus as the real sea.
While the ship in Black Flag didn't ever change it's size per say, there is more than just stat development surrounding each purchasable upgrade as with more and more cannons for example the sound fo firing them becomes stronger and louder, more meanincing, giving a really good impression of becoming a more dominant force to be dealt with. Skull&Bones has the opportunity to expand on that creating visual and physical modifications and upgrades as well as sound as the ship develops.
Last but not least, utilizing the classic Assassin's Creed theme, the game offered many locations and characters of interest from history which added together to create a singular from-start-to-finish storyline that offered motivations and character development which coincided with the weorld those characters lived in, and progressed as they did, adding new and original elmeements while using well known Pirates as well as reimagining certain characters and their personalities and quirks, creating a game as much about wretched scoundrels as it is about life, love, desires and a Brotherhood.