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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (NOM) review
by Yuichi Haga on 04/30/14 04:46:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

*Disclaimers:

1. I work at a game company, I will refrain from reviewing games from that company due to bias.
2. This review is my opinion ONLY. It does not represent those of anyone else or any game company.
3. This is just my attempt at an objective review or one that is as close to objective as possible*

 

THE SEARCH FOR AN OBJECTIVE REVIEW:

Is it possible to have a truly objective review? The short answer is No, but the slightly longer answer is maybe there is a way to have a more objective review than those we're seeing right now.

 My personal opinion is that games are art, and as such, games are open to interpretation by the individual. Each person has gaming preferences and these preferences may, and most likely will not, match perfectly with the reviewer. I will attempt to create a system that removes the reviewers preference and in turn matches it more to the reader. Some simple math will be involved. 

THE PROCESS

I’ve decided, after a full playthrough, that this single player focused game should be weighted 3 points – Gameplay, 2 points – Art/Visuals, 2 points – Audio/SFX, 2 points Story/ Presentation, 1 point – replayability. After the review, I will re-examine my personal bias and tastes and account for them so you, the reader, can come up with your own score (customized to your tastes). I think I will call it the NOM review (Nearly Objective Mathematical). 

This should hopefully make more sense as you read the review.

Without further ado….

ASSASSIN’S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG (NOM) REVIEW - by Yuichi Haga


Assassin’s Creed is now a yearly staple in the video game industry. Each AC game has significant updates and it really does seem that Ubisoft is listening to their fanbase. Old enough to require a subtitle such as Black Flag, this series has really come into its own. First thing first, I thought Assassin’s Creed III was a pretty good game – around an 8. The few updates in the third game has now been fully expanded upon. I am, of course, talking about sailing the seas, freerunning on natural objects, such as trees. In comparison to ACIII, this game is a 10! However, when judged solely on its own merits, this game gets a slightly lower score. I’ll explain below.

The graphics and audio in this game are top notch. Sailing the seas is a thing of beauty (I played on the PS4) I was instantly hooked within the first 10 minutes. Sailing the seas is not a boring affair, used to link points of interest together. Ubisoft has filled the open seas with other ships to battle, broken down ships to loot, animals to hunt, and random boxes and people floating about. I was never bored going from point A to point B. If you want to save time rather than sailing the pirate filled seas, there is a fast travel system that makes getting places very easy and convenient.

The gameplay is where this game falters slightly. Don’t get me wrong, being a Pirate with Ninja abilities is the best of both worlds and I enjoyed the story and gameplay very much. My two problems with the gameplay is attached with maneuvering Kenway from one place to another. Freerunning (parkour) is not 100% accurate, there were multiple times when I was chasing a person or an item and ran into unusual “stickiness”. Often times I will want to go one direction, but will grab onto a different ledge. I hope this can be worked on in the future. Certainly, this is a minor gripe as I was usually able to get back on course soon enough. The bigger flaw here is the controls of underwater sections. I had a hard time controlling Kenway whenever I was underwater. This is especially true when searching the sunken treasures. Controls are terrible underwater coupled with terrible game mechanics hiding from sharks. As a part time game designer, I think the sharks should kill in one bite in a realistic way. There should have been much more underwater foliage to hide in and less sharks in general. Balancing hiding, running out of oxygen and getting to the treasure is more compelling.

Outside of the Kenway universe, you control a new employee at Abstergo entertainment. I found these section interesting, but it stands nowhere near as compelling as sailing and killing as Kenway. Thankfully, these sections are not that long and gathering information around the office is purely optional. I did keep thinking to myself, “How long until I go back to playing as Kenway?” Let’s not forget the post game content. Community challenges and a robust multiplayer will certainly keep people coming back long after conquering the seven seas.

In summary, Ubisoft has proven that they listen to their fanbase. ACIV: Black Flag is a spectacular game that goes way above and beyond ACIII. There are minor gripes that I had but, ultimately, I played with a huge smile on my face singing shanties and exploring this beautiful world.

OVERALL SCORE:

My personal score for this game is 9.5 (AMAZING). Compared to the previous installment of Assassin’s Creed, this game is a 10! As a standalone, there are a few minor gripes that I had with the game. Still, I melt away into this beautiful game with tons of great gameplay and a magical world full of pirates.

In order to align my review with your personal tastes please answer the following questions.
Pick only one answer per question then add or subtract the result from my score to get your new score

  1. Do you enjoy Open World games?

         I love open worlds  = +0,
         Meh = -1,
         I dislike Open world Sandbox games = -2

  1. Do you like the idea of being a pirate and sailing seas?

          A pirates life for me! = +0
          Meh, I’m just here for the Assassinations = -.25
          Yeah! But I don’t care much for these assassination missions = -.25
          I don’t care for the pirates life or assassination missions = -.5
          I don’t want to be a pirate or like being an assassin = Don’t play this game.

  1. Do you mind if the controls are not 100% accurate.

    I don’t mind as long as I get where I need to go = +0
    I tend to get annoyed when the character doesn’t follow the path I want = -.25
    I hate when the character doesn’t do exactly what I want = -.5
     
  2. Do you mind if the story requires leaving the pirate simulation and wandering the offices of Abstergo?

          I love the Abstergo story arc from previous AC games! = +.25
          I don’t mind as long as the story is interesting = +0
         
 I don’t care either way = +0
        
 I’d rather stay and play the pirate game only = -.25

  1. Does a multiplayer game involving hunting and finding other assassins intrigue you?

           Yes = +0
           Not really = -.25

  1. Do you like participating in community challenges?

    Yes = +0
    Not really = -.25

 

What is your new customized score?

BREAKDOWN:
Here are my notes while I was thinking of the review so you can see my logic in the questions above.

3 points – Gameplay
-Open World action adventure game +2/2
-Pirate theme done well with Ninja abilities +.5/.5
-Parkour stickiness isn’t as accurate and underwater sections are not fun +.25/.5

2 points – Art/Visuals
-Beautiful towns, environments and water +1/1
-Dynamically changing weather and time is glorious +1/1

2 points – Audio/SFX
-Great Sound effects +.5/.5
-Music/shanties are great +1/1
-Dialogue voice acting is great +.5/.5

2 points – Story/Presentation
-Pirate Story is good +1.5/1.5
-Abstergo story is interesting +.25/.5

1 point – replayability +1/1
-Multiplayer game adds replayability.
-Not much playable after the story in Single Player but sailing seas and raiding storage bins are fun.

 

Let me know what you think of my review. If you played Infamous: Second Son, did the scores change appropriately for you? Did your customized review score give you a better idea of the game? Please send me any feedback/criticisms. I am very interested to hear if you like/dislike this type of review.


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