Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Wii U)

PieratsAssassin’s Creed III was a disappointment. After the great previous three games (especially Brotherhood), Ubisoft seemed to throw all the fun out of the game and fill it with useless and tedious sidequests. You can see it started a little in Revelations with the ill-advised Tower Defence bits, but aside from one single mission it was entirely optional and avoidable, but III was filled to the brim with nothing I wanted to play. Naval battles. Ship upgrades. Homestead improvements. Yes, I know ACII had the Monteriggioni stuff where you improved the region, but you did that with money – not hunting and trading and zzzzzz.

The actual previous-game style Assassin’ing in III was great. Stalking your mark, taking out guards from cover, all that sort of thing. It’s just a shame that wasn’t what most of the game involved. I also wasn’t a fan of the tree climbing – I much prefer cities and rooftops. If it wasn’t for the story (as in, the “modern day” story), I don’t think I’d have bothered with Black Flag.

I_can_see_my_house_from_here_You see, the problem with Black Flag, before you’ve played it and if you didn’t like the bits of ACIII that I didn’t like, is that looks like it’s more of the same. More boats. More trees. Less actually being an Assassin and doing actual assassin tasks. It’s not Assassin’s Creed: It’s Pirates of the Caribbean With A Hood On.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

So_it_s_raiding_tombs_you_ll_be_doing_now__is_itNot on everything. Oh no. Firstly, there is a lot of boating. Boat here. Boat there. Cannon that boat. Boat over to that fort and cannon that fort. Drive your boat between some rocks. Board other boats. Salvage cargo in your boat. Steal a boat. Upgrade your boat. BOAT. BOAT. BOAT.

Climb a tree. Hide in a tree. Use a tree as cover. Run along tree branches. Hunt animals. Stab crocodiles. AIR ASSASSINATE AN OCELOT. Gah.

Mancomb_Seepgood__I_bet_he_fights_like_a_goat.Even worse, is how most of these tasks aren’t even optional. At least in III you had very few boat bits unless you’re an idiot and wanted more. Once you’d done the hunting animals tutorial, you could ignore it forever more. In Black Flag, you need to hunt to improve your stats. You have to boat everywhere in order to get around the world. You can’t avoid it.

So why is it that I’m enjoying the game so much compared to ACIII? Because the actual Assassin’ing sections are excellent. For the most part, they’re in towns with rooftops and alleys and although there are tree and forest sections, they’re infrequent or part of the towns themselves. Havana even feels a lot like Constantinople, just with more palm trees and a larger Jamaican population.

Toilets_everywhere.The plot has been good so far too. Both the Kenway time period stuff, with him wanting to make his fortune but then being a bad boy pirate and now is slowly coming round to being a good boy Assassin, and also the modern era with John the IT guy in Abstergo Entertainment’s offices. And the toilets. Very impressive toilets. I spent a long time looking at the toilets, for some reason.

Welcome_to_the_jungleIn fact, even the boat bits aren’t really all that bad. As boat bits go, they’re probably just about the best boat bits in any video game. My issue is more to do with I don’t want them cluttering up my Assassin’s Creed game, interspersing all the fun bits with boat bits. They’ve made an effort to integrate them a bit with proper AC gameplay, in that when you disable a boat or a fort you then get off your boat and take it down on foot, but still. Boats.

All these thoughts are, however, subject to change. I’ve played for about 12 hours or so, and reached the bit in the main story where James Kidd’s second revelation occurs (that is to say, I’m in Kingston and am looking for the Sage).

Assassin’s Creed III (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t spoil the ending for myself before getting to it at least. Not nearly as bad as people had made out though. There may be spoilers to follow…

I didn’t like the final two “boss” fights. Haytham’s was complete rubbish and different to any other fight in the game, and Charles Lee’s was basically a chase followed by a cutscene. You don’t actually get to properly assassinate either of them – it’s done for you by the game.

There’s no way I’m going back to the game to do everything it suggests I can do. I’m not going hunting, collecting things for the homestead, doing naval battles, collecting feathers or doing any liberation missions or assassination contracts. Unlike similar things in previous games, all these things seem completely superfluous to the narrative. Sure, they weren’t essential before, but they’re an unnecessary chore here – not a fun character and/or money building task.

Speaking of money, there is literally no point to it in Assassin’s Creed III. You gain enough from simply following the story to unlock all of the extra weapons like rope darts and poison, and you never need to restock any as people you kill replenish them easily enough. As a result, I ended the game having only spent about £2000 on such unlockables, with a good £70,000 still in my pocket. At least in other AC games you could buy better swords and things, but here you don’t even need a sword and I never used one, intentionally at least (there’s a bug where you sometimes automatically get equipped with one for no reason), at any point in the game.

What I did do, however, following the end of the game, was find all the pivot points to get the “animus hacks”. Which was fun for a bit, although Fast Travel stopped working again so I had to go everywhere à pied. Sadly, these hacks were not as fantastic as they sounded (invincible, unlimited ammo, fast reload) as when applied you can’t save your game. Tch.

Overall thoughts on Assassin’s Creed III? Yeah, it’s aight.

Assassin’s Creed III (Wii U)

And so the neck-stabbing continues.

Well, I say that, but in fact it doesn’t. One major issue I have with this version of Assassin’s Creed is that you have no way of telling when you’re supposed to press Y to assassinate anyone. You have to guess, whereas previously it would appear as a prompt on-screen. Which means that most of the time you either miss, or worse, miss and everyone notices you.

As a result, picking off guards one by one is rarely possible, and you instead have to go for the all-out fight. That’s fine, as the fighting is excellent (I especially like the slow-mo attack reversals), but it’s not usually the best option. Far better to wipe out as many redcoats as possible in secret first – especially if they’re the harder to kill types who you don’t really want to take on in open combat. Yet another reason why it doesn’t feel like Assassin’s Creed.

So yeah, less neck-and-back stabbing, more chest and face slicing. Mmm.

Plotwise, I’ve just met up with Daddy and am “bonding” with him. We did some missions together and did a terrible naval battle thing. He berated me a lot, and I told him he was a bad man. Then we stabbed all the men.

Assassin’s Creed III (Wii U)

I played this for a couple of hours a few weeks ago, as I snapped it up for a tenner. I didn’t want to play it much more as I was still in the middle of Batman: Arkham City, and they’re reasonably similar game styles (hide-and-seek-and-punch), but the controls are very different, so going from one game to the other was going to be confusing.

With Batman out of the way last week, I was back to Assassin’s Creed III.

Now, there has been much said about the game. Disappointment in the direction, the lack of freedom in the assassinations, the lack of proper assassinations, the bugs, Connor being a dull character, etc. etc. Of course, I have my own thoughts.

Firstly, bugs. Lots of bugs. A few of the silly variety (like guards getting stuck on windows on roofs), a few of the annoying variety (like when I ran up a tree and then for no reason the camera flipped 90 degrees and I leapt off, clipped through a cliff wall, and fell into nothingness), but mostly of the JUST NO variety (like the game crashes every hour or so, and most times when I’m loading it up). Still, I can live with that for now – after all, I’ve played Assassin’s Creed games before, so they’re hardly one of III’s new features.

At the moment, I’ve played through Haytham Kenway’s section, been child Connor, and have just officially joined the Brotherhood. I was really quite disappointed they purposefully forwent the ceremony and the branding on the finger thing. Shame. Connor isn’t quite the dull character many have made him out to be – he’s just a bit wet and naïve. At least at the moment. The story is pulling me in, although several times now the characters seem to just know things without being told. How did Achilles know Connor was Haytham’s son, for example? Cut scenes are disjointed, and dialogue is stunted, almost like there’s bits missing or I’ve pressed the “skip scene” button – it doesn’t help create a believable coherent world, anyway. Yes, it’s only a game, and so on. But still.

What was good, and what I didn’t see coming at all, was the reveal that Haytham…

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

I mean, well done Ubisoft. That was a stroke of genius. You told the story so well up until then that I didn’t even consider it, and nothing was said that suggested it. I actually said, out loud, in sync with Desmond in the game, “Wait, what?!”.

Other aspects of the game I like include (to my surprise) the hunting. At the moment, it’s completely pointless, but it’s a fun distraction. The actual Assassining around Boston is as good as ever too, although the roads are wider than they were in Rome or Constantinople, so jumping from one side to the other doesn’t happen so much making rooftop chases a bit of a pain.

What I don’t like, aside from bugs and cutscenes, include driving the ship (and the first naval battle), it taking forever to get anywhere (although Connor now has a horse, so that’ll help), the snow (you move sooooooo slooooowly in it), and all the “building up the homestead” stuff. In Assassin’s Creed II this seemed to benefit you, and was achieved mostly as a side effect of other things you were doing, but here it’s just a chore. Currently, of course. Everything is subject to change at this early (ten hours-ish) stage. Oh yes, and reloading your pistol. If Altaïr could have an almost-instantly-reloading pistol 600 years prior, seems odd that Haytham and Connor can’t.

The main thing I’m getting from the game, though, is this: it simply isn’t Assassin’s Creed (yet). It’s one part Skyrim, one part Red Dead Redemption, with Assassin’s Creed undertones. I’m sort of OK with that right now, but I think those expecting “more Assassin’s Creed” are probably those not enjoying the game all that much.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (360)

Finally done with this now. I must say, the final couple of hours soured my experience a little, what with the wandering round waiting for money to generate just to get the last few books, and the awful first person sections, and even having done all them there were still no Revelations.

Anyway, that’s pretty much all the non-multiplayer achievements done, aside from a few I really can’t be bothered with (not least because some of them involve playing the first person bits again!), so time to move on to something else, whilst waiting for Assassin’s Creed III…

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (360)

You know, sometimes it would be much easier to just read what the achievements are, and how to get them, before starting the game. Saves hours of repetition after completing the game, if I’d just thought to, say, do a few thief tasks or something at the start and then the achievement would just pop up through normal play. In this case, thief looting. If I’d unlocked it earlier in the game then I could use it to loot 50 guards as I went through the story, whereas now I have to pick fights and carry thieves round with me while I do. Ho hum.

Besides that, I’ve now collected all of the Animus data fragments (thankfully, once you’ve found 50 the other 50 appear on the map), all the Memoir pages, all the books bar those horrifically overpriced ones in Cappadoccia, which I’m now saving up for whilst buying the last few buildings in Constantinople. All the shops are mine, and I’ve finished the Vlad the Impaler’s Prison DLC too.

Awesome.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (360): COMPLETED!

Dear Ubisoft,

I am a big fan of your historically almost-accurate hood-wearing murderous free-runner simulators, but despite having played your three most recent in relatively quick succession and anxiously anticipating the finale of the “Ezio Trilogy” and its associated Revelations, I was shocked to discover that you seem to have forgotten to include any.

Unless, of course, I have to unlock them by playing this poor Welltris/Mirror’s Edge minigame to completion, which, frankly, isn’t going to happen. Not least because it is the worst thing in all of creation.

Once I’d sat through the 462 minute long end credits sequence, where you name each and every person who ever existed throughout the entirety of time and space, before switching on a random name generator and churning out another 14 billion people who never existed throughout the entirety of time and space, I was still awaiting any form of revelation. But none came.

Unless no revelation was the revelation? How very meta of you!

Anyway. Keep up the good work. I hope to be completing Stabby Hood Tomahawk Man Death III later this year.

Love,

deKay xxx

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (360)

I started this at the weekend, having found it cheap (and cheap sooner than I anticipated!). For the first couple of hours, I didn’t really like it. It was too different to the previous game, both with the weapons (you have bombs now) and the controls (they’ve shifted stuff from X to Y, and Y to LS), as well as there seemingly being no glyphs, a bizarre Tower Defence section, and no “outside the Animus” bits. Somehow as well, I need to believe that Subject 16 (from the previous games), despite being dead, is still “alive” inside the Animus as some sort of living AI. In fact, not even AI – he’s “real”. Jars a bit.

After a few more hours, though, I’m finding it excellent again. I’ve adjusted to the controls and new weapons (I don’t bother with the bombs), and it’s all become business as usual. Marvellous.

Until I unlocked and decided to do a “Desmond Chapter”. Oh dear.

Who decided that a first person platforming puzzle game would be a good fit squeezed into a third person free-roaming stabby stealth action game? This and the tower defence bits of the main game just don’t fit. Silly.

Stuff I’ve played recently

A roundup of some of the games I’ve been playing in the last couple of weeks:

Pullblox (3DS)

Completed this a while back, but have gone back to finish some of the bonus levels that you unlock, and some of the user generated ones I’ve found strewn across the internets. It’s still lovely.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360)

Returned to mop up a few more achievements and actually play some of the side missions and games I’d totally missed. There are still Cristina and assorted faction side missions to do, but I think I’m done with the game for now. It was excellent though – I just have other things to play!

Crysis 2 (360)

This was £7 in the Morrisons sales. I’m about 3-4 hours in, and haven’t really got used to the controls yet – every button on the pad seems to have seventy-three uses in various situations, or whether you press it or hold it down or double-tap it. The game itself seems like a mix of Half-Life 2, The Conduit, and Aliens vs Predator, with various sections, plot points and cut scenes ripped from each. It’s not bad, but I’m not feeling it yet. Mind you, I’m not a big fan of FPSes generally anyway. We’ll see. It looks gorgeous though.

Zen Pinball (3DS)

I’m useless at this. Shaman is my favourite table, but my high score is only a feeble 14 million or so putting me well down my friends’ leaderboard despite everyone else barely playing it as they all hate it (compared to the other tables, anyway). How do I get score multipliers? How can I stop being rubbish at it? Tch.

Mario vs Donkey Kong (3DS)

The GBA game, which I got free for being a Nintendo Ambassador. It’s a direct sequel to the Donkey Kong (’94) Game Boy game I was playing on the 3DS earlier in the year, and is very good indeed. There have been further sequels, but they’re a different sort of platform puzzler – more like Krusty’s Super Fun House. I liked that game, but I don’t like the others in the Mario vs DK series for some reason. You can see the way the series is going in this iteration, as one level per world is a “mini Mario” level, similar to what would become of the later games. I can cope with that though. Up to World 3 so far.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360)

It may be completed, but while bad people remain unfacestabbed, the assassinations must continue!

I’ve spent most of my time plundering the Lairs of Romulus, and also finishing off the remaining Leonardo’s Machines bits (although one still needs to be done), as well as mopping up all the feathers, some Borgia Flags, and lots of treasures. I’ve also tried completing the Shop Quests, but I’m still a few items short.

Alongside all this, I’ve also been sending my assassins off on missions, and they’ve all reached the highest rank now. Oh yeah, and I’ve grabbed a few more achievements – including the one for killing a guard with a broom. Ace.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360): COMPLETED!

Well, I wasn’t expecting that.

I mean, I was expecting to finish it, of course – but I didn’t expect to play though Sequence 5 and get to the end and have “Sequence 9 Complete” come up. Turns out I was much further through the game than I thought. Since I’ve spent about 80% of the game “off-story”, that means the main story was very, very short compared to Assassin’s Creed 2. I don’t really mind as there’s been plenty to do (and I still have lots of Lairs and Machines and some of the DLC left as well), and I’ve spent well over 20 hours on it so far, but if I were just going for the main plot I’d be a bit disappointed, I think.

Still, it was fantastic. Although I hated the end bit with Desmond. It was like that bit in Prey that I didn’t want to play all over again. Tch.

Jumped straight back in and continued sending my recruits on missions and buying up property. Aces.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360)

In many ways, this is just Assassin’s Creed II. The fighting is the same. The moves, the same. The basic assassination techniques, the same. You still have towers to scale, and tombs to raid, and armour to upgrade and paintings to collect. There are still treasure chests left randomly across the map and guards on rooftops who tell you to get down. Even the doctors still go on about lead-based cures for things and how a weekly bleeding is good for you and prevention is the best cure, and bystanders wonder about my wall clambering being illegal or not and commenting that they should do something to stay in shape.

Yet, it’s also very different. For starters, there’s the whole Assassin’s Guild thing. You “save” people from nasty guards, and they pledge to follow you. They then become your apprentices – so you can use them in battle, trigger them like a smart bomb to blanket the guards with arrows, or send them off on missions in far off exotic locations to rough up traders, protect nobelmen, or steal stuff from Templars. Then, like it’s an RPG or something, they gain XP and level up to become more proficient and can take on harder missions. Not that you take part in these missions – they’re all done in the background and you just see the spoils at the end. Strangely, it feels like playing Championship Manager or something, and I am somehow addicted to this part of the game.

Another change is the way you can upgrade and rebuild parts of Rome. OK, so you did the same in Monteriggioni in the previous game, but here it’s essential. You can’t shop without opening shops to shop in. You can’t get at your earned cash from the bank without building a bank. And more than once I’ve been in the situation where I need money, have loads in the bank, but there’s no bank nearby except for ones I’ve not yet restored and I don’t have the money to pay to do that. Gnngh!

Perhaps more important a change to all of these is the introduction of the Borgia Towers. Whereas in ACII you could just climb to high places and synchronise in order to get the map for an area, most of these high places are now protected Borgia towers. Anything in the same region as a tower is under Borgia control, and you’re prevented from renovating buildings nearby until the tower is destroyed. To do that, you have to find and kill the captain of the tower, who is usually hidden or protected. If he sees you, he’ll run – and fail to catch him and you’ve missed your chance until the next guard shift change when you have to try again. Kill him, and you can scale the tower and torch it, releasing the region of it’s Borgia influence and opening it up to rebuilding and stuff. I hated this at first, but now I’m really enjoying the tower parts of the game.

In terms of how far into the game I am, I’ve just assassinated the French captain bloke. It’s maybe a third of the way into the game, I think, but I’ve spent so much time on side things (like the towers) that I would have completed it by now otherwise!

Really enjoying it, although perhaps not quite as much as the last game. I’m not sure yet…

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360)

OK, so I didn’t get the all-singing, all-dancing Codex edition direct from the Ubishop (it was £14.99, but they cancelled my order), but I did get the standard edition for £8.28-ish, so it’s not bad. Blimey. This £18 Rule has addled my head – I used to think £30 was cheap for a game!

I’ve played about the first hour or so of Brotherhood now. It carries on directly from the previous game, and there’s a quite clever sequence where you lose most of your weapons, armour and health points from the previous game, which is better than in other games where it is unexplained, or something.

At the moment, I’m in Monteriggioni – as Desmond. Which is awesome. I’d be very surprised if a later Assassin’s Creed game isn’t almost entirely Desmond. Anyway, it’s great so far!

EDIT: Haha! Look!


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Assassin’s Creed 2 (360)

Since I was so close to getting all the achievements in the game, I went back and, er, got all the achievements. Collecting all the feathers was the real time consumer, especially since I only had 30 or so of the 100, and after that I just had to wear my prize in all the game locations (easy) and perform a few fancy fighting moves for the remaining achievements.

And that’s it! I could go and get all the treasures now, but I get nothing for it (except money, which I have more than I could ever spend anyway), but I’ve done everything else!

Brotherhood needs to be bought now. And soon. I did buy it from the online Ubisoft store, but they cancelled my order, so I hate them now.

Assassin’s Creed 2 (360): COMPLETED!

Hurrah!

That’s probably the best game I’ve played in quite a long time. So good, in fact, I’m a bit disappointed it’s all over. Well, it isn’t quite, as I immediately went back in a mopped up some achievements, bagged the last few glyphs, and started the trawl for feathers.

Luckily, being behind the times with the series, I can now pick up the follow-up, Brotherhood, for peanuts as the game after that, Revelations, is out very soon. Excellent! Sometimes living a little in the past is good 🙂

The end of the game was brilliant, but the final boss fight was unexpectedly short and easy. Very, very easy, in fact. The guy at the end of the first game was really difficult, but this guy? If you hold block you can’t get hit. At all. Oh well. At least it wasn’t frustrating.