Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag has recently been made available for free to Xbox 360 owners with an Xbox Live membership as part of the Games With Gold program. This means that gamers can get their hands on what is widely regarded as the second best, or even by some the best, game in the series.

The best Assassin’s Creed game is largely considered to be the second, so what is it about Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag that makes them stand out in a series full of similar efforts? Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss, but I also want to point how how Ubisoft can reinvigorate the franchise after the catastrophe that was Assassin’s Creed Unity.

For now, let’s ignore all of the Desmond/Animus aspects of the games; forget that they ever happened. So what is it that makes the worlds of Assassin’s Creed II and IV so enjoyable to roam around in? In short, it’s atmosphere.

Many gamers will remember running around Italy in Assassin’s Creed II for the first time, consuming the sights and sounds that have been crafted for you. The great thing about this is that it was believable. The mumbling of Italians set to the oft-sundown backdrop created a feeling like none other. Assassin’s Creed II did a wonderful job of making you feel like you were really there; in Venice and in Florence. Sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on how it’s done, but everything just seemed right, whether it be the characters such as Da Vinci who helped to portray the attitudes and emotions of the people or the grand architecture of the cities, it all looked exactly how you’d imagine 16th century Italy to look.

The sub-sequels – Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations – helped to build on this element of game design, and whilst they attempted to integrate a couple of new ideas, few of them caught on and the two games ended up being considered as extremely similar to Assassin’s Creed II, thus they did not take the series in a new direction.

That’s not to say that the series needed to head in a new direction to do what it does best. When Assassin’s Creed is at its best is when players are running around ancient areas, learning about the past and becoming more knowledgeable on the setting all the while. Perhaps it’s the language, the culture or something else; either way, Assassin’s Creed has even been used in schools to help teach History lessons, proving what it can really achieve when it focuses on its strong points.

The same sort of compliments can also be applied to Black Flag. When the series needed to feel fresh, it didn’t need to drastically change the gameplay mechanics, it merely required a new piece of the past to play around in, and Black Flag offers just that. Roaming around the Caribbean and the open seas, Black Flag really makes you feel like you’re a pirate in the 18th century. It’s the small touches that aid in this regard, such as your crew singing shanties that can be collected throughout the game when they are aboard the Jackdaw, or the gulls crying as they fly through the beautiful blue sky. Even more impressive is the seamless transition from sailing to swimming to running on-foot. There’s something extraordinary about sailing to a small island, only to dive off the ship and swim the the shore with zero load times that really adds to the authenticity. Searching the numerous small islands for chests and treasure maps or hunting iguanas and other creatures to upgrade your gear; it all contributes to making the experience feel that much more real.

With Assassin’s Creed III and, to some extent, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ubisoft tried to do too much. By being too ambitious in terms of story and gameplay, the developers forgot what made the series so good in the first place – what gave it its identity. The setting for Assassin’s Creed III simply wasn’t very interesting and the story was far too political to get on board with for newcomers. Don’t get me wrong, Assassin’s Creed III was not a bad game, but for me the gameplay alone could not hold up what was an otherwise okay experience.

Again, whilst Assassin’s Creed Unity hoped to teach us of the shenanigans of the French Revolution and 18th century Paris, a push to release the game on time meant that it shipped with frankly a unAnimus unanimous amount of bugs and glitches that would later be patched, by which point it was too late. The damage had been done and the believability just wasn’t there; how could it be when NPC’s are falling through the floor and key facial features such as skin are missing in cutscenes? I think the developers had the right idea with Unity as attractions such as the Notre Dame had been recreated with painstaking detail, but technically the execution was all over the place, likely due to time constraints which weren’t realistic.

So, here’s hoping that the next game in the series – Assassin’s Creed Victory – can take the foundation that Unity was built on and really iron out the kinks so that the launch is more stable, thus allowing us to enjoy the sights and sounds of Victorian London just like we did in Renaissance Italy and the Caribbean.

 

  • IronManO3 .

    AC2 is overrated, imo ACIV stands as the best.

    • Section8

      IV is not a creed game. Sorry.

      • IronManO3 .

        It is dumbass, Rogue isn’t, get your facts correct kid.

        • Section8

          Are you fucking for real? I don’t think you even fathom what you just said. Rogue is much more of an AC game than Black Flag. I’ll let that sink in a little for you. Clearly when they made BF they forgot they were doing a creed game. It was just added on after. Or were those the only 2 creed games you ever played. Tell me you’re joking? Even Unity was more of a creed game than BF.

          And the fact that you called me kid reverts your IQ down 30 points. Or did you not know IQ was scored in points either?

          • IronManO3 .

            Says the guy with no iq, using insults to get your unwanted opinion across, good work 😀

            You think Rogue is a good game xD it’s hilarious. ACIV is loved by so many fans, you already lost this argument lolol.

      • Vic 2.0

        Of course it is. The story is not about who officially joins one or the other side; it’s about telling the story of these two groups and their quest for ancient artifacts.

    • Vic 2.0

      I agree AC2 is overrated. IMO, each game was better than the one before it (except Unity, as I haven’t played it yet). And I can’t decide between Rogue and AC4; they were both excellent games.

  • Mr. Slenderman

    With all the posts with the opinions of people about the AC franchise, I feel like the only one who loved the series because of their story and narrative, first one was awesome with all the discussions about political and social behavior of the man, the Ezio trilogy brought a story with nothing to envy from a best seller novel, Connor passed through many events of confusion and the search for oneself was frankly heart-touching, black flag on its way, it’s just about a selfish pirate, who’s through all the game, I don’t know what he wants, or think

  • Joseph Verloove

    How come you don’t mention how good the stories were in II and Black Flag?

    • Steve Wright

      I’ll admit that I am yet to finish the story in Black Flag so it would be unfair for me to judge, but yes, the story in ACII was very impressive. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s the aspect that really separates ACII from its counterparts.

  • Gohanks Yan

    Assassins creed Rogue has a really short story, but the game itself is like a AC brotherhood for black flags.

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  • Blex123

    FACT CHECK. AUTHOR PLEASE READ!!!!! Hey author, you said that you loved ACII’s atmosphere in Rome and Venice. I think you haven’t played the game because the game is based in Florence with only single, non open world missions in Rome and Venice. Also, if you say that brotherhood is mediocre, why do you have TWO PICTURES of it, one for the title, and one with the brotherhood. So… Before you make an argument that a game is good or bad, please play the goddamn game.

  • Guest

    With all the posts with the opinions of people about the AC franchise, I feel like the only one who loved the series because of their story and narrative, first one was awesome with all the discussions about political and social behavior of the man, the Ezio trilogy brought a story with nothing to envy from a best seller novel, Connor passed through many events of confusion and the search for oneself was frankly heart-touching, black flag on its way, it’s just about a selfish pirate, who’s through all the game, I don’t know what he wants,

    • Vic 2.0

      I love the story and narrative of each game as well, although I think Revelations had the best story.

  • Section8

    IV? No. Absolutely not. I know that’s your opinion but it wasn’t even an AC game. Any die hard fan of this series would not acknowledge IV as a creed game.

    • Steve Wright

      And for that reason it was arguably one of the better AC games, because of the fact that it did things that weren’t traditional in the series. I recommend you give Kotaku’s article a read for a further expression of this point. http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2015/04/21/reminder-assassins-creed-iv-great

      • Section8

        Better pirate game maybe. Look at the other pirate games that came out in the last year. Doesn’t compare to BF. But take out the Assassin’s Creed name off the case and you wouldn’t be wrong to think it’s just a pirate game. Creed stuff was tacked on after someone realized they were doing a creed game. That game was a joke as far as AC is concerned.

        And a kotaku article? C’mon man. Bring me something with some real journalism.

    • Vic 2.0

      Of course it is. The story is not about who officially joins one or the other side; it’s about telling the story of these two groups and their quest for ancient artifacts.

  • Ben

    I miss Desmond… With out him, the series has lost a lot of its charm. Some of my fondest memories was from The banter Desmond and crew had in Brotherhood. There seem to be a point and drive of the over arching story. Now? What’s the point of the series? What’s the story that connects these historical people together? What are the fighting for? Just sad how far the series has fallen.

    • Steve Wright

      I always felt that the criticism for Desmond’s sections of the games was a bit much, but for me I can see why they got rid of him. People got tired of having to run around in the real world between missions when all they wanted to do was be in the Animus. Don’t even get me started on the lame first person stuff.

      As for the point of the series, I feel like it doesn’t hugely matter. The Animus helped to provide context as to why we’re doing these things in Rome and in the Caribbean, but do we really need context? At the end of the day, we’re playing a video game. When you play Call of Duty World At War you don’t get some backstory that goes into how you can be playing a WWII game in 2015. It’s a video game – the nature of the product is the only context it needs.

      • Ben

        I disagree. I think the direction of the story does matter for the future success of the series. Not all players want buy into the series to just go around stabbing people in historical times. Some people come for the story, and like it or not, the Modern story is a the interconnecting tissue of the brand. Without it, there is very little point for a story driven player like myself to come back to the game.
        Desmond’s story, was the “true” story of the series. Not Altair, Not Ezio, Connor, Edward, Haytham, etc etc. It was always about Desmond. And AC3 did a huge disservice to the character, and my interest in the series waned considerably when Desmond’s story arc ended. I would have been fine if he was given a solid ending, and not the slap on audio recordings in Black Flag. And the 1st person Modern Day segments have largely felled flat. The beauty of the Desmond story and the third person glimpse, is you got to probe deeper into the overarching goals and themes of the series.
        IF Ubisoft had done it right, they would have kept Desmond around and shifted to a new Modern Day hero, the Modern Day “Eve” equivalent, to Desmond’s Adam role. It would have allowed them to go off on a new target, maybe make the MD Eve character a Templar to get their view point. Then somewhere down the line, they could have synced the two stories together to battle the greater threat of Juno.
        I for one would have loved a modern day game, and I really enjoyed MD segments. The series just feels rudderless without it.

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  • Alan “Pope Salty” Jackson

    How’s this for posh, Steve…?

    …You do know “stereotypically” is one word, right?

    Don’t believe everything Spell Check tells you… 🙂

    • Steve Wright

      People actually read the bio? I don’t believe it 😉 I’ll fix it, and when Gamespresso is the biggest gaming website on the Internet, I will honour you for being the quality assurance guy on my bio 🙂 (And yes, that is how I spell honour because I am English)!

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  • Vic 2.0

    No way. AC4 and ROGUE are the best, with AC3 and Revelations coming in after that. AC2 is way overrated. I think everyone’s just blinded by nostalgia, when they insist even today that it’s the best one.

  • Vic 2.0

    AC4 sure, but not 2. Haven’t played Unity or Syndicate yet, but here is how the AC franchise just got better and better from AC1 to AC4:

    Ehh, don’t think I have to explain why AC2 is better than AC1 (but lemme know if I’m wrong!)

    But yes, Brotherhood was better than AC2! I mean, it gave us the crossbow, made the gun fire faster, gave us the assassins system, made the loot more interesting and gave us a better playground for Desmond. In combat, it was easier to actually take the offensive rather than waiting for the chance to counterattack. And you could set your fast-equip weapons yourself! That’s in addition to little things like no longer accidentally mounting a horse just by getting too close to it, being able to customize the HUD, and being able to skip cutscenes. And you could buy maps for *all* the collectibles, not just the treasure boxes.

    Revelations improved on all *that.* They gave us very interesting backstory on both Altair and Desmond, along with closure for our friend Ezio. Gun and crossbow got even faster, the bombs were much better done, the hookblade made climbing up walls faster and running over the rooftops more exciting (that moment you realized a zipline was going your way), the camera would finally spin all the way around Ezio while he climbed walls and stuff, and the assassins system was perfected. Also, having a primary and secondary weapon equipped was definitely better.

    AC3. Finally got ourselves the weather system we should’ve been having all along. And not only that but it was *perfect* because at the end of the game we could actually set the season and time of day however we wanted it which was F’ing great. Combat was better, parkour was streamlined, tree-running was fun, naval missions were a blast, collectibles were more interesting, more depth was added to stealing, looting was faster, they not only brought in more animals but even let us hunt them!, stealth was improved for sheer number of places to hide, and the forts were better than the previous 2 games’ Borgia Towers and Templar Dens. They allowed us to do all our shopping in a single store. Oh, and they finally did away with having to buy medicine or repair armor.

    And finally, AC4. Naval combat and exploration was obviously better, but so was the stealth. You had even more places to lure guards to while hiding, and the warehouses actually gave you incentive to practice your stealth there. Further, hunting had more relevance (and more sharks/whales!), and the money system was finally done right! The camera turned smoothly even while you were swimming, and notoriety finally got the hell out of town (literally)! 😛

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