The "Assassin's Creed" series has been practically everywhere and every when (time travel joke!) for half a dozen titles and many smaller spin-offs. The latest game in the series, "Assassin's Creed: Black Flag," takes a step back chronologically from "AC3" with players adopting the role of British pirate Edward Kenway.
Tearing through the high seas for riches and fame, he becomes deeply embroiled on the centuries-old secret war between Assassins and Templars, while coming to terms with a life he left behind and choosing between one filled with empty rewards, or ones that reward mankind. In other words? Pirate adventures!!!
A Pirate's Life For Me
Though the meat and potatoes of "Black Flag" tasks Edward in a chase against the Templars, a good deal of the time you'll have open waters and myriad islands to explore. In fact, some of the most exciting moments are the ship-to-ship battles between your frigate and any number of the British, Spanish, and Portuguese fleet. As the captain, you issue commands to your men as you maneuver into range, launching devastating volleys to scuttle your foe. Even better, disable a ship and take up small arms as you and your crew leap aboard.
Your ship, The Jackdaw, can also be upgraded with newer, better armor and canon, as well as visual embellishments such as black sails and a mermaid figurehead. Explosive skirmishes yield rewards such as metal, cloth and wood used to spruce up your ship and rum and sugar to sell for cash. Be sure to explore every area and take on as many ships in order to become the most feared man in the Atlantic!
While you have the freedom to explore nearly every bay, beach, and fort after about an hour or so in the game, the main story missions usually take place on land. Typically, you'll have a waypoint where a quest is doled out by the supporting characters. While the story missions are pretty linear, you have a bit of freedom in how to tackle the object.
Edward is a formidable fighter and can take on a number of baddies at once. Often a subtler approach is necessary, though, so as to not draw too much attention to your actions: Edward can employ cover to sneak by for quick kills, a mainstay of the "Assassin's Creed" series. Your best friend is your hidden blade, efficiently dispatching villains with a quick slice as you slink away. Additionally, you can make grand leaps from ledges and embed your knife into the necks of anyone who gets in your way. If the situation gets too dire, Edward has guns, swords, poison darts, and more to ensure a successful mission.
High Seas Hunting
Edward has several ways to boost his own abilities with items that can be crafted by hunting the local fauna. While several upgrades can obtained from jungle animals, you'll eventually need to set your sights on bigger game. Whales and sharks can be chased down using your rowboat and harpoons. They're neat, if not somewhat nauseating mini-quests... But taking out an elusive white whale is thrilling enough to make even Herman Melville jealous.
Call of Booty
In what is perhaps Ubisoft's largest "Assassin's Creed" to date, you'll have tons of baubles and trinkets to unearth throughout the Caribbean. While the majority of these are merely distractions for those with a wandering eye, the persistent treasure seeker will be rewarded with additional weapons, armor, and other extras to aid your pirating ways. Get out there and explore!
Breaking The Fourth Wall
Returning gamers will remember Abstergo - the mysterious science and tech firm which revealed themself to be Templars - the main opponent to the Assassins. In the previous games, you played as a man named Desmond Miles who teamed with Abstergo to jump back into his previous lives. Think "Total Recall" meets "The Matrix," and you've got the gist.
Without revealing too much, the mind-bending uber-story of the series gets even crazier as Abstergo returns in "Black Flag," this time as an entertainment conglomerate that catalogues people's genetic memories and sells them as media... And includes the real life developer/publisher, Ubisoft, as a partner.
Pirates Of The Caribbean
You won't just spend time with Edward, and other fictional pirates: notorious real-life scallywags like Blackbeard, James Kidd, Benjamin Hornigold, Calico Jack, and most notably Bartholomew Roberts, a.k.a. Black Bart, all make an appearance, adding a bit of legitimacy for history buffs with just enough caricaturization that adds plenty of flavor to the story. Between discovering the thin line in the game between fiction and reality and exploring a huge pirate world, players should be set to sail the seven seas for a good long time... At least until the next "Assassin's Creed" game is released.