[Just basic gameplay this time. I’ll get into the story if this thread generates any momentum. I’ll try to avoid spoilers for the big things as much as possible.]
Hey hey. Funny how my enthusiasm for this franchise went over the past few years. I had no interest whatsoever in the first one until I saw a YouTube video and said “hey, I can do that”. I was tentatively optimistic about 2 (as I’ve mentioned many times, I really, really prayed that UbiSoft would fix the many egregious mistakes they made with the first), got it used at least a year after release, and it quickly became one of my favorite PS3 games ever. I picked up Brotherhood and Revelations used, though not as old, and they were really good, though not quite as good as 2. 3 I was luckily able to get new at a special reduced price ($30? It’s been a while.) Although there were some notorious glitches, especially with the enemy convoys, and there were a few parts I hated (grumble grumble board games against frkcin’ gods required for achievements grumble grumble), overall it was very enjoyable. And so it came to pass that I PREORDERED AC4 (the only other time in my life I did this was IIRC Guitar Hero 5) because, well, it was a sure thing and I wanted it.
So for the first time ever, I entered an AC game completely blind and fresh, no guidance, not knowing what to expect, so everything I put here should be taken with that in mind. As is my custom, my first run was minimalist, just the main story (just finished it today) and whatever minor side missions I had to do to keep it going, to get a feel for the game.
First off, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t let this be your first Assassin’s Creed game. I strongly recommend playing 3 first at minimum. There are no in-game tutorials I could find, and if you don’t have the basics of free running, fighting, and sailing down, you are going to struggle mightily, at least in the early going.
Comparing the look and feel of this to previous games, it looked like UbiSoft was really trying to simplify and streamline things. Hunting is simpler, finding things is simpler (you don’t have to buy maps for anything anymore), achievements are simpler, getting around is simpler (and a lot faster). There are three cities, none of which have the crowded slums, mighty towers, glorious cathedrals, or imposing bunkers of previous games; heck; you’ll hardly be spending any time on the rooftops. In fact, there’s an incredibly wild, outdoorsy feeling to the whole Carribbean, full of natural beauty. Oh, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the water (and a fair amount of time underwater). I recall the first game, where so much as dipping a toe in a stream was instant death, and here the protagonist is a seaman through and through.
Anyway, the issues that are sure to come up:
Money - It’s what brought Edward Kenway into the pirate life in the first place, and it’s always going to be a big issue for you…and if you’re not careful, a big problem. The big change is that there is now NO simple way to generate large sums of cash. You do have a homestead of sorts, but it generates no income. There are lots of chests, but they’re scattered all over and contain small amounts. The buried treasures have pretty big amounts (and usually upgrade unlocks), but you need maps to find them and usually have to look pretty hard (a reliable website helps a LOT here). You can hunt animals (and damaging the hide isn’t an issue anymore, so blast away!), but they’re much sparser than in 3, plus you’ll be needing hunting products for upgrades. There are certain events such as sacking forts that get you money (and other rewards), but like the chests, these are one-time things. Rum and sugar can be sold for quite a bit (and in fact have no other purpose), but you have to fight for them. On top of that, there are a lot of demands on your cash, especially your ship.
So from beginning to end, you have to be money-conscious. Take every opportunity to pull in reales as it comes and spend wisely. The majority of your purchases should go into your ship, and don’t forget to keep its armaments well-stocked. If you can get the unlockable UPlay swords (forgot the name), that’s great; these will serve you perfectly fine for the entire game and you’ll never have to buy another. As for a pistol, I recommend getting the 9,000-reales cannon pistol, the second best in the game, as soon as possible and not wasting money on any of the inferior models. As much as possible, add your captured ships to your fleet instead of using them to repair the Jackdaw (cheap and easy) or lower your wanted level (ditto); shipping assignments can net you a lot of cash.
Oh, and one more thing…STEAL! From both the living and the dead. Not just for the small amount of money (trust me, every reale counts), but to save money on ammunition, which can otherwise eat into your funds in a hurry.
Upgrades - Make no mistake, you’re going to need them. Not only the bare minimum you need just to get through the main story, but for all kinds of other fun stuff. You’ll be engaging in piracy, of course, but the bigger, better-armed ships will smash the Jackdaw to kindling unless you improve the hull and cannons quite a bit. Then there are fortresses. Taking these fortresses opens up new areas and eliminates aggravating restricted zones, but they pack a huge punch, and you simply cannot win without plenty of upgrades. Bottom line, without upgrades, you’re going to find much of the Carribbean a cold, hostile, impoverished place.
On the personal end, health upgrades are going to help a lot since every mistake in combat costs you quite a bit. Pouches for extra weapons come in very handy, especially for the many places where resupply isn’t available.
Combat - After all of UbiSoft’s efforts to make combat more offense-oriented, more intelligent, more fluid, more realistic, more dynamic, more eclectic, more gratifying etc. etc., they pretty much just threw up their hands here. There are five enemy types, standard, agile, brute, gunner, and commander, and you’ll be using the same three tactics against them for the entire game. Furthermore, you can’t even choose your method of defense, the game automatically serving up whatever’s appropriate when you hit circle. Furthermore, Edward is a less efficient killer than Ezio or even Connor…slower slashes, slower counters, more slashed needed to kill an enemy…limiting the effectiveness of chain kills. He can still wipe out a big bunch, it’s just going to be really boring. If there’s a whole mob of them, better to hit a few of them with berserk darts and let them do the work for you.
It’s not a big deal to me; I play the game that’s there. I’m pretty sure the fans are going to complain, but UbiSoft apparently decided they’re going to complain no matter what, so just make it doable and be done with it.
Naval battle - It can be fun blasting away at a ship, hurling grappling lines, and carving up the hapless crewmen, but you really do have to pick your battles carefully. Always keep this in mind: success begets success. Capture ships, get supplies and build up your feet for shipping assignments (and get more supplies, as well as money), upgrade the Jackdaw so you can take on bigger prizes, and repeat until even the mightest man-'o-wars are bowing down to you. Oh, and try not to get into battles with multiple ships. Piracy is quite lucrative, but make sure it’s lucrative for you and not your enemy. Got it?
As for the main story battles (I haven’t gotten to naval contracts yet but I imagine it’s much the same), you just need to have enough firepower, enough weaponry, enough toughness to get the job done. If you’re about to enter a mission and the game says “you should upgrade the Jackdaw”, take the warning seriously. Taking on a much bigger and meaner sea dog is never any fun.
Irritations, lack of - YES. THANK YOU. It finally dawned on them that NPCs whose sole function is to be irritating and mess you up is a colossally stupid idea, no matter how carefully handled, and has NO place in a game. At all. For any reason. Ever.
We’ll there’s so much more…I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game, really…so I guess I’ll be back with more later. Um…“ahoy”? I think that’s what you say.