Assassin's Creed 4 initial impressions (potential spoilers)

[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. :slight_smile:

I was a bit hesitant when I saw the first trailer. Loved the second and third games, never played the Revolutionary War one (I got about an hour into it, it started glitching and realized I didn’t care).

Is the game still assassin-y? Is there still a lot of interesting climbs? I know I’ll miss the European cityscape, but things could be good.

You’re missing the big question: has Tobuscus made a Literal trailer for it? Yes, though not one of his better ones (Hitman remains my fave).

Not a whole lot in the way of climbing (you have to screw up really badly to leap to your death, which only happened to me a couple times so far :slight_smile: ). There’s plenty of exploration and free running through jungles, as well as the Mayan ruins, but for the most part there aren’t really complicated jumping/climbing puzzles.

“Assassin-y?” Yes, there are parts where you can’t be detected, but from what I’ve seen, not a whole lot. One interesting addition is that some parts of the sea are restricted areas, and if you’re in the sight of a ship too long, they’ll go on the attack, the same as on land. For the most part, though, it’s gone back to the first game: you CAN use stealth, but it’s not an ironclad requirement, nor even necessarily advantageous. Edward Kenway is a pirate captain. He’s expected to be good with a sword, lead assaults, and use a variety of powerful weapons. He’s not Solid Snake and never pretends to be.

I’m finding it a lot of fun; like it’s predecessors, it’s a game that just eats up the hours. If I have any complaint, and it’s a minor one, it’s that you have to do a LOT of work to get the materials you need for Jackdaw upgrades. I was actually able to set up the brothel today because I had piles of cash and not enough wood or metal. And again, it’s upgrade or perish. Believe it.

I’m hoping to pick this up after I play AC3.

I’m both sad and happy about the money thing. Literally my favorite thing in Brotherhood and Revelations was buying the whole city. Yeah, it was just a game of waiting around and then buying the next thing until you’re regularly crushed under massive sums of money, but it was fun.

You say getting money is tough, but would a midly dedicated player be able to get all the upgrades, or is that one of those things you’d only attempt if you were an uber hardcore 100%er?

I thought I was done after AC3, the most boring game in history - even though the beginning was pretty strong.

But it’s pirates. And ships on the high seas and pirates. Need to pick it up.

I think the setting may have done AC3 in. The mid-late 1700s just were not a good fit for an Assassin’s Creed game (I think it’s a relatively lackluster period in general for games, but that’s personal).

I think the only era with a potential to be worse would be World War 1, which would get the honor of trying to figure out how to work trench warfare into the game.

Though assassinating Franz Ferdinand would be pretty great.

If it had been set within the French Revolution, I think AC3 could have been awesome. As it was, I think it was the setting, rather than the time period, that rendered it less interesting - though I applaud Ubisoft for changing it up a bit and experimenting with the woodland areas and the slightly differently laid out cities (French Revolution Paris would have simply offered more of the same sorts of gameplay, I think - given the layout of the city - though I think the story could have been more interesting in that location rather than revolutionary America).

Unlike others here, I found the sea battles frustrating in AC3 as I really liked the stealth kill/proper assassination type of gameplay that the series seems to be veering further and further away from (I always tried to find the line of least killing playing the other games and was frustrated when I got spotted and had to have a stand up fight with 20 men). I may cut my losses with the series at this point unless I can pick this up in a bargain bin in 8-9 months time (and only then if it looks like the next one is going to give me what I am after).

Actually, that’s a good point. Revolutionary Paris would be a pretty decent place. The original Revolution didn’t have as big a focus on barricades as later revolutions, but when they do show up it would really justify using Parkour to get around. Perhaps the only downside is that Paris’ layout is a complete confounding mess (which is part of the reason the barricade method generally works so well in the first place, I guess).

It’s not just a matter of money - you need materials too (metal and wood primarily) and you can only really get those by taking on ships. However, I’ve found that once you start building up your pirate fleet (which kind of occupies the same game space as the assassins guilds did in AC 2 and its sequels) you can start making good money that way. I was able to upgrade the Jackdaw to the 70% upgraded range pretty quickly, and can now handle a man o’war pretty handily. Legendary ships are still way over my head, though.

Jragon - Making money isn’t tough (I don’t remember ever saying that…); in fact, opportunities are everywhere. But unlike Ezio’s adventures, where the city itself brings in constant income, in addition to a myraid of highly lucrative tasks (seriously, by the time you beat Rodrigo Borgia, the 10,000 florins is nothing), and the teeming wilderness Connor could harvest animals from by the dozens and sell their products for astounding prices, Edward has to work hard. A typical chest contains barely enough for an ammo refill, a big payout like a buried treasure may get you halfway toward a minor upgrade, and the unlimited sources of income, particularly looting/pickpocketing, bring in, to put it pretty mildly, minor amounts. Even piracy isn’t the moneymaker you’d expect it to be; the vast majority of ships carry no reales at all. If you need money quick, the best thing to do is to plunder a ship carrying lots of sugar and/or rum…just be sure to keep an eye on your wanted level so you don’t draw the wrong kind of attention.

The bottom line is that if you want to be successful (and even more so if you’re gunning for 100% completion), you have to take advantage of every money-making opportunity, and furthermore, you have to conserve your funds as much as possible. Don’t buy bullets or smoke bombs if you can loot them off soldiers. Don’t buy fire barrels if there are gunboats around you can smash for them. Don’t spend 200 reales on a bribe if you could just as easily take a schooner and us it to lower your wanted level, and snag some more cargo to boot.

More problematic are the construction materials, cloth, wood, and metal (in that order), which cannot be bought. You’re going to be spending a lot of time plundering ships and warehouses (not to mention fishing cargo out of the water) getting what you need to get through the main missions, much less all the upgrades. I read somewhere that that the warehouses eventually refill, but I haven’t seen it yet. Anyway, the obvious: Take every opportunity to get these vital supplies, and don’t ever sell them until you have everything you can use them for!

Cumbrian - See, that’s the danger of reading too much into a title (and you’re not the first). Get shoehorned into a certain mentality, possibly compare it to various titles that actually did follow such a structure, and get caught completely off guard when you have to fight 50 guards in the final mission. The series was NEVER about invisible death-dealers who get torn to pieces in 2 seconds the instant they’re spotted. (The first Metal Gear wasn’t like this either…am I really the only one who remembers that?) The Assassins are stealthy and quiet when it suits their purposes. The rest of the time, they fight. A lot. And they run like hell a lot, too (both as hunter and hunted). Heck, the only way I even knew how to complete the executioner mission in 1 was to barge right in and counter-kill everyone.

Just for the record, there’s an early storyline mission where you have to travel a considerable distance while remaining undetected, and you can’t use lethal force against anyone. It’s an interesting change of pace, and I actually found it fun having to rein in my natural bloodthirsty approach. If the whole game was like that, I’d be completely turned off in a hurry.

Well, I just traded Steel Diver for this (seems like a good deal :)) so hopefully it’s good; I’ve only played a little bit of the earlier games.

I play Assassin Creed games for three things: jumping off buildings and killing people, impossibly huge trap-filled ancient ruins, and architecture porn. AC3 had little of the first and none of the second and third. This sounds no better. I’ll pass.

I’m hoping against hope for Revolutionary France.

I’d like to see India circa 1857. Some beautiful buildings there, and plenty of action.

Can I jump in with a question about the 18+rating? I have a 15 1/2 year old who wants to play this game. She has what I hope is not an unhealthy interest in weapons, assassins, vigilantes etc, and while she isn’t necessarily turned on by scenes of blood and gore, she’s not very squeamish either. Is this game too much for 15?

(I haven’t played a video game since Leisure Suit Larry so I have no clue)

Just a little to add on Kenway’s Fleet: You have five different types of cargo (different from the ones you sell or use for upgrades) carried by your captured ships. You have to fight one or more naval battles (handled automatically) to eliminate enemy resistance, from which you gain cargo and “gems”. You also get gems every time you dispose of a ship. Gems are required to repair your ships and open up new ports (which gets exponentially more expensive the more you have) so you can have more ships. Once the lane is “safe”, you can sell the requested items for money, and occasionally other goodies. The bigger the payoff, the longer it takes to complete the transaction. You’ll need bigger, stronger ships to win the later battles, and you’ll also need more cargo space for the bigger shipments. Furthermore, a maximum of 3 ships can enter battle no matter how many you have.

So you don’t always want to take the ship, particularly if it’s too puny for your current needs. You’ll just end up scuttling it, and if you already have a lot of ports the benefit of the gems is minor. If you need repairs or a clean sheet in a pinch, put that prize to better use.

kbear - Well, there’s plenty of blood and…that’s it, blood. No spilled guts or bodies torn in half or bones piercing skin, not even a head on a stake. The hunted whales and sharks get pretty messed up, but it’s mostly lots of little cuts and…yep…blood. I think she’ll be fine.

If it’s like the earlier games, you can turn the blood off in the Options menu.

There is definitely a way to assassinate pretty much everyone in AC1 without being detected until you deliver the killing blow. For the executioner, I believe there were some monks you could use to get to a “backstage” area with some scaffolding for an air assassination.

I’ve found AC3 to have the biggest separation between kill-play and stealth-play. I’ve never figured out how to really infiltrate a fort without it turning into an outright brawl. The best I could ever do is get to the fort captain without being detected. You can use assassins to prevent ever being detected yourself (unless you’re in the frontier), but summoning assassins to help kind of defeats the purpose because they generally just end up combo killing the entire garrison for you anyway. But when a mission is designed for stealth, it’s also done really well even compared to previous games.

Edit: Also, I don’t know why people say AC3 finally remedied the “kill everyone” problem and that you had to run sometimes. I can kill huge swaths of enemies as Connor, all it really requires is being aware of when to use human shields or otherwise interrupt gunfire. Otherwise you’re just as much of a killing machine as in previous games. Pretty much the only danger are enemies immune to counter or combo kill, but those guys have existed since AC2 in some capacity or another. Really the only reason I run is because sometimes I get bored of combat or don’t want to run around with 3 notoriety until I find a herald.

We bought AC4 to play on our shiny new XBox One. I played a very small amount of AC2, so I was effectively going in blind on this one.

I’m about a third of the way into the game, and so far I’m really enjoying it. Some of the freerunning can be quite annoying (“Why no, I really DON’T want you to climb that post over and over like an idiot while we’re chasing that courier.”), but for the most part it’s very fluid.

One thing that has really blown me away about the game, though, is the companion app. My wife normally plays these kind of games with me- by which I mean she painstakingly navigates me around the game to satisfy her completionist tendencies. In AC4, though, she’s got her own iPad app with which to navigate for me- when she wants me to go hunt a great white, for example, she just finds it on the map and tags it as a waypoint for me.

It also solves the money problem, as she’s able to control the fleet over her phone all day long. When I log into the game this evening, I’ll have at least 14,000 Reales waiting for me.

More games should do this sort of companion app.