Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Impressions of Assassin's Creed 4 (Black Flag)

The last Assassin's Creed game I played was the first one, which I played to boredom (somewhere in Jerusalem, I think). I like the concept of romping through history. The series' biggest impediment to my own enjoyment is that I have no interest in being an assassin, let alone one who wears a goofy hood or has a goofy past-lives wrapper story. So I sat out most of the games.

I picked up Assassin's Creed 4 for the PS4 recently and have put a few hours into it. The ship sailing is new to me. Once I arrived in the first city, though, I was struck by how little had changed in the series. My wife walked in and saw me trying to run away from some guards and instead climbing a wall, turning around and leaping back into the fray. “That looks like an Assassin's Creed game,” she said.

The number of people who have worked on Assassin's Creed games is mind-boggling (in the low thousands, I'm guessing). In all these years, though, they appear to have changed the fluidity of the basic gameplay not one iota. I suppose that once you've committed thousands of lives to a course of action, you become very conservative about changing important things.

There's a “quantity over quality” mentality to the Creed games. The city of Havana is large but very samey-looking. There are great vistas from any of the five identical church towers that you have to climb, but when you're down in the streets there are very few landmarks to work from. The streets are all the same width and are laid out to block sightlines. (I think the intent here is to disguise the miniature nature of the town.) There are no major avenues running through the city. When I'm running through the city I'm following a minimap waypoint, or running blindly.

The gameplay itself is just a whole lot of the same things. I did an hour or two of killing people, pickpocketing, chasing sea shanties (!), opening chests, and picking up shards (i.e. crystals; can't have a game without crystals) before getting very bored.

We'll see if it picks up. I haven't returned to sea yet, and I'm hoping maybe it'll be better out there.