Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Breaking away from the Ubisoft formula

I am having great fun playing Assassin's Creed IV : Black Flag, cruising my pirate ship through the Caribbean, exploring, and getting into naval battles. I'm pretty much ignoring the story mission at the moment, because pirating is so much more fun. And somewhere that is the problem with AC4: It is great fun *because* it doesn't play like the other Assassin's Creed games. I mean, yes, I climbed all the towers of Havana and visited all the points I found that way. But after one city like that I was free to do something a lot more interesting, and lead a pirate life instead of the life of a tower climber / parkour runner. The Ubisoft formula doesn't work all that well for me, and I'm happiest in the parts of AC4 which break away from that formula.

One problem I have with Assassin's Creed in general is that they aren't all that great as stealth games. I haven't played Unity yet, but up to there the AC games didn't even have a crouch button. In AC4 I can only "sneak" if there is a sugar field or similar brushwood around. So frequently when I am approaching a target from behind to assassinate it, my avatar is showing the same animation that he has when strolling through a city. Compared to other stealth games I played, like Deus Ex : Human Revolution, the stealth movement in Assassin's Creed is really weak.

Related to that is the fact that combat is somewhat easy. It takes a *lot* of enemies at the same time before they even start to cause you any trouble. In general you can just wait motionless until you see the little red icon of somebody attacking you, press the counter button followed by the attack button, and the enemy is dead. So in many cases I didn't bother with sneaking, because simply killing everybody was a lot easier.

Naval combat in AC4 on the other hand is really good. You have various weapons you can use, cannons, mortars, fire barrels. And as the enemy ships have different strengths and come in different numbers, and there are also interesting weather effects to consider, there is a lot of variety to naval combat. The only thing missing is wind direction and speed, the "sailing ship" in fact moves like a motor ship, with equal speed all the time and in every direction. Over a quarter of a century ago, Sid Meier's Pirates! had wind direction, but apparently Ubisoft judged that to be too complicated.

So the game I am mostly playing is labeled "Assassin's Creed", but the part of it that I am playing isn't actually part of the Assassin's Creed brand and series. If I play any other game of the series (not counting the mobile AC Pirates game), I won't be able to play the part of AC4 that I am having fun with. I don't know if any of the newer AC games even has much in the way of other gameplay elements than the classic tower climbing / parkour running / assassination Ubisoft formula.

Ack, Sid Meier's Pirates is already a quarter-century old? What a fun game. The only thing that I didn't like is that time passed so quickly and so it seemed like you had to retire just when you had finally built up an amazing fleet and tons of riches.
I have never played any of the AC games, but I might try this one then if I have the chance.
Note that the next Steam sale starts tomorrow, and it should be possible to get AC4 at half price or less.
I have just finished the campaign of Shadow of Mordor which while not an Ubisoft game conforms pretty well to the Ubisoft formula with a free open world to roam and lots and lots of mini games to play.

I enjoyed the game immensely and highly recommend it but shortly after finishing the main quest I felt vaguely dissatisfied and I am not sure if the game will leave a lasting impression. It reminded me of the Chinese food effect where you feel hungry again half an hour after finishing. The game play, the setting and the whole presentation are absolutely terrific but overall it is a collection of fun gaming activities rather than a massive integrated work.

By the way I have just started AC Unity (came free with a new graphics card) and while I cannot say much about the actual game yet I can say it is far and away the prettiest game I haver ever played. The artists absolutely outdid themselves on this one. The palace of Versailles is completely stunning for example but even the clothes, the carriages and incidental decorations are all superb.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Oh shit sorry
Stupid ad got in the way. Delete the previous comment Tobold

Here is the correct link

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