I’ve Finally Gone Pirate

For all my EVE bros out there, this doesn’t mean I’ve joined Stay Frosty and moved to Hevrice. What it does mean is I’ve finally bit the musket ball and started playing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (AC4.) I found the game at half price on Amazon last weekend: $29.99. For that price you get your choice of Playstation 3, Xbox360, Wii, Playstation 4, Xbox One and of course PC, all standard edition. The only catch is you have to be a Prime member to qualify for this pricing. For the PC (and the PS3) you can choose to purchase just the game key. That worked really well for me. I was able to purchase the code for half the price Steam charges for the game, and use it to activate the game on Steam. Really Valve, you need to get more on the ball with your prices if you expect to become the console/gaming leader.

I love that the avatar looks way younger than I am!

Uplay First Stats Capture

Ubisoft, like many other game developers, have their own required log in service named Uplay. I find it in terms of rewards, avatars and general game statistics somewhere between Battle.net (lots of cool stuff) and Origin (rather lame.) Whereas my Battle.net account statistics can be somewhat over whelming (and Origin underwhelming) I believe Uplay has hit a happy medium. It’s not statistical overload, but it does help you get an idea of how well you’ve progressed in the game. To the right is what my current Uplay statistics look like. You can customize the avatar and background at the top and display icons for the games and devices you use. Game icons cost points.  For some odd reason, I love that it keeps track of how many kilometers I’ve traveled.

Sid Meier's Pirates!

Sid Meier’s Pirates!

But enough of the peripheral stuff. Let’s get on to the game itself! My first love of pirate titles came with Sid Meier’s Pirates! way, way back in the last decade of the last century. That was a fabulously fun game. I don’t know how many hours I spent sailing the Spanish main, plundering Curacao and generally being a bad ass. What I can tell you is it was so many hours that I could identify where a treasure was buried anywhere in the Caribbean with just one piece of the total map. It didn’t matter how small the coastline and other clues were. I could sail right there and dig it up straight away. I knew the territory that well. Ah, those were days of glory. To say that Assassin’s Creed IV has a lot to live up to is committing an understatement.

As you can see above, I’ve only gotten 4 hours in on this game. It was all in one session mind you, but it is still a far cry from the many days of my life I spent playing Sid Meier’s Pirates! I won’t make a snap judgement about the comparison. Besides, the technologies involved are so vastly different that I’m not sure any sort of technical comparison is possible. From the very start AC4 is a marvel to look at. It is absolutely beautiful. Even the opening scene, which is a naval battle on rough seas, is staggering in it’s beauty. The ships look like you can almost reach out and touch wormy wood. The spray blowing off the ocean is almost cold. The sting in your eye is only psychological trickery, but you will blink.

As for the battle itself, that was exhilarating. Of course, there was no train up for it. Your first training event comes when the man at the wheel is killed and you are told to take it. I admit, I was a bit slow to pickup on the training methodology used by the developers. It’s all hands on. I got to the wheel and pressed “E” to interact with it. Then my military training took over. Hands on is muscle memory. Stay out of line of their guns! Cross the ‘T’! Take down their sails to limit their mobility! Aim for the waterline to send them to Davy Jones’ locker! At this point, I can make a comparison to Sid Meier’s Pirates! This naval combat beats that naval combat, and then some, no questions asked. The only thing I found myself wishing for was an Occular Rift setup. In 3D, it would be U N B E L I E V A B L E… or rather so believable I would duck the cannonballs as they flew at me. Just wow.

The other thing I found to be ridiculously enjoyable is the three dimensional nature of the game, not to be confused with 3D. By three dimensional I mean you have to look up. Up is a viable direction and climbing is something Edward Kenny, the main character, does nearly as well as the New World monkeys that surround him in the game. It is fun climbing to high places and diving into Caribbean waters. But the most fun for me is running along the rooftops of Havana, jumping from building to building, while chasing foes. That is a blast and I find myself going to the roof tops as my major way of getting around, because as you can see from my stats above I’ve made the town guards very angry. But hey, it wasn’t me that started the bar brawl. I just put an end to it. 😉

And the climbing has a practical purpose in the game as well. It allows you to get the lay of the land as it were. In a practical sense, it allows you to map the environment whether it be jungle or city. These perches are marked by a raptor, a hawk of unknown species – at least to me. It sort of looks like a Red Tail Hawk and those are native to the Caribbean year around so could be. Maybe I’ll look it up or ask a dev. Anyone know for sure? Anyway, once you attain one of these perches by climbing to it, you can “sync” from there. Then the game launches you into a 360 degree panorama of the area that is simply spectacular. Here, judge for yourself (hawk included.)

Getting My Bearings in Havana

Getting My Bearings in Havana

I find myself syncing three or four times while I’m up there just to take in all the details. It truly is a view to remember. But this isn’t what the game graphics look like. The game graphics are good but are obviously game graphics with clipping, et al. The panoramas are more like a fine water color portrait and are more work of art than game graphic. Once synced, the area shows up in detail on the map and you can fast travel across it. In Havana there are eight such perches. I’ve only done two so far. I can’t wait to do the other six.

But as awe inspiring as all this is, the thing that really, really made me sit up and say “what the…” was what I thought was going to be a cut scene after I’d completed my first achievement, Heroes Aren’t Born. But instead of a cut scene, I found myself “looking” at a woman with burgundy hair and a decidedly non-eighteenth century room. Shiver me timbers! You see, this is my first foray into Assassin’s Creed. I don’t read spoilers. I like to come into a new game as a complete noob as it were. And this particular twist in the game really took me by surprise. That’s all I’ll say about it, as I don’t like giving spoilers either. But I think I really like it. I’ll have to explore it more, that’s for certain. Aye matey, expect to read more about my latest adventure in the weeks to come.