What Made Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag One Hell of a Game?

Ask an Assassin’s Creed fan what their favourite game in the series is, and depending on who you’re asking, the answer could vary wildly. From some of the earliest entries in the series like Assassin’s Creed 2 to some of the more recent ones like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, there are multiple games in Ubisoft’s flagship franchise that have a legitimate claim to the crown of the most beloved entry in the franchise. One in particular that stands tall for many even now, more than a decade on from its release, is Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

Coming fresh off of Assassin’s Creed 3, which was considered by many to be a generally disappointing entry, there was a sizeable section of the series’ fanbase that was going into Black Flag with lowered expectations. With many, in fact, there was a strong feeling that a new game in the franchise shouldn’t be releasing so soon after a major flagship release in the form of Assassin’s Creed 3. Given all of that, it’s fair to say that Black Flag turned out to be a much, much better game than a significant number of people had expected it would be prior to its launch, to the extent that a healthy chunk of the series’ fanbase considers it to be the absolute peak of Assassin’s Creed. If you’ve played the game, you probably don’t need convincing that it’s very much worthy of the praise that it receives from all corners, and then some. After all, he list of reasons to love Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is a long one.

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And if you have any level of familiarity with the game, you’re well aware of the thing that stands out most prominently as the game’s defining element- its naval gameplay. Assassin’s Creed 3 introduced an entirely new side to the series’ gameplay experience in the form of naval traversal, exploration, and combat, and Ubisoft decided to crank that up to eleven in its successor. In Black Flag, players were let lose in a massive open world recreation of eighteenth century West Indies, where, as a pirate-slash-assassin and the captain of your own ship, you had the freedom to explore the vast, gorgeous seas and the many islands scattered throughout the endless stretches of water.

It was an absolutely magical experience. Seriously, no amount of superlatives feels like it’s enough to describe just how good Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag’s naval combat and exploration were. Whether you were leisurely moving on top of calm waters with your crew singing jolly shanties in the background, or engaged in a furious exchange of artillery, canon fire, and what have you in naval battles that end with exhilarating takeovers of hostile ships, or you’re boldly steering your ship through colossal, angry, violent waves in the middle of a black and angry storm- no matter how you’re engaging with the game in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag’s open seas, the game manages to keep its hooks sunk deep into your flesh.

The whole pirate aesthetic and setting, in fact, is one of Black Flag’s biggest strengths as a game. At the time, when it came out, it had its fair share of detractors in the series’ core fanbase who felt that it being as detached from the larger Assassin’s Creed story as it was (especially with its modern-day story) made it a less significant entry for the series. Many would tell you, however, that that was one of its biggest strengths. Black Flag’s portrayal of pirate life, and the way it blends that vibe with the series’ core assassins vs templars hook, in both story and gameplay was one of its brightest highlights. No other game in the series can even hope to come close to Black Flag’s distinct aesthetic.

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Of course, while Black Flag’s pirate-infused gameplay elements were clearly its best parts – from the intense naval battles to exploring the seas – other parts of the game (those that were much more familiar to fans of the series) also contributed to how well it turned out. The old Assassin’s Creed formula isn’t exactly ingenious design at this point, but in spite of its extreme familiarity, it remains an inherently strong framework- one that, more importantly, Black Flag implemented spectacularly.

Not only was its open world a compelling one to explore, complete with its many side activities and optional quests (the majority of which were, let’s face it, pretty darn formulaic), it also used its familiar blend of stealth, combat, and parkour to great effect throughout its excellently designed campaign. And, of course, the game was also very aware of what its biggest strengths were, which means a significant percentage of its main story placed more than a little bit of emphasis on naval gameplay.

More than a decade on from its launch, for many Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag remains the series’ best game for a large number of its fans. Ubisoft released several more games using that old Assassin’s Creed template after Black Flag, while since 2017, it has also released multiple games that have adopted a new action RPG formula, but in all those years, with all of those multiple instalments, very rarely (if ever) has the franchise ever come close to scaling the sort of heights that it was able to scale with Black Flag.

Whether or not we’re going to get an Assassin’s Creed game anytime soon that will be able to replicate the 2013 pirate masterpiece’s success is anyone’s guess, but interestingly enough, if leaks are to be believed, Black Flag itself may be coming back in the not too distant future. Recent leaks have claimed that a remake of the 2013 title is in early development at Ubisoft. Assuming that that’s accurate, it’ll likely still be a handful of years before it releases, though the question still needs to be asked- does Black Flag even need a remake?

Sure, it’s eleven years old at this point, and gaps between games and their remakes have been similar (like with The Last of Us) or even shorter (like with the original Resident Evil) in the past. But even though Black Flag is more than a decade old, it doesn’t feel like any part of it needs a remake. The game has aged remarkably well, both from a gameplay perspective and a technical and visuals one, which means one can’t help but wonder how exactly Ubisoft is going to justify a full-fledged remake. Is it just going to be a better looking but otherwise conservative recreation of the original game? Is it going to expand things significantly by, say, having a larger map? If it’s the former, many are going to wonder why the remake even exists, while if it’s the latter, Ubisoft will be running a high risk of making the sort of changes to the original that fans don’t appreciate. Either way, it’s a risky venture.

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Given the immense legacy of the game, however, it’s fair to say that even though there will be plenty of questions asked about why it exists, if a remake of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is indeed officially announced we’re going to be more than ready to give it a chance. The original 2013 title was and remains an unabashed masterpiece, so any chance we get to re-experience it, we’ll take it in heartbeat.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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