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After three main games and two spin-offs, the Assassin’s Creed franchise has finally run out of, well, assassins.
While the main protagonist — and newcomer to the series — Edward Kenway still adorns the murdering cult’s typical hooded attire, that’s where his similarities with the previous games’ leading men end.
Edward is, for all intents and purposes, a pirate — no matter how the game may try to spin it. He sails a ship, robs fellow seamen, and fights with swords and flintlock pistols. The only things he is lacking are a long, dreaded, black beard (for which a counterpart makes up for) and a nasty attitude — as, for the most part, he is a noble buccaneer. He kills for good, and only robs those who deserve it. Think of him as a water-wading Robin Hood.
While the story implications for switching the focus from that of an assassin to a pirate are cut and dry, the real changes come in the gameplay.
No longer bound to land, you are able to explore the huge open-world as you head between objectives. You can roam any island you pass, or rob any boat you see. This freedom is a far cry from the franchise’s beginnings of enclosed cities and straightforward passageways. The biggest of these changes come, though, when you’re done exploring and you chose to attempt a mission. The repetitive follow-a-target jobs from previous entries still encompass much of the game, but they have been given new life when you head to sea. While there, expect to still chase and kill targets, but you’ll be doing so while battling gusts of wind and large waves.
Some of the changes aren’t as subtle as environmental effects, though. Your trusty ship — The Jackdaw — allows you entry to a host of new activities. Anything from pillaging ships to upgrading your own are available while at sea. The variety will want to keep you off land, though, unfortunately, you’ll be forced to return at times.
The switch between land and sea can be disappointing, but the change of pace helps keep each section fresh, even if the mission structure wants me to say otherwise. Despite this, Assassin’s Creed IV manages to improve on its ancestor’s formula, but it’d just be nice if they were given a new recipe.