Pirate Simulator 2013: Black Flag Edition is the greatest pirate-based game I’ve played all year. While my title might not be as attractive as say, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, it’s far more accurate than the box title.
Last year, the third installment in the blockbuster franchise ending, albeit convoluted and lackluster, put a cap to Assassin’s Creed’s overarching storyline between the secret sects of the Templars and the Assassins.
In Black Flag, players are once again thrust into the role of an Abstergo employee, a company sampling memories from Desmond’s (The original main character) lineage in an attempt to monetize the memories into feature films and, ironically, video games.
Like past games, players will jump back and forth between time streams, playing as both the unnamed
Abstergo employee and the great pirate Edward Kenway. Being temporally displaced as a player is fun; you’re juggling multiple storylines and play styles, so the game always feels fresh.
Sadly, Black Flag’s gameplay suffers from one big blunder: The writers shoehorned in the tired trope of the Templars and Assassins. The game hands the players an opportunity to be a pirate and shape their booty-filled destinies.
The map, which is in a Caribbean setting, is enormous and features three major cities — Havana Kingston and Nassau — with tons of tiny towns or islands to explore. Nautical combat and exploration return, as players become captains exploring the seas for treasure or ships to plunder.
Everything in-game bleeds the pirate theme, which feels like the best setting an Assassin’s Creed game has ever had. Yet, just as the player is exploring a town for new sea shanties so the crew can praise the player adequately, the game rips back into “assassin” mode. The game slows down as you’re forced to perform missions indicative of the series, but it feels completely out of line with the fast-paced pirate gameplay.
The plot so perfectly “Assassin’s Creed,” that players will probably figure out the “twist” before it happens. Ubisoft would have been better suited blazing a new trail; one that involves singular one-off plots launched under an umbrella à la Final Fantasy.
Being unsatisfied with the duality in the game, I decided to stop playing the game Ubisoft created and instead played Pirate Simulator 2013: Black Flag. My average pirate day would include leisurely jaunts through the open ocean, harpooning sharks in the mouth, bedazzling my eye patch and striking fear into the hearts of shipping lines everywhere.
Joking aside, Assassin Creed’s 4: Black Flag poses some creative and fun gameplay. Open world gameplay has never felt so freeing and Ubisoft has finally perfected the melee and naval combat.
Regardless, the moniker and overuse of the conventions of its predecessors weigh down what could have been a great experience.