Assassin’s Creed 4 – Impressions at 50% Syncronization

Back again with Ubisoft’s dip in to the Pirate’s life with an update on game progression and breakdown! As of this post, I am currently at ~50% Synchronization. So far, Assassin’ Creed 4 has been nothing short of amazing and I’m sure will continue to keep me entertained for many more hours, or at least until Watch_Dogs is finally released! But, giving just sweeping generalizations isn’t my style, so lets get in to it, shall we? I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum.

Edward’s Character Progression
So far, Edward has been on a slow progression towards a more honorable demeanor. In the introduction mission, he was fully motivated by money, and nothing more. Through a few of the cut scenes with his then lover, we learn that he’s using the pirate lifestyle more as a means to an end rather than an endgame itself. Even in his most selfish of taunts, he still had a bit of hesitation in his voice. Obviously, this is still an Assassin’s Creed game so don’t expect too much remorse as your slashing your way through swaths of Britons, Spaniards, and Pirate Bounty Hunters. As he’s stumbled in to the great Assassin’s VS Templar struggle, he’s begun to warm up to the ideals of the Assassin Order. Ofcourse, he’s still claiming that he’s motivated by money and power, but that may just be him keeping up the Pirate facade. There was even a scene where a barmaid is conversing with Kenway and she makes mention that he’s got a hard heart that’s supposed to be softer, suggesting that maybe he isn’t as fully committed to his chosen profession as much as he’s let on. Thinking back to my college days and the few psych classes I took, I’m getting a small whiff of “Identified Regulation” in his actions and we may be seeing his true self beginning to shine through.

As Edward (inevitably) moves in closer to the Assassin Order and their ways, it still bothers me that Ubisoft decided to give him all the conditioning, combat arts, climbing, and stealth abilities of a full Assassin. I’m sure life on a ship would give him plenty of opportunity to hone his bar fighting and scrapping techniques, but a Leap of Faith? Thankfully, the other established Assassins are still giving him a bit of ragging for not truly being one of them, so I get a bit of schadenfreude from that.

World Map
Dude, this map is HUUUUGGGGEEEE!!!! For how far I am, I have roughly half the Animus Fragments found and maybe a third of the Unchartered Chests. Typically, I would be arrogantly prideful of how difficult games were in the past, and if you wanted to find all the collectables in a game you had to scour the earth. Sure, in past Assassin Creeds you could purchase maps that would tell you the locations, but that was only for certain areas and each area had possibly multiple maps. However, with an expanse this massive I don’t feel that this is too much of a “gimme”. If I want to get these collectables in any form of reasonable time, I’m going to have to devote a few nights of game play to just cruising certain sections of the map and clearing them out.

As expected, the world locations are absolutely beautiful. This isn’t too hard to accomplish since basically any scenery of the West Indies is “Tropical Resort Glamour Shot” worthy. Crystal blue waters, lush green vegetation against the water beaten shore, and daily sunsets that could be printed on overpriced postcards. Oh, the serenity…

But don’t get too lost in the endless oceans! In each of the far corners of the world maps is where players will find “Legendary Ships”, just waiting for a prideful pirate to challenge them. Personally, I have not been able to take down any of these ships…yet. I’ve started diving down to the sunken ship wrecks, as each one has an update plan for the Jackdaw that will allow for the highest level of whatever ship category you’re looking to upgrade. A few more of these, and maybe I’ll be able to take a few on!

The one thing that I am missing from the previous Assassin Creed titles that I had grown to love are the giant free-climbing puzzles that took place in ancient cathedrals and temples. They were a great break of pace in the game and allowed for some spectacular views in some of histories finest structures. Even scaling bell towers to get to viewpoints have been simplified. Before it would be a mini-puzzle in itself just to get to the top of some historical monstrosity. But here, it’s mostly just getting to the viewpoint and holding “up” on your thumbstick. Sure, you’ll have to side step a few times, but nothing that would require any direction planning. Apparently, it must have been a feature that players had complained about (self-entitled sissies…) and was removed.

Modern World
By this time, I have been called out of the Animus twice. Each time, I had to make a quick computer hack on a restricted terminal and deliver it to a “courier”. I’m not entirely sure how this will all play out, but its safe to say that the person that you’re controlling in the modern day has basically be drafted in to the Assassin ranks against their will. Any conspiracy theory I had about who the player character could have been has been dashed away…Except for one. My wild and absurd guess is Minerva, posing as a common human…somehow. She’s infiltrated Abstergo while attracting the attention of the Assassins so she can keep tabs on both simultaneously. And NO I have not read any other articles or updates that would have already told me! I, for one, like surprises! Besides, if this prediction goes as well as some of my other wildly bold ones have, then it’s definitely NOT Minerva!

In previous titles, you would scour the virtual world in the animus and find stray bits of data left behind and solve a quick riddle/puzzle mini-game to grab the bit of info. In AC4, you have to play a quick cyberpunk type of mini-game to gain access to restricted files. Here again, I feel as though the complexity has been greatly simplified. I remember some of the sequential puzzles that I had to solve with the number wheels, racking my mind trying to figure out a pattern. I remember one in particular where I impressed myself for having figured it out, without really understanding how I was able to interpret the pattern but knowing how it operated.

I know! Deep stuff! But here, sure there’s this overly stylized orb with excessive pathways, but just keep fumbling around and you’ll solve it. And the other main one is basically a less complex game of sideways Frogger with infinite lives. I did have one where I had to figure out a number combination to synchronize a waveform (hint: they all multiply to generate a sum), but that took less than 5min to solve.

One bit of information retrieved was a massive email thread discussing possible future settings for the series. I found this highly entertaining and enlightening, since a few of the cast aside ideas I had personally thought of. Reasons giving for casting them aside did, however, make perfect logical sense. I’m currently debating on doing a full philosophical piece devoted solely to that single email thread. Thoughts?

A handful of the bits of retrieved data included audio recordings of Desmond Miles. These give us a glimpse of what he was thinking during his adventures leading up to this. For the most part, it isn’t adding much to the CURRENT plot line, but it is a nice phase out of a character who was so integral to the story line up until now.

Philosophical Musings
One thing that I’ve picked up on in this series is that there’s so much more going on in the Assassin’s Creed saga than just face-stabbing Templars. Which is fun, don’t get me wrong, but that’s just the surface being scratched by the edge of a hidden blade. What we are witnessing is essentially a gamified tale of the struggle between Chaos and Order, and how human society reacts to each. In this metaphorical tale, we actually play the role of Chaos, not Order. The Assassins are striving to ensure that we are not held down by the Templars that seek to control us. However, the Templars see themselves as establishing a balanced and stable Utopia by influencing the masses. In this, we hear plenty of rhetoric about preserving choice and not serving oppressive masters. Thing is, that’s fairly close to the ideals of Anarchy. Sure, freedom of choice sounds great, until it’s taken to the extremes. Likewise with rules, regulations, and excessive laws. This whole concept is eloquently deliberated in the heated cut scenes between Haythem and Connor in AC3. Basically, the Assassin’s are doing everything they can to ensure that everyone has the freedom to make their own decisions, be it for better or worse. To do this, there must be minimal, if any, oversight from an authoritative body lest it infringe on personal freedom. The Templars, consequently, strive to create a solid governing body in which to guide society. A noble enough cause, but to do so with minimal resistance they must resort to coercion and deception.

And lets be clear: both sides use murder.

Give the masses choice, and they will eventually choose themselves in to their own destruction.

But at least it will be by their own choice, and not by that of another.

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