I’m a pretty big fan of Assassin’s Creed. While most people were lukewarm over the original’s repetitive nature, I was applauding the ambition and potential of the series. To my pleasant surprise, AC II fixed most of the issues and delivered the experience that the original hinted at. I was understandably excited for the third installment that promised to be bigger and better. Instead, I was met with an unfocused and unfinished experience that soured me away from the AC series.
A mere year after and Ubisoft is back at it again with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. This makes me very concerned. By no means is it surprising that a new AC is coming this year, but I was surprised that they tacked on a 4 to the end. It should signal a drastically new direction or major change, but that’s not what I see with Black Flag.
It’s true that naval warfare will play a central part of the game, but it seems more like a switch in focus from AC III than a true new installment. This is problematic because AC IV seems intent on keeping all the issues that AC III had.
AC III was plagued with bugs and glitches that made it feel like an incomplete mess. It was also the first Ubisoft game to use the AnviNext engine. Since the engine was built for next-gen consoles, Ubisoft blamed the lack of power from current consoles as the culprit for an inconsistent experience. If they’re right, that means the 360 and PS3 versions of AC IV will still be buggy messes. This is an inexcusable problem and I hope the real issue behind the technical difficulties was due to insufficient development time and not hardware limitations.
However, I would have forgiven the bugs and glitches if AC III had solid gameplay underneath. Instead, I encountered a messy compilation of ideas that lacked direction and focus. There were tons of different gameplay elements and disjointed ideas that did not mesh together. This issue looks to return in AC IV. Ubisoft has already announced that hunting is back. It’s also stated that the multiplayer will only be land-based and 40% of the campaign will be at sea. There’s already so many different elements to the game that I find it hard to believe that Ubisoft will deliver a polished experience in all aspects.
I have great respect for Ubisoft Montreal, but the huge game that AC III was demanded more manpower and that resulted in six development studios working on the game. This resulted in a bloated, inconsistent game. With seven studios working on AC IV, I fear it will be more of the same. And why should I expect differently? AC III was a huge success and it wouldn’t surprise me if they delivered more of the same. However, I think it would be worth their time to go back and play AC II. Then they can see the focused, polished experience the team once made.