ATTENTION: Assassin’s Creed 3 is shamelessly spoiled in this review, so if you haven’t played it yet and want to find out the fate of Desmond Miles and co, I’d skip reading this
Black Flag tells the story of Edward Kenway, charming/roughish pirate who seeks fortune, whilst stumbling upon the Assassin’s Order and their vicious fight against the Templars for humanity. It sounds engaging and deep, but it’s not really. I feel I only was vested in this game because of my love for pirates and nautical based themes, and the story just kind of flew over. Big names like Blackbeard, Charles Vane and Calico Jack make appearances, but they amount to similar cameos as the historical figures in Assassin’s Creed 3 were, ergo not much impact. It’s a story that’s more grounded thanks to the final bow of Desmond: no more end of world bullshit, it’s a simple pirate tale mixed with the Assassin’s Creed template without the need to juxtapose crazy cult figures and bullshit end of world theories into it. I guess Desmond was good for one thing.
In a surprising twist, the plot for the ‘present day’ plot is not only engaging and interesting, but an absolutely hilarious bit of meta-narrative worthy of Kaufman himself (Charlie Kaufman, that is). Playing the role of an Abstergo employee digging through the memories of previous protagonist Desmond Miles to create the ‘perfect entertainment piece’ for the audience, you have to sift through the memories of Kenway in order to discover and create material to make it a mass produced game. It’s incredibly self-referential, clever and intriguing, especially when the layers start to fall and a more sinister plot is discovered. Not only was this an incredibly interesting plot, but it was the very first plot in the Assassin’s series where I WANTED to play it. I found myself laughing at some of the self-deprecating and meta jokes Ubisoft were clever enough to put in, and there are a couple of very welcome easter eggs that scream of potential for crossover franchises (coughWatch_Dogscough).