View Full Version : Finished AC4. My feedback. [SPOILER]

12-26-2013, 04:01 PM
Many spoilers throughout text. Not suitable reading for those yet to complete the game, but I’m hoping the devs take a look.

I put in over 50 hours and, overall, had a brilliant adventure. I collected most of the collectables, fully upgraded my ship and Edward, uncovered the whole map, got 94% overall synch and explored the game world and all its systems thoroughly. I’d call myself an Assassin’s Creed series fan, though I skipped Revelations and hated AC3 so much that after a teeth grinding 14 hours I put it on eBay; that game did not want me to have a second of fun and I’m not sure what was in the water when the majority of websites reviewed it. After watching some amazing let’s play videos of AC4 and reading comments from real people - not journalists - who were playing it, I decided to give the series another chance. I’m so glad I did and pleased it was the first game on my PS4, and the first to be completed on it to. I’ve put together some feedback about the game and my hopes for the next in the series.

What I liked about AC4:

The seafaring stuff was wonderful and flowed (sorry) so seamlessly with the land-based activities. The sea you created is pure witchcraft - I’ve never seen anything like that in games. I loved the sailing, even when I had nowhere in particular to travel to. Smooth, realistic, even relaxing! A stunning and exciting simulated sea. The boat combat was good and took practice to master. The boarding was exciting; the whole combat-boarding loop was satisfying and rewarding. People criticise Ubi for releasing these games every year but forget the amazing innovation that happens within. The prevalence of the sea stuff is innovative and bold, unlike anything I've seen before, and a triumph.
I enjoyed the modern world stuff. The first person perspective helped give it a distinct feel, separate from Edward’s adventure, and even the lack of achievements and rewards made it feel true to the fiction and distinct from the inside-Animus stuff. The contrast between the two was refreshing; it was good to have ‘downtime’, safe from threat. All the goodies hidden behind hackable terminals was enjoyable to discover and ponder. I hacked all systems and enjoyed listening, reading and watching the material hidden inside. It’s popular to complain about the modern setting stuff, but i’ve always enjoyed it. It’s a core part of the series and fascinating science fiction. By the time Edward gets to the observatory, the contrast between that technology and the 50 hours I’d spent exploring the historical stuff made for a surprising and intriguing contrast that worked. I hope this historic-modern-precursor mix of themes remains a dominant part of the series’ identity.
The combat (when it works - more on that in my next list) provides great moments. You don’t have to be an ace gamer to get through most scraps, but there’s nuance there and tricks to pull off if you practice and learn the system fully. Clocking up a chain of kills and successfully countering, while avoiding all damage, can be very satisfying.
The free running is as good as ever (but… - see below). I’d still like a proper jump button and to be more involved, but when it’s in full flow and Edward and my intentions are in synch, there’s nothing else like it in any game out there. Smooth, natural, fluid.
The stealth might be a bit binary but it still has its moments. Once you get over how daft the whole bush thing is, you can play with the systems and treat open stealth sections like puzzles, slowing taking out guards in a suitable order so that no one left alive at any one time can see a body or become suspicious. It was always satisfying to take out a whole camp and not get spotted. I enjoyed the warehouse side missions particularly for their stealth playground appeal (few main missions allowed that level of fun, player-directed, creative play). It’s so nice to see stealth done better than in AC3, with proper, more open areas to experiment and make choices in. I’ve often thought that a good AC game would be more like a third person Dishonored, giving the player lots of toys - physical abilities and equipment - and then letting them use them as they see fit; making plans and reacting organically when things don’t pan out that way. AC4 was more like that. Not enough, but much better than AC3’s prescriptive and frustrating approach.
The music was wonderful, whether atmospheric backing while I was exploring, or ‘Pirates’-esque rousing stuff while boarding - it was all great. Listening to some of it again during the closing credits made me remember some of my favourite times I’d had with the game and made me feel sad that I’d finished it.
Graphics, animation, presentation, voice work, acting… the list will get too big. I’ll just say they’re all superb. This is a premium production. I cared about the characters and ‘knew’ them for a while. I missed certain characters when they died. Anyway, it’s very clear to me that the people making these games love them as much as I do. When the pieces click together and the bloody counter button works, this is one of the best games I’ve played this year, second only to The Last of Us.

What I didn’t like about AC4

Legacy systems, please, please give them a refresh and polish:
1. Combat: The counter frequently didn’t work at all. Kenway puts his swords away randomly during fights. Kenway randomly stops doing anything when attack is pressed. If a post or other object is in the way, counter doesn’t always work. Sometimes you are attacked while stuck in an animation and can’t do anything to defend yourself. I didn’t know I could chain attacks until 45 hours in. Nothing in the manual about it. I still don’t feel I fully understand how it all works, and I’ve finished the game. Arkham Asylum is 4 years old. I know AC combat can be as good as that game’s, as consistent, as polished and, most importantly, as fair. I’m excited to imagine an AC game with combat as good as it really wants to be. But it’s a little clunky, inconsistent and not always fair.
2. Free running: A sense of not having as much say over what Edward does as I’d like. Too many times he’ll randomly stop and perch, refusing to move, or run up, fall, run up, fall loop, on a small object or fence, usually when I need to get away quickly. That agonising delay when he grabs, before pulling himself up. Realistic? Yes. Maddening when you can see someone ready to shoot you off as you’re almost to the top of a mast? Absolutely. 50% faster in those moments of pulling himself up would nail it without making him superhuman. Edward loves buildings, but struggles with rocks. Ankle high or chest, doesn’t matter - I’d often walk around them after he ‘humped’ them for a few seconds, seemingly baffled by naturally occurring formations. The in-game manual didn’t explain that after letting go of a ledge you can grab again as he falls and prevent being damaged. Since it’s hard to make Edward jump from a dangerous height, I thought it odd how was easy it was to have him dangle and let go from fatal heights until I stumbled upon the re-grab feature.
3. Stealth: Arbitrary detection algorithm and often farcical bush-hopping. Sometimes I’d blow through a camp and feel like Garrett, other times guards vanished in front of me and everyone instantly knew where I was from my safe bush. AC desperately needs a stealth mode that the user can initiate. Cones of vision, shadows, less binary hiding spots. This is looking very rusty by today’s standards. Proper stealth would even make some of the night time tailing missions tolerable - no more frustration because the game forgot to put a bush somewhere useful.
Mission design:
1. Why, why why, focus so much on possibly the weakest aspect of these games, the tailing and eavesdropping stuff. It’s frustrating, ponderous design that sees me spending most of my time staring at a bush or a loading screen. Why do I need to be looking at the person I’m tailing in order not to fail the mission, when I can hear them, am close to them and have a sense of where I need to go to stay that way? I have to be looking at them and figuring out where the next bush is while avoiding the crazy amount of guards. Horrible.
2. There’s rubber-banding in chase missions. Why ask me to chase someone if I can’t catch up with them until I hit the invisible trip wire you’ve set? Maybe they should be called ‘meet the guy somewhere, walk at your own pace because it’s all rigged anyway’?
3. Why is that ship no longer taking damage because I’ve inflicted more than the mission anticipated I would by point A, B or C?
4. Why when I’m chasing someone and do catch up, or even overtake them, can’t I tackle or kill them because I haven’t hit the invisible trip wire that… you get the idea.
5. Linear missions where you have no freedom at all and have to follow an invisible guideline or fail. You have this amazing character with all these abilities. Give the player some freedom to use them. Other games have found ways to allow the player freedom of expression and creativity while still telling them a story.
Typos and odd grammar and sentence structure in some of the manual, interface stuff, and Abstergo hack content.
Bit buggy, so much so that you’ll notice glitches and odd behaviours every play session and stop actively noticing them. Vanishing guards, twitching guards, trapped-in-scenery guards, inconsistent behaviour in Edward during all the things he does - you can never completely trust he will be alive because of player skill or dead because he behaved oddly at a crucial moment. The new seafaring stuff seemed bug-free, when I’d expect the legacy features to be the rock solid bits. Bugs are to be expected in big, ambitious games, but maybe not one based on so much legacy code? I’m not a developer, but I wish AC was more polished - perhaps a victim of the yearly cycle. I’d rather wait longer for a more polished product. Still, nowhere near as bad as AC3. But I hate to see DLC released while the core game still has issues. Feels unfair.

And something I missed from previous games:

Please bring back ‘assassin’s tombs’ type locations/side-missions. The traversal really shines in these and the combat-free, traversal-puzzled-solving is brilliant. It’s the one thing I missed in AC4. I kept expecting to find them, but they weren’t there. The Mayan stones weren’t puzzles, and were all easy to find - they felt like a tease for more substantial puzzle solving that never came. The Mayan ruins felt like a tease for deeper exploration. Even until the end of the game I was hoping for a hidden door to Tomb Raider style puzzle-tombs.


I love this series, but it does try hard to make me feel otherwise. I’m not sure I’d buy another AC if the legacy systems aren't given an overhaul. I loved AC2, and AC4 was a real return to form but some of these systems, the stealth particularly, are inadequate. AC4 was a wonderful adventure that was impossible not to love, despite it’s rusty systems, but it’s surely the last AC game before the legacy issues are given a thorough spring clean? Thank you.

Edit: I noticed a post-game bug with the map. 5 of the 8 pubs icons have vanished. Whaling icons vanished too then came back after a while. Assassination contract icons appeared, as did Mayan key icons, though I'd already done/found them all. They have since vanished again. A quick search online and it seems other people have similar issues and even can't complete side quests they'd not got round to doing before completing the main campaign.

12-26-2013, 06:33 PM
Nice feedback.
I totally agree with the assassin's tombs, I very liked that back in AC2-ACR.
I don't have any problems with the free-running back in AC3 they changed the whole running, tree climbing, rock climbing and it felt more fluid and faster, really liked it there and here.
On the mission side yes, they need to revamp the whole tailing and eavesdropping missions.
One with the ships, I really liked in AC3 that I could choose my shot type on the broadside we had chain, burning, simple, and grape shot on broadside in AC4 we only had simple and heavy(burning) though its good.

12-26-2013, 06:58 PM
you should post your feedback in this thread as well: