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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag – A Beginner's Guide

Today, Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, a pirate-themed installment in the juggernaut franchise. The game is a lot of fun, but it is also a departure for the series, so it might require a slightly different approach. These tips will help you focus your time and resources as efficiently as possible as you sail the seas as Edward Kenway.

Board (Don't Destroy) Enemy Ships
When you damage an enemy ship enough, it is unable to move or attack. It is essentially dead in the water. That means you can bring your ship, the Jackdaw, up alongside it. After boarding the ship and killing some crew members, you take all of the ship's cargo. This is the most efficient way to obtain upgrade materials. If you don't board the ship and choose to destroy it instead, you can only salvage a fraction of the valuables it was carrying.

Disabled Ships Are Like Floating Health Packs
When you're confronted with multiple ships at once, your first instinct might be to finish combat first and then board all of them to clean up. However, in tough fights, you are better off boarding mid-combat. The reason is this: Once you start boarding an enemy ship, the other nearby ships stop attacking you. Once you finish, you have three options: lower wanted level (more on that next), add to Kenway's fleet (more on that, too), or repair the Jackdaw. So, if you're getting low on health, you can select "repair the Jackdaw," then return to your previous naval conflict with more health.

Keep Your Wanted Level
You might think that having a bunch of aggressive ships after you is a bad thing, but a steady stream of hunters makes it easy to load up on the resources that you can only find by plundering other ships. Metal is particularly useful when upgrading the Jackdaw, and the hunter ships usually have it. You want to bring down the intensity eventually (constant Man O' War attacks are not good), but riding with the infamy for a while can be far more lucrative than playing it safe.

Get Shanties
They might just seem like another collectible, but these songs are one of my favorite parts of the whole game. Your crew sings as you sail (which you spend a lot of time doing), and I love the assortment of these tunes. Every one you collect gives your mates another available song in their repertoire, and lets you hear a wider selection of the sometimes-funny, sometimes-sad ditties.  

You Can Buy Animal Skins
Hunting is the most economical way to obtain valuable items, but sometimes it's a pain to travel around and find that elusive jaguar or shark that you need to complete an upgrade. Just stop by the store and check out the hunting materials for sale. You'll pay a premium, but in the long run, the extra money might be worth the hassle you save.

Don't Upgrade Your Hideout
Once you get to Great Inagua, you have the option to spend your money on upgrades for the village. These include buildings like a general store where you can buy items, and a structure that allows you to hire all dancers (which function like courtesans from AC II) for free. Unlike the empire Ezio built, these purchases don't contribute to a timed influx of money, so their benefit is highly suspect. Why spend your hard-earned money a cosmetic upgrade to your base when you could spend it on useful improvements to your ship?

Some Online Required
If you want to access Kenway's fleet, you need to be connected to the Internet (and have redeemed a Uplay Passport). This isn't an issue unless you don't have an online connection or planned on renting the game. If either of those apply to you, you won't be able to amass your own armada from the ships you board, or send those ships out on missions to collect extra money. In short, you're missing out on a system similar to the way Brotherhood let you send out assassins on various missions in real-time. It may not be a critical aspect of the game, but any way to earn extra cash is welcome.

The Next-Gen Wait
The PS4 and Xbox One versions don't hit until November 12 and 19, respectively. Should you wait for them, or play the game on current-gen? That really depends on the player. I found the performance to be better on the PS4 (we were not able to review the Xbox One version), and the graphics were certainly better. However, if you're expecting a game that showcases the full potential of next-gen hardware, this isn't it. Yes, Black Flag looks good, but the advantages over current-gen are not overwhelming. If you're a hardcore Assassin's Creed fan who wants to play as soon as possible, don't feel like you need to wait.

 

To see 20 minutes of Black Flag in action, check out this episode of Test Chamber.

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