The lights are on
This year’s installment of Assassin’s Creed is still inspiring some gamers to sail the seas and terrorize merchant vessels, but many have already completed the story. Freedom Cry is Ubisoft’s invitation for players to return to the world of Black Flag. This single-player DLC puts you in control of Edward Kenway’s quartermaster, Adéwalé, for a lengthy series of missions and high-seas adventures. Here’s a breakdown of what works and what doesn’t in this new content.
Instead of Edward’s selfish glory-chasing, Adéwalé is a character with strong convictions and the bad-ass attitude necessary to back them up. He’s both intelligent and intimidating, unlike his former captain. Freedom Cry gives Adéwalé his chance in the spotlight, and during my playthrough, I often said to myself, “This is the guy that should have been the star of Assassin’s Creed IV.”
Bad: Same Old Problems
Even with a new hero, the problems players encounter are largely the same as in Black Flag. Though Adéwalé is a cool character, there isn’t much narrative substance to this chapter of his life, and the story suffers. I also ran into several bugs where characters either didn’t appear where they should or didn’t behave correctly when they did. You perform a variety of tasks and missions, but the dull stealth and eavesdropping sections still feel like chores.
Good: New Gear
Adéwalé has many familiar tools in his arsenal, like smoke bombs, a blowgun, and rope darts. However, he also gets some new weapons and items. He uses a machete (with some particularly brutal kill animations) instead of dual swords, and a single-shot blunderbuss instead of multiple pistols. He also gets firecrackers that can be used to distract enemies. These new weapons don’t have a significant impact on the feel of combat, but they help make Adéwalé feel distinct.
Bad: No New Tricks
Apart from the weapons, everything else about Freedom Cry is familiar. DLC can be a place for developers to toy with new concepts that might have been too risky in the main campaign, but that doesn’t happen here. Freedom Cry is all of the pieces of Black Flag reassembled: sailing, harpooning, pillaging, diving, etc. All of them function exactly the same as before, with no twists or surprises. Even the new city, Port au Prince, has the same general shantytown feeling as every other settlement. The only unique mission types involve freeing slaves around the city, but they pop up so frequently that I got sick of them quickly.
Good: Compact AC IV Experience
The flip side of Freedom Cry recycling everything from Black Flag is that it also creates an interesting, shortened approximation of the AC IV experience as a whole. With a small section of the Caribbean Sea to explore, you get a little taste of everything. You even get character progression; upgrades for your ship, weapons, and items are doled out depending on how many slaves you rescue. If you focus on the naval battles surrounding slave ships, you should get to 500 (the top tier) in no time. You should set aside three or four hours for a decently thorough playthrough (more if you want to get 100 percent completion), and get a satisfying sense of progression as you go along.
Verdict: Worth Playing
If only for the opportunity to play as Adéwalé, Freedom Cry is worth checking out. On one hand, getting more of the same content is disappointing. On the other, that content is what made Black Flag fun in the first place, so getting more of it isn’t exactly damning. Ubisoft definitely missed an opportunity to give Adéwalé a truly noteworthy arena to showcase his skills, but this is still a cool way to see the character in action.
Freedom Cry is included as part of the season pass for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, or you can purchase it individually for $10.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.