The lights are on
They may not like it, but gamers are at least familiar with the idea of an online pass gating off multiplayer content. However, in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, a noteworthy element of the single-player campaign is unavailable without the Ubisoft's Uplay Passport.
When protagonist Edward Kenway boards a ship, he has the option to add the ship to his fleet. This fleet functions similarly to your assassin recruits in previous titles; you can send them on missions, and after a varying number of real-time minutes, the ships return with money and spoils. However, we've confirmed that your access to this whole loop is gated by the Uplay Passport. In other words, if you borrow the game from a friend who has already redeemed the code (or buy the game used), you don't get the fleet and the benefits that come with it in your single-player game.
Note that the Uplay Passport is different from simply being a registered Uplay user. Being a part of Uplay is free, but the Passport is a game-specific code included with new copies. According to Ubisoft's site, the Uplay Passport "will come with a unique code that, when redeemed, grants you access to online multiplayer play, bonus content, and more. In instances where your game’s Uplay Passport has already been redeemed (such as if you’ve bought a used copy of a game) you will be able to purchase a new Uplay Passport code online."
On one hand, the fleet does include online elements. You are able to have your friends assist you to make missions go faster, for instance. On the other hand, there's nothing about it that demands this assistance; once you can use your fleet, you can do the missions solo. Previous installments in the series, like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, included similar offline versions of this mechanic.
We've reached out to Ubisoft for comment, and will update this story if/when we hear back.
Our TakeI had gotten used to the idea of online passes for multiplayer modes, but seeing them invade a single-player experience is infuriating. Adding a ship to your fleet is one of only three things you can do after conquering an enemy vessel, so your options are cut down considerably without access to the fleet. After all, as soon as you walk into the captain's cabin on your ship, the first thing you see is your fleet map on a table directly in front of you. If Ubisoft wants to add a bunch of connected social elements to the single-player, that's great – but walling off this system because of these minor additions seems unnecessary and underhanded. This also means that your access to your fleet is cut off if you aren't connected to the Internet while playing Assassin's Creed IV.You can play through the whole game and enjoy it (read my review here) without the fleet, but the experience will definitely seem incomplete.
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