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The Unexpected Joy Of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

by Andrew Reiner on Dec 28, 2013 at 07:14 AM

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Much of my time in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag unfolds as such: I return to my ship, and a smile creeps across my face when my crew uproariously celebrates my return. I open my map and pinpoint an area of the seas I haven’t charted yet. I point my ship in that direction and set sail. My crew is merry, singing their hearts out with the hopes that our next stop will make us rich.

I can’t remember the last time I completed a story-based mission. My ship is powerful enough to sink man-o-wars. My fleet is bringing in the product I need for upgrades. The adventure I’m immersed in is one I’m creating myself. This isn’t the Assassin’s Creed experience I expected to get, yet I think I like it more.

I haven’t had this much fun with this series since Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. The vast open sea and its bevy of rewarding secrets are the main draws. Unexpected joy comes from the melodies sung by your crew. I sometimes stay at sea, parked hundreds of feet from shore, just to hear my crew belt out a new shanty. I’ve found myself humming these songs days after playing the game.

In an interview with Game Informer, Black Flag's creative director Jean Guesdon detailed the creation of the shanties. "Our super talented audio director Aldo Sampaio and lead scriptwriter Darby McDevitt researched these shanties first for the audio atmosphere, and they ended up being so excited about them that they came to the design team asking to find a way to make them even more important in the game. We quickly realized that the 'flying pages' introduced in AC3 would be the perfect 'mechanic' to make them interesting collectibles. To me, this is the perfect example of a nice idea that came out of our historical research work, harmoniously tying the Assassin gameplay pillar (free-run to catch the songs) with the pirate flavor of the game (crew singing shanties when at sea). The team instantly fell in love with them, and we knew it would be a success.

The sea shanties are a fantastic collectible that makes an already enjoyable exploration process even more rewarding. Below are videos highlighting three of my favorite tracks.