Assassin's Creed IV was quite the ride. Bringing new meaning to the phrase "a pirate's life for me," it was such a step up from the third entry that many fans are now clamoring for a full-on pirate spinoff series.
Honestly? I wouldn't mind that one bit, so long as it was every other year -- Black Flag was that good. Until that day comes however you can enjoy an additional campaign compliments of Edward's former Quartermaster.
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Assassin's Creed IV: Freedom Cry (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Release Date: December 17, 2013
MSRP: $9.99 (part of the $19.99 Season Pass)
Freedom Cry jumps right back into the action 15 years after the events of Black Flag, as Adéwalé -- Edward Kenway's former right-hand man and confidant. Adéwalé has become an assassin, and as a result, he's a little wiser, and a little more hungry for the facilitation of change -- specifically, the freedom of all slaves. The DLC campaign is separate from Black Flag's story (although you need the core game to play it), and wastes absolutely no time as you're controlling your ship in seconds. Adéwalé is quartermaster no more, and now, he's a fully-fledged captain. He also gets to have his cake and eat it too, as he's both an assassin and a pirate. As one of his crewmates says early on, "everything is permitted after all, captain!" Indeed.
Much like Edward though, he gets shipwrecked immediately, and after witnessing an attempted attack of a slave, you get to see what Freedom Cry's namesake is really about. From there you'll engage in two storylines -- the core assassin and templar conflict, and the freedom of every slave you can locate. There are hundreds of slaves to rescue, and a lot of different ways to recruit them to your cause.
You can free runaway or tortured slaves directly from their masters in random dynamic events happen in key locations. You can sail the high seas and liberate slave ships, pickpocket keys and unlock pens, sabotage slave auctions, and even raid entire plantations. Freeing everyone you can helps contribute to your ship's crew, as well as the overall influence rating of your cause, which allows you to buy better gear for you and your ship -- so in other words, almost everything directly affects the game. Plantation raids are perhaps the most intriguing addition, since you have to use caution, lest you scare the guards into quelling a potential revolution. All in all it's a bit more noble of a cause than random looting, and more in line with a traditional Assassin's Creed experience.
The plot is pretty straightforward as it still deals with the eternal struggle of assassins and templars, but it's compelling enough in its own right to feel the need to see it through. The supporting cast isn't particularly memorable, but Adéwalé really gets a chance to shine here in a new light, and spread his wings a bit. For those who want an extra cherry on top of meta-narrative, you won't find it here -- this is utterly and completely Adéwalé's tale, with no substantial Abstergo link in sight. Unlike Assassin's Creed III's DLC, you'll get Freedom Cry all at once -- no gimmicky episodic downloads.
Most of the action takes place in the town of Port-Au-Prince, but you'll also get a smaller taste of the West-Indies Sea, with three large land masses and a few islands and activities. It's small, but intimate at the same time, and even with a condensed portion of the map, the seas still feel rather vast. You'll quickly acquire a blunderbuss shotgun and firecrackers to attract guards, which are pretty underwhelming additions. Adéwalé more or less operates in the exact same manner as Edward unfortunately, and I would have preferred that he had a tad more differentiation with his kit and movements.
Interestingly, Freedom Cry goes out of its way to make sure that you're aware of Edward's privilege, and how Adéwalé isn't as welcome pretty much anywhere he goes. Jailers are constantly on the lookout for runaway slaves, and will signal guards upon sight. Overseers will push you and mock you as well, which gives a different overall feel to the DLC. There's one particular gut-wrenching scene in particular that drives that point home near the end, which I won't spoil here -- but suffice to say, it was heartbreaking.
There's around four hours of story here, but Freedom Cry is significantly longer if you go for any group of optional objectives or set of collectibles. In addition to new achievements, there's a decent amount of sea to sail, locations to find, sidequests to engage in, and of course, you can just roam around Grand Theft Auto style and free as many slave ships and plantations as you can muster.
If you wanted more Assassin's Creed IV, Freedom Cry will do just nicely. Although it doesn't offer as compelling a narrative or even close to as open of a world, it manages to capture the spirit of Black Flag in most of the right places. This is a much better effort than AC III's pointlessly episodic Tyranny of King George DLC, and a great model for Assassin's Creed add-ons going forward.
Assassin's Creed IV: Freedom Cry reviewed by Chris Carter
Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth most people's time and cash.
How we score: The Destructoid Reviews Guide