The Assassin’s Creed fates aligned when I finished Assassin’s Creed Rogue on Monday, just in time to roll into Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry when it dropped as a “free” Playstation Plus game yesterday. Unfortunately so far I’m not enjoying it that much.
I was excited to play as Adéwalé, who was Edward Kenway’s quartermaster in Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. Adéwalé is a full member of the Assassin’s Guild now, and he is off on his own (this takes place between Black Flag and Rogue). Early on he becomes shipwrecked which is a way for the developers to kind of ‘reset’ him so he needs to upgrade gear and so forth. This was initially a DLC for Black Flag but at some point Ubi spun it out as a short stand-alone title.
Adéwalé’s mission in this game is to liberate slaves and to help establish the Maroons (recall that Adéwalé is himself a former slave) ; there isn’t so much of the Assassin’s vs Templars battle and so far at least, you never come out of the animus.
As noble as the task-at-hand is, it feels a little ick at times. A lot of content (both missions and upgrades) is locked behind numbers of slaves freed. Liberate 100 slaves and get this gear upgrade, liberate 150 and that mission unlocks. It kind of turns slaves into a currency which felt a little uncomfortable to me. I mean you don’t “spend” slaves. If you’ve freed 105 slaves and get the 100 slave gear upgrade, you still have 105 freed slaves, so it isn’t terrible (if you ‘spent’ them, that would be horrible!) but it still feels weird to me.
My bigger issue with the game is that it can be repetitive. You’re always trying to free slaves to unlock the next main story quest or earn a reward for doing so. You can free slaves by attacking ships carrying slaves, you can save them by killing “overseers” on plantations, and you can free smaller numbers by disrupting slave auctions (via applying your machete to the auctioneer’s throat) or rescuing slaves being mistreated.
All of these systems are fine but they repeat frequently. You liberate a plantation (by killing 20 non-slaves) and a while later a “new owner” takes over and you have to go liberate it again. The slave auctions and ‘free the mistreated slave’ events respawn so fast that I killed the same guys half a dozen times in my first night of playing. It got to where I’d anticipate the reinforcements showing up and kill them before they even got settled…the respawns are all exactly the same.
Going after the ships is probably the most fun of the ‘free some slaves’ events since by the nature of the sea battles they play out a little differently each time.
But speaking of sea battles…pretty early in the game you get a new ship, manned by Maroons. These guys don’t sing shanties which oddly changes the feel of the game by quite a bit. I mean it’s a sober game all around, as you’d expect by the subject matter. But I still miss the crew singing (I think they don’t sing for practical reasons…they couldn’t very well recycle the ‘British seamen’ shanties and recording all new ones was probably outside the budget.)
As for the missions themselves, well the French are up to something and Adéwalé is trying to discover what it is via eavesdropping and intercepting missives and such. Typical Assassin’s Creed missions.
It’s not a BAD game, like I said it’s just kind of repetitive. Combat is still fun, both ship combat and the brutal sword play (Adéwalé has a machete and a blunderbuss as well as his hidden blades and various darts and so forth). I just wish there was more variety. Also Adéwalé is just slaughtering enemies in the town of Port-au-Prince and the game doesn’t really react to that. This is a less subtle game than most AC titles. Adéwalé walks up to a slave auction and in full view of a crowd of bystanders he cuts down the scum running the auction. 5 minutes later a new auction is taking place in the same spot and he comes back and does it again. You’d think someone in charge would beef up security or put a price on his head but nope, once he escapes the immediate area his notoriety goes back to zero and he can roam the town pretty much at will. Weird.
I might be somewhat biased because I have played so many Assassin’s Creed games lately. If Freedom Cry is your first AC experience you might like it more than I do. I will probably finish it; after one night of playing I’m 56% “synced” already (for AC Rogue after 18 hours I was only 50% synced) so it isn’t a very long game and I do want to know what the French are up to! If you do try it though, please understand ‘full’ AC games are a lot more varied in terms of the things you get to do in them.