Assassin's Creed Pirates

Assassin's Creed Pirates for Windows

Assassin’s Creed Pirates Review: Ubisoft’s High Seas Spinoff Holds Up

The Setting:

Released in 2014, Assassin’s Creed: Pirates serves as companion/spin-off game to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, allowing players to continue to dive ever deeper into the Assassin’s Creed universe from their IOS or Android mobile devices.

Like its companion game, Black Flag, the mobile Pirates explores the dangerous and adventurous Golden Age of Piracy in the early 18th century. Players sail around the Caribbean gathering gold and resources, engaging in ship-to-ship combat and seeking out hidden relics, all the while furthering the tale of Alonzo Batilla, a former French naval shipman who aggressively pursues a life of fortune. As the player clears area after area, Alonzo encounters other pirates vying for fame and supremacy, as well as a mysterious and suspicious “monk,” interested in shuttling our main character into performing very challenging tasks and seeking out specific prizes.


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PROS

  • A well-crafted, beautiful mobile game
  • Fits the feel of Assassin’s Creed
  • A balance of guided story and exploration
  • Lots of pirate things to do

CONS

  • Combat lacks depth or variety
  • Gameplay can feel repetitive
  • No direct story ties in to the main series

The Setting:

Released in 2014, Assassin’s Creed: Pirates serves as companion/spin-off game to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, allowing players to continue to dive ever deeper into the Assassin’s Creed universe from their IOS or Android mobile devices.

Like its companion game, Black Flag, the mobile Pirates explores the dangerous and adventurous Golden Age of Piracy in the early 18th century. Players sail around the Caribbean gathering gold and resources, engaging in ship-to-ship combat and seeking out hidden relics, all the while furthering the tale of Alonzo Batilla, a former French naval shipman who aggressively pursues a life of fortune. As the player clears area after area, Alonzo encounters other pirates vying for fame and supremacy, as well as a mysterious and suspicious “monk,” interested in shuttling our main character into performing very challenging tasks and seeking out specific prizes.


The Gameplay

Pirates involves a bit of exploration and a bit of story-driven action, with exploration and mission completion being the two major ways the player finds themselves launched into action. Simple-but-challenging is the name of the game, and the title quickly trains you in the basic language of ship combat, searching and upgrading. Upgrading your character, ship and crew becomes a necessity, as performing well in ship-to-ship combat and boat racing eventually becomes just a matter of numbers. How fast is your vessel? How many special abilities do you have? How strong is your defense? All these things end up mattering more than how fast you can click and swipe. Players who enjoy titles like Temple Run and Fruit Ninja will find their skills useful here, as you have to employ a decent ability to react in order to stay alive and on task through the games combat and temple exploration missions. 


But is it fun?

Yes, for a mobile game which will remind you constantly of the swashbuckling, high-platform adventuring of Assassin’s Creed, Pirates manages to give the player a lot to do and each event can be enjoyable, especially if you have an overall appreciation for games that require timing, aiming, and precise movements. Similar to its big brothers, the main series of games, there’s always a mission or event you can attempt for the first time or best your prior score. 

Completing these tasks gives you the wealth and resources necessary to hire more crew and explore new areas, as well as buy new ships or upgrade existing ones. Each new area you explore features a number of ships to battle, both naval and merchant, which may be patrolling or stationary on the map. The interface also intuitively identifies each; smaller red ships are naval vessels and tend to be stronger, while small gold ships are merchant trader ships that tend to have larger payouts. Each map also features a large, red ship icon -- of course, this is a powerful ship that will require you to have a similarly powerful ship in order to defeat.

While ship-to-ship combat is fun and requires decent (but not overly demanding) motor skills, one of the only clear downsides to the title worth noting is that this experience doesn’t change much as you progress through the game. You may receive newer weapons and have to fight stronger ships, but the essentials don’t differ in a way that makes you rethink your strategy. As stated above, once you have the basics down, every ship combat simply comes down to who has the better ship.

The atmosphere of the game adds a lot to the experience. Like its parent series, the mobile version of Assassin’s Creed has great visuals and audio that really hold up over time.  Fog feels dreary, sunshine glistens the water on the horizon, and your crew sings pirate songs as they carry about their business. Even the load screens are beautiful, well-drawn art. As smartphone games become more and more shiny, complex and impressive, it’s the basic attention to these elements that sets games like Pirates apart from titles that don’t understand the basic draw of a game; how a game feels affects how much fun it is to play. Pirates does all it can with the platform to show the player that its made with the same care as Ubisoft’s main titles, and even its least graphic-intensive splash screens feel like they belong in the same universe. 

One of the other great things about Pirates is how seldom it tries to sell you victory rather than make you earn it. Yes, you get the occasional start-up prompt advertising gold and resources for actual dollars, but the game play never puts a wall in front of you that clearly requires you to fork over hard-earned cash in order to feel progress. Even some of the best and most respected mobile games are downright greedy by comparison.



Conclusion

While it will never replace the main titles of the Assassin’s Creed series, Pirates is a worthy mobile edition for anyone who has a love for the shared universe, or who simply loves ships and pirates.


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