History is a big place. It’s dangerous to go wandering around the Caribbean without proper guidance. Thankfully, Piggyback Interactive have compiled the meat and potatoes within Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in a helpful strategy guide that leads players step by step and place by place through the adventures of Edward Kenway and his pirate comrades. While not essential to the Black Flag experience, this strategy guide certainly helps to overcome the game’s frustrating and puzzling moments while also providing enough general, generic assistance to not spoil absolutely everything.
The Assassin’s Creed series is packed full of a twisting, confusing narrative that spans several sequels and side-games, so for those coming into the world of Assassins and Templars late (or those who just need a refresher), the strategy guide thankfully opens with a lengthy recap of each main game in the franchise across both the past and present timeline (minor titles like Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation go overlooked). Extensive spoilers detail the story of Desmond Miles and his ancestors, bringing everyone up to speed on the story so far. Honestly, I found this part of the strategy guide to be the most helpful before I even began playing the game as after all these years and so many games, I’d forgotten a lot of the Creed lore. More strategy guides need a recap section of this style for long-running, story-heavy franchises.
Speaking of refreshers and recaps, the strategy guide also include a detailed look at just how the gameplay in the Creed series works. A primer explains basics such as how to read the onscreen display and the concept of mission synchronization to general character controls to more advanced tactics like effective stealth and combat maneuvers. In the old days, most of this material would have been covered in the game’s printed manual, but in this era of cost reductions and saving paper, it’s up to strategy guides like this one to pick up the slack and provide a clearly explained reference. Creed veterans may skip over this section on the way to the actual walkthrough, but it’s worth a look.
The walkthrough itself comprises the majority of the strategy guide’s actual guide portion. Each mission in each sequence is outlined and explained point by point with a summary of objectives, descriptively labeled screenshots to show optimum routes through areas, and paragraphs of text which explain what to do and how best to do it. Anyone wanting to follow the strategy guide beat by beat can certainly do so, but it can be a bit too detailed at times if one wants to avoid plot twists or other surprises. I found myself only referring to the guide when outright stuck in order to not accidentally find out what was about to happen next. A similar section for the game’s many side quests follows, blowing out every optional task, mini-game, and upgradable unlock condition.
For better or worse, Black Flag features online multiplayer modes. The strategy guide includes a full look at these modes and explains how to play them effectively. Each character is listed with gorgeous artwork and their unique ability sets. Scoring and progression are explained, but the real draw for multiplayer enthusiasts is the large printed overhead maps of each stage. Planning raids and attacks has never been easier thanks to having access to a plan view of the playfield. There is more about multiplayer explained here in this section than in the game itself, and I was glad for the additional information.
It’s a series tradition for Assassin’s Creed to leave players with questions after the credits roll, so to put some lingering doubts to bed, the strategy guide concludes with a large “Extras” chapter which poses some of the more common questions raised by the game and answers them with interesting and informative explanations. There’s also a quick list of unlockable secrets and the conditions required to open them such as bonus outfits, swords, shanties, and cheats. Finally, a massive selection of production and promotional artwork leads into information on the game’s key characters and settings in a feast for the eyes.
It’s difficult to find a bad word about the Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag strategy guide. I had the pleasure of reviewing the collector edition of the guide which is an impressive hardback volume containing sixty-four additional pages of content. Free access to the bonus eGuide is also included as well as a beautiful fold-out map of the game world. Fans of the game who want more information about Edward Kenway’s world will enjoy the biographical and story content, while those looking for just the nuts and bolts of assistance will find their needs met. It is recommended.