The latest hero in the Assassin’s Creed saga is the great-grandfather of Connor from AC 3. Unlike previous iterations of the series, Edward Kenway is not an Assassin. In fact, his introduction with the Templar and Assassins is simply a matter of happenstance. Mr. Kenway is a pirate true and true, but he’s a bit different from his brethren in regards to ambitions. Edward doesn’t want to loot and plunder until he’s too old or swinging from the gallows. He has aspirations of owning land and becoming a King among pirates, and the best way to achieve this goal is to find a secret treasure called “The Observatory.”

Edward will take to the sea in the biggest open-world experience this series has ever known. I had my concerns when I originally learned that the next Assassin’s title would involve pirates, but hallelujah, I have seen the light! The best description for the experience is that this is Sid Meyer’s: Pirates on a much grander scale. You will face the harshness of storms, battle it out with other ships to destroy or board them for maximum booty pillaging. Wait… that’s not what I meant… or is it? Whatever… you can, get a lot of treasure!

In essence, the idea is to destroy ships and steal their cargo to upgrade your own. Kenway and his crew can take down forts, go whale and shark hunting, dive deep under the ocean to find hidden locales, or follow a treasure map to fulfill the dream of obtaining booty. There are almost no boundaries to the life of piracy, and that’s not even counting the wide assortment of normal Assassin’s Creed gameplay we’re used to. You know, taking on Assassin and Naval contracts, participating in activities, and collecting every item available in the world.

The story is light years better than the bland story of Connor, and it feels good to be outside of the typical Assassins vs. Templar template. Edward Kenway is brash and lively, and he wears his lust for freedom and wealth on his shoulders. It’s a good thing that he’s fantastic in a sword fight, because his opportunistic ways always get him into trouble. Combat does not change from what you would expect from an Assassin’s Creed title. It isn’t as lenient on the counter system as before, but for the most part the gameplay is much easier. Edward Kenway has never trained in the assassination arts, but he sure does fight exactly like one.

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He has an easier time at defeating foes and his combat is a bit more fluid as a result. The same goes for his ability to climb about the environment. The entire “every appendage is a movement control scheme” is now officially abolished in Assassins Creed IV. Kenway will adapt to his surroundings and perform shoves and jumps with minimal input from the player. Of course, that does not alleviate the often-wonky controls and janky combat animations, but it helps you identify that it’s all the games’ fault and not yours.

Ship combat is a different beast altogether, and it’s the most improved and engaging portion of the game. You’ll start out on the high seas destroy gunboats and schooners, and move on to larger ships like Frigates and Man o’ Wars. Taking on a large ship can often be a daunting task with weaker equipment, but advancing her defenses and cannonfire will bring them down a peg. Do not get it twisted though, if you find yourself to be too much of a scurvy dog, you’ll have a fleet of ships and bounty hunters floating in to send you to Davey Jones locker.

As a Playstation 4 title, this game looks great visually but the changes are minor graphical upgrades that slightly improve over the cross-gen and that’s about it. It’s still the same Assassin’s Creed that you are used to with a more ship-focused experience in comparison to Assassin’s Creed 3. It has better foliage, character models, and a higher draw distance… but if you don’t own a PS4 you aren’t going to miss out on any new experiences.

AC IV features the best ship combat and free-roaming experience in an open-world game. It is always providing the player with some new challenge around every corner. Heading out to see and taking down a large vessel for their cargo is always a thrilling endeavor, and partaking in the social experience “Kenway’s Fleet” is a nice little pass time for earning cash for your crew. Assassins Creed IV receives four stars out of five from Geek Citadel. Kenway may not be the ideal assassin to take on the Creed, but he is definitely the breath of fresh air that the series needed.

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