Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, WiiU
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal (Assisted by other Ubisoft Internal Studios)
Ratings: M (ESRB), 18 (PEGI), MA15+ (ACB)
Welcome back to the Caribbean. It’s been a month since my review of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and in that time we’ve explored the seas, dug up buried treasure and plundered plenty of pirate booty. We’ve even exposed a Templar conspiracy or two. So what has been happening in the Caribbean since last we left it?
In Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s newest story DLC, we take the helm as Edward Kenway’s former quartermaster, Adéwalé as he Captain’s his own ship of free slaves. At the start we find Adéwalé in a sea battle against a fleet of Templar ships as he works to fulfill an assassination contract and retrieve a package from the fleet commander. Unfortunately, a massive storm capsizes Adéwalé’s ship and he finds himself washed ashore on the Island of Saint-Domingue (known today as Haiti) and ends up joining a movement to crush the local slave trade. The story in Freedom Cry is a good one, though it’s not up there with what we’ve come to expect from Assassin’s Creed games. Aside from Adéwalé, we don’t really get to know that many characters and I didn’t really find myself caring too much about the main story until very near the end when things started to get interesting.
The gameplay in Freedom Cry is pretty similar to what we’ve come accustomed to in recent Assassin’s Creed titles. There’s been a few tiny changes but for the most part players won’t notice a huge difference. The main changes to the game are the barter system and some new activities. The barter system in Black Flag was based on finding blueprints via treasure maps, plundering ships and hunting animals, which was then used for trades, upgrades and crafting. In Freedom Cry, the crafting system has been removed and replaced with a reward system. Adéwalé is on a mission to free the slaves in the area and for every set amount of slaves that he frees, he is given new upgrades which can be equipped via escaped slaves in hiding or via his cabin aboard his ship, the Experto Crede. Upgrading the ship is pretty much untouched and works the same way as the main game, by plundering ships and using scrap metal, wood and fabrics to build better cannons and hull plating.
New activities in the game are all centered around freeing slaves. In the main game, players obtained crew by rescuing small groups of pirates from firing squads and scattered skirmishes. In Freedom Cry, you obtain followers by purchasing (or fighting for) the freedom of slaves at auctions, assassinating overseers trying to capture runaway slaves, stealing keys and opening cages. In the place of stealing booty from plantations and frigates, instead players attack convoys escorting slave ships and infiltrate plantations and quietly assassinating overseers without being seen. I’ve added a video below this paragraph which shows an attack on a slave convoy, it’s a ton of fun and one of my favorite new activities.
Freedom Cry sports some really good voice acting as well. Montreal native Tristan D. Lalla does an excellent job at coming back to the role of Adéwalé. The supporting cast is quite good as well, and not once did I get jarred out of the story by cringeworthy acting. Sea shanties have disappeared from the game for Freedom Cry, and in their place is a beautiful musical score that really beats anything I’ve heard this year aside for maybe the haunting strings of The Last of Us. Keep an eye out this week for a soundtrack spotlight on the music of Freedom Cry.
Freedom Cry does have some issues though and they appear much more frequently than they did in the main game. On more than one occasion while controlling Adéwalé, I’d be free running just to suddenly have Adéwalé turn around and jump in the opposite direction, as though he’d just run into a wall. I’d also often get stuck in Adéwalé’s neutral animation during combat, meaning I couldn’t do anything but run or die because Adéwalé refused to use his machete or gun. Other times, I would be in a fight with a bunch of enemies and then one of them would suddenly forget that I was there and start going about his business just to suddenly turn around and start attacking me again. Freedom Cry is also full of follow and eavesdrop missions…… have you walked away from the computer yet? No? Good.
To conclude, Freedom Cry is a welcome addition to the Assassin’s Creed story. It takes a cool background character from the main game and gives him his own story and while the story isn’t spectacular, it’s still a fun ride through history with a few epic moments that really stand out as some of the best moments I’ve seen in the franchise in a long time. It does have quite a few bugs and glitches that weren’t present in the main Black Flag game, but it doesn’t break the game, instead opting to be more of an annoyance. It does come with some neat new activities and a revamped barter system and if you are looking for more fun on the ocean of history, then Freedom Cry is in your sights.