Assassin’s Creed: Pirates Review

When Ubisoft’s massively successful franchise ‘Assassins Creed’ was released for consoles a few years ago, gamers just couldn’t get enough. The seemingly endless world made for a fantastic environment for a free-running assassin. After a few more iterations, things are slowing down on the console front, and heating up on smartphones.

The developer has just released the much-anticipated Assassins Creed Pirates’ for Android and iOS prompting mixed reviews on the Play Store. Ubisoft say that players will “break the rules” to “challenge empires and build a fortune”; an ambitious claim for a game restricted to smartphones. Let’s see if the newest Assassins Creed will live up to its huge expectations.

Storyline

As the title suggests, you take on the role of a pirate; your name is Alonzo. For reasons not explained too well by the game’s opening cut scenes, you’re provided with your own ship by a seasoned veteran of the seas named La Buse.

Sail away in your brand new ship

Sail away in your brand new ship

You’re tasked with using the ship (along with its crew) to traverse the high seas, zone by zone, defeating challengers, enemy naval forces and bosses to eventually reach the far corner of the earth. By which time, you will have amassed a fortune in gold and loot.

Sadly, that’s about it. Although there is a story lurking somewhere in the background, the game’s cartoony cut-scenes and horrible script do little to coax it out. My competitive instincts took over and I set about defeating challenge after challenge with little regard to the mute plotline.

Gameplay

What the game lacks in the story department, it makes up for in gameplay; even if said gameplay is horrifyingly unrealistic, arcade style sea battles that feel like a clunky shoot ‘em up.

As you sail across the ocean you’ll come across enemy ships. In true 16th century style, the opposing vessels pull up alongside one another for a game of cannons. There is a pretty basic aiming system of dragging a curving arrow onto the enemy’s ship and hitting the ‘fire’ button. Your crew will then load up your starboard side cannons and give the enemy an explosive taste of wrought iron cannon balls.

Swerve to avoid enemy fire

Swerve to avoid enemy fire

When it’s the enemy’s turn to return fire, you must stop, swerve or lunge your ship forward to avoid the onslaught. You do this by swiping your finger across the bottom of the screen. Points are awarded for each successful dodge; collect enough and you’ll access special weapons and ammunition.

Sadly, this is about all Assassin’s Creed Pirates offers in terms of combat. It’s the same repetitive exchange of fire for the whole game, albeit with increasing levels of difficulty. There are no Jack Sparrow style ship-boardings, sword fights or pistol duels. You can’t even make someone walk the plank!

Outside of combat, you have to navigate to your next destination. Different camera angles can be used but I prefer the first person view from the ships helm. The ship is easily turned and stopped (by dropping the anchor!) but the game offers no real challenges in terms of the sea conditions. There are no storms, weather is always fair and although you can sail at night, there is still no issue with visibility.

If you get bored with sailing, you can open your map and select your next destination. Your ship will then be guided there within a few seconds, automatically. This really kills the spirit of adventure most Assassins’ Creed titles have held in the past.

Graphics and Sound

The game features its own theatrical score to add extra tension to combat scenes and tranquility to the sea faring gameplay. Other than this, your speakers will be dominated by the sounds of booming cannons and small ocean waves breaking under your ship’s bow.

Great graphics and effects, even on older devices

Great graphics and effects, even on older devices

Overall, the graphics in Assassin’s Creed Pirates are beautiful. You particularly notice the attention to detail during combat. The gun smoke and visible projectiles really add a great deal to the look of the game. During normal travel around the expansive map, you’ll encounter lens flare from the sun, sparkling waves and lustrous landscapes.

Cut scenes are a cartoon style, text-based affair which I found disappointing, but the fact that the game runs smoothly on devices up to two years old makes up for this.

Final Thoughts

Assassin’s Creed Pirates is a game of entirely unrealistic combat, a non-existent story and lacklustre free roaming. You can’t even walk around on dry land; instead, your freedom is restricted to the sea.

However, that doesn’t stop it from being really fun to play. The combat, however repetitive, is fast-paced and requires skill. What’s more, the maneuverability of the ship, combined with the simplistic controls make for some interesting twists and turns as the battles grow more intense.

Progress from zone to zone to complete the game

Progress from zone to zone to complete the game

You still feel a great deal of progression throughout the game as you unlock new sectors of the map and increase your wealth. Other, less obvious aspects of the game such as the ability to upgrade your ship, also keep things interesting.

Fans of the franchise shouldn’t expect anything on par with the console games, or even anything remotely related to them. On its own however, this game offers hours of fun and exploration.


Summary

The latest installment in the Assassins Creed franchise offers players the chance to sail the high seas, defeat the enemies and increase your wealth. It has great graphics and some funky gameplay, but unfortunately the plot-line is drawn out and paper thin.

7