Review: Black Flag: Freedom Cry DLC

Review: Black Flag: Freedom Cry DLC

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Harry Shepherd reviews the latest DLC for the much loved, much swashbuckling Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Ubisoft promised that if the serial completionist did everything Black Flag had to offer, it would take them around 80 hours. For gamers that prize length, Freedom Cry will not disappoint, but certain differences do give this batch a distinctive flavour.

Now your controllable character is Adawale, Edward Kenway’s former quartermaster.

15 years after the events of Kenway’s narrative, Adawale has become a trained assassin and highly respected member of the Brotherhood but a shipwreck leaves him stranded on the new location of Port-au-Prince.  All of the new locations retain all of the graphical beauty of the original game, as weather effects and near-photorealistic animations again look stunning on the PS4.

Unfortunately, what also carries over from the main game is the disappointing main mission design.

Tailing and eavesdropping  is again the order of the day, and its repetitiveness and limitations are still in stark contrast to the scope and immense opportunities of the world and its optional objectives. But while the plot isn’t terribly interesting and a little confused, it does reach an exhilaratingly emotive climax that is worth sticking around for.

While Freedom Cry is structured in a very similar fashion, there are changes that set it apart from the main game. Adawale is forced to relive his past in slavery to rescue and recruit other slaves to his crew. Freeing slaves is really what the whole story revolves around, so naturally plays a key part.

Plantation raids are undoubtedly a highlight, as you’ll have to sneak through a restricted area and take out a specific number of overseers in order to free around 30 slaves. Prison ships, however, can hold up to one hundred prisoners at a time. Taking on their escorting naval vessels will give you more than enough of an excuse to get back on the high seas.

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The number of captives you free can also unlock new toys, including weaponry like the Blunderbuss, additions to your ship, and useful perks to use for freeing more slaves. Some missions require a number of side activities,  but the chase to unlock new stuff will inevitably distract you from blasting through the four hour story.

However, I can’t help feeling uncomfortable over the ‘gamification’ of such a serious issue. The slaves you rescue become reduced to a simple statistic. The game is redeemed by Adawale, who is a very different protagonist to Kenway. More commanding, yet reticent and serious, he suits the difficulty of the subject matter well. As an ex-slave, engaging with other slaves creates a unique atmosphere and is overwhelmingly the stand out feature.

Freedom Cry is DLC done right. It replicates the meaty balance between main missions and optional objectives that the original game nailed, but also manages to distance itself expertly, despite the questionable treatment of such a serious historical issue.

 

Harry Shepherd

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