Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series has enthralled many gamers across various platforms. The beautiful landscape, the intricate stories and the highly skilled characters. Sure, Ubisoft recently had to deal with protests from gamers that felt there wasn’t enough diversity in their stereotypical white male leads, but for the most part gamers have been happy with the Assassin’s series.
As more and more companies realise how profitable the mobile gaming industry is, many are somewhat “porting” their games to mobile and Assassin’s Creed has followed suit in the form of Assassin’s Creed Pirates.
You begin as Alonzo Batilla, a captain betrayed by your country and enslaved. A pirate attacks the merchant ship you’re on and despite the numerous insults you throw his way, gives you your own ship and so begins your pirate career. Typically shallow beginnings of a mobile game, uninterested in selling you a story, but rather wanting to get you into the action quickly.
Before we jump into the rest of the review, a disclaimer needs to be made. This game was promising and highly enjoyable when it worked, but it has been plagued with bugs and crashes that have rendered the game unplayable. A visit to their reviews page on the Android page suggests many are having the same experience.
Thus, I have not been able to experience the full range of the game due to how buggy and unstable it is. It is important that gamers realise how unstable this game is before they download a 1GB file only to be met with disappointment a few hours in. On top of the instability, if you connect your Facebook account to the game, it won’t let you proceed until you let it post on your wall. The only solution to this is to forcefully close the game and disconnect your profile.
If you think the game couldn’t get worse, if you switch off the sound and music, it still keeps them both on when you next log on, completely disregarding your requests. Added to that, if you try to minimise the game to reply to a message or check something and come back to it, you get an effectively broken screen, where half your screen will be tearing as if the V-sync gods had forsaken it. I don’t know what happened when they updated the game or if the game has not been optimised for Android, but I felt compelled to write this review despite all these problems so that fellow Android users can avoid a horrifying and frankly frustrating experience for a game that holds so much promise.
Gameplay – Great when it works
The gameplay is fairly complex, relative to other mobile games, but it is adept at explaining it all to you step by step. The beginning feels slow as you’re told how to dodge volleys of enemy ships or how to dispatch of projectiles, how to move, use your tactical map and more, but once the training wheels are thrown off, it is an enjoyable if somewhat repetitive experience.
Naval battles are the biggest culprits of repetitiveness as you merely slice incoming cannonballs, dodge others and then fire back in retaliation. There is no variation and once you get the hang of it, battles become a formality rather than a challenge. It has the feel of an arcade game as opposed to an immersive naval battle.
The game brings a level of depth rarely seen in mobile games with the aid of a tactical map. The tactical map gives you a bird’s view of your vicinity, allowing you to speed travel to whatever mission you feel like accomplishing, meaning you don’t have to slowly traverse the sea if you don’t feel like taking a scenic route. For people who like to get to business and grind points as quickly as possible, the tactical map allows you to do just that.
There is also an upgrade system that at first is complicated and somewhat intimidating. There are various aspects of gameplay you can upgrade, from crew members to the ship you conquer the seas with to various perks you gain based on what crew members you hire. You can also upgrade various stats of your ship, such as its speed (needed to evade or catch up to enemies), defense and others. You gain the resources such as money and wood for these upgrades from the bounty you get defeating other ships or loot you find across the world.
In terms of missions, there are various types that you can use to obtain bounty such as assassinations, which require you to sneak through patrols and then destroy a ship before reinforcements arrive. There are races, where you need to speed through checkpoints before the time runs out. As you complete more and more missions, more of the world opens up to you, a mechanism those who have played the console/PC version of Assassin’s Creed will find familiar. Completing missions also allows you to level up, which unlocks more upgrades for you to buy.
Graphics and sound – Setting the bar
If there is anything that you take away, take this. The graphics in this game are phenomenal. Many feel that mobile gaming cannot compete with traditional gaming platforms due to the smaller screen, but Pirates does its best to make the most of what it has. Whilst speed travel is available, if you have the time, you might find yourself travelling at normal speeds just to soak in your surroundings. Majestic mountains, dazzling sunlight and jaw-dropping sunsets, Pirates has it all. If it did anything right, it was set the standard for high quality mobile graphics.
The sound on the other hand was not as ground breaking. The music made for an abrasive and irritating accompaniment as opposed to a subtle but powerful undercurrent to whatever you do. This is exacerbated due to the fact that even switching the music off doesn’t work when the game loads up. In game however, the ambiance is nice, but not impressive.
Final thoughts - An utter letdown
No matter how great the potential of this game seems, the ultimate fact is that it doesn’t work. Whilst mobile gaming is taking steps to redress the casual perspective many gamers give it, a powerhouse like Ubisoft releasing a broken game does the industry no good. Assassin’s Creed Pirates has a ton of potential and maybe if they fix it, I would review the game again.
Ubisoft didn't make any more fans of its mobile endeavors when it changed the model of the game from a purchase to a free to play model without automatically compensating those who bought it in the past. These sort of practices really undermine mobile gaming and it will be hard pressed to win back users' trust and respect if games like these are allowed. As it stands, this is a game with a ton of potential that is severely broken on Android. Until they fix it, I suggest you stay far, far away and look to get your nautical juices flowing from other games.
Assassin's Creed Pirates is available on Android and iOS devices. It's free to purchase on the Playstore here and iTunes here. The size of the game is 1GB.
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