‘Assassin’s Creed Pirates’ review: Assassin’s Creed in name and fun only (iOS/Android)

December 9, 2013
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It mostly consists of ship-to-ship combat, leaving the Ubisoft franchises’ free running, building climbing and parkour gameplay to the console title, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.

Luckily for Assassin's Creed Pirates and, more importantly, for the gamers who download it for their iOS and Android devices, the naval combat has enough variety to sail on its own. The story follows up-in-coming pirate Captain Alonzo Batilla, who is all about finding legendary treasure, sinking royal ships and making enemies. This “pirate’s life” story, told through still character art and rolling text, is bare skull and bones and pretty forgetful in the Assassin's Creed cannon.

Even though Batilla isn’t one of the Assassin's Creed Assassins or Templars, his role as an ambitious new pirate captain is at least made interesting by the fact that he starts at the bottom rung of the rope ladder. His first vessels include a dinky Gun Boat and Schooner and he works his way up to commanding a full-loaded Frigate and Man O’War by the end. Upgrading your ships, crew and perks is accomplished by accumulating XP and collecting treasure.

Treasure is mostly won by challenging royal navy and other pirate ships to real-time combat. The gameplay here consists of selecting cannons and other sea faring warfare projectiles, then setting their trajectory. You have to keep in mind that the ship across the bow is always moving.

There’s a cooldown period that forces captains to wait an anxious few seconds between rounds, enabling the enemy to take a turn firing. When this happens, the game transitions you into defense mode where you can employ a dodge move. Getting out of the way by speeding up or slowing down the boat (or, from your perspective, moving the ship left and right), is really easy.

The real difficulty in ship-to-ship combat isn’t getting hit. In fact, you’ll rarely have your vessel sunk in this game, if ever. It’s that certain levels employ a fairly strict timer, which will cause you to fail a mission and start over. This makes Assassin's Creed Pirates a legitimately fun challenge, but for some players it will be the most frustrating part of the game.

The graphics, unlike the timed missions, can be appreciated by one and all. That’s because the game actually lives up to its app store screenshots. You’ll be swiftly cutting through the open waters of the Caribbean, and despite the choppy conditions, it’ll be smooth sailing on the tablet’s screen. In addition to engaging 3D combat, the game conveniently provides a 2D over-the-top view for navigating the large maps in each chapter.

There are times when a bigger tablet is a better choice for exploring waters dotted with nameless Caribbean islands. That’s because the controls can feel cramped on smaller screens. The 2D over-the-top navigation isn’t available in the most pressing speed missions, so if you’re turning the camera when you mean to be turning the ship, you start to sing to yourself: “the pirate’s life is not for me” and let out a few choice “Arrrs!”

Even though Assassin's Creed Pirates doesn’t give us an Assassin or Templar to play with, the game fulfills the third word of its title by amply delivering pirates. Everything from the all-important naval combat to the crew singing sea shanties makes the gameplay and presentation worth your $4.99 in buried treasure.

  • Assassin's Creed Pirates
  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Platforms: iOS, Android
  • Price: $4.99
  • In-app purchases? No

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