In recent years Assassins Creed has been struggling, Revelations was good but it was clear the developers were running out of ideas and 3 was, well, a disaster. So Black Flag had to deliver in large sums for the yearly releases to seem justifiable and, based on my first few hours with the game, it's delivers this comfortably.
It's immediately apparent, from the visual style and sheer amount of stuff crammed everywhere, that this game has taken a lot of what was good from Far Cry 3, Ubisoft's excellent FPS released last year. The world is colourful and alive and every nook and cranny is filled with enjoyable and meaningful tasks that can upgrade you or your ship or simply grant vast amounts of money. This is combined with an immense level of freedom, which is helped by the very rare loading screens, and what you are given is a mix between the best of Assassins Creed Brotherhood and the best of Far Cry 3.
The naval combat from the third game is back but is more fluid and easier to get to grips with, the fact you can leave your ship at any time for the open water or the promise of land really adds to the sense that the ocean is yours. Off ship the combat and the climbing mechanics are even tighter than before and everything is so accessible that's its almost impossible not to enjoy and explore. The dual weapon system adds a new level of brutality and the character of Edward seems to suit this brilliantly. He is also a lot more likeable than Connor.
This isn't a full review so I don't know much about the story yet but so far it seems promising and the characters and their world are very enrapturing. This being Assassins Creed though does mean it could all end badly.
Check back regularly and I'll have a full review for you either next Friday or the Monday just after.