Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry – PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release date: February 25, 2014 (standalone), December 17, 2013 (DLC)
Genre: Action Adventure
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Cloud3514
First released as DLC for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry takes the basis set by Black Flag, kicks up the difficulty a touch and puts us in the shoes of former slave-turned-pirate turned Assassin Adewale in a new adventure, but is it worth grabbing the standalone version without Black Flag? In short, no because the base game is better is more or less every way, but it might be worth a look for fans of Black Flag looking for a little more.
Set in 1735, 15 years after the end of Black Flag and two years after Edward Kenway’s off-screen death, Adewale is on a mission from the Assassins to take a mysterious parcel out of Templar hands when his ship is shipwrecked on Saint-Domingue. There he finds a fledgeling Maroon rebellion and joins them, inspired by his own past of being born into slavery.
The storyline is a passable one, but the pacing is rather poor and the ending comes out of nowhere. This I attribute to the biggest problem with Freedom Cry: It is very short. After the opening set of missions, you will notice that game completion is over 40%. Seeing as you’ll have been playing for about 40 minutes, tops, this raises an eyebrow. Ultimately, the game wraps up in about 5 hours, at most.
Pre-release materials mentioned that Freedom Cry would hint at what’s to come in Assassin’s Creed Unity, but the only plot element let unanswered is barely relevant to the story and is forgotten for the vast majority of it.
Unfortunately, as I doubt we’ll see much more of Adewale, I have to presume that the story doesn’t add much to the Assassin’s Creed mythos because there is practically no connection to the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars outside of the parcel taken from the Templars in the opening mission.
It tries to pad out its length with a plethora of side missions, which are required to be completed to unlock equipment and ship upgrades and continue the story. However, while useful, the equipment upgrades can be ignored as you rarely have any incentive to return to the Maroon hideout to buy them and it is easy to forget that the ship upgrades are even there in the first place, though they do make the difficult naval battles easier.
While some of Black Flag’s side missions, like shipwreck exploration and whaling, make a return, the majority of the side missions are various means of liberating slaves. You can do things like interrupt auctions to buy their freedom (or, more easily, kill the overseers and unlock the shackles), stop an overseer chasing a runaway slave to buy him time to escape or simply steal a key and unlock the cage holding some slaves waiting to be sold.
More ambitious missions include liberating plantations either by killing all of their overseers during the day to give them a window to just leave or unlocking their barracks at night to allow them to slip away in the darkness or boarding slave ships to liberate the human cargo.
The side missions are a lot of fun and help show what Adewale does for the Maroon rebellion. It helps that, outside of ship boarding and plantation raids, they are very numerous and it is easy to just do them as they’re encountered while running around doing other things.
Ostensibly, Freedom Cry is still open world, but the world is so small, with only one actual city, that the open world is very easy to ignore and not a major part of the experience for anyone but the most hardened completionists. The only time the open world is required to be paid attention to is early in the game where you need to liberate a certain number of slaves to unlock the next story mission.
While this is a blatant attempt at lengthening the game, it does serve as a good way of naturally introducing the side missions and it doesn’t help the game’s length much anyway.
Combat is largely unchanged from Black Flag, with the exception of Adewale being far less durable than the much more heavily armored Edward. It is also of note that Adewale prefers to fight with a machete over Edward’s dual sword style, though there is little gameplay difference to this.
What does differ is that Adewale’s fighting is far more brutal and aggressive than Edward’s. He seems to have more finishers that involve breaking necks than the other playable assassins and even has a finisher that appears to sever a leg. It is also common to see gruesome attacks like Adewale striking an enemy’s shoulder and leaving the machete in there while he uses his hidden blades to actually make the kill before ripping the machete back out.
Other new pieces of equipment include the blunderbuss, which is a brutal scattergun that is introduced by showing Adewale killing four overseers with a single shot and the firecrackers, which simply make a lot of noise and attract enemies away from their positions.
As for gameplay, the biggest change is that you simply can’t take as much of a hit this time around. Adewale doesn’t start with any armor and there is simply no option to get any. Timing windows also seem to be slightly more narrow as well, but as it has been several months between playing Black Flag and Freedom Cry, I might just be out of practice.
Naval combat is also more difficult. While your ship starts more equipped than the Jackdaw did, it is still outclassed by most enemy ships you’ll encounter and you will need to rely on skill to get out of most fights, even after considerable upgrades.
Although the story ultimately amounts to little, it is worth experiencing just for Adewale. He is a very likeable and fascinating protagonist and his character arc is a logical one that could be argued to be an inevitable conclusion based on his past as a freed slave and former pirate.
With it adding nothing to the mythos and a very brief length with no reason to pay any real attention to the open world, Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry is a fun, but ultimately unnecessary addition to the series. While I would recommend it as an add-on to Black Flag, it is simply not worth picking up as a stand-alone game, especially seeing as Black Flag will likely have its price dropped soon with Assassin’s Creed Unity around the corner.
Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry is available as a DLC expansion to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, XBox 360, XBox One, Wii U and PC. It is also available as a stand-alone title on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC.
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