Twiddling My ThumbsticksWith Black Flag the Creed franchise may have peaked.

I really dig the Assassin’s Creed franchise. My affair with the series began in 2007 with the release of the very first game. Since then, I’ve played each iteration and have even read some of the various comic book series. From the very beginning, the gameplay and world/time period recreation has been spellbinding and jaw-dropping to me. If I had one complaint about the series, it would be the “real-world” aspect. The time spent out of the Animus interface (where memories of various ancestors are accessed and how various time periods are explored) is a waste of time and heck, if it could be skipped I’d do it. I couldn’t even tell you what any of that “real world” crap is about. That stuff is all secondary to the running, climbing, jumping and stabbing that is the real draw to the series. But to get back on track, a growing backlog of un-played and neglected games had me reevaluate my game purchasing. So when Black Flag was announced, it pained me to have to sit it out. My love of the series mixed with my love for pirates?!?! You’re torturing me! But games typically drop in price within six months of release, so the waiting began (for your curiosity, $20 or less is now my purchasing price point for new games). As luck would have it, my nephews had the game and once I knew they had finished, it I forced them to loan it to me. Thus began my playthrough of the best AssCreed the series has to offer.

Now, I hear you. You’re saying “but that game is over a year old now; who cares anymore?” Well, it did come free with the Xbox One this past holiday, along with Assassin’s Creed Unity. (Editor’s Note: AssCreed IV is also one of the “Free with Gold” games on Xbox Live this month.) Unity was plagued with glitches and other nonsense from the start, and all that negativity may have distracted gamers from even trying Black Flag. That would be a mistake. Black Flag is amazing and if you have the option to play it … well, damn it man, play it. The reason I think it’s the best Creed game is because it’s not a typical Creed game. It’s a pirate game. It’s not bogged down with the previous Creed games ongoing story wackiness. I didn’t even play it like the previous Creed games. The minute I could change out of the Assassin outfit to something more pirate-like I did, and I never went back. Instead of sneaking into a place, I strode in with pistols blazing and cutlass swinging. Granted, the game does force stealth upon you during some missions and you can’t escape that. But at every opportunity, I threw off the Creed hood. Now, expect a lot of the same side activities from past games. Lookout points, assassination contracts, treasure chests and the like. But new features such as hunting sharks and whales via a smaller whaling row-boat, exploring sunken ships using a diving bell, and of course boarding other ships are a breath of fresh air. The environments, the ships, the sea, are all beautifully rendered and simply amazing to behold. I found myself sailing as much as I could, the crew singing shanties as we rode the waves. The shanties really sunk in subliminally and I found myself singing them in my day to day activities.

Assassin’s Creed Unity seemed to be the obvious next step in the right direction. Finally, a game where you can co-op the story with your buddies online. Taking the game beyond the team deathmatch and point capture modes that have become a regular part of the series is an answer to my prayers. Those aforementioned multiplayer modes never really struck a cord for me. They entertained a bit but lacked any real meaning. So it’s disappointing to me to finally get a co-op game, but one that suffers from various glitches and requires multiple patches to fix. Also following on the heels of Black Flag is Assassin’s Creed Rogue. Yet Rogue, aside from the storyline, seems to be Black Flag all over again. So if you had fun upgrading your ship in Black Flag and just didn’t get enough, here you go. So, do we ask that question? Has Assassin Creed peaked? Has the best the series had to offer come and gone? Did Unity, which seemed to be the next step for the series, hurt the series more than help? Is Rogue too similar to Black Flag that it becomes an unnecessary and forgetful offering? I can tell you that the glitches of Unity and the familiarity of Rogue do not have me clamoring to play them. It has them sitting to the side awaiting a price drop. Which is fine, I’ve got stormy seas to sail and Mayan treasures to locate in the meantime.

Wooly Toots is just a man. A man like any other. Although there is not a corner of geekdom that has escaped his eye, he doesn’t always like what he sees. He is uncomfortable with the term “love slave.”