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For most console and portable gamers, the Assassin’s Creed series is (or should be) a household name as far as open-world objective-based action is concerned. However, it hasn’t really made much of a splash on the mobile scene (the exception being the now ancient Altair’s Chronicles [$4.99 / $6.99 (HD)]). With the recent launch of Assassin’s Creed Pirates [$4.99], iOS users now have an opportunity to experience some of what the most recent console offerings have featured. Unfortunately, several aspects of Pirates bring it down, leading to a gameplay experience that could have been better.

Before anyone gets any big ideas, let’s get it out there that Pirates is not a full-fledged Assassin’s Creed game in any manner. In fact, there really isn’t any of that assassin-filled gameplay that comprises the majority of the content in the console Assassin’s Creed games. Pirates explains this away in an introductory Abstergo cutscene that introduces you to Alonzo Batilla, a young captain whose life intersects with the fearsome pirate La Buse. It’s this crossing of paths that serves as your motivation to hop in the Animus and play as Batilla as your goal is to uncover the secrets and life of La Buse. Overall, while the tale falls short of the grandiose tales told in other Assassin’s Creed games, I found the story in Pirates to be decent enough.

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Considering Batilla’s role as being purely a captain, Pirates focuses exclusively on the ship-based gameplay that was introduced in Assassin’s Creed 3 and made integral in the recently released Assassin’s Creed 4. There’s nautical combat, a variety of ships to purchase and outfit and a decent upgrade system with a variety of perks that are earned via level-ups. It’s all wrapped up in a visual engine that I found pretty impressive on current generation iOS hardware.

Unfortunately Pirates’ gameplay, while plentiful, is pretty formulaic and monotonous. The basic goal is to start a region, attack ships, complete missions, gather resources and use said resources to purchase/upgrade new ships and travel to the next region. Each region typically contains a tons of side quests, a story mission and lots of ships to attack (or avoid). Side quests range from ‘Assassin’ quests that have you sneaking your ship past enemy patrols by drawing a line across a map to ‘Race’ quests that have you guide your ship quickly through checkpoints. The quests that focus on exploring and piloting your ship are by far the best parts of the game and feel most like an actual Assassin’s Creed game. The missions that incorporate more ‘mobile’ elements feel out of place and overtly simplistic. Meanwhile, story missions typically combine the various types of side quests with cutscenes that advance the story (and give big rewards).

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One area that I thought was done well is Pirates’ ship upgrade and feat system. Completing side missions and destroying ships earns both experience points and a wide variety of resources. The resources are used to purchase ship upgrades while the experience goes towards an overall leveling system that unlocks new ships, feats, and maps. While the ship upgrade path is pretty linear, I was impressed with the large amount of feats as well as the potential combinations that can be applied. There’s certainly enough here to customize the majority of Pirates to an individual playstyle.

Regardless of your playstyle, you’ll spend the vast majority of your time in ship-to-ship combat. Unfortunately, this is the aspect of Pirates that falls the most flat. Once you encounter an enemy ship you’ll engage in what is essentially turn-based combat that has you attacking the enemy with a variety of cannons that are all on timers until your opponent readies his weapons. Once that occurs, you’ll enter into the defensive phase that has you dodging attacks by moving forward or backwards outside the cannon range. It doesn’t make much sense and offers very little in terms of strategy. There’s nothing wrong or game-breaking about the combat; it simply borders on being boring with that feeling being exacerbated by the fact that you spend so much time in combat to begin with.

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There’s no question that fans of the series should check out Assassin’s Creed Pirates. There’s plenty of content, impressive visuals and some pieces, like the actual ship navigation, do a great job of emulating its console brethren. However, elements like the boring combat and the monotony of the side quests make a lot of that content somewhat disappointing. One could certainly argue that there’s a far amount of monotony in other Assassin’s Creed titles as well, but at least those have large open worlds to provide some variety. That key is missing from Pirates and keeps it from being a better offering.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Aventador

    For being " formulaic and monotonous " it deserves 2 stars.I'm sorry, but would reviewer ( without any dodging answer , just truth - yes or no ) really recommend this game to others based on that ?
    I know I wouldn't....

    • Jake7905

      Nah, 3 1/2 stars is about right. It's a decent casual game, it's just not Assassin's Creed. I'd recommend it at a lower price though, $5 is overpriced, even without IAP.

    • themostunclean

      He had plenty if other good things to say about it. This balance led to the overall score. Guess there are some people who choose to only focus on the negatives...

  • ZarieoZ

    Meh!!

    It's really an insult. We were better of without it. When they can do all what they do on the console & then throw us this thing & call it a game.

  • SpacePenguinBot

    That’s too bad. I’m a fan of a full compliment of booty.

    • ineptidude

      Dat booty

  • chuckdoom

    Im sorry for talking bad about whoever makes the review titles. You have redeemed yourself.

  • pauldavidmerritt

    "...you’ll spend the vast majority of your time in ship-to-ship combat. Unfortunately, this is the aspect of Pirates that falls the most flat."

    In other words, the game is flat. I was not sold based on visuals and the big name 'Assassin's Creed'. Boring, and I'm sorry for those that did go for it.

    I know reviewers do their best to be as unbiased as possible for big name games, but...not sold. I'll save my money and time for something with more substantial value.

    • metalmandave83

      This obsession with graphics gives games higher ratings than they deserve.

  • Josh Tisdale

    I had such high hopes for this game, but the combat is just stupid. I don't care one bit about the Assassin's Creed name or that its not a 3rd person free runner, I wanted an epic ship combat game...and we get whack-a-mole

  • TTotully

    I have to agree with the review, 3.5 stars translated in a 7/10 score or 70 out of 100. Which means that it is generally favorable and has enough entertainment value to outweigh it's shortcomings but it's not for everyone. I've played a few missions and have had fun playing, the ship navigation is great and the battles are fun but a little too easy and repetitive. Plus there are quite a few things that Assassins Creed fans will enjoy. The story is no epic yarn and the price is a bit steep but if your a fan of the series, like the naval aspects of Black Flag and want a game to pick up and play for 30-45 mins at a time then I would recommend a purchase. Admittedly that is a specialized group but there are enough AC fans that fit in it. As for everyone else, I would wait for a price drop before picking it up. That's my humble opinion and I hope it helps anyone who is on the fence to go one way or the other. BTW, I highly recommend picking up GTA: San Andreas and The Wolf Among Us before even thinking about getting this one, those are two of the best games I have played on IOS, especially GTA, it is amazing.

  • bigjack66

    It's alright it's not bad it's just a little dull. The problem is it's not Assassins Creed. As I've said many times Backstab from Gameloft shows it can be done but Ubisoft keeps puttin out sub Sega Genesis crap!

  • rewind

    Too bad it's such a simplified, cut down variation of the real Assassin's Creed games. These big developers act as if iOS isn't capable of quality games, which is absolutely false.

  • rewind

    I just checked and the age rating on this game is 9+. Seriously?! Google Chrome is 17+, and even the Simpsons: Tapped Out is higher. Why on earth is this as low as 9+?

    • metalmandave83

      Chrome is higher because you can look at porn.

      • rewind

        And Safari comes installed on every device, regardless of age. And youngsters could look up porn on that too.

      • metalmandave83

        And since when did installed apps have a rating? You're an idiot.

    • detourne

      Because there are no actual human avatars getting harmed in this. However the dialog in the cutscenes can be a bit brash.

    • Jake7905

      Age ratings are nothing but fabricated standards based on a claim of protection, but are actually a form of censorship.

  • free2play4eva

    1 star because of the price...

  • EvilAbdy

    Finally bought this. Absolutely love it. It's pretty much what I wanted. More ship related missions. Just need to get better at the battle missions where I have to go through 10 waves of enemies.

Assassin's Creed Pirates Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3.5