After Assassin's Creed Revelation and worse, Assassin's Creed 3, Black Flag was like a breathe of fresh air to the series, although it still suffers from some of the same old, same old stuff in regards to repetition of missions and collecting. However, it's saved by its excellent sailing mechanics, a reasonable main story narrative and an interesting character you can get immersed in.
Black Flag's stand-out feature is its sailing. Built on one of the side activities of AC3, its often buggy trading missions, Ubisoft has done a stellar job in turning this option into the basis of a new main game. Our character, Edward Kenway, father of Haytham Kenway of AC3, takes up buccaneering in the Carabbean as a means to earn riches and thus win back the wife he left behind in Wales. As usual, Ubisoft weaves plenty of relevant history into the story plot.
The theme of Templars vs Assassins is still strong in this game, combined with the politics of gaining control over the West Indies. To this end, Britain is willing to pardon the pirates if they secede their dominance over Nassau. Edward doesn't buy it and former colleagues are pitted against one another. Neither is Edward interested in either the Templar cause, nor the Assassins cause. Throughout the game, his interest remains in his eventual return to his estranged wife with enough capital to give her the good life. To that end, he supports the cause of Nassau remaining free.
Graphics, once tweaked are okay, but of particular note is how realistic the seas look. The ship handling mechanics are top notch and sea battles are a lot of fun, although once you best an enemy ship, boarding goals are also repetitive. Boarding provides the main way to make money for both hero and ship upgrades. But lots of story happens on land too.
Black Flag also has a modern day segment, although it doesn't hold a candle to Desmond Miles who was killed off in AC3. You are hired as an employee of Abstergo to do research through use of the animus. Abstergo's cover is an entertainment industry. There's lots of not so subtle hints that it resembles the real Ubisoft. Every once in awhile, you get kicked out of the Animus to play a short segment of story in Abstergo.
Although I loved the AC games, this is last Assassin's Creed game I bought. The series was getting stale with so many offshoots being released, which caused player fatigue. In addition, performance also started to suffer. The next main game, Assassin's Creed Unity was a complete disaster and permanently stained the franchise's reputation.
Ubisoft Montreal has developed all of the main entries in the Assassin's Creed Franchise including the upcoming Assassin's Creed Origins. However, with the release of Unity, the cannon game after Black Flag, disaster struck the series over major performance issues.
Ubisoft was forced to issue an apology and make some compensation to buyers, with the caveat they wouldn't sue. This also had a direct impact on their new entry, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, developed by Ubisoft Quebec, which suffered in initial sales due to this fiasco. At this time, Ubisoft also stated that it would not be announcing any further AC games for the balance of the year.
For the reviewers who got to try Origins for a short segment at E3 this year, there is a lot of sitting on the fence as to whether AC's year off is going to pay off in terms of innovation to the series. It's due to be released in October, so I guess we'll know soon enough.