In Assassin’s Creed Black Flag IV Freedom Cry, the first batch of single player DLC for AC4 you shrug off the warm blanket of piratical whimsy for the harsher environments surrounding the colonial slave trade of the 18th Century. Set 15 years after the story of Edward Kenway, you play as Adéwalé, Edward Kenway’s quartermaster and first mate, who has since joined the Assassin Brotherhood and finds himself embroiled with the Maroon resistance to overthrow their French colonial oppressors.
The first thing I noticed and it really stuck with me throughout the entire playthrough was the score. Olivier Deriviere’s score changes everything in this game – from the mood to the ambiance to how you perceive key moments in the game. It’s more than simply “serious music because it’s a serious subject.” Yes, the shanties and pirate whimsy are removed to help elevate the music to match the material, but it really is more than that. The score has an earthy richness that connects the player to situation they presented, Freedom Cry is more than just gaining riches and stopping Templars (though there’s plenty time to do that), and the score reflects that change in the game.
Ubisoft did a really nice job taking common gameplay elements and putting new spins on them for Freedom Cry. Naval Combat and ship boarding is essentially the same as before, but liberating slave ships adds new aspects and strategies into the mix. When attacking a slave convoy, you must sink the escort ships while leaving the slave ship unharmed, less the slaves aboard are injured. This introduces a tactical element that really wasn’t present before. You must always be aware of the slave ship and its location. The question was: “Do I lure the escorts ships away and attack or use the slave ship as blocker to split up my attackers?” I really enjoyed this new element to naval combat.
Also new was addressing combat as Adéwalé. He has a completely different fighting style than Edward Kenway, Ezio or Connor. Armed with a machete and a blunderbuss, Adéwalé is about pure strength and brutality. Instead of skulking, I plunged into battles blade first cutting down or blowing away soldiers and slavers alike. The only times I held back were during plantation raids. Sort of replacing warehouses in this DLC, plantations hold 40 slaves for you to liberate. There is only one catch. If the slavers see you and become alarmed, they begin killing the unarmed slaves to stop a potential riot. So, in every case, I stalked my prey and quietly eliminated the 20 overseers in order to preserve the innocent lives. What made it a great challenge is it pits your patience and desire to take a risk versus the lives of the people you’re trying to save.
Lastly, I really like how the perks/bonuses are tied into the number of slaves and maroons (resistance fighters) you liberate. All the perks feel worthwhile and rewarding, and it gives you something to look forward to as you continue your journey. If I had any squabbles about the DLC, I wish I had a little more to do out on the open sea. There are plenty of different ways to liberate slaves on land in Saint-Dominque, but really only one (attack a slave convoy) on the sea. Then again, I’m always looking for more reasons to hoist the sails and head out to sea.
Overall, Freedom Cry is a solid piece of DLC, well worth the $9.99 price tag. I ended up putting about 6 hours into it and finished at about 93% sync. Fans of the franchise will enjoy the new aspects to naval and hand-to-hand combat and the score is simply fantastic. Freedom Cry is an excellent addition to the franchise and to your library.