We reviewed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag earlier this month and finally had a chance to sit down with its first dose of single-player DLC, Freedom Cry. Released mere weeks after Black Flag hit next-gen consoles, does Freedom Cry tread too much familiar water or is a powerful new hero with a heartfelt motive enough to keep us entertained?
In the DLC, you control former Jackdaw quartermaster-turned-Assassin Adéwalé, harness his inner Jason Voorhees and turn Saint-Domingue in to Camp Crystal Lake by liberating slaves and delivering some Caribbean street justice with a machete.
Taking place 15 years after the events of Black Flag, Adéwalé finds himself shipwrecked in Saint-Domingue amidst a brutal time of slavery and corruption. Being a former slave himself, Adéwalé is compelled to lend his muscle to the Maroons; a rebel group of slaves looking to free their own and overthrow the Governor. Freeing slaves and liberating plantations offers great benefits like free ammunition, weapon upgrades and having Maroons assist you in combat.
Washing up on the shore of Port-au-Prince and seeing slaves being lined up for auction, being whipped and crippled, I felt as if I absolutely had to save as many as possible. Not because the game told me to do so or because I was rewarded in-game somehow, but because my human nature compelled me to. Being driven by human emotion alone, I always made it a point to hack, slash and assassinate my way to every liberation point and plantation to free whoever I could, and that’s a lot more than I can say for the pirates in Black Flag.
Using a gripping subject like slavery, Freedom Cry had the chance to deliver a powerful message and dip in to the past of one of the strongest characters in Black Flag with Adéwalé, but they only did one of those two. Unfortunately Freedom Cry never gives Adéwalé any room to grow and throws him in to mission after mission of the same old tail-and-chase nonsense that I just went through for over 40 hours with Edward Kenway. Sure, the machete and blunderbuss are a lot of fun and I enjoyed using them to hack the evil slavers to bits and blast them in to Narnia, but Freedom Cry brings absolutely nothing new to the table.
Slavery is a strong subject to tackle, and freeing slaves over pirates gives Freedom Cry a new found purpose to actually endure the same shortcomings I found while playing Black Flag, but it didn’t make the familiar mission structure feel any less annoying — or any more fun, for that matter. It’s sad, really, to see such potential completely lost.
I kept waiting and waiting for Freedom Cry to go beyond its slave liberation angle and dig deeper in to Adéwalé’s character, but that never happened. I did end up enjoying his character a bit more than Edward Kenway for the sheer fact that his motives felt just and heartfelt, but Freedom Cry didn’t do anything to make Adéwalé grow on me any more than he did back in Black Flag.
From a technical standpoint, Freedom Cry is on par with Black Flag in terms of graphics, character animations and voice acting, which is expected from DLC. It also features the same free-run control scheme, which works great when it actually works, but I found Port-au-Prince to be lacking a bit in the cover department which made sneaking about a bit of a hindrance. During the many eavesdrop missions, I often found myself fumbling over rooftops or just flat-out failing because there was nowhere else to hide or way too many guards with no way of avoiding them.
A majority of DLC seems to be underwhelming these days, but Freedom Cry does give you a bit of bang for your buck. Aside from the 9 story missions, Adéwalé can sail across a confined area of the map and visit various locations featuring treasure to collect, additional plantations to liberate and find weapon upgrades that would otherwise be unavailable.
There is no Kenway’s Fleet-style mini-game, no crafting, no legendary ships and very limited naval combat, but Adéwalé is able to upgrade his own ship, weapons and storage by liberating slaves, recruiting Maroons and collecting reales to spend (which are insanely abundant in the DLC). It’s essentially a mini version of the original game, offering a bit of this and a dash of that, but aside from a stronger lead character and a heartfelt story, it’s really just more of the same.
Overall, Freedom Cry manages to effectively tackle a tricky subject matter, but I wish Ubisoft would have taken the same risk by offering up some new game mechanics to play around with. Freedom Cry is essentially just more Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, swapping out Edward for Adéwalé and pirates for Maroons, but offers a strong story and a decent amount of optional objectives.
Freedom Cry is not an essential purchase, but offers a decent amount of content for $9.99. If you’re hoping for something a little different though, you may end up disappointed, especially if you had any frustrations with the mechanics of Black Flag.