Assassin’s Creed 4: Freedom Cry DLC Review – Busywork

There’s a slave running through the streets of Port-au-Prince in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag‘s first story DLC package, Freedom Cry, and he’s being chased by an overseer. My job is to murder the latter to save the former.

Sprinting through crowds and over rooftops, I stumble in the chase and the overseer traps the slave on a dock in the harbor. I arrive a second or two later and drive my hidden blade into the overseer’s kidney, but not before he executes the slave with a pistol. It’s something of an intense act of violence in a city teeming with these relationships between subjugated and subjugator, and I was too late to prevent it.

But that’s okay, because a few minutes later, another slave is running through the streets, pursued by an overseer, taking the exact same route and arriving at the exact same place. This time I kill the overseer by leaping down on him from above the route, since I know where it leads. The slave thanks me and disappears, and I get another tick on my “freed slaves” counter.

Quickly it becomes apparent in Freedom Cry that there are a billion of these moments playing out all around you all the time, but they’re flat, inconsequential, fleeting and, eventually, kind of dull — maybe that’s a comment about the incredible prevalence of slavery, or maybe it’s the weak execution of turning emancipation into a video game mechanic. For a story about freeing literally hundreds of people in the West Indies, in a content pack that depicts violence and oppression against them literally everywhere you turn, Freedom Cry has a tendency to turn these moments to rote. Free a slave, drive up the ticker, and hey, you earn a new machete.

Freedom Cry’s greatest sin is that it’s so littered with busywork in all this slave-freeing superhero work you do somewhat meaningless. Instead of feeling like you’re the point of the lengthening blade of revolution, you become the guy who’s just ticking off a list of things to do. By depicting a microcosm of Assassins’ Creed IV and introducing a pumped-up version of one of its more minor mechanics — saving certain people from attack by guards — the DLC amplifies the bloat and tedium of the overall package.

Ultimately Freedom Cry winds up a bit boring, and in so doing, undermines completely any message or empathy its premise might have conveyed.

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag: “Freedom Cry” DLC
Platform: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Dec. 18, 2013
MSRP: $9.99
Available: Steam, Uplay

Freedom Cry switches players out of the head of Assassin’s Creed IV protagonist Edward Kenway in favor of Adewale, Kenway’s former quartermaster, who left the pirate life to join the Assassins. After a naval battle leaves him in Port-au-Prince, where slavery is apparently the only industry (other than a single brothel and a couple plantations), Adewale’s sense of justice starts him about the business of freeing folks while also trying to find a way back to the Assassin Brotherhood.

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2 Comments on Assassin’s Creed 4: Freedom Cry DLC Review – Busywork

Swcloud99

On January 3, 2014 at 12:22 pm

After reading the review, I am left with a couple questions.
How’s the plot? Is it interesting or well written?
Does it provide any hints to the bigger mythology of Assassin’s Creed or to what we might expect in the next game?

Phil Hornshaw

On January 4, 2014 at 10:02 am

@Swcloud99

Freedom Cry functions like the Aveline stories, which is to say that it has no binding to the “outside the Animus” storyline of AC4. You just pop up as Adewale, play as him for a bit, and then it’s over. In discussing the whole “freeing slaves as game mechanics that get boring” idea, I kinda glossed the plot, which I felt was underdeveloped. Mostly Adewale jumps from mission to mission, helping out the Maroons and discovering what the local jerk slave owners are up to. What they’re up to is, in fact, “Not a lot,” but he does some cool things with infiltrating their operation with his escaped comrades.

Some light spoilers follow:

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Meanwhile, there’s a Templar/Assassin subplot established almost immediately with one of the resistance figures, Bastienne, as Adewale brings her a templar package he got from a templar ship he sank at the beginning of the DLC. That’s a bit that’s never explored fully, though, and in the end the story ends with more work to be done for the resistance and some unanswerable moral questions left.

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End of spoilers

Anyway, the plot doesn’t do much for the whole package, which is why I spent so little time discussing it. There’s some interest in Adewale as a person, but he’s vastly underused here, I thought.