Summary complete, two sentences.
5 bucks, Universal, 800mb. Zero IAP.
Assassin's Creed Pirates is a really good pirate simulator with a really bad name in my opinion and its the name - game issue that annoys most people on forums and review sites. This game has you playing a young and upcoming pirate who meets up with more experienced pirates whos names are familiar to anyone who has played Black Flag. One of these pirates gives your character his first ship and off starts the story of the game. The closest thing I've seen so far is a rather friendly monk who always seems to be giving my character things to do (and who i suspect will end up being an assassin).
The controls. There are several systems in place here depending largely on your preference. When in open water you can sail from the view of your ships wheel. In this mode swiping left or right across the top of the screen pivots the camera accordingly. Sliding your finger left or right across the bottom of the screen turns the ship left or right. Bottom right corner has your speed controls. Additionally, double tapping the screen recenters the camera facing forward and pinching the screen zooms out. If you tap the bottom left map you scroll out in to top down map mode. Draw lines that your ship follows, Fast travel to light houses unlocked, engage enemy ships, start events, etc. The only thing you will not see and can miss out on when in top down mode are messages in bottles, a collectable in the game that rewards cash for completing collections and also counts towards 100% sync with the stage your in.
When in combat the controls naturally change. Default camera becomes standing behind your cannons staring out at the enemy ship who moves left and right randomly. You will have several abilities along the left and bottom of your screen during this. When abilities complete their recharge, you use them. Each has a different mechanic and I've currently unlocked 5 abilities. Left side of the screen will be abilities earned through the perk system that affect the fight over all. When the enemy's attack recharges you will go in to one of two different combat situations. If the camera pans out you will be hitting left and right arrows to dodge the enemies attack. Every 5 successful dodges you will unlock a stun shot that ends the enemies attack turn early returning you to your attack screen. The other possible enemy attack is best described as fruit ninja. Slice the cannon balls, tap the barrels, do nothing to the crates.
There is alot to do in this game. Ship races, assassination contracts, package retrieval, random red coat ships to sink, random civilian ships to sink, treasure maps to chase, slaver ships to harrass, random drowning folk to rescue, lighthouses to unlock, ships to buy, crew to recruit, ships to upgrade, crew perks to upgrade and assign... there's alot here.
Doing any of the above and / or progressing the main story will award coin, experience and resources. The experience levels you up which unlocks additional sailors in the tavern for hire, unlocks additional perk slots on your ship and unlocks additional ships for purchase. Sailors hired bring with them perks that you assign to your ship. Perks can be passive or active abilities and affect everything from speed and agility to combat and back again.
And on top of all that your ship itself can be upgraded. Each ship has different speed, attack and tank stats and all three can be upgraded multiple times. There is no best ship in this game, instead there are best ships for various roles. Doing a boat race? Pull out the fastest ship you have. Killing civilian ships (which have a timer)? Get your dps boat out. Dealing with a storyline boss? Probably want a heavy tank boat.
Ship Races, Assassination Contracts and Package Retrievals are all proper mission based mechanics, loading you in to instances with additional optional goals on top of the main point of what your being told to do. Completing these optional goals completes syncronization for that particular event. Folks familiar with the assassin creed franchise will recognize this optional goal system. Those not familar, well your actually playing a character in the future who is using technology to explore his ancestors past. Your ancestor had a certain way he did everything and the more accurately you do things his way... ie complete the optional objectives, the more in sync you are with your ancestors past. In this game synronization only counts towards achievements and completionists, nothing more. Additionally, you dont have to complete all the optional objectives in one run to get 100% sync so feel free to run the event more than once, each time chasing one optional goal. These three events award you with cash, exp and resources needed for upgrading your ship and the rewards are in no way affected by how many if any optional objectives you complete. And their all repeatable so grind away.
Ship Races will have you racing across a obstacle course dodging mines and ships while heading towards large blue markers. Each marker increases the clock by 5 seconds. Optional objectives are "Take No Damage", "Use no speed boosters" and "Have xx.xx amount of time left on the clock at the end".
Assassination Contracts have you kill an enemy ship after navigating a top down map dodging around enemy ships and whatnot. When on the top down map you simply draw your finger aross the map leading your ship to the enemy. If you hit a patrol, you have to kill it. Red squares on the map slow you down, green squares speed you up. The enemy combat is normal stuff. During this whole thing your on the clock but doing it under the clock isn't required for reward, just for 100% sync. Optional objects have you take no damage, engage no patrols and complete the contract under xxx.xx amount of time.
Package Retrieval missions are provided by a curiously friendly monk who engages your character with mysterious banter and I strongly suspect he'll eventually reveal himself to be an assassin. He has you retrieve one or more packages that are always protected by at least one enemy ship and then bring the packages back to him. Optional objects, only two here. Take no damage and beat the clock.
Engaging any mission above or any random ship leaves resources floating in the water, grab them for cash and ship upgrading materials. Also from sinking enemy ships you have the chance loot of a treasure map. Sail to the big golden ring on the top down map mode and then hit the spy glass icon to look around till you see a chest and loot it. Looting it awards collectables that go towards quite afew collections in the game.
Slaver encounters are random and have you popping shots at the slavers sails, default combat camera angle here. When you do enough sail damage the slaver throws his slaves overboard and you have a timer to retrieve them all.
Random drowning sailor encounters are also random and simply give you a timer to pick up the sailor before he goes under.
Graphics, quick summary. Gorgeous. There you go. Only game I currently have installed on my ipad air with better graphics than this would be Infinity Blade 3.
Sound, rock solid down to your crew singing chanties randomly.
As stated above the game is divided in to stages, each of which is large and has lots of the above to do. Moving between stages requires you to spend food resources that you earn everywhere you do anything on the stage your on. Moving along the stages also progresses the storyline, the first boss of which is on the start of map 4. There are no ingame cinematics but there is plenty of banter between the pirates. Given what I've seen of the story so far I suspect whats going on in this game is pretty much background filler for the main game Black Flag showing you what those various pirates were up to when not on screen.
The entire game takes place on your ship and there is no boarding mechanic which is a shame, I could imagine the camera going top down between ships with your crew fighting below while you from the crows nest pistol shoot enemies. There's alot of potential in this game and they've already added to it once. Fingers crossed for more.
I give this game four stars. Its missing a star for several reasons. The name assassin's creed dosent belong, at all. They could of called it "Yarr Pirates Yarr" and the community as a whole would be all over this game right now. Another issue I have is the introduction of the fruit ninja mechanic with the first big update recently. They say they added it to add challenge. It isnt challenging. Its annoying. It lasts entirely too long, soaks up a good 30 seconds on your clock from start to finish making timed missions annoying, it cant be prematurely interupted like the other form of enemy attack either.
That said, ignore the name and deal with fruit ninja and you have an amazingly full plate of pirate fun on our ios devices. Toss in zero iap and its a steal at 5 bucks considering it has in it roughly 40% of what black flag for console and pcs have to offer at 50 bucks.
Despite the length of this review, expect plenty of followups because I'm pretty sure that even four stages in I havent seen everything offered on this plate yet.
Gamecenter yes. Achievements yes. Leaderboards yes.