Assassin's Creed IV: Freedom Cry DLC Review

Assassin's Creed IV's first big DLC is a departure from the main game in many surprising ways, not the least of which is in the gravity of its story. Where Black Flag's protagonist Edward Kenway was for the most part a carefree and adventurous sort out for his own, it turns out that his first mate Adewale has a much darker past. An escaped slave, Adewale selflessly risked life and limb countless times for his people - all under the hood of an assassin.

Freedom Cry is the story of Adewale, and its tonal change is a surprising but welcome one. Where Assassin's Creed III's Connor was a naive yet over-serious protagonist, Adewale has seen the worst of the world first-hand, and this knowledge informs both his brutality and his compassion. This sad wisdom keeps him from falillng into the same narrative traps that kept many players from connecting to Connor, so if you've been worried about Assassin's Creed returning to more serious fare, don't be. It's actually quite a welcome change, and a rather bold one for a AAA game, I might add.

Adewale's wisdom and brutality make him an interesting protagonist

Freedom Cry marks the first time that games have tackled slavery head-on, and I have to admit I was worried that Ubisoft wouldn't do the sticky subject justice. And while it does come off a little odd to use slavery as the pretext for in-world side missions (you'll be freeing a lot of slaves from the auction block and the like as you explore), the script absolutely treats the subject with the gravitas it deserves, and doesn't shy away from the brutal violence and racism that characterized this chapter of history. And as a side effect, I felt much more compelled to complete the world's various side missions knowing that it was a family's very freedom at stake, as opposed to just another Assassin Contract or crew-gathering mission.

Where Freedom Cry starts to fall apart for me is in how else it differs from the core game. Many of the improvements made to Black Flag over III are mysteriously absent here; you won't be doing a ton of sailing or open world exploration, which were highlights of Edward's tale. Instead, you'll largely be confined to one medium-sized city, one which was newly created for the game but is still reminiscent of what we've seen before. 

You'll also be undertaking a lot of familiar missions in this smaller locale. Tracking and chasing targets is still the order of the day in Freedom Cry - it seems like even with the new mission rating system of Black Flag, Ubisoft still hasn't figured out these are our least favorite mission types. Indeed, a few too many missions in Freedom Cry feel all too straightforward when compared to the refreshingly open-ended content of Black Flag.

You'll sorely miss the open world sailing and the varied, freeform mission of the core game, but Freedom Cry has its own set of strengths that include a more engrossing, better focused story. I applaud Ubisoft for tackling such a loaded subject in the form of a AAA video game, and for doing so largely with respect. And at around 5 hours in length, this DLC is a much better value than most. All in all, it's not the burst of fresh air that Black Flag was, but Freedom Cry is a solid add-on for hardcore fans and history buffs alike.


Score: 7/10

This DLC was reviewed on PlayStation 4

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