Picking up fifteen years after the events of Black Flag, Freedom Cry is a standalone adventure and one that adopts a different, more personal tone.
Instead of boozing and buccaneering as lovable cutthroat, Edward Kenway, players don the scarred visage of his first mate, Adéwalé.
Since leaving the Jackdaw and her crew, Adéwalé sets on a more noble path, throwing his lot in with the Assassin brotherhood. Like Kenway, he soon masters the skills of stealth and deception, though abides to the creed more fervently.
Freedom Cry opens with a naval battle on the Caribbean sea. However, as you begin to offload your broadsides, a storm rushes in, engulfing Adéwalé and his crew. Broken and scattered, the next thing you know, our new assassin friend is waking up on the shores of Port-au-Prince.
Armless and dishevelled, Adéwalé begins to explore the French colony, coming across dozens of slaves. Though present in Black Flag, they were peripheral at best yet take centre stage in Freedom Cry. Their cruel treatment at the hands of overseers stirs something within Adéwalé who embarks on a quest to free them.
Freedom Cry is split neatly into nine core missions. In total, they weigh in at around the three-hour mark, though bonuses and secondary objectives can ramp that to seven, or maybe eight hours of play.
In terms of design and gameplay, it’s identical to Black Flag. You’ll explore an open world, hunt collectibles, and take-on missions. The only big difference in Freedom Cry is the density of side objectives. Port-au-Prince and its surrounding settlements are littered with slaves who are in need of liberating, whether they are being beaten, auctioned, herded, or requiring medical aid. Helping them often requires getting your hands dirty as you cross swords with colonists and slavers.
Aside from a grateful thumbs-up, liberated slaves are also used as a sort of currency. Collect enough of them and you will start to unlock new weapons and upgrades. If you’re familiar with the core game, freeing slaves is basically Freedom Cry’s substitute for crafting.
Plantations and Slave Ships also present opportunities to liberate slaves and gain recruits for the Maroons, an underground resistance movement. Plantations can be likened to Black Flag’s Warehouses; they offer snippets of stealthy gameplay in which Adéwalé dispatches a set number of foes to drive out the colonists. Slave Ships, on the other hand, task players with destroying an escort before you can board and liberate their cargo.
As for the missions, they do a good job in charting Adéwalé’s road to becoming a freedom fighter. There are only a clutch of main characters, though they help to drive the mini-campaign, reminding players exactly what they are fighting for. Like a number of sequences from the core game, you’ll tail your enemies and eavesdrop on them as well as trawl your way through stealth sections and the occasional set piece.
Though his time in the spotlight is short, Adéwalé will no doubt grow on players. His calm, sobering veneer covers a more brutal side which we get to see from time to time. His signature weapon, the machete, is an apt choice, tagged with new combat animations. Other additions to his arsenal include the blowpipe, rope darts, smoke bomb and the blunderbuss. Exclusive to Freedom Cry, this beast can tear down entire crowds of enemies, provided they are in close range.
Truth be told, I was cautious going into Freedom Cry; having just finished Black Flag, I worried that fatigue would kick in straight away. This hasn’t been the case, however. It may not be the most ground-breaking downloadable expansion, yet Freedom Cry is pitched perfectly, offering just the right amount of content to explore. Even though you are essentially playing the same game it manages to do enough differently and certainly warrants the asking price.