Master Naval Combat in Assassins Creed IV

Edited by Batkingnz, Lynn, Eng

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Naval battles are one of the most enjoyable and exciting features of the newly released Assassins Creed IV, but they're also one of the most difficult parts of the game. Battles are complex and so are the upgrade paths for your ship. If you're too often finding yourself at the bottom of the ocean rather than ruling the high seas, check out our guide below, which will have you wrecking and looting ships like the best pirates.

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Upgrades and New Weapons

Compared to the ships you will be facing off against, the Jackdaw is small and starts out relatively weak. Thankfully the game has upgraded paths for both weapons and defenses, but it can be hard to know which ones are the best upgrades, specifically when thinking about combat. To get ahead, you're going to need plenty of Reales (the in-game currency) as well as metal, cloth and wood.

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Beginning Game Upgrades

Here are the best upgrades to get in the early stages of the game.

  1. 1
    Broadside Cannons.
    These are your run-of-the-mill cannons that line your ship along the outside hull walls. They can only be aimed vertically so make sure you have lined your ship up into a position that's facing your enemy.
    1. Heavy Shot is an ammo upgrade for your broadside cannons that is more powerful than the regular Round Shot. To win in battle, this ammo is a necessity. Unlike the regular ammo, it depletes, so remember to top up at weapon shops whenever you can.
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  2. 2
    Hull Armor.
    This is an expensive upgrade, but it makes sense to have it. Once you progress through the game, enemy ships and land installments will become stronger, so you're going to have a difficult time without this upgrade. This is upgradable later in the game - to Elite Hull Armor, which allows you to RAM other ships without taking damage.
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  3. 3
    Chase Cannons.
    These weapons can make for some nice battle strategies as they stun enemy ships temporarily. Get them early because they're invaluable when taking on bigger ships.
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  4. 4
    Swivel Guns.
    The Swivel Guns are used to take out specific targets and weak spots on enemy ships (which show up as red and yellow targets). The targets are only revealed once you've already dealt damage with your broadside cannons. Having this upgrade will help you sing or disable enemy ships much faster.
    Julian AC4 02.jpg
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Mid to Late Game Upgrades

As you progress through the game enemies will become more powerful, so you're going to need at least the below upgrades to stay afloat.

  1. 1
    Upgrading your RAM is really going to help you out when taking on mid-sized ships like brigs and frigates, especially if you already have the elite hull armor upgrade. Anything smaller than a brig can usually be disabled or sunk with one hit of your RAM.
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  2. 2
    If you're facing off against land installments like forts, the mortar upgrade will be invaluable. You can also use them to make your first attack on large ships from a distance; however, any element of surprise will be lost.
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Enemy Ships

The enemy ships in Assassins Creed IV are divided into classes from weakest to most powerful.

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  1. 1
    These are tiny ships with tiny cannons. The only loot is ammo and you cannot board these ships.
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  2. 2
    They're usually carrying rum and sugar and you can board them after killing five of the crew. They're an easy target even without upgrades on the Jackdaw.
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  3. 3
    Things get more difficult when taking on these ships. Use the strategies listed below and you shouldn't have too much trouble but wearing them down can take time. They carry all types of loot and also have the ability to RAM you.
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  4. 4
    These are difficult ships to battle and they get stronger as you progress through the game. The benefit is that they carry all types of loot in reasonable quantities, so trying to board these should be your goal.
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  5. 5
    Man o' Wars.
    This is the largest and most deadly of all the enemy ships. They carry every resource in high quantities and also carry in-game currency. Looting these ships is extremely profitable, but you will first need to kill 20 of the crew and meet multiple random secondary objectives to board them.
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Strategy for Winning Naval Battles

Some of the strongest ships in the game can take many tries and frustrating defeats before you take them out. The below tips should help you make short work of even the most powerful ships.

  1. 1
    Use your chase cannons.
    Following a ship from behind, you can use your chase cannon with chain shot to stun the enemy ship. This will give you just a few seconds, but they're well worth it to position your ship for attack.
    1. Attack from the rear. Once you're in position, try and line up at a 45-degree angle (basically a T-bone layout) to the rear of the ship and use your broadside cannons to hit the lower area of the enemy's hull. As the enemy maneuvers, carefully re-position yourself to stay behind in the same formation. If things get hectic, you can retreat, then use your chase cannons again to temporarily stun the enemy ship and re-position yourself.
    2. Keep repeating this until you have sunk or disabled then boarded the enemy ship.
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  2. 2
    Use the waves as a shield.
    You can use moving bodies of water as a type of shield. Try and time things correctly so that if your enemy is firing, you're already coming down the other side of a wave. Just as effective, when you're coming back up to meet the horizon, try and time things to get some cannon hits on your enemy. Both sides of battle will be affected by water movement so rough seas make for some very interesting and challenging battles.
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Tips, Tricks & Warnings

  • Use smaller ships to repair your own after disabling them.
  • Eliminating forts will make it easier to hunt enemies on the sea.
  • If you don't want to battle a ship to capture it, just climb from the Jackdaw and board the enemy ship. You can assassinate the entire crew and then go back to the Jackdaw to capture the ship. This only works when you aren't already in battle, so stealth is key.
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