Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a beautiful-looking game. Or, well, it's a beautiful-looking game when it isn't covering the screen with blips, bleeps and blops of UI information and heads-up-display data. Is all that stuff really necessary? Nah.
Longtime readers of Kotaku know that I'm an avid disliker of video-game mini-maps, and am always looking for ways to make games more immersive. I hate how mini-maps pull my eyes to the lower corner of the screen, how they make me play a game like I navigate with my smartphone, missing the grandeur around me because I'm laser-focused on Google Maps.
I know, I know, this game came out ages ago, so why am I writing this article now? I've already written tips for the game, after all. Well. I've been re-playing some of Assassin's Creed IV on PS4, and I continue to enjoy the next-gen version. (I liked the PS3 version, as well.) The smoother framerate and enhanced visuals do a lot for the game, and moreover it's fun to take note of all the little things Ubisoft added for more powerful consoles.
I started a new game on PS4 and decided I'd see just how draconian I could get with removing user-interface elements. To Ubisoft's great credit, they've made every individual element in the game's heads-up display toggleable (take a note, other developers!) meaning that you can customize your experience.
I've found a setup that gets rid of the mini-map and most of the on-screen clutter, but doesn't remove so much information that the game becomes unplayable. In the "HUD" section of the game's options menu, try these settings:
Breath Meter: ON
Crew Meter: OFF
Weapon Indicator: OFF
Character Icon: OFF
Wanted Meter: ON
Notes and Caveats:
1) If you need to get somewhere, say, to one of the marked locations on your map, it's easy. Just go into the map screen and select and highlight your objective. It'll now appear in the heads-up display in the game, making it really easy to get there. Bonus: You'll make your way there by looking up into the world, rather than down at your mini-map.
2) Story missions are almost all no problem with no map. Your objectives pop up in the in-game HUD similar to how marked objectives do in the open world, so you'll never really need to rely on the mini-map anyway.
3) The "Puppeteer" and "Character Icon" options are both pretty unnecessary for me, but your mileage may vary. If you're playing the game for the first time, it might be better to leave those toggled on. If you haven't memorized all of the possible commands for a given situation, the puppeteer guide can still be useful. I don't like having it on, but then, I've already played a lot of this game.
4) The one place I've found so far where I needed to turn on the mini-map has been during the infrequent ship-stealth missions. It's just too difficult to tell when you'll be spotted and when you won't.
5) One cool side-effect of turning off the mini-map is that all of the game's other redundant systems become more valuable. You'll know you've entered a restricted area because the music changes. You'll be able to spot vantage points because you'll use your eyes to spot them, and see the birds circling. And so on.
6) I've also messed around with putting the map down on my iPad via the companion app. The app is pretty cool, and it's nice to have the option of checking the map on a second screen should I so choose. That said, the game works so well with the map turned off completely that I usually play without the app.
If you're just getting started on the next-gen or PC versions of Assassin's Creed IV, or if you're just tooling around the open world checking off sidequests, trimming down the HUD can be a great way to make the game more immersive and to better let yourself enjoy how nice-looking it can all be.
See that monkey in the tree? I bet you totally didn't see that monkey in the tree before. You're welcome.