Primer Game Structure & Progression

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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Official Digital Strategy Guide
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The Story So Far

Reference & Analysis

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Primer Game Structure & Progression

This chapter focuses on abilities and concepts introduced during the early Sequences of the Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag story, and acts as a companion to the opening sections of the extensive, step-by-step walkthrough that follows.

While those who choose to read and consume the Primer in a single sitting will gain a broad understanding of the Assassin’s Creed IV world and its many features, there’s really no harm in skipping straight to the game, with our Walkthrough chapter as your guide.

As the opening hours of the adventure introduce new concepts and abilities, we provide page references that will enable you to return to this chapter to learn about topics when they become relevant to your progression or performance. This approach means that you can avoid explanations or advice that you might find to be painfully obvious or redundant (of particular interest to readers well-versed in the Assassin’s Creed series to date), but easily learn more about fundamental abilities that are rather more complex or broader in scope.

For later Sequences, the Reference & Analysis and Side Quests chapters take over as your primary source of insight, advice and analysis for new features and secondary gameplay challenges.

Main Missions & Optional Challenges

Assassin’s Creed IV begins with a linear collection of main missions that gradually introduce gameplay concepts, abilities and different styles of challenges. For newcomers, the low difficulty of these opening tutorials offers a great opportunity to experiment and get a good feel for the game.

Once you complete the first few Sequences (story chapters), the “sandbox” begins to open up. In addition to main story missions, you will encounter a vast wealth of side quests, minigames and incidental challenges. Many of these are purely optional. However, participation will make your character wealthier – and, as a consequence, stronger and better equipped.

As the number of potential activities grows, you will find that all of the game systems that you encounter – from brief diversions to major side quest chains – are interconnected in one sense or another. Rather than taking a direct line to the next chapter in the main storyline, then, it’s generally far more rewarding to unhurriedly investigate and enjoy uncharted areas that you encounter on the way, or new feature unlocks as they are brought to your attention. There is an astonishing level of variety in Assassin’s Creed IV, and taking the time to explore it fully will pay off not just in terms of bonuses, but also in the sheer level of enjoyment you can gain from the overall experience.


Synchronization is both the measure by which you succeed in the Animus, and the means by which you can judge your performance in each main Memory and side quest – and, for that matter, the entire game as a whole. Essentially, it’s a representation of how much of the game you have completed, 100% Synchronization being the ultimate goal. Almost every mission or task you engage in has a Synchronization score, which is added to your cumulative Synchronization rating after you complete it.

You can view your current Synchronization for individual Memories and total progress via the Progress Tracker tab in the Pause menu.


While Synchronization is a measure of success, Desynchronization is the consequence of failure. You cannot change the lives of the characters whose memories you explore, but must experience them with great fidelity. Diverging too radically from the “true” course of events causes Synchronization to be lost – and a swift return to a previous checkpoint.

Desynchronization can occur under the following conditions:

  • Death: This ensues whenever the Life Bar is reduced to zero, which happens most frequently in combat situations, but is also the result of falls from great heights.
  • Failed objectives: Failing to comply with key mission parameters will lead to a return to a previous checkpoint.
  • Moving out of bounds: Attempting to visit a specific locale before the appropriate time, or moving outside the confines of a current mission area can cause a loss of Synchronization. There is a clear visual cue that provides a strident visual warning whenever you approach such boundaries (). Take heed, and move away swiftly.
  • Anomalous behavior: If you attack allies, civilians or domestic animals, Desynchronization will occur if you persist after ignoring an initial message of admonishment. There is, of course, a little leeway. Accidentally wounding the wrong individual during a pitched street brawl won’t lead to serious repercussions.

Optional Objectives

In addition to mandatory objectives (such as avoiding detection, protecting allies or winning battles), main story missions and many side quests also feature Optional Objectives. Completing a mission might contribute 80% of the Full Synchronization total, but to gain the maximum value, you also need to fulfill the secondary criteria set out in the Optional Objectives.

On one level, these exist to encourage a certain style of play: to make players surrender the assassination abilities and attempt a bloodless infiltration of a heavily guarded area, for example. Others function as a more direct test of your prowess, such as a time limit for the completion of a specific task.

The main reason to complete Optional Objectives is to increase your Synchronization rating. If this isn’t important to you, or you would prefer to return to a challenge later, there is absolutely no penalty for failure.

Progress Tracker & Memory Replay

The Progress Tracker option in the Pause menu enables you to study your progress in all main story missions and side quests to date. In addition to your total Synchronization, you can also check individual Memories to find instances where you are missing an Optional Objective, and replay them if you wish. The Replay option moves Kenway back in time and places him next to the appropriate Memory Start marker.

  • Hold to jump to the end of cutscenes. Note that certain cinematic sequences (such as short establishing shots or transitions) cannot be skipped.
  • You must complete an entire Memory and wait to be returned to the DNA Tracker menu for Optional Objectives to be recorded. Partial playthroughs do not count.