Home Strategy AC4 Black Flag multiplayer strategy #15: Abilities Guide (area of effect abilities)

Welcome to Part 15 of WiNGSPANTT’s Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag multiplayer strategy guide!

In addition to overall strategy and bullet-point tips, I’m also including ratings for each Assassin’s Creed 4 ability to give you a quick-glance evaluation. These aren’t the only factors that determine if an ability is good or if you should equip it, but they’re good starting points for discussion.

Versatility: How many different situations can the ability be used in? Contrarily, how often will you wish you had something else equipped? Versatile abilities help you maximize your options and score.

Reliability: How often is this ability available, and what are the odds it will actually succeed? How much of its effect relies on luck, lag, or human stupidity? Reliable skills simply work when you need them to.

High-Scoring: How much will this ability increase your score, or decrease the score of your adversaries? Will equipping this ability directly contribute to your total? High-scoring skills fuel leads and comebacks.

Booby Trap

  • Versatility: 1/5
  • Reliability: 2/5
  • High-Scoring: 2/5

Booby Trap is the second worse ability in the game, right behind Money Bomb. And while it has almost nothing in common with Money Bomb from a tactical point of view, it shares many of the same pitfalls, placing it in the bottom tier of Assassin’s Creed multiplayer skills.

Like Money Bomb, Booby Trap is simply inefficient at what it does. If used to kill targets, it basically grants you an extremely low-scoring kill (assuming your target is dumb enough to run into it). That’s great and all, but you could usually accomplish the same thing simply by mindlessly charging at the player and fighting him to the death.

If used against Pursuers, congratulations… you’ve just used an ability slot to earn the same bonus as a contested stun. Bodyguard does the same thing, but you can also control Bodyguard – Booby Trap again leaves this up to chance. And no matter who you really want to kill, there’s no guarantee anyone will ever waltz into your trap, ever. So there’s that.

Booby Trap can serve a greater purpose in Domination and Artifact Assault, where you have defined areas of interest to protect. You can also coordinate ability slots with teammates so not everyone is stocking such a niche ability. But in every other mode, it’s dead weight. Deathmatch has relatively few chase breakers, so you’ll never get to use it. Wanted, Assassinate, and Manhunt maps are just so big, there’s no realistic chance of funneling the people you want into your piège.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, Booby Trap has a huge setup timer and is visible by wary opponents, making even the best-laid plans worthless against smarter foes. Do yourself a favor and leave this one off your equipped list.

Booby Trap Tips

  • If you can time the trap activation to coincide with the exact moment a player enters the targeted chase breaker, you’ll have a better chance of surprising and killing him.
  • Set your Booby Trap on a lift chase breaker. When a pursuer approaches, climb the wall next to that lift. Most players will attempt to leapfrog you with the chase breaker… then die miserably.
  • Place Booby Trap on the “second” set of doors in double-door chase breakers. Enemies will usually let their guard down after running safely through the first set of doors.
  • Do not equip Booby Trap outside of Artifact Assault or Domination.

Firecrackers

  • Versatility: 5/5
  • Reliability: 5/5
  • High-Scoring: 3/5

Before Assassin’s Creed 4 came out, I predicted Firecrackers would be one of the most powerful abilities in the game. I’m not going to say I told you so, but I will recap the reasons why. It’s one of the most flexible options you can equip, being useful on offense, defense, and even in neutral situations. It shines in pretty much every game mode, meaning it’s almost never a bad idea to take it along. Learning to use Firecrackers correctly will greatly increase your score and survivability.

The obvious drop it near groups or throw it at groups to reveal targets is great, but also pretty basic. Much more important than the identifying aspect of Firecrackers is the fact that it erases other players’ locks while semi-blinding them. Without the ability to lock onto you (or anyone), they can’t safely stun or assassinate you without accidentally murdering a civilian.

Thus when used near a group of NPCs, Firecrackers practically assures you  an uncontested fistfight/swordfight/flintlockfight (that’s a real word, trust me).  This applies to groups of targets, too. Throw Firecrackers into a pile of Manhunt victims and watch them freeze or slash into NPCs while you cut them down one at a time. Offensively or defensively, you’re robbing players of the certainty of sensory input and the precision of their previously accurate controls.

Of course, timing is everything. If you use Firecrackers too early, your enemies will have time to react; they’ll either run away or activate a defensive ability that could thwart your plans. If you use it too late, it’s possible they’ll have already input the kill/stun command, or that they’ll be close enough to you that they won’t accidentally kill an NPC. Know the range you’ve crafted your Fireworks, and make sure you’re ready to react as soon as the ability takes effect.

The only real downside to Firecrackers is that its panic-inducing effect can sometimes hurt your score. If used on a target too early (or too frequently), he may be more prone to desperate escape tactics, forcing you to waste time or approach meter in pursuit. Don’t be surprised if you’re forced to use a ranged ability after a poorly executed Firecrackers!

Firecrackers Tips

  • Firecrackers are especially powerful in Assassinate, where locking players is required to interact with them. Well-placed Firecrackers can even turn your pursuer into a target!
  • If you’ve identified your opponent inside a blend group, throw Firecrackers at her, then move in while she sits helpless in a self-made prison of vulnerable NPCs.
  • Throwing Firecrackers at a player who has activated Animus Hack can buy you a few seconds to stun or kill her while she’s helpless.
  • If your killer is spamming the assassinate command and chasing you, drop Firecrackers as you pass NPCs or a hay bale. She’ll be automatically thrown into a murder animation, giving you a free stun.
  • Technically, “fire crackers” is a racist term. However, Ubisoft is a French company, so they didn’t understand the meaning of this word when selecting it for Assassin’s Creed multiplayer.

Smoke Bomb

  • Versatility: 4/5
  • Reliability: 3/5
  • High-Scoring: 4/5

Ah, Smoke Bomb. In Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Assassin’s Creed 3 multiplayer, this was a must-have skill. Its insane versatility made it an easy jack-of-all-trades pick for an ability slot. Why choose something that could be useful in some situations when you could have Smoke Bomb, which is useful in almost every situation?

Ubisoft attempted to nerf Smoke Bomb with a longer cooldown in AC3, but they also removed other hard stun abilities, making Smoke Bomb all the more attractive. Now in Black Flag, Smoke Bomb retains a longer cooldown while also gaining a startup time that’s accompanied with a telltale animation.  That makes it useless, right?

Not in the slightest. Sure, you can no longer drop a Smoke Bomb as a last-millisecond panic button. And you can’t giggle while luring decent players into hard-to-avoid stun baits. And you can’t throw it halfway across the map, instantly trapping your target while still setting up a free focus/Poison kill.

But Smoke Bomb still has plenty of uses, so even with the nerfs, it’s still a pretty competent selection. It can still be activated in the middle of a kill or stun animation, protecting you from nearby enemies who’re inclined to capitalize on your situation. These people will rarely expect Smoke Bomb, and sometimes the contested kill animation itself helps hide the ability’s giveaway sparkle.

Smoke Bomb can also still be used when you’re running from your pursuers. As long as you have more than a 4-meter lead, most players won’t be able to react in time to avoid the cloud of dust. Even if they do, the obstacle will often buy you enough time to reach a chase breaker or plan another way to stun your killer.

In team modes, this is extra useful, since it can set up stuns for your mates. Hell, Smoke Bomb is ridiculously good when playing with others, since it has a greater chance of paralyzing multiple enemies. Even if you get identified or killed while using it, odds are your squad will be able to capitalize on the ensuing chaos. You can chuck it into a group of 4 players while everyone lines up for an easy kill. It’s like hunting bison to extinction, except more fun!

Back in FFA land, if you throw Smoke Bomb into a crowd, your target might notice and flee. They’ll automatically identify themselves by doing so. Some will move for a moment, then hesitate, then get caught in the Smoke Bomb. This is perfect, since you now have a free kill and a revelation. And if you’ve already identified your victim in a crowd, you can still use a thrown Smoke Bomb to hold them in place for extra meter, focus, or Poison.

As you can see, Smoke Bomb still has plenty of potential despite its heavy nerfs in AC4. It’s not the be-all and end-all skill it once was, but neither is it useless. In other words… smoking is still cool, kids!

Smoke Bomb Tips

  • Time Phase, Throwing Knives, and other abilities can hinder your victim, making it less likely he’ll be able to escape Smoke Bomb before it fully activates.
  • Smoke Bomb can be activated from within a hay bale, which will also help mask its animation.
  • Memorizing Smoke Bomb’s range (and its crafted maximum range) is incredibly important to using and avoid the ability with precision.
  • If you throw Smoke Bomb, try to anticipate where your opponents will run and “lead” the ability slightly (but not completely) in that direction to increase your odds of success.
  • Although this technically works any time, using soft push through a Smoked crowd can help you identify players. Player characters can’t be soft-pushed like NPCs can.
  • Make sure you test your smoke and CO2 detectors every 6 months, and make sure your family knows a pre-arranged meet-up spot. It could save your life!

Time Phase

  • Versatility: 4/5
  • Reliability: 4/5
  • High-Scoring: 5/5

Alongside Firecrackers, Time Phase has become one of the best abilities in the game, primarily due to its ridiculous versatility. Let’s skip the praise and talk about what makes this reality-warping skill so great.

First, Time Phase is amazing for stunning pursuers. While under its effects, enemies have no HUD and can’t acquire locks. If they already had a lock, it will disappear after the default (or Sentry-boosted) duration. This means you can use NPCs or haybales as shields for uncontested stuns. Simply position yourself safely, count to 3 (nobody uses Sentry anyway), then inch into range and suckerpunch your foe.

If there are no NPCs nearby, you can still get stuns. Activate Time Phase, then run to the other side of a wall or obstacle. Wait for the lock to drop, then run back in from a different angle and mash stun. Remember, your pursuer won’t have a HUD, so they won’t know exactly where you went or if it’s really you (and not a Decoy/Bodyguard) who’s coming at them. On that note, it’s hilarious to combine Time Phase with Decoy or Bodyguard for this exact reason.

When stunning isn’t going to work out, Time Phase is obviously great at winning footraces. I shouldn’t have to explain how an ability that warps time and movement can help you escape from someone chasing you. I’m sure you can figure it out.

On the offensive side, Time Phase is just as powerful. Activate it from within a blend group to make it nearly impossible for your target to contest your kill or run away. Or use it near a bench or hiding spot to snare an enemy. You’ll have plenty of time to sit down, ponder the meaninglessness of life, build up a hidden/bench bonus, then redeem it with your target’s death. If you’re sneaky enough about it, your prey will have no clue who you are ahead of time, and they won’t have a HUD to help them figure it out until after they’re six feet under!

Time Phase Tips

  • Time Phase makes it practically impossible for opponents to spot you while using Glimmer.
  • Using this ability while you have a target and a pursuer can help protect you from being vulched.
  • If you’re competing with other players to reach and kill a shared contract, Time Phase will give you a speed and informational advantage, not to mention an easier assassination.
  • Throw Time Phase at a distant pursuer, then take an alternate route and get an easy stun.
  • The best counter to Time Phase, other than Animus Shield, is to move away from the player who’s activated it. If they can’t force you to kill an NPC, you’ll usually be fine.
  • Don’t rely too heavily on Time Phase. I mean, just look at what happened to Tolaria.

Tripwire Bomb

  • Versatility: 3/5
  • Reliability: 4/5
  • High-Scoring: 4/5

Tripwire Bomb was always similar to Smoke Bomb, but now that Smoke Bomb’s been nerfed, they’re much closer in power level (and even tactical use) than ever before.

Like Smoke Bomb, you can use Tripwire Bomb to bait unobservant players into easy stuns. You can strategically place it near areas you anticipate you’ll need to use for retreat. You can place it near a hay bale for more discrete defenses. You can’t use it as a panic button, and you sure as hell don’t want to be caught throwing it down.

Unlike Smoke Bomb, Tripwire Bomb doesn’t take any time to activate. Hell, it doesn’t even require your awareness or consciousness to work. In that respect, it’s basically a “smart” version of Smoke Bomb that can simultaneously identify a player and ruin her plans.

This can actually be used on offense. If your target is in a static blend group, simply throw the Tripwire Bomb in such a way that its radius only overlaps one of the suspected personas. If it doesn’t go off, that’s not your target. If it blows up, you get an uncontested kill. If he makes a dash for it, you’ve got a free identification and an extra execution bonus for your follow-up Pistol shot.

Of course, Tripwire Bomb comes with some downsides, one of which is this: you don’t control when Tripwire Bomb goes off. If a neutral player stumbles into the trap, your placement will be wasted. That’s why it’s sometimes best to activate it somewhere out of the way… somewhere you’d have to lead a player ahead of time.

Another downside is that Tripwire Bomb can be heard during placement and seen afterwards. If you want to catch opponents off guard, you’ll have to hide your trap under a persona’s feet, around a corner, or near a dark part of the ground to help it blend in. Even then, it’s still possible it will be spotted and avoided. Don’t come crying to me when your Tripwire-spamming causes every player to Poison Dart you from maximum range.

Tripwire Bomb Tips

  • Tripwire Bombs can be safely detonated if approached slowly at maximum range.
  • Even with maximum crafted range, Tripwire Bomb is not nearly as safe as Smoke Bomb. Enemies running at full speed may be able to kill you before the Bomb animation incapacitates them.
  • If you place your Bomb on stairs or inclines, it will be less successful at catching players who are moving downhill, but better at catching ascending players.
  • I was going to make a joke here, but I don’t want to end up on an NSA watchlist.

Wipe

  • Versatility: 3/5
  • Reliability: 4/5
  • High-Scoring: 2/5

Now that it’s been around a while, it’s fair to say Wipe is the balanced version of Mute from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Mute removed the option to kill or stun in addition to clearing abilities and highlighting player characters, but it had to last only a second in order to be balanced. Wipe lost the whole invincibility aspect, but gained a huge duration boost, making its primary purpose more powerful. Seems fair enough.

It’s a little hard for me to review Wipe fairly, because it’s significantly more useful in team modes than it is in FFA. The ability to, um, wipe out the entire opposition’s skill sets is incredible, especially when you consider Wipe’s range and the fact that it also identifies the bad guys. Even equipping one teammate with Wipe can basically guarantee your group’s success rate skyrockets.

In free-for-all modes, Wipe isn’t as good. When you’re only likely to disable one or maybe two players’ abilities at a time, there aren’t that many situations you’ll really need to use it. On offense, Wipe plays the same role as Animus Shield, protecting you from last-second Bodyguard, Time Phase, or other obstacles. Your target will be exposed will be prevented from landing a free stun on you, but they’ll also most likely contest you. Sometimes your Wipe will send them into a panic, but often that panic means a protracted chase.

On defense, Wipe is even less useful. It won’t give you a stun, so you’d have to combine it with another ability if you want a clean headbutt on your pursuer. Overall, you’ll be using Wipe to prevent your killer from doing anything other than chasing you down for a low-scoring murder. No tricky setups. No Throwing Knife acrobatic kills. No Poison. Just her versus you.

For these reasons, I don’t typically endorse Wipe in Deathmatch, Wanted, or Assassinate. Other abilities are far better at inconveniencing enemies, and most alternatives (like Smoke Bomb, Time Phase, or Firecrackers) also impair your victim’s capacity to challenge you in melee combat. Reserve this ability for its best use situation: shutting down enemy teams in Domination, Manhunt, and Artifact Assault.

Wipe Tips

  • Yes, Wipe reveals player characters. Look for the faint glowing webbing that surrounds them.
  • Wipe has a huge range and removes whispers. If you activate it from around a corner, your target will no longer be able to gauge your distance (though he’ll know you’re coming for him).
  • If you think a player is trying to bait you into a trap, Wipe is the perfect fuck you response.
  • Wipe can interrupt Teleport, as well as any ability that requires aiming activation. Have fun.
  • The bug that prevented Wipe from working when thrown has been fixed in AC4: Black Flag.
  • Always, always Wipe front-to-back.

 

Looking for more tips? Head back to the main Assassin’s Creed multiplayer strategy guide index.

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