Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Naval Combat Guide – Tips and Upgrades

When Assassin’s Creed 4 was announced to be pirates themed game, I was curious to see how Ubisoft will integrate the Pirate lifestyle into the Animus world. I have to say, they did a pretty good job.

However, since this is the first time you will be handling ships in an Assassin’s Creed game, you may have a hard time in dealing with various possibilities on the sea.

For more help on Assassin’s Creed 4, read our Crafting Recipes, Hunting and Mayan Stelae Locations Guide.

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Naval Combat

In order to increase your survival chances on the brutal sea, you should have information on different sea related elements, especially when you are battling your way through enemy ships and forts.

Following guide will shed light on every aspect of naval warfare in Assassin’s Creed 4 along with some useful tips to help you dominate the sea.

Naval Interface

When you will board your ship for the first time, you will see a number of options on your screen. Most of them are self explanatory so I will just summarize them for you.

Health Bar
The meter on the top left on your screen shows the damage level (health) of your ship. When the bar gets red, your ship will be destroyed and ypu will start from the last saved checkpoint.

Those health bars will restore partially when you are not in the battle. You can also choose to repair your ship by raiding other ships or using harbormaster.

Crew Meter
It will tell you the number/effectiveness of your crew members on board. Your crew members can die and you can also recruit new crew members by saving people on sea or raiding other ships.

Wanted Meter
The Red Swords above your health bars is basically your wanted level. It will tell you the difficulty of pirate hunters who will pursue you for the bounty. It’s recommended that you keep it low by avoiding useless fuss.

Sailing Options
There will be different options on your screen that will tell you how to maneuver your ship on the sea or how to fire cannons. You can read their use easily on screen.

Your crew especially your quartermaster will keep providing you with useful information in different situation so you should not ignore his voice.

Last but not the least, minimap will detail you about different objects on the map. If you are not sure about an object or an area, open up the map in full screen and then just move your cursor over the location or object you want to know about. You can zoom in or zoom out the map by using the left analog stick.

How to Mark Enemy Ships during Battle

In Assassin’s Creed 4, you will come across multiple battles where you will have to deal with more than one ships. It’s always beneficial to know about the strength of the opponent ship before you engage.

You can use the Spyglass feature to collect information about the enemy ship or different suspicious areas.

You can also choose to mark dangerous ships using your custom marker so that you can prioritize your targets. It’s recommended that you take out the weaker ships first and then go after the bigger ones. You can use the small ships to repair your ship during the battle.

Naval Weapons

Whenever you are in battle, you should know the strength of weapons. Like in real-time, Jackdaw will have weapons on sides front and back. The types of weapons are as follows:

Round Shots
You can use the basic weaponry of your ship. Round shot will be available right from the start, and you can upgrade them for more damage. You will use them basically to expose the weak parts of the enemy ship.

Heavy Shots
As the name indicates, these shots will do heavy damage to the enemy. They won’t be available by default, but you can purchase heavy shots as upgrades to your ship.

Naval Ram
This structure will be found at the front end of the ship. You can use it effectively to ram enemy ships with reduced damage taken.

Swivel Guns
These weapons are located on the side of the ship. While boarding, you can use them to take out enemies from distance. While sailing, you will be prompted to press a button (Y in case of xbox 360) to destroy one of the cannons on the enemy ship or the fort. Swivel guns are available on the Jackdaw right from the start.

These are basically two cannons connected with a chain. Chainshot Weapons can be found at the front end of the ship. You can use them to slow down the enemy ships that are trying to ram you over. Chainshots are available from the start.

They are high damaging shots which can be fired above in the air. You can use them to target distant enemy and deal a hefty amount of damage. Mortars are available by default so will have to purchase them as upgrades.

Explosive Barrels
Explosive barrels are a useful way to watch out your back. You can order your men to throw barrels into the sea which will server the purpose like sea mines. Enemy ships will also throw these barrels so watch out for them too.

Grappling Hooks
These hooks are used to bring enemy ships closer while boarding. You can buy upgrades for these hooks like other weapons to increase their effectiveness.

Naval Warfare Tips

Alright, now that you know about the weapons at your disposal, let’s discuss about the actual battles. In the beginning, you may want to go head on and just destroy the enemy ships. However, there will be some ships which you will need to approach carefully.

Use the spyglass to know about the strength of the ship. It’s recommended that you don’t stay static and keep your ship moving to reduce the incoming damage. Keep an eye on the mini map so that you don’t crash onto any rock or small Island.

While aiming your shots, keep in mind that they take some time to reach the target. If you are moving too fast, you should adjust your aim accordingly.

Drop barrels behind whenever you are being chased. Furthermore, keep an eye on the enemy barrels on the water to avoid unnecessary damage. If your Ram is upgraded, you can also choose to smash the smaller ships.

Weather and water waves have a crucial role to play in naval battle. If you are in a storm, it will be hard for you and your enemy to aim. You should keep your sheep slow and steady.

Look out for the big tide. You should not head straight into the tide rather keep your sides of the ship towards the rising tide minimize the damage. These high tides can be beneficial for you as they can deal a lot of damage to the enemy ships.

Mortars can be extremely useful as they have high range and damage.

You can use them to initiate the battles with the ship which do not have mortars. Since they have high range and they go high in the air, you should be careful in selecting the target especially when it’s moving at a faster pace.

Your positioning during the naval battles in Assassin’s Creed 4 can be important. If enemy has ally ships around, they won’t fire at you unless the line of sight is clear. So, you can use it for your own benefit. If you are challenging bigger ships, you should use the chainshot/mortar combo from behind to deal damage. If enemy ship is also firing mortars, you should increase your mobility to minimize the damage taken.

You can also use bracing (a defensive technique) to minimize the damage caused by enemy attacks, collisions, rogue waves and water spouts. By pressing left thumb pad, you will activate bracing which basically commands your crew to take cover. You can put it to better use by predicting the imminent attacks from the enemy ships.

Boarding Tips

After you have reduced the enemy ship’s health to the minimum, you will have two options; either you can sink it, or you can choose to board it. If you choose to board, you need to use the Swivel gun (just beside the steering wheel) first.

With the help of Swivel gun, you can take out a few of the enemy soldiers before boarding the ship. Look for the red barrels on the ship and shoot them to deal explosive damage and kill more enemies.

After using the Swivel gun, you are required to move onto the enemy ship.

Fastest method is through the string just beside the swivel. You will land at the rare end of the ship. Now, the fight on the enemy ship can be tricky so you need to be patient.

Your crew members will be assisting you, but you will have take out most of the enemies yourself. Stay at defensive and hit on the counter. You can also choose to run along the ship and assassinate enemies on the go.

After the enemies surrender, you will have three options; you can repair your own ship, you can add the ship to your fleet, or you can decrease your wanted level.

Choose it wisely as it can affect your near future. If you are in a long fight, go for the repairs, and if you have a very high wanted level, lower your level as hunters can be a real pain.

If you like the ships’ strength, and you think that you can survive without repairing the Jackdaw, you should send the ship to your fleet. You will get some resources as a loot in any case. They can be used for upgrades and crafting.

Keep in mind that when you are in the boarding process, your ship won’t be destroyed by any other enemy ship. You can exploit it to repair your ship repeatedly during the long battles or destroying heavily fortified forts.

Jackdaw Upgrades

As mentioned before, almost everything on Jackdaw can be upgraded. It’s just the matter of choice depending on resources you have. You can upgrade at your own ship, or you can get those upgrades via a merchant.

Many upgrades can easily be purchased using reales (in-game currency) but for some upgrades, you are going to need Cargo.

Cargo consists of materials, including sugar, wood, metal, cloth and Rum. These resources can be gathered as a loot while sailing the sea, or you can get them as a loot after you destroy ships. Capturing forts can also get you descent amount of these resources.

If you want to upgrade Jackdaw fully, you will also need design plans and most of them can be acquired by find buried treasures.

Now, if you are confused that what should be upgraded, go with a balanced approach. I won’t recommend that you waste your cash on visual upgrades earlier in the game. First, buy the weapons that aren’t available by default like the Mortars and then try increasing the defenses of your ship.

In the middle stages, you should focus on increasing damage by upgrading the normal and heavy shots. You can get all the information about the requirements of the upgrades through in-game options.


Harpooning is an effective way of earning fast money. It’s like hunting on the sea.

You can kill whales, sharks and other sea creatures and gather them for resources. In order to go hunting on sea, you need to have harpoon upgrades.

If you see any whale while sailing, its location will be marked on your map.

You can hunt it down immediately or later. Edward and a few of his crew members will set sail on a small boat to hunt down these sea creatures. It won’t be a QTE, and you will have to reduce the health of the creature to capture it.