Earlier this year, if you had asked Assassin’s Creed fans what their favorite entry in the series was, most would have told you Assassin’s Creed II. Sure, you could make the argument that Brotherhood is the more refined game, and no one would call you crazy for that. But the leap forward from the first game to Assassin’s Creed II was just so remarkable that it has managed to linger in the minds of players all these years later. But now? Well, things are a bit more complicated.

For that, we can thank Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. With its introduction of open-sea exploration and a host of fantastic side activities, Black Flag is easily the best Assassin’s Creed in years. It’s an ambitious, sprawling adventure that builds on what the series has done before while never forgetting its own strengths. In short, Black Flag is that giant step forward that Assassin’s Creed fans have been hoping to see again. And you know what? It also happens to be a pretty fantastic game in its own right.