Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag First Look
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal / Publisher: Ubisoft / Release Date: October 29, 2013 / Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 (We’ll guess at PS4, NextBox, PC) / ESRB: Rating Pending
Preemptive cover reveals and trailer leaks notwithstanding, today we can divulge actual details of the next chapter of the Assassin’s Creed series. Yes, Assassin’s Creed IV takes us to the Caribbean for a pirate-themed adventure on land and the high-seas, featuring Blackbeard as a pal and confidante, buddy and character enhancement. But don’t expect “Yaaars,” hooks for hands, parrots, and other theme park appropriate elements. Expect a more human depiction of the famous pirates toiling in 1713, just with a brand-new assassin thrown into the mix.
ACIV is both a sequel and a prequel. The modern day conflict between the Assassins and the Templars has evolved beyond Desmond Miles while the historical period predates the events of Assassin’s Creed III. The cover character is named Edward Kenway, as in the father of Haytham Kenway, and grandfather of Connor. It’s an intriguing career legacy of “like grandfather, like grandson” though we learned that Edward’s livelihood as an assassin is a complicated one. The selfish ideals of a pirate aren’t complementary to the creed and Edward will struggle with this conflict through the bulk of the game.
Whatever his internal demons at least Edward looks as badass any other assassin in the series. Sticking to the classic worn-white look and equipped with considerable firearms, we expect Edward to be adept in ranged attacks even more so than Connor was with his rope dart.
The naval sections of ACIII were generally very well-received. Even before ACIII was released, Ubisoft had enough faith in seafaring gameplay to build an entire game around it for ACIV. The publisher has touted 50 unique locations to visit within or near the Caribbean. That includes Havana, Nassau to the north, Kingston in the south, and all islands in between. When asked if the game would venture beyond this region, the Ubisoft spokesmen would not comment.
Traveling from one place to another by boat, it’s of no surprise that the—count ‘em—eight Ubisoft studios involved in ACIV are aiming to make the experience as seamless as possible. When I asked how seamless, the spokesmen said that from the moment you spy an enemy ship in the distance to the point that the ship is boarded should not feature a single loading screen. It worked for the self-contained sea maps of ACIII, though it’ll be a greater achievement if it’s pulled off in the large ocean scale of this sequel. We’re talking about a level design ratio of 60% land and 40% sea, so you can be assured that there will be considerable ground-based town and city exploration. Did I mention there’s also underwater exploration component to the game? It wouldn’t be a pirate game without sunken treasure. Maybe the enemies in this Assassin’s Creed actually know how to swim. If not, hopefully sharks will be the underwater threats, but we’ll have to guess for now since it was a mechanic the team wanted to keep secret.
Another to-be-revealed element was your ship’s crew. You will captain a ship, the Jackdaw (though probably not at the start, we sense a significant early moment of capturing a suitably impressive vessel to launch your pirating career) and ships need crews. Who, what, how, and what’s upgradeable is still to be revealed, but you will be boarding ships by leaping across the rigging and diving into the depths to swim underneath.
Like prior Assassin’s Creeds, and especially the last one, ACIV will take considerable inspiration from real events, planting Edward as an active participant. These include the defeat of the Spanish Armada in the Caribbean and Charles Vane’s explosive escape from Nassau (and being marooned on an island with one bottle of rum, one gun, and one bullet, allegedly). Along with Vane and Blackbeard, it was revealed that Calico Jack, Benjamin Hornigold, and Anne Bonny would part of this game’s extensive NPC roster.
As a contrast to Edward Kenway, the present day protagonist is a more significant departure, with no details given aside from the fact that this character is, well, you. Ubisoft wouldn’t comment if this depiction of “you” would be in the form of a nameless hero, one custom made through character creation or if these portions of the game would be presented in the first person. But Abstergo Entertainment exists, and so Liberation players may have a story heads-up on where this may go. Once we clear this up, we’ll let you know, hopefully before Assassin’s Creed IV hits store shelves on October 29.
And here are some more screenshots to peruse: