First Looks// Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Posted 4 Mar 2013 19:15 by
Ubisoftís been fighting piracy on PC for years with its DRM. Now, in an ironic twist, itís embracing it in Assassinís Creed IV: Black Flag. Well, the old-fashioned piracy anyway. Although I wasnít able to see if any of the criticisms thrown against Assassinís Creed III have been addressed, the change in direction seems to be a more interesting approach than most have given the company credit for.

The Character
Assassinís Creed IV, then. While its predecessor focused on the Hiawatha-esque adventures of Connor Kenway, this Caribbean-flavoured sequel rewinds time to the dawn of the 18th Century. You play as Connorís grandfather, a chap called Edward Kenway. I say Ďa chapí. Heís actually a pirate.

And a rather hard-line pirate at that. Words that Ubisoft used to describe this new lead character included: Estranged; Brash; Selfish; Cocky; Reckless; Rebel; Charismatic; Ingenious. He differs from past Assassins in that he doesnít seem to be painted as a particularly heroic person. Itíll be interesting to see how this almost anti-hero is used in the greater war between Assassins and Templars.

As Edward, youíll be spending time plundering the waters of the West Indies as the rough-neck leader of a crew. But, while he has to keep his own men in check, Edward does get to rub shoulders with famous pirates of the era too. Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Charles Vane, Ben Harigold and Anne Bonny are highlighted as key characters in the ACIV story.

Each of these famous names have their own ambitions and prerogatives when it comes to the greater pirate good. Ben Harigold and others wanted to establish a network of pirates, working under one unified code of Ďethicsí - which explains the birth of Pirate Republic, Nassau. Others, like Calico Jack, were renegade pirates - uninterested in social structure, only money.

Ubisoft has promised a wealth of stories that can be plundered (sorry) thanks to the 18th Century narrative. The tale of a single pirate who took on 42 Portugese ships and won, the wreck of the Spanish Armada, the marooning of Charles Vane and the attack of Nassau by the British... Assassinís Creed IV: Black Flag seems to be taking inspiration from all of these examples.

The World
As a result, the game world is absolutely huge, spanning the majority of the West Indies and covering 50 unique locations. Cuba, the Bahamas and Jamaica are just some of the lands Ubisoft detailed as examples of locations that Edward can journey to.

Some, like Havana, Kingston and Nassau, will be represented as the sort of large-scale city areas that you might associate with Florence in Assassinís Creed II. Among these areas are smaller locations such as fishing villages, plantations, hidden coves, jungles, forts and Mayan ruins to discover.

Each type of area will require a change in tactical approach - for example, Edward is an Assassin pirate that thrives on the big open space (obviously, given the fact he lugs a boat around the sea). Heading into the jungle, in comparison to the open air, will apparently be near-claustrophobic for the cocky protagonist - meaning success will need to be secured by other, more stealthy means. Maybe in a Solid Snake stylee. Weíre not sure yet.

Add the fact that Assassinís Creed IV will come with coconut islands and the ability to dive underwater to explore shipwrecks for treasure, and youíve got a game that promises to be packed full of missions and side-quests.

The Boat
Ubisoft will be expanding on the naval battle missions seen in Assassinís Creed III and using it as a basis for world travel in this game. The sea acts as a kind of hub world, full of discovery - and enemies, in the form of rival pirate ships and big galleons.

Your own ship, the Jackdaw, can be upgraded however you like in order to better defend and attack these threats. There will be five different enemy ship archetypes to look out for, with one example called the ĎChargerí. As the name suggests, this ship tries to get some distance between you before ramming into you.

Theyíre presumably well-defended as a result, so best to keep that distance and pummel them with cannon fire. What sounds most interesting though is the ability to conquer and directly attack ships by hopping into the enemy vessel. Ubisoft said that this is a seamless transition, and that this method is used to plunder the wealth of your victims.

Such victims can be spotted using the Spyglass, which allows you to determine whether a faraway ship is friend or foe, as well as its strength and amount of loot on board.


The Real World
Donít worry folks - the present day action is still here, even though Desmond Milesí story has ended. Ubisoft is taking a slightly different tack with Assassinís Creed IV. Because the end of the world prediction detailed at the end of the original Assassinís Creed has already passed in our time (2012, for those who havenít been paying attention), the Montreal studio thought it would be nice for you to play as... well, you.

Youíll be researching Edward Kenway inside Abstergo Entertainment - a subsidiary of Abstergo Industries. The war between Assassins and Templars is still going on, apparently, and weíre assuming you hold the key to unlocking the secret for a big plot twist that will give your crew an edge and something something.

Iím just riffing here. Ubisoft havenít really let alone in on what the greater Assassins v Templars story is, and itís unlikely that weíll truly know until closer to the gameís release. Or even on the gameís release - the company is usually vague on what exactly goes on outside of the Animus.

We saw trailers, we saw concepts. We saw characters, boats and world maps. But we didnít see any real gameplay - at least, not enough information to ascertain whether the gameís mission and campaign design will follow the more popular Assassinís Creed II (and specifically, do away with the 7-hour-long tutorial in Assassinís Creed III). Itís looking promising at this stage though.

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