Five Reasons to Watch Out For Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Posted by Kathryn Johnston
Get your pieces of eight ready.
Each year after E3, we find ourselves writing an unrealistically long list of games that we plan on buying and playing until we collapse from sleep deprivation. Several months later, we find ourselves crossing most of the titles from said list, due to time or money constraints - you know the drill.
The twilight of 2013 is no different, bringing with it a (quite frankly) ridiculous quantity of awesome-looking games, including Batman: Arkham Origins, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Watch Dogs - to name but a few. However, one game in particular remains firmly at the top of our to-buy lists: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
Bursting with potential, ACIV looks to be shaping up as one of the most exciting and ambitious projects by Ubisoft yet (and, despite its tough competition, possibly the most exciting and ambitious game of the year). We’ve just about managed to compose ourselves long enough to share with you our top five reasons why ACIV should probably be towards the top of your gaming priority list this year.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag introduces us to the fearsome and charismatic Edward Kenway, a Welsh pirate trained by Assassins, with an infamous distaste for authority. Father of Assassin’s Creed's most controversial Templar, Haytham Kenway, Edward takes us a step back through history (approximately forty years prior to the first sequence of Assassin’s Creed III) to the golden age of piracy.
Aside from the standard pirate antics - drinking copious amounts of rum, plundering the spoils of war, and commanding his beloved warship - The Jackdaw - Edward is also already father to Haytham’s older half-sister, Jenny. Of course, as is commonplace with the characters in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Edward’s family life is far from perfect. His fanciful ideas of piracy ultimately lead to his and his wife’s (Caroline Scott) estrangement just before the events of ACIV unfold.
To put it in simple terms, then: our next protagonist is a brash, irresponsible father, who captains a warship, and - as Ubisoft have pointed out on a few occasions in the previous months - will have an inner conflict as to whether he wishes to be a straight-up pirate, an Assassin, or a Templar. Sorry, did we say ‘simple’?
The pirate theme for the next instalment in the series was met with, shall we say…‘mixed’ reactions? While some fans were nothing short of ecstatic with the new setting, others were concerned that the renowned and notorious behaviour of pirates would get in the way of the popular stealth gameplay that Assassin’s Creed is so adored for.
However, as with the preceding time periods in Assassin’s Creed, the turn of the Eighteenth century also boasts a number of unique, historical personas - which Ubisoft has taken full advantage of, confirming (read as: showing off) many of these pirates over the course of the year. Familiar figures will include Benjamin Hornigold, Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack, Woodes Rogers, Stede Bonnet, and the terrifying Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard. Where exactly their allegiances lie (Assassin, Templar, neutral) remains to be seen.
Alongside this impressive line-up of characters, there will also be some of Ubisoft’s own original creations, including Edward’s fellow Assassin, and quartermaster aboard the Jackdaw, Adéwalé. Already a favourite among the fans, Adéwalé has even earned himself the privilege of his own single-player DLC, a trailer for which was released this week. The Freedom Cry DLC will focus on Adéwalé’s unique story in the Assassin’s Creed universe, taking place fifteen years after the events of ACIV (where was the spoiler alert for that, Ubi?) The DLC will be available through ACIV’s Season Pass, and will contain over three hours of additional single-player gameplay.
Assassin’s Creed III saw the beginning of a new and innovative gameplay mechanic, in the form of naval combat. Despite our strong reservations when we heard that the balance of land to naval missions had been increased in ACIV to 60/40, the gameplay shown for the naval battles and exploration has been nothing but promising. Ubisoft have really upped their game in many ways, including the implementation of a new weather system. Deadly storms are now a serious threat to you; navigate them incorrectly, and you could damage the Jackdaw, and maybe even lose crew members.
"Virtually every ship in the game is boardable."
During one of the pirate gameplay demos, Game Director Ashraf Ismail commented that “virtually every ship in this game is boardable”, going on to explain that a successful ship boarding will earn you that all-important pirate booty, as well as the choice to either ‘recruit new members’, ‘capture and send [the ship] to Kenway’s fleet’, or ‘salvage the ship in order to repair the Jackdaw’. Boarding is also a completely seamless experience - just park the Jackdaw next to a ship with destroyed masts, and have fun climbing and jumping from one ship to another. Impressive.
The Jackdaw itself (herself?) is upgradeable, which can drastically affect how you fare in future naval battles. If you take on the game’s largest enemy ship, the Man-O’-War, with little upgrades, you’ll fail. Simple as that.
As a rather adorable final touch, Ubisoft have also included several dozen sea shanties! You will discover new shanties throughout the game (presumably not through some kind of blood-stained music books, snatched from the hands of evil Templars), which can be enjoyed as you take a scenic journey through the Caribbean on the Jackdaw. Edward and his crew might be a little less daunting when they’re singing their hearts out, though…
Arguably the most intriguing prospect of ACIV is the open world. Ubisoft appears to have worked extremely hard to create a completely immersive Caribbean setting, and it’s easy to see from the gameplay footage they’ve released that the work appears to have not been in vain.
With over fifty unique locations, and many more smaller areas to explore, we assume that ‘boring’ is definitely not a word you’ll find yourself using when sailing the open seas in search of cool side content. Aside from the major cities - Havana, Kingston, and the pirate haven, Nassau - players will find themselves stumbling upon plantations, smuggler’s dens, and islands. Also, classic pirate treasure maps will lead you across the Caribbean in search of unique locations, such as majestic ruins.
Harpooning is one of the activities that has been added into the game, and offers up some upgrades for Edward himself (also - topless Assassin, if you’re into that). If that isn’t enough for you, you can now also dive under water to explore some of the ocean, and find more treasure, which is quite a step from the first Assassin’s Creed, when you daren’t look at water for fear of Altaïr drowning! Diving has been restricted to specific zones on the map - but we think that’s more than forgivable.
It’s impossible to discuss Assassin’s Creed without mentioning the modern day plot line. Fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouths after Assassin’s Creed III saw the debatably pitiful end to the story of Desmond Miles.
“Through this content you see what happens to Desmond after ACIII. We used it as an opportunity to say goodbye to Desmond.” Hallelujah!
But, good news! A recent post on the UbiBlog let us know that there is some closure to be found for Desmond in the ACIV present day content, stating “Through this content you see what happens to Desmond after ACIII. We used it as an opportunity to say goodbye to Desmond.” Hallelujah!
The UbiBlog delivers more good news for those who prefer being inside the Animus: the compulsory present day content will only take you around twenty to twenty-five minutes! However, if you do enjoy present day, and discovering hidden content, there is a solid three to five hours worth of gameplay for you to sink your teeth into.
Ubisoft are keeping their cards close to their chest concerning the present day story, tip-toeing around questions about the Assassin-Templar conflict, and Those Who Came Before - particularly Juno, and her apparent plans for world domination. What they have let us in on is that the gameplay will be in first-person as we are the protagonists, and that the story will take place in Abstergo Entertainment - a subsidiary company to Abstergo Industries who are employing people to jump into the Animus to find content to ‘base their multimedia products on’ (Assassin’s Creed: Liberation being one of their many products!) Based in Canada, rumour has it that Abstergo Entertainment actually has the same address as Ubisoft Montreal…Templar alert!
It’s difficult to find any reason - never mind a good reason - not to get excited for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Despite fans’ worries that the stealth gameplay will take a backseat, Ubisoft assure us that it is quite the opposite; the Assassins’ greatest tool will be their ability to work in the dark (to serve the light) once more. Not only that, but they've also assured us that they will be shedding light on the true nature of piracy, banishing all of the false myths and legends. With these promises, what appears to be a fantastic story and setting, and a whole world of new content to be discovered, we think it would be nothing but foolish to ignore the next adventure in the Assassin’s Creed series.