SDCC 2013: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Download-Assassins-Creed-4-backgrounds

 

Assassin’s Creed fans at Con are like steam-punk kids. Dedicated, absolute, and devoted. The number of Altairs, Ezios, and gentlemen Kenway is staggering (also, dominantly female). I arrived early but posted up in the back of the room to take in the whole picture and it was completely worth it. The room filled up quickly and entirely.

 

The panel started with no introduction. Straight into an insanely long cinematic. Long… but fucking gorgeous. AC has always carried a film-like quality that has lead to some beautiful intros and cut-scenes, but with AC4 being largely a naval combat game, Ubisoft have paid particular attention to the water and sunset effects. The first thing that jumped out at me was that the new assassin (Edward Kenway) throws down mighty with very brutal, less show-y attacks… also, using dual swords and dual pistols. It’s only a cinematic, however, so it’s hardly a guaranteed gameplay addition… except that later in the panel it was confirmed. As master pirate/rookie assassin, Edward Kenway, you will have the ability to use two swords or two pistols or two hidden blades… awesome.

 

It turns out that swords are not as effective against whales as you’d think.

 

As the panel got underway, it was clear that the team behind the next Assassin’s Creed game are embracing the pirate mentality completely. Often, in past games, there were moments when Assassins embraced less than noble means to complete objectives, but in the upcoming “Black Sails” it seems like “less than noble” is actively encouraged and that is exciting.

 

“your ambush is adorable.”

 

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag will tell the story of Haytham Kenway’s father, Edward. Given the plot set-up of AC3, his allegiance to the Assassins is understandably shaky. The character seems more motivated by fame and fortune (like any good pirate should be). What is clear is that at least 40% of the game will take place at sea. Naval combat has been fleshed out substantially and fans of the high seas moments in AC3 will find plenty of variance in the situations and approach to each scenario. In the previous outing, actions like boarding enemy ships were scripted. In AC4, often doing such things will be dictated by mission parameters and opportunities for financial gain rather than scripted “must complete” checkpoints.

 

…and this is what happens when you cut off a pirate ship during rush hour.

 

While levels in open-world games continue to grow, I doubt you’d find a larger setting than “the Caribbean” in any game with it’s feet planted squarely on this mud-ball we call “Earth”, so there are a myriad of ports in which to rest your sea-legs. At this time there are about 75 major ports, each under British, Spanish, or pirate control. Expect a large number of minor stops, also. These will include dive sites (what’s the point of a pirate game without sunken treasure) and uninhabited islands. The most amazing aspect of this world is that it is all seamless! That’s right… no load screens. As you transition from land to sea, you will instantly take control of the Jackdaw (your ship). This will allow chases and missions to include a variety of of combinations of both land and sea without interruption. Due to the size and scope of the world, fast travel can play a huge part. Luckily, you’ll be able to fast travel to anywhere you’ve synchronized, making that mechanic and exploration crucial.

 

The Assassin’s Creed series has brought some amazing cinematic moments to it’s loyal followers. Crusades-era Holy Land, Renaissance Italy, and the American Revolution were all three inspired choices that offered a vast tapestry of interest and intrigue as back drops to the mayhem, but everyone loves pirates. In looking to a time when advances in man’s ability to explore over-shadowed authoritarians’ ability to police the world, Ubisoft may have found the setting most-suited to tell a story of the unending struggle between two factions hellbent on undoing one another. Time will tell, but you can bet I’ll be in line on launch day… which, by the way, is October 29, 2013 (one day shy of an exact year after AC3).

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Author: Aaron View all posts by

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