Ubisoft have finally let the curtain down on their next historical epic – ‘Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’
But with the game set to be released only a year after the last, can we really trust Ubisoft, as they venture further into the land of annual release dates, to deliver a truly memorable and swashbuckling adventure? What sort of new features are they teasing to us early on? What similarities are we able to pick out? And does Blackbeard ever brush his teeth? Hopefully my personal impressions and little things I have picked out will open our minds up. Well before we jump into this article like a reckless Italian teenager with an attitude problem, let’s just let our eyes soak in Ubisofts nicely put together cinematic…
I think there is one thing we can all agree on; Ubisoft certainly know how to make a good trailer. After watching it today I remember simply not uttering a word for a good minute or so to myself, mainly because of how brilliant the trailer was. To put it simply, this made me feel just like I did back in 2009 when I was watching Ezio Auditore leaping through the beautiful Renaissance streets, and then not being able to watch anything else but that same trailer all year. Although the other announcement trailers were good, this was by far the best since Assassin’s Creed II. On just this trailer alone, I feel that what will come by November will be something just as beautiful as that landmark game was.
I actually thoroughly enjoyed Assassin’s Creed III, but at the end, even though I had had a whale of a time, it just wasn’t like Italy. It was ambitious and pulled it off well, but the story felt lacking, characters under developed and the whole ending made it seem like a totally different game. But watching this trailer again has made me forget all of that, as it is obvious that not since Florence and that rooftop with Ezio and his brother, has the series had more of a shakeup than it has now.
The best part of Assassin’s Creed III for me in terms of enjoyment was the naval warfare, and as soon as we were allowed to get our grubby hands on it, it was clear to me at least that Ubisoft would not let this feature rest. Of course in the previous game, it was restricted to short missions with a simple objective, but even that was enthralling. Ubisoft had the base for their next game, and as you have just seen in the trailer above, “salty sea dogs be a’ coming!”
Now the first thing we see in the trailer is Blackbeard of course. I will skip over him as I think it is fair to say he will be the “Da Vinci” of the game, just as old Washington himself was of the last game. But this man above is going to be our new protagonist, a man born a pirate and trained in the ways of an ancient creed. He is also the father of one very charming and at times ruthless Templar, Haytham Kenway, and grandfather of one Ratonhnhaké:ton. Try saying that when you have a belly full of port. This man is of course Edward Kenway.
So first of all, it is clear that just like everyones favourite Italian family – no not the plumbers – we will be treated to a ‘Kenway saga.’ Well at least we will for the foreseeable future. Ubisoft said a couple of years ago, around the time Black Flag went into production, that each numbered entry into the franchise would see a new protagonist, and they were true to their word. We can only speculate as to why they stuck the title on the end of it, but I’m going to guess that each new numbered entry from here on in is a new protagonist, and each new title could be a direct family link to the previous character.
But enough babble about titles, as Blackbeard put it, ‘Edward Kenway’s your man.’ Not much is known of Kenway, only that he is an assassin, privateer and occasional pirate. Those faithful to the series will know that Haytham Kenway, Edwards son, ends up as a Templar after being kidnapped at an early age and turned around to the Order’s ideals. And then chronologically we have Assassin’s Creed III which makes Blag Flag a prequel to AC3, at least on the historical side.
What is interesting with our first look at Kenway, is that he seems to look more like an Assassin than his grandson does. Connor is very native American; in a way you could almost say that he wasn’t a true Assassin, in the fact that he more fought for justice and for his village than for a creed. Edward on the other hand, certainly at this stage looks more the part in my opinion. Instead of old skins from the wild combined with a revolution jacket, he is back to the lavish Ezio-esque outfit, more individual looking, more Assassin like. This excites me first of all, as the back of his outfit does look like the costume that Ezio wears in Brotherhood. Not only that, but some of Kenway’s personality in this trailer seems to shine through from Ezio as well.
In fact one thing I hope will be in the game, is more nods to Altair and Ezio. Although they were mentioned about in the third game, I felt they were criminally left out, Ezio especially, as he was the pioneer for the modern day Assassin’s. But I guess that in AC3, Ubi wanted a small break, but I say have them brought back in as a talking point. If there is to be more of an order in this game again, let them talk of the great two Assassin’s and what they went through. Not a lot, but at least don’t pretend they never existed.
So, it looks as though Kenway is a hit with the ladies. This is only a very short scene in the trailer, but there is two women in that bed, and I doubt he was simply reading one of the codex’s in a chair beside it. It seems as though Kenway is going to be yet again, more in the vein of Ezio; a womanizer, flamboyant and if his son is anything to go by, probably very suave too. In fact judging by the final shot in the trailer, he really is a cool customer, casually stabbing what we must assume is a target and taking their woman and walking away with her around his shoulder, cool as can be. Gone is the calm and thoughtful Connor, who would remain peaceful as long as his tomahawk was holstered, and in comes Kenway, who at the moment looks to be like a more adult version of Assassin’s Creed II’s Ezio, ready to fight whether his sword is out or not.
He has the basic Assassin skills and tools of course, pistols, swords and he seems like he can knock a few people out with a head-butt, and so I’m inclined to think he maybe a little cocky too. Ubisoft seem to have gone once again for this new dual wield option, which I welcome. I felt it was a very undermined feature in number 3, especially after being hyped up so much before release and Connor nearly always being called a dual wild specialist. I would like the option to pick and choose, within a realistic range, what weapons I use to slice and dice, and I wouldn’t mind having a pistol as one of the dual wield weapons too, something which is implied in the trailer.
He will no doubt be customisable too in the ways we are similar. But I will prod at one thing, notice at the end, he whips his hood up before going in for the kill? I remember a lot of people wanting the option to toggle the hood up or down, and after 5 games, maybe Ubisoft have given some fans that little option, and maybe it could help in protecting you from your enemies now that the incognito system has been scrapped.
But interestingly, as well as the usual weapons you get with the protagonists, Kenway seems to do more in the trailer than just wave his cutlass around…
Although not gameplay, cinematics do tease features to us, and this is one possible tease I picked up, during the first time I watched the trailer. In the above image, Kenway first of all leaps off of a crate, pulling with him an enemy downward by the back of the head, and smashing him face down onto the crate. Due to the impact, it splinters a slight bit, to which Kenway takes a piece and wallops a guy over the head with it. This whole 3 second or so sequence teases to me one possibility: deeper environmental gameplay.
Now in Assassin’s Creed III, this was already a feature, for instance if Connor was near to a fence when fighting the enemy, he would kick him into it and cripple him. It was also a key element to the faithful father and son brawl between Connor and Haytham. Again, like the naval warfare, Ubisoft have taken baby steps with it, but I have a feeling they have decided to exploit it more heavily.
One thing people keep crying out for is a more challenging combat system. Even though I thought Ubisoft did nice job with combat in AC3, it was a little too easy. Along with greater environmental interaction, objects within that environment could be used also, much like the odd mop in Assassin’s Creed II you could use to skewer a guard, (I’m not lying, try it), meaning more ideas for more challenging combat but still having a way to win. So in Black Flag, what if say the player was suddenly disarmed and had to quickly find themselves a scrap of wood to chuck around, a chair to push back the enemies or…a bottle to smash someone over the head with whilst wielding your sword?
The above image, from the Edward Kenway trailer, seems to imply picking up random objects and using them against your foes as well as dual wielding your sword. Now this is something we should have maybe had in AC3. Some would maybe say that this is slightly too ambitious and a bit too much, but if it shakes up the combat meaning for once you may have to act fast without a weapon, then I am all for it.
Assassin’s Creed has always been ambitious at its heart. The crowded towns of the middle east, the perfectly chiselled streets of Renaissance Italy, the smoke filled heat of Constantinople, the freezing snow of the forests in the frontier…Ubisoft really can make settings which would make any Assassin do a leap of faith. But with Black Flag, Ubi is going further into how ambitious it want’s to be. Not content with you roaming the seas in your ship, or doing a spot of paddling, they now want you to go right under the waves.
The game has been in development since Revelations, and Ubisoft have been here, there and everywhere. Some went off to help with Assassin’s Creed III, and some started on Assassin’s Creed IV. A total of eight Ubisoft worldwide studio’s have been working on the game, and even some of the Far Cry 3 development team have popped in to fine tune it, which makes the game setting in the Caribbean all the more promising. Ubisoft right now is are the J.J Abrams of gaming: They. Are. Everywhere…and doing multiple things at once.
So when I tell you and show you above that you will finally be able to plunge in to the depths of the sea, it should be no surprise. Kenway sports a first for the franchise in that he dives fully under and deep enough for us to follow, and in the particular shot above, he is swimming toward a wreck. I would say it is an old one, but it could be one he just sent to Davy Jone’s Locker himself only a short time before. The following scene then shows him leading a group of men carrying a treasure chest. So will we have a few certain spots to go under to, or would we be able to go overboard and dive into a sea world at any time? And what about the treasure an possibility of cliche treasure hunting?
Ubisoft have brought about the notion, that you simply dive off of your boat and can swim and walk onto the shores of any island you see fit, without any loading screens. Some would simply shake their heads and say they can’t do it. If you are one of those people, I recommend you pick up Far Cry 3 (another ubisoft game fro last year), play it for a couple of days, and you will see just how possible it can be – and how beautiful it can be too. And with some of the Far Cry 3 development team giving their input on this new game…well let’s just say that Assassin’s Creed IVs ambitions thus far are looking promising.
Some of the images released have shown a new form of hunting on the seas, brutal on deck battles, and a good ole’ tankard of rum with your friend Blackbeard. Add all of that, to the countless quests, tasks, contracts, temples/wrecks and SURELY the return of some form of ‘homestead’ (maybe even your own private island), then the game is already looking to be in a word, massive. I will simply say, ‘Ye landlubbers don’t know the ‘alf of it ye don’t!’
Basically, if we thought that Assassin’s Creed III was going a bit big and pushing its look, Assassin’s Creed IV has gone and blown it out of the Caribbean water. By the sounds of it, this game will be pretty huge, and the culmination of the last 3 years or so of games, right back from 2009 when the series properly took off.
The beauty and promising story of Assassin’s Creed II.
The size and detail of Brotherhood.
The fresh yet nostalgic to the series feel of Revelations.
The ambitious babysteps of Assassin’s Creed III.
But the final thing to quickly touch upon before we end this, and one that was surely a tricky situation to get out of at the end of Assassin’s Creed III. Before you scroll down, if you have not completed last years outing yet then be warned: **SPOILERS AHEAD!**
I will assume anyone still reading then, has completed and possibly raged at the screen at the end of Assassin’s Creed III.
I am one of the seemingly few people who like the modern day setting and sci-fi element. It gives a form of backstory and isn’t just another historical game out of nowhere. I do admit it got a bit weird at the end of last years outing, but I still don’t mind it that much. That was part of the draw in for Assassin’s Creed all the way back in the first game. What the hell is this room and who the hell is Father Christmas to tell me if I can or cannot leave? And of course Ubisoft played a very clever game; we are the Templars when over in the multiplayer side, and there’s a bit of backstory there. And I have until this very weekend, been stripped of Xbox Live Gold and so hadn’t managed to play much of Assassin’s Creed IIIs multiplayer, where it seems now that Abstergo have placed their entertainment everywhere. I won’t compare to the big fruit company as I am actually typing this on one of their computers…
But the solid new is Desmond really is gone (aww), and now we are playing as ourselves. Ubisoft haven’t and never do, reveled much about who will be in the Animus, because they have stated that you are actually a person hired by Abstergo to go into the memories through your entertainment system. Pretty neat idea huh?
It seems as if Ubisoft have actually been planning this for a while in some ways; we were watching the lead up to Abstergo being in charge. We were playing as Desmond, a barman in a computer, but suddenly now, we are the barman in the computer.
We don’t know much else about that, but safe to say we will do soon, and if Abstergo entertainment is popping up, so will multiplayer I assume.
There are some in the community to who are yelling to Ubisoft to hang up the hidden blades for a bit, to toss in the robes, white hood and all, and let the series calm a little, instead of its new annual release formula. Some people are saying they are growing tired of Assassin’s Creed and that the new one being announced is now silly. I feel these people maybe afraid of what I will call the ‘Call of Duty’ virus, seeing as many seem to say that the series is turning into Activisions well known franchise.
After Assassin’s Creed III, and after it being mediocre next to some of the other games, I would possibly mildly nod my head in agreement. But the fact is, Assassin’s Creed is innovative each year, whether or not the stuff being added is fun or not, at least it is trying to keep fresh. This new game, which has had a slightly shorter development time than AC3 however is not like the last few games. The whole face of it is changing, suddenly we will be deep in the streets of a criminal underworld of the day, under intense eye’s of the British colonies and if Blackbeard is to be believed in the trailer, at the mercy of the Spanish Armada.
Ubisoft’s next game comes at a fruitful time for the company, and I have a feeling that this game will be the new Assassin’s Creed II, which I haven’t said for any of the games that have released up until now. Ubisoft says that it is a new era, but that is reflected in the franchise as a whole: Assassin’s Creed is going in a bold new direction, and I know that some will stick with it, purely because of the rich stories it can span and the immersive experience it can offer.
What do you think of the look of Ubisoft’s new historical epic? Exciting and ambitious, or old and boring? Debate below in the comments ye scurvy dogs!
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This article was first posted on March 5, 2013