Published on April 8th, 2013 | by Hubert McReed0
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Preview
Ubisoft’s historical adventure series has already spanned five console titles, as well as over eight additional side games covering the mobile and portable platforms. It’s now very much a household name and has become one of the most (if not the most) important IPs to Ubisoft. And with its sixth home console outing, Black Flag, Assassin’s Creed gets ready to hit the next generation of consoles, already announcing its release on PlayStation 4 – and we’ll most likely see it arrive on Microsoft’s new console, though there’s no official word yet. Current generation users need not despair, as Black Flag is coming to you too.
So what’s next for those who hold the hidden blade? Well Desmond’s story arc ended quite magnificently in Assassin’s Creed III. The game also finished with a rather outlandish cliffhanger, leaving eager fans of the franchise hungry for more. Black Flag’s announcement left a lot to be desired in regard to following on from ACIII’s story arc, with Black Flag actually running as a prequel to ACIII. Fans are just going to have to wait a lot longer to see how Juno’s actions are played out on-screen.
In fact, very little was said on the Black Flag’s new present-day scenario. As Desmond is out of the picture, players will be working at Abstergo Entertainment and, more interestingly, as themselves. We’re assuming there is some kind of avatar creator that will come in place here but nothing official was shown. Working for Abstergo Entertainment leaves players to examine the memories of Desmond Miles and his ancestors. The Animus now functions with the Cloud, allowing it to access memories of a subject seemingly without the person strapped in. One memory the corporation is specifically interested in is that of Edward Kenway, a notorious privateer turned pirate living life in the Caribbean. Which is where the majority of Black Flag is set.
It’s a stunning setting. No longer confined to dusty paths and stone castles, Black Flag allows you the freedom of sailing the Caribbean Sea, and there are many islands for you to explore at length.
The game boasts over 50 locales to visit at your leisure, though the majority of these will be split into side-quest specific islands such as Hidden Caves, Jungles, Forts to conquer, Coconut Islands to find new recruits, plantations, fishing villages and even Mayan Ruins.
The three main cities that were announced included Cuba’s capital Havana, Jamaica’s Kingston, and the pirate haven of Nassau. We assume the majority of the single-player story will take place in these cities.
But how will you travel between each location, you ask? One new feature for the game is its new ‘near seemless’ loading between islands and cities. Instead of teleporting to new areas with specific maps, the game holds one large-scale map, which – according to Ubisoft – lets you sail across it without loading times.
Ship versus ship combat will form a big portion of Black Flag’s campaign.
You’ll have your own ship, the Jackdaw, which will allow you do all your travelling, as well as partake in naval battles and keep you busy with maintenance. You can also jump off and swim underwater to find hidden treasure and fight sharks – if you’re into that kind of thing.
If killing sharks isn’t enough for you then you’ll also have the option of hunting whales for big money. But maintaining the Jackdaw is one of the most important aspects of the game. You’ll need to hire and take care of your crew who can be lost to storms and sieges. You’ll also need to keep your ship in tip-top condition, adding upgrades for speed and battle.
Keeping in theme with Ubisoft’s obsession with historical accuracy, the story will mix real-life events into its fictional ones. History buffs might be interested to see how Black Flag will interpret the assault on 42 Portuguese ships, the wreck of the Spanish Armada, the escape from Nassau or even the marooning of Charles Vane.
Real-life pirates even come out to play with the most infamous of them all, Blackbeard – who plays an integral role in the main story, though it’s yet to be known in what capacity.
It’s the golden age of piracy that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is eager to unveil. Pirate fans should be excited for a game that seems focused more on exploration and treasure hunting than just a story to wind away the time. It’s open-world in a true way, but past Assassin’s Creeds have taught us to stay weary of mediocre side-romps that had lost fine-tuning in place for bountiful amounts of yawn-inducing content. And with the unveiling of its next generation direction, Assassin’s Creed IV’s looks have yet to impress.
It’s common ground, but only short demonstrations of gameplay were shown, resulting in a feeling that the game looks more end of a generation than next. Though early titles in a new console’s cycle always look a bit iffy, it’s Black Flag’s sheer scale that impresses. It looks good but isn’t dropping jaws, which is for a new entry in the usually gorgeous Assassin’s Creed series is a new issue for the property.
The yearly franchise has such a specific and familiar formula now that the idea of running around another city and doing the same odd jobs feels almost tiring.
There’s a lot yet to be unveiled, and if Black Flag switches up AC’s ageing gameplay, then it could be the last hurrah of this generation.