Will Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Put the Series Back on Course?

This year's Assassin's Creed hopes piracy will keep the series ticking along.

Assassin's Creed has always been about exploring the rooftops and alleyways of the past, but Ubisoft's most lucrative annual franchise has seen itself lumbered with its own fair share of history in the last couple of years. From the final installment in Ezio's trilogy which didn't live up to its predecessors, the plodding pace and frenzied sprawl of the occasionally stunning Assassin's Creed III, and the web of confusion which surrounded the present-day hero Desmond Miles' apocalyptic storyline, Assassin's Creed has become a series more than a little bit tricky to keep up with.

While Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag might be the worst-kept secret since Bungie's Destiny, the sixth mainline Assassin's Creed game in six years arrives with all the bombast you'd expect from one of gaming's most lucrative franchises. But new hero Edward Kenway's first outing aims to simplify the cluttered world of Assassin's Creed and make itself an easier jumping-on point for both new and returning players. Also, it has pirates… lots of pirates.

No in-game footage was shown at the game's unveiling event in London, though there was a video of a brief in-engine demo designed to whet the appetite. This certainly looked impressive, but for all we know it could have been rendered on a computer powerful enough to actually travel through time. But alongside this, Ubisoft was also detailing the kind of antics new 18th century protagonist Edward Kenway would get up to when Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag launches in October. I'm going to run through all that information without making any laborious nautical puns (other than the one in the headline, sorry).

Black Flag wants to be a 'greatest hits' compilation of Assassin's Creed.

As last week's barrage of leaks reported, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is set across the Caribbean in 1715--almost 40 years before the start of Assassin's Creed III--and features Edward Kenway, grandfather of Assassin's Creed III protagonist Connor. Despite being themed around piracy, Ubisoft is quick to assert that the game won't fall into the same caricatures and tropes of the subject matter that most other forms of media can't resist, which means talking parrots are out, for better or worse.

But a pirate-skinned take on the regular Assassin's Creed format isn't going to be enough to rope in the series' detractors growing increasingly critical of the game's annual regularity. Black Flag aims to be a bigger, wider world that's also learnt its lessons from last year, promising a game that gets going straight from the off, as opposed to four hours of tutorial missions. It certainly doesn't hurt that Edward seems to have a bit more derring-do and panache than his Assassin's Creed III descendant, either.

According to creative director Jean Guesdon, the development team has plucked certain central themes out of every previous Assassin's Creed game and attempted to incorporate them into Black Flag. Guesdon cites the original's open-ended assassinations, the breadcrumb trail of unlocks in Assassin's Creed II, and the freedom Brotherhood offered you to play around with those open-world systems.

There are 50 locations to explore across 3 main cities.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag features 50 different Caribbean locations to explore, though only three of these are those typically big cityscapes the series trades so well in: Havana, Kingston and Nassau.

Following the best-of theme, Ubisoft has designed its take on Havana to recall the grand, towering architecture of Assassin's Creed II. Hopefully Black Flag will also be able to capture the sense of glee gained from scampering around these environments. Kingston, on the other hand, is modelled in a way more similar to Boston in Assassin's Creed III; wider, flatter, and peppered with the hustle and bustle of life.

Nassau, on the other hand, serves as the pirates' base of operations. Historically, pirates flocked to Nassau after the governor of Jamaica refused to let a group of English privateers spend their loot on his island, which means it should enjoy a central role in the events of Black Flag.

The rest of your time will be spent visiting smaller locations including plantations, hidden coves, jungles, forts, Mayan ruins, and coconut islands. For the first time in the series you'll also be able to go underwater to explore sunken galleons, and have fights with sharks.

You can sail around in your own pirate ship.

Edward's pirate ship, the Jackdaw, is a central part of the game. Assassin's Creed III's naval battles were one of its most well-received aspects, and while Black Flag was developed concurrently alongside its predecessor--work on the game started in 2011--it's clear that Connor's Aquila has had a big impact here.

The game's 50 locations are linked by open ocean, too, and the Jackdaw can nip around this world as the player sees fit. The ship's main purpose is to hijack, board and plunder other ships, and by spending the loot from these efforts the player can add upgrades and hire more crewmates in a bid to take on bigger, badder ships with more sensational swag. And by setting all of the game's side-missions around improving the Jackdaw, Ubisoft is hoping to regain some of the focus lost in the sprawl of Assassin's Creed III.

Spectacular sights are promised when the time comes to board enemy vessels, with all of your crew charging onto the enemy ship as you attempt to take on its captain. It's in your best interests here to work as quickly as possible, apparently, as the longer you dither the more likely it is that you'll have to spend your ill-gotten gains on hiring new crewmembers to replace those killed in the assault.

There will also be more variety in the types of enemy ships the player will have to take on, according to Ubisoft, and apparently each vessel will now fit into one of five archetypes--some ships will charge you head-on, for instance. But to make life easier on the open seas, Edward will also be able to use a spyglass to scan the environment and assess the capabilities of his targets, as well as what goodies they'll be carrying.

Edward Kenway is Ezio Auditore Mark II.

Ratohnhaké:ton didn't quite have the flair and panache of his father Haytham or series superstar Ezio. Edward Kenway, however, is a confident, charismatic British privateer who, at the start of the game, is motivated by wealth and booze. He's also clearly a fan of doubles, shown in a CG trailer carrying a pair of pistols, dual swords, and enjoying some bedroom antics with two ladies at once.

Ubisoft isn't prepared to say that Edward has been designed to emulate Ezio, but the character's attitude and propensity towards action--and his own narrative arc, where he begins cocksure and arrogant but learns responsibility and wisdom through the Order of the Assassins, clearly bears some similarities with a certain Signor Auditore. And that can only be a good thing.

Assassin's Creed IV is riddled with pirates.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is set in the closing chapter of the Golden Age of Piracy, after the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1714 saw numerous unemployed privateers turn to piracy in the region. The area is a vital part of history, as it was the beating heart of the booming transatlantic shipping routes and was a key location in the slave trade; the halfway point in a round trip that proliferated the trade of armaments, slaves, and exotic goods like sugar and cocoa.

Famous pirates like Charles Vane, Blackbeard, Benjamin Hornigold, Anne Bonny, and Calico Jack will all feature in Black Flag. The series' usual attempt to mix historical events with dramatic gameplay continues, and Ubisoft has already promised recreations of Bartholomew Roberts' raid of 42 Portuguese ships and Charles Vane's marooning--he'll be stuck on an island alongside Edward with only a bottle of rum and a loaded pistol, apparently. The most famous pirate of all, Blackbeard, features heavily in the game's CG trailer, too, so you can expect to see him around in much of the game.

The present-day storyline is still kicking around, too.

Even with present-day hero Desmond Miles' story wrapped up, the animus-dipping frame narrative continues into Black Flag. This time now, though, the player takes the role of an Abstergo employee--the modern day name for the Assassin-hating Templar order, in case you've forgotten--who will dive into the Animus for a new company called Abstergo Entertainment.

Ubisoft is clearly hoping that a mix of pirates, sailing and the open seas will be enough to keep the Assassin's Creed franchise riding high, but what about you? Are you excited for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag? Do you think the new additions to Edward Kenway's adventure are enough to keep you interested, or do you think you're ready to give the annual series a rest?

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag will be released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, and PC in October and is being produced by eight Ubisoft studios: Montreal, Singapore, Sofia, Annecy, Kiev, Quebec, Bucharest, and Montpellier.

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Discussion

733 comments
BrewJo
BrewJo

I am extremely disappointed that the series has moved away from awe-inspiring urban environments to podunk colonial towns.  Seeing the architectural wonders of Damascus or Venice were what got me (and many friends) into the games in the first place, and I think it was the biggest strength of the first games.  The experience was amazing, and the accuracy was laudable.  AC I was actually recommended to me by my professor who does his research on medieval Damascus, and the next 3 games just got better as far as the depictions of the cities (not to mention city selection).  Going from Renaissance Florence and Ottoman Constantinople (one of the greatest cities in history) to colonial New York is simply a let-down, and colonial Kingston is not quite the return to glorious cities I was hoping for.

w0rk4u
w0rk4u

I'm up for it. And I'm so F tired of the media trying to make us think we should be tired of the game. There is nothing wrong with annual releases, and war games for that matter. As long as it's good.

It's no longer original for you guys to act like people are tired of war games, or series. If it was, I don't think COD would be doing so good. I'm not playing that game myself, but you just have to look at the numbers.

tehwatever
tehwatever

There's gotta be a comment about digital piracy somewhere around here...I'm gonna go look.

NickPunt636
NickPunt636

I guess I'm a little bit of both. I LOVE this series, my favourite by far (though I haven't played 3 yet, I'm sure I will live it). BUT, I definitely think they need to rest the series a bit. Let it breath and give us a chance to miss it. I would love for them to have taken a BIGGER STEP FORWARD IN THE TIMELINE! (WW2 maybe?).


All that said, I am SUPER happy it will be available on XBOX360. I hope they keep bringing titles out for these consoles, not all of us can afford new with the online implications. 

slainta
slainta

My idea is that AC became old. I still have to buy AC III and I don't feel like doing so. There would be nothing wrong on closing a franchise and starting a new one, keeping most aspects of its gameplay. A Tomb Rider reboot makes sense, because people are attached to Lara Croft. To keep going on with Templars and Illuminati gets just boring. And Desmond is all but charming. The Animus isn't so interesting anymore. I think the concept has been sucked dry. 

MarbskiE
MarbskiE

i just wish they'd revert back to the control scheme of pre-AC3 games. really, that's the only thing that made the game so horrible... oh, and characters like connor and achilles.

Gonefishing95
Gonefishing95

Could have potential, I really hope it comes through and prove Assassins creeds worth

1947gamer
1947gamer

They are going to burn this franchise out quick with pushing these out so fast. Just like Modern warfare. They should revitalize some of the old stuff like panzer commander and Thief Deadly Shadows in HD.

iHEARTpanda1
iHEARTpanda1

Im really excited about the open world seas. I think its awsoome you can just get on your ship and sail out into sea to do what you like!

sruane23
sruane23

Assassins Creed is becoming more like the band Creed every year. 

JamesThePrince
JamesThePrince

AC 3 wasn't bad at all. OMG there were some few minor bugs so what!It's not like the end of the world for you -__-" Gamers.They want the whole pie when in reality you can never have the whole pie. 

cohums
cohums

I don't get it... what was so bad about AC3? Yes it did have many bugs, but I never encountered anything particularly game breaking. Sure it was simplified quite a bit, especially combat, which to my eyes looked more bad-ass than many other combat systems in other games... AC3 had good story, Connor, for some reason, stayed more in my memory then Altair. And the naval combat was, I think, the best there has ever been. Concerning the optional objectives, I, for the most part did not really like them, but I liked that in AC3, if you fail an optional obj, you could restart checkpoint, not the entire memory. Homestead missions were a particular delight, well apart from pig herding... freakin' pigs. As for the ending, I think Connors ending was great, Desmond's... not so much, but actually I did not care much for the modern day setting in the first place. Graphics were great, and the attention to tiny details was astonishing. I have noticed is that some people complained that you could not partake in the larger battles... ITS A FREAKIN ASSASSINS GAME. You are an assassin, not some 18th century terminator, you're supposed to assassinate a certain target, not kill every soldier in your sight.

Subject879
Subject879

I'll buy this one, but if it's as bad as AC 3 I think I'm done with the series.


nparks
nparks

Isn't it at least 2 years too late to be cashing in on Pirates of the Caribbean?  Stranger Tides was not terribly good.

ElFlechero
ElFlechero

I just want water that ripples when I swim in it, dammit. Why was Naughty Dog able to do this with Uncharted 1 in 2007, and Assassin's Creed still has flat water with splash decals on it? As they make game settings with more and more swimming it just looks more and more embarrassing.

There are more important things the game needs though. Like a mission structure that doesn't pull you out of the game so much. The series has some problems that may be too fundamental to fix, like the jarring difference between how it feels to be just exploring the city, and when you're in a mission. It wants to be a scripted, high production action movie game, which I love, and an unrestricted open world game, which I love. It doesn't usually succeed at doing both, and I'm not sure that it can. Others issues would be easy to fix, like why, why when I mess up my "100% sync" can't I restart that mission right then and try again for 100%? And please, please give me a button to crouch or take cover when I want to, not when the game wants me to?

koolyoe
koolyoe

This looks great. Can't wait to play it.

H0rizon
H0rizon

I actually loved Ezio's progression in AC2. One of the few times I've seen a character actually mature and grow around his conditions.

FIamed
FIamed

i actually been wanting this setting in an AC game since after the AC2, but then when they continued the Ezio storyline i didnt care that much and was fine with their choice, but i am now happy that i got my wish for Assassin's Creed: Pirate Edition.

cohums
cohums

If they were to remove ridiculous optional objectives, give more freedom during missions and add more depth to secondary missions, such as assassination or delivery missions, the game should be fantastic

Naridar
Naridar

In my opinion no AC game thus far surpassed ACII. That game just had it all, from beautiful and sprawling cities to a lovable cast and vastly improved gameplay over its' predecessor (actually, while AC1 was good, the environments weren't nearly as interesting as AC2's and gameplay was still unrefined). Brotherhood was almost as good as 2, but Revelations was sort of a low point, and AC3, while not as brilliant as AC2, was roughly on the level of Brotherhood.

The lush tropical landscape of the caribbean definitely provides enough base material for jaw-dropping and the graphics seem to be top-notch. I'm having high hopes for this one.

Gwilymevans2010
Gwilymevans2010

I was a fan of cod mw but when world at war came out and was the same gameplay different time then mw2 was the same gameplay different time then black ops was the same gameplay different time I stopped enjoying them. I am affraid that this will happen to the ac series now ac revolations was a let down and so was ac3 hopefully they will get back to what makes ac so great running on rooftops, great combat, amazing story and actually assassinating people not just watching a cut screen and having to press x to kill the main guy in the whole game wtf was that all about

starfox15
starfox15

Assassin's Creed 4. Now with pirates!

xRoYx
xRoYx

Don't care what people say...take my money.

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

I know that I said that I was willing to let the AC story rest now that Desmond's tale, the one that started it all, is done, but then I saw the trailer and thought that this might just be too awesome to pass up.  Also, "and have fights with sharks" caught my eye.  Queue "Now Your A Man" chorus.

wickdawg01
wickdawg01

Im just now coming down from the high of AC3's ship battles. Im willing to drop the full $60 JUST for the ship battles in 4.

LAnoirFAN
LAnoirFAN

i've always wanted to play a good pirate game, i hope this is the one

SubHumanTorch
SubHumanTorch

I wanted a modern day AC, After initially not being able to stand him I've grown to like Desmond over the course of the series and want to see more of the modern day Assassins. 

kingdre
kingdre

Abstergo Entertainment. Really?

Soloz2012
Soloz2012

Ubisoft has put AC in a very bad condition-just for money- from AC III. AC series were perfect games, but I really don't have a good feeling about AC III & IV. They don't have even a footstep from that legendary AC game.

Zero_Echo
Zero_Echo

You know what's cool? Gamers arguing about different IP's that are stuck in the same annual cycle. Oh no! AC has yet another title coming out? In another location/time period? Oh no! COD has a new title coming out? In a new location? Rawr! Get me moar cheetos!!! GAMES! Yearly! Get in mai bellaaaayyy!

helpmeininhell
helpmeininhell

I'm a total AC fanboy..until ac3.  I play ac games for one thing more than any other.  The fun, fluid combat.  The running, climbing, and story perfect it, but the comment comes first.  AC3 combat was awful.  I hated it.  If they don't go back to their original fluidity this game is DOA to me.

kik4444
kik4444

How about this? - we stop buying stupid games that are obviously just made for a quick cash grab to make the developers poor so they can come up with something CREATIVE that actually deserves to be bought!

dani_i89
dani_i89

GRARR HOW DARE DEVELOPERS BRING OUT CONSISTENTLY GREAT GAMES YEAR AFTER YEAR

BrewJo
BrewJo

Just realized this thread is dead, but in case someone stumbles on this with google they can listen to me vent.

w0rk4u
w0rk4u

@slainta - In my opinion the Animus was never a good idea, nor interesting. But the game is solid in other areas... and always a good time.

vllazar
vllazar

Cohums I agree with you. Only think i have to complain is the bug where you lose the voice of characters. Also I actually think the series has gotten better with each game (with exception of maybe revelations). New stuff was introduced every game and i actually thought the combat system was a lot more complicated than the other games in ac 3 because you had to time your clicks. I don't know about everyone else but I don't think most of you appreciate the though that goes into making this game. The story is awesome makes you think and all of the historical characters is what makes this game unique. I really want someone that thinks I am wrong to tell me why all i see is people saying is bad but not what is wrong with it. With most of you saying it's bad makes me feel like i missed something.

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

@Gwilymevans2010 W@W was different than MW1. W@W and BO games had better gameplay, graphics, and more detailed violence such as bullet wounds, dismembered limbs, and more bloodspray.  The MW games feel more generic.

youngsta19
youngsta19

but i thought whn desmond died da world was gone end so they gone make a new character to play his role.... i think he should of stayed alive

petez34
petez34

@LAnoirFAN Well if your definition of 'good' includes Ubi Disney-fying a once unique story, then you should be satisfied!

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

@Soloz2012 I thought that ACII had some better gameplay elements than ACI, particularly the ability to do aerial assassinations, and ACII had some pretty good story stuff in both Ezio's world and the modern world, which makes it my overall favorite of the series.  But you are right in saying that ACI was a legendary game for starting it all and in saying that AC is in a bad condition now.  It looks like Ubisoft is going to jump the shark with this one, especially given this picture headline: "Black Flag wants to be a 'greatest hits' compilation of Assassin's Creed".  But I won't miss the shark jumping :)

Viral-venom13
Viral-venom13

@saudgamermalik  

Don't mean to sound a bit insulting but with a question like that you should smack yourself again and again for asking it, lol!!!

Trev9421
Trev9421

@kik4444 Come up with a creative idea right now. Just think about it, come up with one original idea, or an original variation of some premise. I'll bet money you can not.

Zero_Echo
Zero_Echo

@dani_i89 CONSISTENTLY THE SAME GAME YEAR AFTER YEAR IN A NEW LOCATION!! I KNOW WHAT YOU GRARR ABOUT!!

Gwilymevans2010
Gwilymevans2010

@Dredcrumb9 yer I agree the mw games were the worst in that sense I am just afraid that ac will continue to be an annual release of games that feel very similar when I would much rather wait two or three years for a game that still does what ac does well but with some fresh ideas thrown in to the mix. @Dredcrumb9 @Dredcrumb9

bud_de_arkor
bud_de_arkor

@petez34 @LAnoirFAN well if your definition of good is to having the same world and type of exploring again again, then yeah that kind of games doing the same are a lot of fun according to you. Then you shouldn't be satisfied with any game with that way of thinking.

dani_i89
dani_i89

@Zero_Echo @dani_i89 No, consistently great. Of course they are essentially the same game, they ARE of the shame franchise. I think anyone can agree number 2 was different from number 1 and number 3 was different from number 2. Aside from the 3 in the Ezio trilogy, they are all different, though similar enough to be recognised as an Assassins Creed game, featuring different timelines, different gameplay mechanics, and even different engines.

Ive loved all of them, so as long as the games that are released are to my liking, they can bring out as many as they wasnt, as frequently as they want.

One example of a developer doing the opposite, by bringing out games infrequently is the GTA series....terrible games, i've played number 3 and vice city, and could not finish them because of how terrible they are. So kudos to Ubisoft