Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Will Show You How To Be A Pirate
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has become somewhat of a phenomenon more so than just a game, in that it’s very much become an annual event now, and something quite a bit different from what it was. However, the core of it, which is to go all stabby on people in beautiful historical settings, is still being offered, and this time around you’ll be exploring the world of pirates. With Black Flag just around the corner, should we be getting ourselves all hyped up, or expecting another polarized title like Assassin’s Creed III?
Name: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Genre: Action Adventure, Pirate
Multiplayer: up to 8 players
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 1 November 2013 (PS3, 360), 22 November (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
Price: R615 (PS3, Xbox 360), R525 (Wii U), R435 (PC)
To start off with a bit of trivia, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is actually the first game in the main numbered series to carry a subtitle. In the game you’ll play the role of an Abstergo Industries research analyst who steps into the boots of Edward Kenway, who is a British privateer-turned-pirate who eventually becomes a member of the Assassin Order. Notably, he is the father of Haytham Kenway, and grandfather of Connor, who are the two playable characters of Assassin’s Creed III. The game is set around the islands of the Carribean Sea during the Golden Age of Piracy somewhere in the early 18th century, and will feature three main cities, namely Havana, Kingston and Nassau. It will also feature 50 other unique locations to explore, ranging from fisherman villages, plantations, jungles, forts, islands, Mayan ruins and more, with a 60-40 balance between land and naval exploration, according to the developers.
With regards to the story, Black Flag will stay true to the series by containing a present day plot on top of its historical plot. While it was previously established in the series that an Animus needed to be used to view your ancestor’s memories, Assassin’s Creed III’s ending apparently implied that Desmond’s genetic memories had been uploaded to a cloud of sorts, because reasons, and this allows the Abstergo analyst to interact with them.
The developers have stressed that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will do more than enough to justify being a true sequel to Assassin’s Creed III, and will be brimming with content that will make it have a more open world feel and a better experience. For one thing, there will be fewer restrictions placed on the player, such as with the fact that the world will open up sooner in the game rather than not give players freedom to explore until later, as was the case with Assassin’s Creed III. The world itself has been built to allow for more freedom, and in addition to players exploring jungles, forts, ruins, small villages and more, you’ll also be able to seamlessly engage, board and capture passing ships, kinda like Grand Theft Auto. Basically, you can swap between land and naval gameplay on the fly.
The world will also be much more open with plenty of additional activities representative of the time period, such as hunting, harpooning and exploring underwater environments. It’s very much a blend of land and sea gameplay, with players being able to run around on land, head into a ship, sail far out, dive into the ocean, and go exploring in its depths to loot underwater ship wrecks. It has been said by Ubisoft that exploration is a key focus of Black Flag. As an additional matter, View Points will return in Black Flag, and as is true to the series, you’ll need to synchronize with them in order to reveal information about an area. However, View Points will also serve as fast-travel locations. The notoriety system from previous games has been removed in Black Flag, as Ubisoft figured a “worldwide alert” for a pirate venturing between islands wasn’t very logical. It has been replaced by a system of pirate hunters, with four tiers of increasingly difficult ships hunting Edward and Jackdaw depending on his activities. Lastly, the new “Horizon” system will dynamically create missions for the player depending on their play style, such as by spawning merchant shops to rob, hunting activities or pirate rescue missions.
One of the big additions to exploration in the game is the ship that the player will captain, called Jackdaw. This ship will be completely upgradeable, through pillaging, conquering enemy ships and completing missions, and combat ready, and players will have easy access to it whenever needed. You’ll be able to acquire new weapons for Jackdaw, such as round shot, heat shot, chain shot, mines, mortars, swivel guns and a ram. Players will also be able to use a spyglass to spot distant ships, along with their cargo and fighting strength, as well as help determine if an island has animals to hunt, treasures to locate or View Points. The recruit system that was introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood will be making a return, except it will be upgraded, allowing Edward to recruit crew members for his ship. Players are encouraged to continuously recruit more members, through battle missions and side missions like bar fights, because they can die during missions and in bad weather conditions. However Kenway’s crew won’t be able to assist players in combat or perform long-range assassinations, and Ubisoft removed this due to it making it too easy to bypass danger situations.
The combat system in Black Flag has been upgraded in various ways. For one thing, it will now have free aiming. In previous games, players had to rely on the built-in auto aim, but in Black Flag players will simply aim and shoot. Dual-wielding weapons has also been added to the game, with Edward being able to carry two swords or, for the sake of awesome, four pistols and chain them all together in combat, pulling off four shots in a combo. Other intriguing weapons include a blowpipe, which will have various ammunition types and rope darts. There’ll also be a full-on underwater combat system in the game, for taking on animals such as sharks and whales. Deviating from combat, the stealth system has been encouraged in Black Flag, with Edward being able to crouch to reduce his visibility. He’ll also be able to take off his hood depending on surroundings.
Building on from Assassin’s Creed III, naval combat has become a larger, integrated part of the game rather than a feature in isolated missions. About 40% of the story will take place on water, which includes side missions. Once examining a ship with the spy glass and evaluating its stats and contents, players can attack in a variety of ways, such as by shooting the opposing captain, boarding the ship by leaping across masts or charging in headfirst. Killing the enemy captain will allow players to release the crew and gain team members, acquire the ship for Kenway’s fleet or salvage it to repair Jackdaw. It’s been said that players will also be able to exploit weather patterns in order to lure enemies into dangerous or unsteady weather conditions, such as dynamic storms. The naval combat also features a trajectory-based aiming system that requires players to take into account the distance and speed of their enemies.
When you’re not off exploring a historical world and encountering famous figures such as Benjamin Hornigold, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, Charles Vane and Blackbeard, you’ll have some things to do in the modern world, although these segments will only make up a small portion of the game. It can either be a very small amount of time, around twenty minutes, or much longer if players want to see more of the back story and complete additional tasks. There will be no combat scenarios, but rather players will engage in modern day pirating of sorts by exploring Abstergo’s offices, eavesdropping and hacking, and players will also be able to engage in hacking mini games like the cluster and glyph puzzles of before, in order to uncover secrets. Desmond Miles has been replaced by the Abstergo research analysts, which means the modern day segments will focus on players. You’ll be able to connect with other players socially, interacting and sharing information. The Animus also won’t block players with barriers from exploring environments Edward hasn’t interacted with, but rather put strong enemy ships in the way, which means the player will have to explore the world and upgrade Jackdaw to get access.
The multiplayer component of Black Flag will include both cooperative and competitive game modes, and modes from previous games will return in addition to new maps and characters. However, it will only be land-based, and there will be no naval multiplayer combat as the developers didn’t feel they could do it justice. The online characters include:
- Lady Black
- Night Stalker
There are several confirmed locations so far, about seven, namely Havana, Martinique, Saba Island, Saint Lucia, Saint Pierre, Portobelo and Prison. It was also confirmed that players will be able to create custom game modes in additional to the default ones, as well as Game Lab modes to share with their friends.
Of course you may be curious about the next generation versions of the game, for PS4 and Xbox One, but these do not pack additional game content, rather improved graphics and performance. Naturally they will have graphical features not available on current generation consoles. Ubisoft has said that the graphics will be “improved to give you a more immersive feeling”, which means better water, more lifelike waves, improved physics for leaves and plants and little touches here and there that improve the visual experience. Weather effects will also be better, as the developer said that “You will definitely feel the effects of our tropical storms, and of the wind blowing in your sails. That is what I was referring to when I was saying that the improved graphics helped us increase immersion.”
Suspected Selling Points
- The pirate theme is awesome, and Ubisoft always deliver when it comes to their historical themes and settings.
- Naval combat being integrated into the game will please those who loved it in Assassin’s Creed III.
- Hours and hours and hours worth of things to do.
- Fighting whales and sharks.
- It has seemingly packed enough content to justify a new entry in the series.
- It’s more Assassin’s Creed, right?
- Assassin’s Creed III was largely polarized, partly due to its massive focus on extras that did not improve the game, and an overstuffed world without much substance.
- It’s the fourth game in a series that arguably hasn’t been at the top of its game lately.
- The game may rely too heavily on naval combat.
- Assassin’s Creed III suffered from numerous technical issues, such as reduced frame rate. Will Black Flag be a victim of it too?
- The modern segments could be vastly unsatisfying after the conclusion of Assassin’s Creed III.
While major Assassin’s Creed fans will most likely be jumping on the spot at the opportunity to get more out of the franchise, I can positively say that as someone who hated Revelations and was severely underwhelmed by Assassin’s Creed III, Black Flag has successfully managed to peak my interest and dare I say make me cautiously optimistic about it for its theme and setting alone. It has good things going for it, and now it’s up to the full game to prove whether this series still has a strong future.
The game will be out on PS3 and Xbox 360 on November 1, and on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U on November 22.