Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Preview - X Marks the Spot

Richard Walker

It's not often that a presentation kicks off with a brooding monologue delivered by Finchy (Ralph Ineson) from The Office. In fact, that pretty much never happens. Yet, it's exactly how Ubisoft chooses to open its big reveal of the inevitable fourth mainline Assassin's Creed game, the sixth in the series overall, or the seventh if you're counting the PS Vita spin-off. This, ladies and gents, is Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, an Assassin's Creed game that wants to draw upon all the strengths of the previous titles in the franchise, hence the introduction from Finchy, reflecting upon “the things we've seen, the people we've been” and so on.

We've certainly seen a lot during the course of all those games over the years, and superficially, Assassin's Creed IV looks a lot like Assassin's Creed III. You even play as Connor's grandpappy, Edward Kenway, a man who dresses in remarkably similar robes to his grandson and it takes place only 50 or so years prior to the events of the previous game. However, once we're taken through the ins and outs of Black Flag, we start to understand why Ubisoft has decided to slap a Roman numeral IV onto the end of this one. It looks like it could be raising the bar once again for the Assassin's Creed franchise. Don't roll your eyes like that! Listen... Or read, rather.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag sees you taking up the dual cutlasses of Edward in a world of pirates and high seas, fortune and adventure. There be no pirate cliches here though, me lad. Forget parrots, sea monsters and the like. “We're treating this era with the same historical reverence,” says Lead Content Manager, Carsten Myhill. “We will tell the true story of the golden age of piracy... It's not a Hollywood or Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island treatment... Truth in a way is much stranger than the more bombastic fiction.”

It's 1715 and you're a brash, handsome, cocky, ruthless, hard-drinking, hard-fighting son of a bitch. Edward Kenway sounds like he might be a bit of a twat, but apparently, he's also charming and charismatic (he's British, so of course he is), leading a crew of loyal men aboard his own ship, the Jackdaw. And having been trained by assassins, he's also good with a blade or anything that comes to hand for that matter. He's also exceedingly smart and resourceful, standing him in good stead among the larger than life characters he'll encounter during his journey around the islands and archipelagoes of the Caribbean.

Ubisoft is claiming that Assassin's Creed IV will be the “most varied” in the series yet, with fifty unique locations, centred around the three main cities of Havana in Cuba, with its European-style streets and rooftops, Kingston in Jamaica, which boasts valuable sugar cane and tobacco plantations to plunder, and the pirate haven of Nassau, where a strange kind of pirate democracy operates. You'll also visit fishing villages where you can repair and upgrade your ship, hidden coves where smugglers have stashed their loot, forts to infiltrate, Mayan ruins harbouring secrets and mysteries to be uncovered, coconut islands where you'll find marooned survivors to recruit as crew members, and inhospitable jungles bristling with flora and fauna.

You can even dive underwater, braving the sharks to look for treasure in sunken shipwrecks using a real-life diving bell that was used at the time. And with so much ocean to explore, naval warfare is back with a vengeance, except this time boarding ships is seamless, as you pull your ship closer to galleons using grappling hooks, giving you the chance to swing across, free-run your way over, or swim around the other side to get the jump on enemies. Upgrading the Jackdaw will be a constant concern, as you maintain both the galleon itself and your crew, as well as bolster its firepower and resilience. Without your ship, you're screwed and can't go anywhere.

And with storms to navigate, whales to harpoon, and oodles of exploration, you'll be spending a lot of time sailing the Jackdaw as Edward looks to cement his rep as a piratical badass, using his spyglass to seek valuable resources and loot on the horizon, while rubbing shoulders with the likes of the fearsome Blackbeard, the vicious Calico Jack, the feisty Irish lass Anne Bonny and gentleman pirate Ben Hornigold. One mission will even see you marooned on an island with the psychotic Charles Vane, with only a bottle of rum and a pistol between you. That should prove interesting, to say the least.

Other missions will see you taking on 42 Portuguese ships, seeing the beginnings of piracy on the trade routes between Europe and America in the New World as the wreck of the Spanish Armada is plundered for its spilled payload of gold, and an explosive escape from Nassau, as the Royal Navy strives to defend the trade routes from pirate activity. All of these events are based on actual historical occurrences, and all seek to fulfil Ubi's goal to “redefine the perception of piracy.”

Meanwhile back in the present day, (SPOILER ALERT) Desmond remains out of the picture, leaving you to take over his place within the Animus. And when we say 'you' we mean you. Yes, you. You reading this. You. Present day really will be present day too, and you'll have a place at Abstergo Entertainment where you'll become a part of the conspiracy that's been escalating since the first Assassin's Creed game. In essence, that means no more Desmond-type character (how that will affect the whole ancestry angle, we don't know) and no more doom-laden prophecies pointing towards the end of the world in December 2012. You may have noticed that December passed by without the planet exploding in a big fiery ball.

During Ubisoft's presentation, there's also a brief mention of multiplayer and its extension of the single-player campaign's “pirate fantasy”, with new maps, new modes and a new cast of characters. And that's all Ubisoft has to say on multiplayer for now.

Promising a “seamless open-world” and “the most varied world to explore” according to Creative Director, Jean Guesdon (a six year Assassin's Creed veteran), Assassin's Creed IV has to potential to deliver on Ubisoft's goal to create a “fresh, new experience”. On paper, it looks to be business as usual for the franchise, but once again, the scale of the ambition at work here is hard to ignore. With development starting back in summer 2011 and almost every Ubi studio pooling its resources into Black Flag, it's looking ship shape and Bristol fashion.

Concluding with a gameplay trailer that Guesdon assures us hasn't been photoshopped or tampered with in any way, we have to admit that Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is certainly looking like there's clearly life in the old dog yet. With the biggest AC world yet, vast oceans to sail, more advanced Naval Warfare, a new hero and pirates by the boatload, we're looking forward to plundering Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag's treasures in fall 2013.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is out on October 29th in North America and November 1st in Europe on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.

  • This all sounds really exciting and I'm totally looking forward to it! But the last part about modern day worries me with "you" being in focus, its not first person like the god awful side-missions from Revelation, is it?
  • Sounds good so far, looking forward to hearing more in the coming months.
  • I am just confused as to why this assassins creed is traveling backward in time instead of forward just like all the other 4 games have (not including the first one)
  • So, Ubisoft are looking to "ditch" the two character story setup and instead concentrate on the historical stoylines now. I think that's a great move and Im really looking forward to the game.
  • i was worried about the no desmond-ish character too. They left the story open in AC3 for someone like that.. and there isn't gonna be one? it does sound awesome over all though. Should be a great setting! Will be interesting to see if it covers some of the AC3 story too.
  • @5 There will be a story outside of the animus, just seems that it'll be told through cutscenes rather than playing it out.
  • This could be the pirate/adventure game I've always wanted! Certainly has got me interested after seeing these videos. My only gripe is after playing AC3 I was looking forward to possibly seeing the introduction to the EVE bloodline and maybe some female assassins like Liberation. Hope they don't leave it as so many questions need answering.
  • This all sounds fine and dandy but I don't see myself purchasing another Assassin's Creed game Day 1. Besides I haven't played part 3 and will only buy that once a complete edition is made.
  • I am really hoping for unique historical pirates, the really cut throat kind as well.
  • Get rid of the Multiplayer and it's sold to me!
  • @4: AC isn't about moving forward in periods but going to different periods in time. They might as well have gone back to ancient Rome instead of going to the renaissance.
  • @10: I actually find the AC multiplayer kind of fun... And this is coming from an anti-multiplayer gamer.
  • @10 - I agree with you, except the idea of seamless online naval battles/ boardings could be pretty hawt!
  • Ubi, we don't want "the most varied AC yet" or any other crappy superlatives, "adding variety" was what made ACIII "the glitchiest, least tested and most poorly received AC yet". Just go back to the Ezio games and try to match their quality or STFU.
  • This is actually the eighth in the series. 1. AC, 2. AC: Bloodlines on PSP, 3,4,5. AC II trilogy, 6,7. ACIII & Liberation, 8. ACIV
  • My interest in this series ended with Revelations. Now it's like FIFA - nothing changes but the title number with a couple of new features.
  • Sounds really good, though kind of thought the new person in modern days would be the one that mentioned hacking the animus in III. I just wonder why they are interested in him and if you get to find another apple or such. @16 one big difference is called character and plot storyline and it is always different, new and great with the AC games, and story is always the best reason to be playing a game, that and if it ain't broke. Even though adding the ship stuff was really cool and they have varied the side missions of going through tombs and abandoned building over all through the series to keep it fresh and interesting.
  • I stopped enjoying AC right after brotherhood. Loved them all up until Revelations and now I feel like Ubisoft is doing a very fatal mistake. They're not giving the time for it's series to bloom into a beloved past game just to come back with a bigger one in the future. All of them are the same and it's ruining it's own franchise. :| They literally just got done with AC3 just a few months back and now it's already showing for another one. Why this game doesn't look bad and I like the whole pirate thing, to me it would sell better if it wasn't an Assassin's Creed game.
  • @15 If you really want to get technical, it's the ninth since there was that godawful Altair's Chronicles game on the Nintendo DS which I think was later ported to tablets and iphones and whatnot in an attempt to fool people into thinking they could have a genuine AC experience on their smart phones. In all seriousness, the trailer for AC 4 looks promising and hopefully Ubisoft will learn to focus less on marketing and more on development.
  • For the love of gmaing, please.. don't ruin the franchise.
  • Why can't we customize or own Assassin, like Skyrim. Much better than this guy.
  • Mark my words, this game will be a rancid disappointment, just like AC3.
  • Take out the multiplayer, focus on a heavily singleplayer story and it may be as good as AC2 was.
  • @21 Probably because that would go against the entire basis of the Assassins Creed games and be incredibly idiotic. It can also make it much harder to do a story based game.
  • IS this defiantly A4 or could it be like Brotherhood and Revelations tagged on to 2, this could be tagged on to 3. Just seams weird having the numerical squeal a chronological prequel
  • 10 games actually, there was an Ezio game for the DS.
  • whatever the guys say,I'm looking forward to playing the epic singleplayer,can‘t wait for it!!
  • You know, if this game was called "Pirates: The Video Game" or some name to do with pirates, I think it would be awesome. However, they called it Assassins' Creed. They also said in this preview that the ship was your main ticket to doing things in AC 4. Do you all remember when Assassins Creed games were about, oh I don't know, ASSASSINATING people and not sailing ships and micromanaging money and growing weed in the forests of colonial America (or whatever the hell they did over there, I honestly didn't care for that part of AC 3)? Perhaps they ought to go back to those times of AC 2 and... well just AC2 really after this game, but perhaps take a 3 year hiatus at least after this game as well. I'll play this, but I will definitely be renting it from Gamefly, and if I can't plat it because I need more time to do MP trophies than their trial allows for, I don't really care.
  • Looking badass so far!
  • I heard from so many people how great Assassin Creed was so I bought the trilogy. I played them and was disappointed with the gameplay and everything else. I felt the game was horrible and could have been better. I'm not going to buy anymore of these games.
  • Im looking forward to it
  • Seems nice, some time left to get platinum on AC3 then =)
  • @7 Monkey Island. I thought revelations was quit good more so a finish to the story. AC3 I didn't like (mostly because of Conor). Also why pirates?
  • I enjoyed Ac3. Hope this one is good too.
  • @33 cause the built a cool ship mini game in ac3. Desmond parts always felt lower quality than animus parts so will be good to see them try something different in present day. By going back to gramps ubi can sell us many tales. His son going to the dark side. Three way team-up from gramps to Conner. How do you know if you are a pirate?
  • This game is going to be SO epic!
  • What did everyone dislike about Connor? Native Haters!
  • @28 Assassin's Creed 3 IS about assassinating Templars. All of the stuff you mentioned is optional. If I recall correctly, the story is fully based on hunting and killing Templars (and sometimes helping the patriots). The Naval Battles, Hunting System, Trading System, etc. are there to make the world more believable. The story introduces them, then leaves it to you to descide if you want to do them. I don't see anything wrong with that.
  • Is it just me or do the graphics look fucking pretty?! Can't wait to just look around at the beauty of it all. I've platinum'd every AC that was possible this one looks better than 3 :)
  • Hey guys sorry for dbl post buy I HAVE A ?!!!!! Where r we going to be when we touch land to fix our ship and crew?? Help me out mates
  • I really enjoyed ac3, but this setting is also great too.
  • 10 bucks says we get to screw Anne Bonny...
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