A little puzzled about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag [Preview]

Joel Couture
Senior Editor
 
April 2nd, 2013

Having never played an Assassin’s Creed game before in my life, walking into the video for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was a bit intimidating. The games have always interested me, but I have trouble just jumping into a series after it’s been going for a while. I’m short of spare time, so having to play four or five games just to get caught up on the story enough to play the new ones just isn’t an option for me. I may try to choke my pride down and jump in, though, as the new game sounds pretty cool.

The nautical combat of Assassin’s Creed III must have really resonated with people, as the game has gone far off into that direction. The main focus is on living the life of a pirate, of sailing around the islands of the Caribbean looking for loot (despite whether it’s already owned by someone else or not). Sounds like an interesting idea, but how does one assassinate someone on a boat?

The video makes the game’s focus seem to be on building a crew and fighting against other ships out at sea. It didn’t go into much detail about how you would gather that crew, but from its importance I would assume that finding people to join you is an important mechanic. I love games where I can optimize large crews of characters, whether NPCs or playable ones, so I’m very curious how this mechanic is going to work. I don’t have a problem treating people like Pokemon, so if there’s interesting crew members to collect all over the islands I can see myself getting obsessed with that.

Having not played the other games I haven’t tried the naval battles, but the one in the video looked ridiculous. The player seemed to be squaring off against an enemy ship that had a hundred canons on it, something that is just the right kind of outlandish for a video but something that really made me wonder how it would work in-game. If I have a hundred shots coming at me all at once, how many hits can my ship take? Can they all fire at the same time? Am I supposed to sneak up on this ship so I don’t get hit? I really want to know more about how the ship mechanics would work in this situation, as I wonder how many aspects are automated and how many are player controlled. It could mean the difference between interesting combat and fighting regular dudes, but on a boat.

Other additions seem to be diving for treasure and dealing with super friendly sharks in the waters. I’m assuming that the treasure gathering is what will allow you to build a better crew or improve your ship, so it could be fun. I’m wondering how much I’ll be able to use that wildlife on enemy characters in the game, as I’d want to know if I could toss someone off a ship and have him get eaten by a whale or something. Those whales should provide for some interesting situations with the ship as well.

Blackbeard was heavily featured in the trailer, and it touted that there were many interesting historical figures from the period that would show up. Again, it’s something that could be interesting since I don’t know a lot of the period’s history, so it’s a nice little addition. Learning a little history while stabbing dudes never hurt anyone.

The only thing that doesn’t really jive for me, though, is why this is an Assassin’s Creed game. Everything the game describes sounds more like it would be a really good pirate game set in the time period, but that it contains nothing that has to do with being an assassin. I just don’t see there being a huge market for a nautical assassin, unless we’re talking something like a mercenary. Assassins sneak into places, kill their targets, and get out without being noticed, and that’s not really something you’re doing while swinging from a rope onto an enemy boat. The game has lots of neat ideas under its hood, but it really has nothing to do with the assassin part in the title.

I can see that they put it there for the name recognition, hoping that people would identify with the brand name and buy the game when they might not have otherwise, but it feels like a tripping point for me. I’m curious and I do want to play it, but I just really don’t know how or why this will fit in the series. Given that trailers are meant to showcase what is new and exciting, though, they could just be focusing on the aspects above, so who knows. Either way, we’ll know somewhere in the coming months.

META

A horror-obsessed gamer, Joel is still spending his days looking for something to scare himself as much as Fatal Frame. Even so, he has ridiculous action games and obscure gems to keep him happy in the meantime. A self-proclaimed aficionado of terrible retro games, he's always looking for a rotten game he hasn't played yet, and may be willing to exchange information for candy.

Specialty: Horror