Assassin’s Creed 4 Preview: Pirates, Sailing & Plunder
It was no surprise to anyone when Ubisoft announced another game in the Assassin’s Creed series earlier this year. The only really big question was where they would go with the story. As everyone knows, they picked pirates. On the first day of PAX East, I got to sit down and learn a little bit more about the next installment in the series.
In a small meeting room, I was introduced to Darby McDevitt, the lead writer for Assassin’s Creed 4. McDevitt talked up some of the big things AC4 brings to the table, including the vast amounts of historical research the team puts into the Assassin’s Creed games. He even referred to AC4 as the first pirate-themed fully open-world (and open-sea) game. One of the most interesting points he brought up was that AC4 will include seamless transitions from land to sea.
McDevitt also offered up some further information on the setting. The game is set in the early 18th century in the Caribbean. It sets out to tell a story set in the ‘Golden Age of Piracy,’ and even includes a number of pirates that actually existed. As we’ve seen in the trailer, Blackbeard makes an appearance, and McDevitt says that the game will tell the “true story” of real-life pirates. McDevitt said that setting AC4 in the age of piracy almost “wrote itself,” as the team had always wanted to do a story about the Kenway family.
If you’re a Game Front regular, you’ll know that the character of Connor underwhelmed us. AC4′s main character, Edward Kenway, is set to do just the opposite. Rather than create another character with Connor’s naivety, Ubisoft has made Edward the epitome of a pirate. He’s brash, reckless, and mostly out for himself. He’s also the man at the head of his very own crew of pirates, which you get to make your own.
Edward will begin the game with his ship, the Jackdaw, and a crew. As you explore the Caribbean, you’ll gather treasure and plunder other vessels (more on that in a moment) for the coin you need to upgrade your ship and add members to your crew. Not only can find treasure through exploration and piracy, AC4 will bring underwater exploration to the game. Through the acquisition of diving bells, Edward will be able to plumb the briny depths for hidden treasure.
The other system that has occupied a lot of time in development is boarding. Ship-to-ship combat is a big part of AC4, and the team wanted to make it as robust as possible. Even if you’re working a ship over with your cannon, its valuable cargo isn’t yours until you’ve boarded and cleared the vessel. Want to drop planks and charge into battle? You can do that. Want to climb into the rigging, swing across and attack from above? Totally doable. Want to drop into the water, swim around the enemy ship, sneak aboard, and stealthily deal with her crew? You can do that, too.
All of this treasure will be badly needed, as the AC4 team has taken advantage of the naval component of the game to introduce something you haven’t seen in an Assassin’s Creed game before: unbeatable enemies. At least early in the game, there will be ships that Edward won’t be able to defeat in the Jackdaw. One of these is the Man O’ War, which will sport something in the neighborhood of 100 cannon. To be able to access the areas that these massive ships guard, you’ll have to upgrade your ship and your crew to defeat them.
McDevitt also answered one big question that fans of the series had about AC4: What about Desmond? Well, Desmond is no longer the main character of the present-day segments in AC4. Instead, you will play as an employee of Abstergo who ends up in the Animus, although details on this have yet to be revealed.
McDevitt also emphasized how important the story was to AC4, and the series in general. He also said that a lot of effort had gone into making the missions in AC4 more “open-ended.” That’s not to say that AC4 won’t have a coherent story, it just means that you’ll be able to approach missions in your own way, and that there will be multiple options to complete them.
Assassin’s Creed 4 is largely still a mystery, especially when it comes to gameplay. The small amount of gameplay we were shown was basically indistinguishable from any of the trailers you might see on YouTube. Still, the commitment the team has to making a historically accurate game is evident, and the expansions on the naval formula coupled with a pirate setting could help fans of the series get excited about the next installment in the franchise. Assassin’s Creed 4 will be launching on October 29, 2013. Until then, you should probably brush up on your pirate talk.