Assassin’s Creed 4 Preview: Same Assassins, Cooler Boats
We learned a few other things about the naval portion of Assassin’s Creed 4 after the battle was fought. For one, there are ships in view pretty much all the time, it seems, and they might even engage one another in battle, depending on their faction allegiances. You’ll be able to join in the fighting if you so choose, or pick off the winner in its weakened state. Weather will also play a factor — squalls and water spouts will often pop up, and you can use the latter (which are basically sea tornadoes) as weapons if you can manage to effectively draw an enemy into them, and then not die in the process.
After finishing up with his own battle, Kenway sailed toward a small sand bar that was home of a shipwreck, hopped off the side of the boat, and swam over to the patch of land. There, he found the body of another pirate — Ubisoft said you’ll sometimes find live pirates stranded like this, and you might even be able to recruit them — and looted it to discover a treasure map. Pirateness got kicked into overdrive at this point.
With the map in hand, Kenway was able to sail to the island it identified, but searching out the actual location required some exploration. The map itself included some visual cues based on landmarks, much like the treasure maps of Red Dead Redemption, and required Kenway to find and climb some ruins. Along the way, he sneaked through bushes, as Connor does in Assassin’s Creed 3, to assassinate some Navy soldiers who’d taken up residence there, and managed to save some new pirates that he recruited to the Jackdaw. All of this put an emphasis on stealth, and apparently Ubisoft is hoping to put a greater emphasis on the sneaky bits in Assassin’s Creed 4 than what appeared in Assassin’s Creed 3. Also returning are the working systems from the latter, like the ability to free-run through treetops. We also saw Kenway utilize a blow gun to fire poison darts at guards. In the demonstration, he used a “berserk” dart to cause a guard to go crazy and attack his friends.
If there’s anything that’s particularly striking about Assassin’s Creed 4, it’s how beautiful the game is. The tropical setting is a great one for the sweeping vistas and open world the game is known for, and lush jungles, blue skies and shimmering water greeted the player from every direction. At one point in the demo, Kenway scaled the side of a narrow cliff and looked down over a lagoon that was, frankly, gorgeous. Assassin’s Creed has always been a visually interesting franchise, but AC4′s move into the Caribbean sets it far apart from earlier titles in the franchise.
While exploration is obviously a big part of Assassin’s Creed, what you find in the game world will no longer be an experience you keep to yourself. As Kenway re-boarded the Jackdaw and sailed around some more, discovering new locations, the developer explained that players will be able to share that information with friends. The treasure map you discovered, for example: you can clue in your buddies so they can find it as well. And should you discover the stomping (finning?) grounds of a whale pod, as Kenway did during our demo, you can share map information like that, as well. We can also expect a robust fast-travel system like what was seen in Assassin’s Creed 3; basically, if you’ve been there and you’ve done the usual high-point sync routine, you can fast-travel there.
It also seems that Ubisoft has put out a mandate with its future games that all need some sort of second-screen experience. In the case of AC4, an Android tablet was used to display map information in real time as Kenway moved between Caribbean islands. It seems we can expect even more functionality than that, but at the very least, not having to pop open a menu will give mobile device users a nice bit of convenience.
So while the demo was somewhat short and included no actual gameplay on our part, as is usually the case at Assassin’s Creed events at E3, I remain cautiously optimistic. As is the case in just about every AC game, AC4 looks to take steps forward — baby though they may be. Its setting is an exciting one, the emphasis on piracy looks to be a fun system to play with, and the sheer fluid motion between islands, ships, swimming and each areas’s various activities makes for a great feeling of freedom.
But as Assassin’s Creed 3 demonstrated, we won’t know just how well the game plays until later this year, and while these systems might seem fun on the surface, it’s hard to say just how engaging they’ll all be long-term.