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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Preview – A Cut Above The Rest

by on May 15, 2013   Twitter   Google+  

When Ubisoft released the original Assassin’s Creed way back in November of 2007, they took a serious gamble on debuting a new IP in a gaming market dominated by familiar franchises. Luckily for them, this calculated risk paid off and everyone saw immense potential for the series moving forward. In the years that followed, every Assassin’s Creed sequel has either been praised for it's positive breakthroughs or criticized for it's negative setbacks. In a nutshell, these issues had to be expected solely because of Ubisoft's desire to maintain a standard without jeopardizing the integrity of the whole franchise.

With Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag slated to hit stores this October, I had a chance to see some behind closed doors footage from the game during a press only event.Ubisoft has made a valiant effort to listen to the fans this time around, a move that is slowly making this one of the most ambitious, yet engaging entries in the series yet. For this particular preview, I'm going to focus on the improvements made in regards to storytelling, gameplay, and the overall setting of the game. So without further ado, here is my in-depth analysis on why Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is undeniably a cut above the rest.

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Story

The premise of Black Flag revolves around the charming, yet lethal British protagonist by the name of Edward Kenway. Acting as an infamous pirate, privateer, and member of the Assassin order, Edward is the father of Haytham Kenway and the grandfather of Connor from Assassin’s Creed III. While Edward is a happily married man, he often feels his life doesn’t quite measure up to the demanding expectations set forth by carrying his family name. As a result of his desire to be legendary, he embarks on a quest to restore his dignity and gain the approval of every accomplished individual in his immediate family. Of course, his pirate lifestyle plays heavily into how he undergoes this transformation and will ultimately yield both positive and negative results by the time he completes his journey.

After hearing only a brief overview of the game’s narrative, I can already conclude that Assassin's Creed IV will have a truly gripping plotline with at least one compelling aspect to push it beyond previous entries in the series. The decision to give Edward a wife is a dynamic subplot device that if used effectively could lead to some interesting results. Kenway is notoriously captivating and it’s a given that he will engage in several scandalous affairs as he fully embraces a lifestyle filled with debauchery and violence.

Knowing this, you can also predict that his actions could end up endangering or even killing his wife and as a result set him down a path of destruction. We must remember that in Assassin's Creed III, Haytham Kenway was an antagonist and the motivations behind his actions were never fully explained. Even if this concept isn't elaborated on further, the question of just how far Edward would go to achieve success remains an intriguing one. Would he be willing to risk the life of the woman he loves just to get a piece of redemption? These questions and more will be answered once the game hits stores this fall.

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Gameplay

Building off the success of naval battles in Assassin's Creed III, Ubisoft decided to up the ante on this concept for Black Flag. Players will now be able to access their ships at anytime and upgrade them accordingly as they progress through the game. Naval battles will also be slightly more intensified now because the player will be able to jump aboard enemy ships to both attack and loot their adversaries to their hearts content.

One ship that I distinctly remember seeing in the preview was a massive battle ship called the Minotaur. This ship is not only a significant part of history but it also proves to be the most challenging to encounter primarily because of the 100 canons that are attached to it. In addition to the ship upgrade options mentioned above, the player also has the ability to build up their crew members over time. These new levels of customization offer an added incentive to keep people engaged and entertained while playing the game.

On the combat side of things, Assassin's Creed IV will be the one AC game that will finally give fans what they have been waiting for. There will be a full-fledged return to stealth attacks, free-aiming, and the ability to duel wield with both guns and swords at the same time. If this all still doesn't sound exciting, the creative team have also managed to create an underwater element to the game in which you can now discover numerous treasure chests and find yourself face-to-face with various sea creatures.

As a means of survival, you'll be tasked with hunting several types of animals for your source of food, including but not only limited to whales. While this notion may not receive a popular vote from P.E.T.A. reps, it does ultimately make the game more realistic in the sense that you have to make full use of the everyday resources around you to survive. Adding both the new ship customization options and the improved combat aesthetics offer a killer one-two punch that fans can appreciate and dig themselves into. While it's not yet certain what the limitations are with these new features, we do expect to learn more about how advanced they truly are soon enough.

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Setting

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag takes place between the bustling 1650s and goes all the way through to the 1730s. This particular period of time in American history is often referred to as The Golden Age of Piracy because of three separate piracy related events that took place in that time span. While the three main cities detailed in the game are Havana, Kingston, and Nassau, there are also roughly 50 separate locations to explore along the lines of plantations, smugglers dens, and mysterious Mayan ruins. Ubisoft's goal from the very beginning was to give this game a more explorative, open world type of feel and so far they are nailing this concept down perfectly.

In addition to the various destination spots, several key historical supporting characters will play a part in Edward's story. This was already alluded to in the first reveal trailer for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag which features the famous pirate Blackbeard narrating. While it is still unclear of who all will be represented in the game, knowing how Ubisoft has handled previous characters in the series gives me a great sense of confidence that they will deliver some truly memorable performances from one character to the next.

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On the surface, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is already shaping up to be a phenomenal entry in the series. With a rich storyline, revamped gameplay features, and an immersive setting it's hard to argue that Ubisoft isn't putting their all into this one. If you're a new or longtime fan of the franchise, then you absolutely should keep this game on your radar. We will be checking out this game further at E3 and will be publishing our updated impressions shortly thereafter. In the meantime, feel free to let us know your thoughts on the game and this preview in the comments section below.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag releases on October 29th in North America and on November 1st in Europe for the PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox 360. A PlayStation 4 version will be released at a later day.

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