E3: Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag First Impressions
June 13, 2013
The initial announcement of Assassin's Creed 4 left many fans cold. A sequel so soon after the previous game certainly carries the air of the "Call of Duty" franchise with it, and in addition the game is moving backwards from the time period of its predecessor. “Black Flag” will likely go on to be known as “The Pirate one” as this time around the lead character sails the high seas, looting and fighting other ships.
We were shown a 30-minute demo of the game which included a replay of the level that was shown during Sony's press conference at the start of the week. What is most interesting about the locale of the new game, which is mostly tropical islands when the player is on land, is how much different it is than the previous games. The British Colonies of "ACIII" had their own set of challenges in regard to players blending in to try and maintain secrecy. In the new game, for example, you might find yourself pursuing a target in the jungle and to stay hidden you can simple duck into some nearby foliage. The plants and environment in the jungle act the same as the various “blending in” techniques used when you're navigating a city.
The most interesting thing about the game is its seamless transitions. At any point a player can choose to run from the port they're staying in to their ship and take off into the ocean. In other games there would be a loading screen for this, but not in "Black Flag." Jumping on your ship and taking it off into the water is done with no loading screen and no hiccups in gameplay. It's a very flawless feature that will likely make the game stand out.
The next portion of the demo we were shown gave us a better example of how open the world in Assassin's Creed 4 really is. The game's setting of the Caribbean sea offers a lot of opportunities for many different things. Beyond just naval battles and assassin contracts, players can go exploring for buried treasure or even harpoon some whales (if you're so inclined). But believe us when we say that this full map on this game is absolutely huge. To further show off how interactive the game can be, players can use the companion app on their iOS, Android, or tablet devices to bring up the entire world map or even a treasure map should they find one.
Kenway's equipment is quite impressive for a single man. In addition to his dual wrist blades, the player carries two double-barrel pistols, two swords, and, a new weapon, a blow dart pipe. The blow dart pipe offers for some interesting gameplay. Instead of knocking out or killing enemies with the dart, it's laced with a poison of some kind that causes enemy combatants to “go mad.” When this happens they will attack their own crew members and allies, which will begin a large brawl and offer the player the opportunity to escape without being noticed.
Another new element added to the game comes in the form of the Jackdaw, your pirate ship. The creators of Assassin's Creed 4 refered to the Jackdaw as the “second main character” and that comparison makes a lot of sense. Players will spend a lot of time on the ship throughout play; but furthermore, they'll be able to upgrade the Jackdaw as they go along in the story. When upgrading the Jackdaw, you can choose one of four categories: ammunition, armor, weapons, and sails. Each of this will change a different aspect of your ship, make it impenetrable or lightning quick.
A pirate is nothing without his crew, which “Black Flag's” creators kept in mind for the game. Should you choose to engage another ship in a naval battle, there are four different outcomes. 1. You could lose. 2. You could win and recruit the sailors to join your crew. 3. You can capture the ship and make it your own, placing one of your men as its new captain. Or, 4. You can salvage the ships parts to upgrade your own ship. There are quite a few choices for the player in regard to what they can do in these situations.
The version we saw was far from complete as a few glitches and bugs were obvious during play, but "Black Flag" is certainly a title to get excited about. Using the ideas of the previous games and really applying them to the time period and the potential of a “pirate video game” appear to really be working. With tons of areas for players to explore and lots of potential for upgrading your character and ship, Assassin's Creed 4 really appears to be a different kind of game from previous installments, which is hopefully the kind of thing that can be said for all of the future entries.
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag will be available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC on October 29, and for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year. Check out the three videos that Ubisoft debuted for the game during E3 below!