Electronic Theatre Preview: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Following the official reveal of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag back in March of this year, Electronic Theatre has been privileged to see the videogame progressing over several months with various different builds highlighting the path this new iteration of the franchise will take. However, […]
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Electronic Theatre ImageFollowing the official reveal of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag back in March of this year, Electronic Theatre has been privileged to see the videogame progressing over several months with various different builds highlighting the path this new iteration of the franchise will take. However, the most recent outing has seen the action-orientated gameplay coming on leaps and bounds, which is never going to be a bad thing when playing an Assassin’s Creed videogame.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag eschews the central pseudo realism conceit of Assassin’s Creed III and instead opts for a fantasy experience. It doesn’t completely ignore that which has gone before – after all, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag casts the player as a relative of the protagonist from Assassin’s Creed III – however it does recognise what the fans liked and what they didn’t like. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag takes the bold step of listening to the fans and delivering on the Electronic Theatre Imagepotential that Assassin’s Creed II hinted at with its captivating storyline tied to a believable world what now seems like a lifetime ago. All of this in a year? Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag could well be something special.

Set in 1715, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag takes place in the West Indies – now known as the Caribbean – and casts the player as Edward Kenway. An entirely new hero, this Kenway starts bad and learns that his hard earned skills might well be used for good. As long as he gets rich in the process, of course. Edward was a British privateer working for the navy, but when the treaty of Versailles was signed he was out of work. As such, he follows the aggressive nature of Connor rather than the romantic Ezio; he is a man spurned by his state rather than loved by his city. Ubisoft tells Electronic Theatre Imageus that Edward has a change of heart during the videogame after stumbling into the Templar/Assassin war, however Electronic Theatre is yet to see this. What we have seen is gameplay, and that’s enough to make us want to see more.

The preview build began aboard the Jackdaw, Kenway’s upgradeable vessel on which the player will travel across Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s high seas. Guided into combat, the basics of firing arcs and different ammunition types are intuitive and – as would be expected – follow the same structure of the naval warfare in Assassin’s Creed III. Aligning your cannons with an enemy vessel and striking before they do the same to you is the most important asset in your arsenal but once having caused some damage the options available to you are frankly amazing. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is all about your freedom toElectronic Theatre Image make decisions, and here is a microcosm of just that: sink, capture or board the opponent’s vessel, all in real-time and all with different opportunities. Let go of the wheel, grab a rope and swing from your ship to theirs: in an instance you’ve moved from naval combat to close combat. No loading, no delays, no QTEs: a jump is all it takes to jump between gameplay styles.

Just as with the naval combat the brawling is an evolution of that which has gone before: smoother and more engrossing, but far from turning the world of Assassin’s Creed on its head. The more important statement from above is that of the loading delay; or rather, the lack of them. The whole of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is one simple load. The entire videogame streams as players move from any point of the world to another: no funnels, no drop in detail and no breaks in the action. This is exactly how modern videogames should be presented, and as Electronic Theatre goes in hunt of treasure – sailing to a nearby island, picking up a new recruit along the way, dismounting and finding a nearby structure to climb – the entire experience is Electronic Theatre Imageseamless. You may well think that this preview build was a slice of gameplay designed to give this impression and of course this could be the case, but given Electronic Theatre’s previous experiences with Assassin’s Creed preview builds we’re inclined to be less cynical.

There will be many detractors with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag; many gamers who were deterred by Assassin’s Creed III’s insistence that drip-feeding the parkour gameplay that the series had become famous for was exactly what the audience wanted. However, to ignore the further development of the series after one poorly paced experience would be nothing short of foolish. It’s simply amazing that Ubisoft has managed to return to a more streamlined action experience only a year after Assassin’s Creed III dramatic change of pace, and while coming back may have been inevitable the fact that the publisher decided to do it so quickly is only likely to further endear the truest of fans.

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