The pirate’s life is not for everyone. Pillaging, looting, sailing and swigging rum day in and day out takes a special breed of person – one who is is content with chaos, debauchery, and most importantly not afraid of scurvy. An assassin certainly seems to be the exact opposite of the pirate, stealth, subtlety and tact are the name of their game. How then, will these two seemingly remarkably different walks of life meld together within Asssassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag? From what I have seen so far – it seems that Ubisoft is content with simply not answering this question.
In everything that has been shown relating to AC4, it seems that the series is continuing further away from the roots of the franchise. In many ways, AC4 looks almost as if it should be treated more as a spin-off title than a continuation of the original series. Explosions, naval warfare, and whaling are hardly par for the course of an assassin’s life, and while the Assassin’s Creed franchise has always required some heavy suspension of disbelief, Black Flag is shaping up to be a ship of a completely different color.
The newest trailer for Assassin’s Creed 4, ‘A Pirate’s Life on the High Seas’, serves as further proof of the departure from the series’ hallmark ‘assassination-based’ gameplay. In the trailer (which can be viewed below), we are treated to a view of Caribbean life in 1715 – filled with beach drinking, knife throwing, and poop-deck swabbing. As the video progresses, the focus shifts to the hardships of battle on the high seas. Cannons blast at ships and swords are drawn, and while the combat shown in the trailer is reminiscent of the signature assassin style, it feels vaguely out of place when compared to the rest of the trailer.
Ubisoft, it seems, is being pulled in two different directions with Black Flag. Gameplay is now more focused on naval warfare, and while the initial implementation of ship-based combat in AC3 left many gamers wanting more, it is hard to justify this as a main feature in a game that carries the Assassin’s Creed moniker. Sure, protagonist Edward Kenway is shown donning the signature hood of the Assassins, and he moves with their signature grace and panache – but it is hard to look at the markedly different focus of the game without scratching your head.
Perhaps taking a different approach to the Black Flag is just what the series needs – in many ways it looks to keep the Assassin’s Creed series as a whole fresh – but it just doesn’t seem right. Everything that has been shown of Black Flag makes the game feel like it will stand far outside of the Assassin’s Creed bubble. The accusation may seem baseless considering that the title is still relatively far from release, but Black Flag looks to be more of a cash-in based off of the series name than anything.
This is not to say that it won’t be a great game – love them or hate them, the Assassin’s Creed series has always provided for more than a few enjoyable hours – but rather that Ubisoft is banking off of the established AC name instead of pushing what could make for an incredible IP. Pirate-themed games have been largely absent from the gaming world for some time and with everything that Black Flag aims to do, it has the potential to provide a remarkable sandbox experience. Why then shoehorn it into the Assassin’s Creed world?
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