One of this fall’s most highly anticipated games is the latest Assassin’s Creed tale from Ubisoft, Black Flag. Don’t go thinking this is just a typical assassin tale, though. Unlike the previous games in the series, Black Flag gives you a huge list of things you can do, on top of hunting down and killing targets. The Ubisoft Singapore team, veterans with the Assassin’s Creed brand, have put together an open world larger than any game before it – roughly 60 times bigger than Assassin’s Creed III’s world. That is a HUGE expansion, to say the least.
The story focuses on Edward Kenway, an assassin who dabbles quite a bit in the pirating life. He deals with the likes of Blackbeard and other infamous characters as he sets out to overtake rival ships, hunt potential targets, and sail the high seas aboard his ship, the Jackdaw.
Ubisoft recently showed off a demo featuring the treasure hunt, one of the more attractive modes in the game. You start out by finding the map, which is located on a small desert island, where some poor sap ended up starving to death after being stranded. Once you acquire it, you mark the location and set sail. The game plays out mostly in real-time, so you experience every bit of pirating joy, from the spectacular ship battles to taking care of malicious crew members that may have a mutiny in mind. You can also take part in a number of side activities, including deep sea diving for buried gold – while stabbing a few sharks in the process – and singing along with your mates.
Once you get to the island in question – which is clearly marked a “restricted area” because of the guards around it – you’ll eventually work your way to the “X” point – because “X” does mark the spot. Along the way, you’ll have different options available, in the usual Assassin mode. Dare you take on all the guards in an epic battle, or do you prefer the stealth approach, hiding in bushes and picking off the guards one by one? How you play is up to you, and it’s great to see Ubisoft keep this freedom of choice within the series.
From there, you can work your way up to a higher point in the map, climbing trees and shimmying along ledges, while dealing with guards that get in your way – either quietly with a quick stab or through a sword fight that ends with Edward kicking them off the ledge.
After you get to the treasure point, you’ll see that there are some secondary missions that come into play, whether it’s retrieving extra loot for your pockets or saving a pair of hostages that have been captured. Rescuing them is actually a good idea, as that means a couple more stable hands joining your crew. As before, you have options on how to deal with the guards, though our personal favorite was the one we saw in the demo – climbing atop a giant mast and performing a dive attack, hand blades drawn, to finish them off.
Following the rescue, Edward is able to locate the treasure, which is actually an upgraded blueprint that will allow him to make the Jackdaw even better. You’ll find bits and pieces of these throughout the world, and though they don’t compare to a large stack of gold, they offer a fair share of value as you progress further into the game.
This island we saw in the demo is just a small part of Assassin’s Creed IV’s brilliant world. There are three major cities you can cross through – Nassau, Kingston and Havana – along with smaller areas to visit and plunder however you see fit. Everything plays out in real time as well, whether you’re sailing on a ship or hopping off looking to recruit new allies – or take down some scurvy scalawags with your cutlass. The fact you can explore this world however you wish – whether you get into trouble with side missions or stick with the main story – gives this part of the Assassin’s Creed franchise plenty of appeal.
Just be warned – there will be opposition at nearly every turn. For instance, some islands will have forts that need to be taken down before you can get closer to look for treasure. That’s a cinch with your Jackdaw, as you can pull out the cannons and target them with ease. This also ties in with the return of naval combat, as you can engage with enemies on the high seas, then swoop in and finish off the captain with a final blow. Not everyone will fall easily to your blade, but the goods you’re after are worth fighting for.
We’ll have more strategies about everything you can do in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in the weeks ahead.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag releases on October 29th for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC, and later in the year for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.