This August Gamescom gave us our first hands on time with Assassins Creed IV, Black Flag. Moving away from the American west theme of the last title, Black Flag follows the story of sailor, pirate and assassin Captain Edward Kenway. Join us now as we set sail on this latest adventure and take a look at what Assassins Creed IV, Black Flag has to offer.
Quite fittingly our mission started on the high seas. Taking control of Edward’s ship and crew we were challenged to first take down the various defenses surrounding a fort, before swimming to shore to assassinate our target. As fans will know, in Assassins Creed 3 many of the nautical missions took place entirely independently from any land based action leading to the gameplay sometimes feeling a little disjointed. The fact that this time the nautical combat was integrated with the on land assassination was a refreshing change, and made the mission feel much more rounded.
Though the nautical combat followed a similar format to that used in AC3, there were a few subtle differences which helped to tune it up for the adventures ahead. The aiming system of the ships cannons has now been altered to now take into account the precise angle of your attack. As opposed to just lining up your ship and firing in the rough direction of the enemy, it is now possible to see how the precise arc of your cannons will affect your shot. This more accurate focus was extremely useful as the mission required the destruction of targets both on land and at sea to take down the forts defenses. The front guns also appeared to offer a more accurate aim contributing to a much less frustrating experience. If taking the helm isn’t your thing Edward was also able to put aside the wheel and take control of fixed side guns to take out enemies on the decks of nearby ships, as well as swing across to enemy craft to confront his foes directly.
Keeping with the pirate theme instead of just sinking an enemy ship, Black Flag gives players the option to instead board it and fight the remaining crew for control. Once the enemy captain and crew have been subdued you can then make the choice to either use the captured ship for parts to repair your own ship, or to send it on to strengthen your fleet. This element of nautical strategy was a nice touch which added nicely to the new theme.
Standard combat felt familiar but with a pirate twist. Though signature weapons such as the hidden blades do make a return, your inventory also includes twin cutlasses and a blunderbuss style pistol. The combat itself was smooth but ruthless as ever, emphasizing the need to parry and block carefully rather than just randomly mashing buttons. Our brief time hunting down our target within the fort itself also made it clear that the restricted zones will be making a return giving players the chance to practice their stealth skills once more. Once again it looks as though players will have the choice weather to sneak or fight, the game rewarding stealth but not entirely preventing a more dramatic solution. The classic free running skills were also much in evidence, with plenty of climbable buildings and scenery to explore.
When it comes to the visuals it is clear that much of what worked in the last Assassins Creed game has been poured into Black Flag. With the same stunning attention to detail and intricate scenery to explore, if anything this game looks even better than ever before. This time extra attention has obviously gone into making the changeable oceans as realistic as possible. The rise and fall of Edwards Ship combined with the ocean spray and waves breaking over the deck make for an even more realistic experience, creating a dramatic atmosphere worthy of any good pirate adventure.
Though much of what we have seen so far focuses on the pirate theme rather than the life of an assassin, the demo did give us a glimpse at both sides of Edward. On board his ship our captain moved with all of bravado and swagger of a pirate, whereas on land the hood came up and the assassin side was shown. It appears that similarly to our last protagonist Connor, Edward has a clear dual identity with plenty of skills evident from both sides.
Overall Assassins Creed Black Flag looks very promising. The greater integration of the nautical missions with the on land combat was a refreshing change, making the mission we sampled more immersive and more enjoyable to play. I only hope that this time the in game action outweighs the lengthy cinematic cut scenes.
Assassins Creed IV, Black Flag is due for release November 1st 2014
PS3, XBox 360, Wii U, PS4 and XBoxOne
Until next time,