Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag – Too soon?
I’m sure you like I were wrapped up in yesterday’s excitement at the leaked reveal trailer for the newest title in Ubisoft’s hit franchise Assassin’s Creed. The fourth (or, more accurately, sixth) game is titled Black Flag, and will follow a new protagonist Edward Kenway on a romp around the eighteenth century Caribbean fighting all sorts of dastardly pirates and corrupt bureaucratic tradesmen and merchants. Who Kenway chooses to off is not really the main interest of this article; instead I simply ask you this – is it too soon?
After the mixed response to the last hidden-blade wielding incarnation to the series in the form of Assassin’s Creed 3 developers would take heed to look at the market offerings of other annual release titles before stepping fully into the fray. AC3 was, at release, mildly frustrating at best, a relative smorgasbord of glitches and broken features which, albeit quite funny the first few times, certainly weren’t once you got stuck stabbing the same brick house in Boston for the thirteenth time, so taking a little longer to produce each title wouldn’t go amiss. Also technical difficulties forced Ubisoft to push back the release of the PC version to over a month after console release (a personal gripe but again not strictly relevant to this article). If we look at the Halo series for example, discounting both ODST (which was, to be fair, more of a glorified Reach beta invite) and CO-A each main game has a cycle of two to three years, plenty of time to polish and tone to perfection, and was anyone complaining about getting stuck in every third wall in Halo 4? Even the king of the yearly release slot Call of Duty has two years to produce their offerings between both Treyarch and Infinity Ward, although the overall quality of all aforementioned games is not necessarily indicative of development time – they just generally work better and have less bugs. A demo, more QA testing, and extra hype would all benefit Black Flag – gamers have shown time and again that we can be patient for a new release, just so long as it isn’t Duke Nukem Forever. A single year often isn’t adequate to produce a blockbusting title, especially a single player one, and I for one can vouch that AC III was painfully short in comparison to previous games.
All points on gameplay and features are mute at this juncture as it was only a cinematic trailer, but allow me to conceptualise, if you will. The game will probably feature a modified AC3 engine (and the mixed reactions that accompany it) but with more freedom and flexibility than before. There has also been speculation that this title was developed in parallel with Assassin’s Creed III, which may in fact prove true, with resources mysteriously disappearing from titles such as Rainbow Six, who seem to have gone dark so to speak. All we know so far is that the game exists and is slated to release on October 29th for all systems including next-gen consoles (yet another reason to have waited a little longer, tut tut). So what can the dev team do to improve the game from the previous titles?
To improve the new we must look to the old! For one, please don’t let Eddie be an all supreme death machine. The Kenway from AC III cut through redcoats like butter; nothing could stop this one man fighting machine (okay, aside from uber-frustrating staggering explosive barrels). Whereas Ezio and Altair had to at least employ a modicum of stealth or planning, Connor could simply waltz up to the nearest Templar convention and initiate his whirlwind killing spree. Again, maybe fun the first few times, but it wears off quickly. Also, cut the Desmond nonsense. I’m glad that sub plot’s gone, and there’s at least one detail myself and Dave can agree on; I hope the Animus can melt and burn in its own special hell. Seriously no more dragging me away when I’m getting into things! Bring back the glyphs though. They were cool. Finally, don’t go crazy with subplots and sidequests. Some are fine, but when I check my map to see I have seven places to deliver fish, three new assassination missions, a district defence or whatever that craziness from Revelations was and a carrier pigeon from my buddies in Europe, you know you need to cut down some. Less is more, if I didn’t have a bagillion extra things to do I might get around to doing some of them.
So anyway, here’s to me hoping Black Flag isn’t the flop III was, and I get to sleep with more promiscuous women! Honestly this was half a test article to get a feel for the inner workings of the site, we hope to have things up and running in the next few weeks. Head on over to the forums and register your username and join the conversation!