After the relative disappointment of Assassin’s Creed III, the last main line offering in Ubisoft’s parkour/assassination historical series, a lot is riding on this next adventure. Taking the naval elements from AC3 and running with them, going full bore pirate in the process, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag could either rejuvenate the franchise or send it further into gaming ignominy.
To start with, AC4 of course looks fantastic, with the Eurogamer demos harnessing the capabilities of the PS4 well. The seascapes in the naval demo are frankly glorious, and there’s no doubt that the full game will be very pretty indeed. As most of us know, however, looks aren’t everything. What of the gameplay? The aforementioned naval demo takes what worked well from AC3 and refines it, with ship movement feeling less haphazard and much more smooth.
The addition of underwater exploration is a nice expansion, with diving bells littered around the ocean providing a point of entry. Hopefully there will be plenty of such exploration to be had in the full title, as open world roaming was a major plus in the earlier entries in the series. Another nice touch is the way sharks will hunt you as you explore the ocean depths, attacking if you are too visible. There aren’t too many games out there where you can happily punch a shark in the face if it gets too close.
One of the other demos on offer, an assassination mission, will of course be very familiar to fans of the series. Not too much to report here, as the stealth and combat game mechanics seem largely unchanged. One slight concern from this gamer’s perspective is how similar this assassination mission is to the bulk of assassinations in AC3. Hopefully the full title will include a bit more variation, and offer more scope for different assassination styles. Also, at this stage little has been revealed of the storyline, so we’ll have to wait to see how the overarching narrative will progress following the events in AC3.
For now, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is essentially a re-tread of its predecessor, albeit with a shiny new paint job, shark fisticuffs and general pirate shenanigans. We can only wait, and hope that it puts a spring back into the step of the franchise.