The next chapter of Ubisoft’s popular adventure series Assassin’s Creed is embracing the pirate’s life.
The publisher confirmed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, launching on Oct. 29 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii U. A version for Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 is also in development.
Black Flag will focus on the “golden age of piracy,” as players explore the Caribbean as a buccaneer during the 18th century.
“This was a really fantastic time period, and what we want to do is tell the mature version of it,” says game director Ashraf Ismail.
Black Flag follows the exploits of Edward Kenway, the grandfather of Assassin’s Creed III hero Connor, who comes from a poor family to embrace the riches the pirate life offers. Ismail says Edward also serves as the Kenway family’s gateway into the larger battle between the lineage of assassins and Templars fighting for world domination.
“He’s very selfish, but the Assassin’s Creed is a selfless ideology,” says Ismail. “The story is really this inner turmoil he has figuring out who he’s really like.”
The big change in Black Flag is an expanded push toward naval combat, first introduced in Assassin’s Creed III last year. Players will have their own pirate crew and ship, the Jackdaw, to navigate around the Caribbean in search of enemy ships and islands. Cities such as Havana, Kingston, Jamaica and Nassau will feature prominently.
“This is really one of the biggest worlds we’ve built in Assassin’s Creed,” says Ismail.
The action will be “seamless,” Ismail describes, as players can steer their ship, hop off to explore a location, then return with little interruption. This also applies to boarding enemy vessels, as players must weaken the ship before making their moves to take over. Players can upgrade the Jackdaw over the course of the adventure, bolstering its defenses and adding items such as cannons. “It’s your Millennium Falcon,” he says.
Black Flag will add a fresh twist to action, taking players underwater for the first time. “Players can explore (and) find treasure,” says Ismail. “There’s going to be a lot of challenge down there.”
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been a massive hit for Ubisoft since its arrival in 2007. The publisher has sold more than 55 million copies to date. The most recent release of Assassin’s Creed III has shipped 12 million copies since its October launch.
The core elements of Assassin’s Creed such as free running and other land-based missions will still appear in Black Flag, and classic figures such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack will make cameos.
For the Ubisoft development team, Black Flag fulfills their longstanding wish to explore the swashbuckling lifestyle. “Pirates have been romanticized in media or any form of entertainment, because of Treasure Island (and) Disney,” says Ismail. “We see an opening to do a much more mature version, like the HBO version of pirates.”