Ubisoft man tells us tales of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Ubisoft has taken the lid off its latest Assassin’s Creed game. Due out on PC and other platforms beginning October 29, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will send gamers into the heart of the Caribbean during the violent 18th Century. Gamers will live the life of a pirate, but with an Assassin’s twist.

This game won’t take a fantasy approach like Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films and games. Instead, real-life pirates and stories will be blended into this fiction, which has become a part of the Assassin’s prescription for success. Ashraf Ismail, game director for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, talks about what’s in store for gamers as they set sail to explore the seven seas in this exclusive interview.

Game On: Can you talk about the story and the new protagonist in Assassin’s Creed IV?

Ashraf: With Assassin’s Creed IV, we are telling the story of Captain Edward Kenway. He is the father of Haytham Kenway and the grandfather of Connor, so we’re telling the Kenway family saga.

Edward is a British guy coming from poor stock, so he had a poor upraising. He’s a character who is very charismatic and very charming, but at the same time because of the poor life he had he’s very selfish and very reckless. This leads him to become a sailor and eventually a pirate; the lure of glory and gold was something that he was attracted to. 

How does he become an Assassin?

At the beginning of the game, we meet him as a pirate and he eventually makes contact with the Assassins and trains to become one of them. This selfishness that he has in him conflicts with the Assassin’s Creed, and that conflict is part of the story we’re telling. It’s about this character who has this internal conflict, and the resolution of that conflict as it goes through this story.  

What’s the setting players will explore?

This game happens in the 18th Century Caribbean. We chose this because this time period was  very ripe for really amazing characters and really incredible events that actually happened. With this game we’re telling this story through the lens of pirate life. We’re not going for the cartoony cliché version of the pirate fantasy, either. We want to tell the gritty, very realistic version because it was really incredible; it was really over-the-top.

There were these incredible characters like Blackbeard, who is arguably one of the most famous pirates. But he was a guy that played an incredible role in history and he plays an incredible role in our game. Of course, there’s the feud between Templars and Assassins that is at the heart of all this and we continue to push that story forward.

What inspired the team to base this Assassin’s Creed game around pirates?

Assassin’s Creed is about showcasing a historic time period that had a major impact on the world, something that for better or worse really impacted the evolution of humanity. With AC4 we felt that with the pirate era, the 18th Century, there was something attempted here which was really incredible. It was really the first attempt at a Democratic governance, except there were lawless men who were pirates that partied and drank their money away. This event failed in a real spectacular way and that's the stage on which we set our story.

In what way is the game pushing the franchise forward?

On a couple of different layers, we’re moving things forward. Narratively speaking, the Assassin -Templar feud is on-going in the present day and in the past. This is the next stage of the conflict and something major is happening here. From a technological standpoint, this is the first true naval open world. We’ve wanted to do a pirate game for a long time, but the technology and the tools to be able to do this weren’t there. ACIII helped push this and at a certain point about over a year ago, we felt we had the technical capacity to be able to create this true naval open-world game.

This is a really big, fun seamless world. From a gameplay standpoint, we’re really adding a lot more systems and a lot more depth to the naval combat, to Edward the Assassin and Edward the Pirate. We have a lot of new stuff. It’s a really big game. There’s a massive scope, and with that massive scope, we really are polishing everything and really trying to make a very cohesive, unified Assassin’s Creed.

Can you describe what’s new and staying the same in naval combat?

We’re really building on the strength of the naval combat from Assassin’s Creed III. ACIII teased what this naval combat system could be and they did a fantastic job with it. We’ve taken the system and added a lot more depth into it, so we have a ton of new enemies and new enemy archetypes that exist in the naval arena. We have a bunch of new tools and weapons for the player, too. For example, we have the charger ships, which have a massive ram and build up speed to try to ram you. This is very hard to deal with and they're very fast ships, so we give you a bunch of tools to be able to deal with this.

The naval combat itself has really been given a lot more depth, too. The way the cannons fire has changed, and there's more player input required. All the new weapons have a new firing mechanism. Each weapon has its own unique firing mechanism. We really delved deep into the strategies and the ingredients we put into the naval combat.

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