Home Editorial Why Assassin’s Creed 4 will restore the franchise

I’m plodding my way through AC3 right now, and having played Revelations not long ago, I can honestly say there’s been a downward trend to the series, quality wise. Assassin’s Creed 4 is on the horizon, however, and I believe it will restore the franchise to its former glories, for more than just the obvious reasons.

Bringing back the AAA team

I’m of the mind that the team behind AC4 is the same one that put together AC2. Looking at the art, gameplay “innovations”, dialogue, and setting, I can confidently opine that Ubisoft divided up development teams to create the Ezio saga after the original Assassin’s Creed. Ezio’s first appearance in AC2 was by far his strongest showing, and gameplay-wise there were a ton of improvements that made it by far the best in the series.

In the years that followed, I believe two other teams were tasked with finishing Ezio’s story, and a third put together Connor’s. To bring Assassin’s Creed into the future, it seems Ubisoft gave the reigns back to the original team, said “Go make a pirates game” and let those creative minds get to work. The depth of gameplay, interesting characters, Edward included, the grandness of the setting; all of these things point towards a group of developers who know precisely what they’re doing, having begun the series themselves.

The final piece of evidence I have is time. The original Assassin’s Creed released in November of 2007, and AC2 came out the same month of 2009. That’s a little under two years in development time, likely by a team that grew as demand for a new Creed game increased. It’s been almost four years since 2 released. While I’m sure there’s been some cross-pollination between game designers in that time, something as grand as a full, pirate-themed open world takes serious muscle to create. My guess is, Black Flag’s been in development for at least three years, or from around the time Brotherhood released. If this is the case, the size of the game world will be enormous, on a level we’d never conceive of without the power of a next generation engine.

All of this is to the good. More development time means more time for ideas and fine tuning mechanics. It means more polish, more content, more story. It means, ultimatley, a better overall experience. And since Ubisoft’s been pushing the “Edward Kenway is way cool. He is so not Connor. We swear!” bit, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about a monotone bore of a character this time around.

What’s under the hood matters

I mentioned next generation engines, but I’d be remiss to say Ubisoft went and built a new one from the ground up. That said, I do think what we’re getting a heavily updated and added-to engine. Stronger hardware, both on console and PC means games can push more boundaries as far as scale and graphics are concerned. Like I said above, we’re likely to see a map larger than GTA V’s Los Santos, itself almost 50 miles square. Every inch will probably be filled with random stuff to do, and I think there’ll be at least two hundred hours of content if you do absolutely everything there is to do.

A new engine also means better AI, and better battle mechanics in general. Hopefully gone are the days of “Press Counter to win,” and in is the time of free-flow combat the pirate way. I’ll hand it to Rocksteady, the Batman Arkham games have the best combat system in a third person game, hands down. And I think the team behind AC4 took a good long look at what they had and what else was out there. A few of them might have played Arkham City as well, and took some cues directly from it.

Most importantly, though, a new engine might mean more fluidity to the gameplay and fewer graphical and mechanical hiccups. There are enough videos out there about glitches in AC3 that I’d wager much of the visual world renders at such a far distance that it’s impossible to see pop-in. Enemy spawn points will be numerous enough that finding them only servers to spawn foes elsewhere. Rounding a corner no longer means watching the inhabitants just appear out of thin air. All in all, it means the game becomes less a game and more an experience, one where we lose ourselves without being shoved out at every turn.

Timing is everything

Assassin’s Creed 4 is a release title for the next-gen consoles, and while I said I wouldn’t give obvious reasons, this one must be mentioned. Black Flag will help define the gaming experience for Xbox One and Playstation 4, and hopefully will set the bar high. For a lot of gamers, this might be their first console generation, having grown up without one or who are coming from PC just to see what’s out there. They might be coming without time in Call of Duty, shocking though that might be. They might have history in the Assassin’s Creed series itself, and thus are free of predispositions and other veteran expectations.

That AC3 ended Desmond’s story (so I hear) and that Edward Kenway has a new base character tells me Ubisoft is well aware of this new blood to the series. Both the developers and the publishers look keen to open the series to a whole swath of new eyes, grab them by the ears, and drag them into blissful submission. Unwarranted violence aside, I don’t have any doubts that Black Flag will surprise and delight, if only because it’s going back to what made the series work without too much baggage from the past.

9 replies to this post
  1. while i’ve personally been intentionally avoiding any ac4 news, videos etc. this just seems like wishful thinking to me.
    how do you know it’s the ac2 team on this one, and do we know that the acb,r and 3 teams were different (i’m too lazy to look this up)? my impression was that ubi has like 8 production studios, and each of them does a specific part of each game (a quick search yields this: http://www.gamespot.com/articles/900-people-worked-on-assassin-s-creed-iv-black-flag-says-director/1100-6415599/).
    it’s true that with a new gen. of consoles we can expect a better engine, but this is also coming to the previous gen. so i don’t think it’ll be that different.

    anyway, this is all the same stuff we were promised for 3 – brand new engine, 3 years of dev time, badass character, huge map with tons of quests, etc.
    I don’t think I need to go into how that turned out.

    on a personal note, the naval battles were by far my favorite part of ac3, so i’ll be getting this one anyway – just don’t expect anything revolutionary.

    ps it’s cues, not queues (not being a prick, this is just a very easy mistake to make)

    • I guess when I say “team” I’m thinking about the core group of people who were “in charge” so to say of AC2. I know Ubisoft is a gigantic company and the many satellite studios do a ton of grunt work like map building and sidequest placing. I guess what I’m hoping for is a story not patched together in eighteen months, characters like Ezio (the AC2 and ACB one), and a plot that doesn’t tailspin into silliness. That, and a lack of bombs.

      Still, you raise good arguments, and while I disagree if only on the bounds of trying to be positive about this, sometimes realism based on previously established facts works better.


    Will AC4 be better than AC3? Well, you can only jump higher than standing still, can you. Will it be the salvation some might expect? Big NO.

    While it’d only be the reasonable thing to do, you can’t expect Ubisoft to just gas everybody who worked on AC3 and replace them with good staff. Nor will the same be true for gameplay mechanics. The glitchy, barely playable, not at all fun naval missions will remain, if not be boosted up to a bigger part than “Play the obligatory two and only do more if you feel like it” they were in AC3. Considering it’s a game built around some very small islands, it’s sadly very likely that that will be the case. I liked the naval missions as they were in AC3.

    Nor will the combat be significantly improved, either. Somebody seems to have had the idea that a game about ancient age suicide assassins (not to be confused with Assassins as the proper noun) that avoided combat at all costs should feature frequent fights with at least ten men. Since such fights need to be really fast paced, the main guy has to be able to do a lot of killing, which the enemies will counter by blocking nine out of ten swings down to literally no damage whatsoever.

    I don’t think Ubisoft knows how to make decent combat flow without making godlike characters, so as said, the enemies are just godlike blockers. Which in turn means that the combat will devolve into counterspam as it has always been. Great.

    As for a big open world with lots of DIVERSE things to do that actually have an impact on gameplay (counter example: Hunting in AC3)… Xiant, I’m happy to see you still have optimism in mankind. NO OFFENSE THERE PEOPLE! However, I find it hard to assume that Ubisoft would really put in the effort to make that kind of open world. The type that we saw with AC2, maybe Brotherhood, maybe a bit bigger? Sure, but nowhere near what would really classify it as a good open world game the likes of GTAV.

    And lastly, the characters. Ugh, I understand they can’t make everybody be as deep as the main character of a 1.5 year novel. (Though they had way enough time for that.) I deeply expect that Kenbeard won’t be as terrible as Connor, but then again, what little I’ve seen amongst the trailer material already demonstrated him as amongst some of the most poorly predestined characters. See, I dislike comedy stories for the same reason I hate Cunnor.

    If you actively try to be something, funny in one case and “cool” in the other, you’ll very often end up on the other end of the spectrum. It worked for Connor, didn’t it. Mc Genericbeard won’t be any different. He’ll have some expectations to fulfill, which means that he will need to do things that Ubisoft thinks make him cool. Ezio was pretty “cool”, but that’s because he calculated and did the things that needed doing, just in a very awesome and smug way. It also brought with itself plenty of moments where Ezio didn’t shine as brightly. AC4 won’t have those, nor did AC3. Thus, without a contrast of character, it will all just blend together into one big, boring mess of character.

    And don’t get me started on the story itself. After the pseudo pressure that was brought in and Deus Ex Machina’d in AC3, let me predict AC4’s plot. As it turns out, 16 protected Desmond from the thing the Mirari did to him at the end of AC3, but he’s once again bound to lying on his back as his mind was severely shattered and he needs to relive some memories of ancestors way more awesome than he is. Sprinkle with the death of his dad by the seventh chapter, getting captured by Abstergo while comatose, waking up, and exposing their secrets to the world, thus ending the conflict once and for all.

    And that, people, is MY concentrated OPINION on AC4 hype.

    • Pretty accurate, but why is everyone hating on the naval missions? I didn’t see any glitches there at all*, and they were a ton of fun, fast-paced action. Of course that goes against everything being an Assassin is about, but I’ve decided that I’m fine with the game evolving from stealth to action over time. At least they’re doing something different. Not well, but different.

      *or anywhere in the game, in fact, besides your horse getting stuck on literally every bush, tree, log and stump ever. But that was just bad design. Seriously how do you go from the thrill and glory of horseback riding in AC1 and get to the absolute torture that it was in 3?

      • Well, to be fair, naval missions achieved what they wanted to be and at that they were pretty much glitch free. It’s just that they were designed to be completely inhandlable sections which you wished you could skip. You can, actually, since there’s no real reward for them. (A real reward being something that helps you stab people, and I never found Connor to be lacking in creative ways to stab face. Maybe there is one and I never found it, since the above applies.)

        While I’d like to see the overall gameplay pace organically slowed down, I just don’t see any room for sections that run on the practice of putting six to eight business weeks between two actions, like shooting and shooting again. Or cutting sail and steering fully to one side and the little boy actually moving. Especially not when they’ll be, as is likely, mandatory between each mission.

      • Hmm I found those delays to be perfectly realistic in terms of how long it takes to reload a cannon or turn a ship… Maybe my perception is colored because the only other naval combat I’ve seen was in the Total War series (Empire and Napoleon, haven’t got Rome 2 yet), which is very similar in terms of actions you can do (raise/lower sail, fire different kinds of shot, maneuver, board etc.) except that you have an overhead perspective and control a whole fleet* and every action takes approximately the length of a solar cycle**. So coming from that my mind was blown at how fluid (get it?) and natural AC3 felt.
        *max 10 ships…
        **11 years, if you’re curious

    • While I reserve final judgement until I play the game, and I admit this article is more than a lot speculatory, I can only think Ubisoft learned from their mistakes (ship battles aside). They have a couple other games outside of the franchise that’ve come out to inform their design, and they seem to really think they have something cool this time. If nothing else, the world looks pretty, and the water isn’t grey and filled with Revolutionary America’s depressing juices.

      As for the character, from what we’ve seen of Edward he appears one dimensional, at least in some respects. But I could say the same of early Ezio, and sometimes the changes flat characters undergo, the ones that give them real depth, are the real winning moments. I mean, stereotypical rich playboy with a pension for free running to dissolutioned yet determined man? I like how that story unfolded. If they can pull of the same with Edward, and I believe they can (they’ve done it before, obviously), then I’ll be satisfied.

      If nothing else, I can stare at the pretty skybox and all the nice texture effects and say, “60 dollars well spent, Xiant. Truly.”

      • The point is, Ezio didn’t have the expectations that Beard Beard Pirate Beard has. His story had no limitations aside from somehow looping back to the Apple. The rest could be filled out by his character alone. That’s the best you can do to prevent your writers from suicide, speaking from experience.

        Meanwhile, Contwat had the forced in apocalypse business which forced the Elements of Eden to play a much larger role. Who knows what the Beard will have. Both of them also have the limitation of having to live up to Ezio, which will definitely work very well.

        In addition to his freedom, Ezio had THREE GAMES to tell his tale, where Connor and Beardblack have one. Imagine putting about three of the Harry Potter novels into 400 pages. Same thing.

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