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Assassin's Creed IV Gets Closer to the Heart

Cari Scholtens | 28 Oct 2013 19:00
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When dealing with a franchise like Assassin's Creed the developers have a tough row to hoe. They must stay loyal to the brand and make the game an intrinsically Assassin's Creed experience. On the other hand, they have to add enough new elements - or remove bad elements - to make it seem slightly less like they're releasing the same game year after year. With the release of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag so close to the one year anniversary of the release of Assassin's Creed 3, many fans are worrying that their beloved series will become cheapened, game-a-year, budget-constrained dreck that will inevitably crash and burn.

So, of course, Ubisoft is trying to take one of the favorite elements of Assassin's Creed 3 and make it a focus in Black Flag. What better for an Assassin to do on the high seas than a bit of piracy? And certainly a swashbuckling adventure is what we'll get: Rife with drink, damsels, dueling and general debauchery. However, creating an immersive pillaging, plundering universe is in Ubisoft's wheelhouse and certainly far from dangerous waters for them.

Where our pals in Quebec are really tap dancing on the line of success and failure is in the present day storyline, which will be significantly different than the previous five Assassin's Creed titles. From here on out this joint is going to turn into spoiler city, so if you haven't played the other games and still want to be surprised, get out while the getting's good!

At the end of Assassin's Creed 3 many of us found ourselves clicking our heels at the death of quite possibly the least endearing main character in gaming history, Desmond Miles. The Assassin's Creed writers worked so hard at making him into an aloof twenty-something that he ended up giving off the vibe that being captured and exploited by Abstergo Industries was no more troublesome than forgetting his car keys. After nearly driving people to break out their torches and pitchforks, Ubisoft tried furiously to backtrack and make Desmond likable again. They tried making him romantically involved with Lucy before being forced to kill her. They tried making his teammates quirky and fun in the hopes that it might rub off. They even brought in Desmond's estranged father in a last ditch effort to pluck at our heartstrings. Still, after that first game, they could have had Desmond rescue an orphanage of children from Al Qaeda while single-handedly bringing panda bears out of endangerment and ending global warming. I doubt they could have won us back. You never get a second chance at a first impression, Ubisoft. Lesson learned.

So at the end of ACIII, when we finally bid adieu to our cardboard cutout protagonist, there was certainly a period of dancing in the streets and shouting from the rooftops...but a question slowly dawned on us. Where do we go from here?

The developers at Ubisoft say they have the answer to our collective prayers. Hoping to avoid another Desmond Miles train-wreck, they have decided not to replace him with a Desmond 2.0 of any kind. Instead, they made the main character of present day Black Flag be none other than you.

You have been hired by Abstergo Entertainment, located in the Assassin's Creed team's hometown of Montreal, Quebec (those cheeky devils) to research the ancestry of some dead guy named Desmond. Particularly a certain shining star in his bloodline named Edward Kenway. This research is for entertainment purposes so that Abstergo, Quebec can publish what we assume will be a videogame or movie about our dear new friend, Edward. Of course, you soon realize that Abstergo's real motives are far more sinister than they had originally revealed, and your involvement has been too imperative for them to just let you walk away.

Rather than another game where you are the chosen one, only hope, patient zero, et cetera, you are indeed playing the normal and average by playing yourself. Ubisoft apparently intends to completely demolish the fourth wall and take the action of your game right into your living room, and indeed your real life. It all sounds well and good, but we have to remember in our childlike enthusiasm for shiny quirky things that there are two distinct directions this could go.

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