The Assassin's Creed video game series -- beyond its trademark murderous historical fiction -- is known for arriving in annual installments. 2013 is no exception, with French publisher Ubisoft recently revealing Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, a pirate-centric next entry in the long-running franchise. Unlike last year's game, which took players through the American Revolution as a half-British / half-Native American named Connor, AC4: Black Flag puts you in his grandfather's swashbuckling boots as Edward Kenway of The Caribbean. Kenway's the captain of a pirate vessel known as "The Jackdaw," which promises a new twist in the AC series: open-world naval combat. While the last series entry teased naval combat, Black Flag is built around that gameplay; AC4 also borrows from recent Ubisoft highlight Far Cry 3, with Kenway battling sharks below water while diving for booty (a takeoff on the hunting found in that game, as well as in the last AC entry).
Of course, the conceit of the AC series has always been that you're a modern man named Desmond Miles, a member of the ancient Assassin's Guild, and that you're experiencing your assassin lineage through a machine called the "Animus" in order to save the world. That story line led Desmond through a variety of eras in previous games, ending with the American Revolution in Assassin's Creed 3. Without spoiling that game's final moments, it's safe to say that Desmond isn't joining the cast in Black Flag; rather, you're simply a modern day Templar (the long-running rivals of the assassins) searching for more secrets about the enemy. Ubisoft reps wouldn't tell us much about how the modern day will play into the new game's story, but did admit that it'll play a major role.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
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Given the game's theme, it's no surprise that conspicuous pirate Edward "Blackbeard" Teach will also show up, as well as lesser known pirates like "Calico" Jack Rackham. Between boarding ships, plundering for loot, and having naval battles, it's easy to forget that this is an Assassin's Creed game -- rest assured there'll be plenty of sneaky assassinating. During our meeting, we were promised a return to the series' roots of tracking and assassinating targets. That said, what we've seen so far has us a little worried about Black Flag -- a distinct lack of assassinating and a move away from the series' main story beats give us a sense that the blockbuster series doesn't have a steady captain at the helm.
Multiplayer is also back, and likely in the form we've seen it take in previous entries, though no details are available just yet. It won't be long before we hear more, though, as Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is planned to launch this October on PC, PlayStation 3 and 4, Nintendo Wii U, Xbox 360 and whatever Microsoft's next box is called. That technically makes this one of the first (or the first) game officially announced for Microsoft's next console, though others have confirmed launch on "next-gen consoles." At any rate, it's the first Assassin's Creed title on next-gen consoles -- the trailers above and below don't do the next-gen version justice, we're told -- and we're looking forward to seeing what that means.