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AC Black Flag: Ubisoft’s most ambitious game yet?

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Ubisoft’s next flagship title is due for worldwide release at the end of October. While gamers are familiar with the usual locations and time-line progression of the franchise, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will see them battle the enemies during the golden age of pirates in the Caribbean.

A screenshot of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (image: Ubisoft)
A screenshot of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Image source: Ubisoft)

Realisation Director and Video editor at Ubisoft Montreal Antoine Fortier-Auclair spoke to IT News Africa about the upcoming release and why pirates fit into the lore of Assassin’s Creed.

“People were surprised by pirates, and thought that it doesn’t work well with the franchise. But if you think about it, pirates were the first independent groups. While doing research, we realised that aspect was very close to Assassin’s Creed. And in a way they were also fighting oppression,” he said.

Taking a look at the current franchise’s time-line and how things could pan out, the thought-process for arriving at a pirate theme came after some calculations.

“We then did our historical calculations, and thought that Edward (Kenway) was the perfect person to fit it in. It’s been interesting to see his history and in Black Flag players will delve into his history of being a privateer. It all just came into place, and it was just too good not to do. It really fits in well, and it’s an exciting time in history. To gamers it might not seem like it fits, but we will prove that it does – pirates are very appropriate to the franchise.”

Naval warfare makes up about half of the title (image: Ubisoft)
Naval warfare makes up about half of the title (image: Ubisoft)

Every Assassin’s Creed title has tried something new in terms of gameplay or mechanics, and while the majority of the titles fared well among games and fans alike, there might have been some elements that did not work as planned.

But Fortier-Auclair comments that experimentation with new techniques is what keeps the franchise fresh – and he would not change anything.

“Ubisoft is good at trying different things out. The naval aspect (of Assassin’s Creed 3) felt good and that developed into what it is now. I don’t think I (personally) would have done things differently, as it’s important to try things out. Whether it went well or not, the games have to be varied enough to keep it fresh, like the amount of high-sea battles in Black Flag that are completely new. I don’t think we should change anything that we did in the past. We are also all fans of the franchise, and we play-test our games for a long time.”

Asked when or where he thinks the franchise might end, Fortier-Auclair said that there are many possibilities left for them to explore. “We can go anywhere as long as we respect history. Is there a finite amount of locations and plots? I don’t know. If we can keep it good and fun, that is all that matters. We are breaking the pattern with Black Flag (by going backwards in the time line), and now that that is done, it opens it up for more exploration. The story is fun, and it is even more so with the secrets of the pirates. But at the end of it all, if gamers want more, we’ll give it to them.”

Players will be causing havoc on land, and on the high-seas (image: Ubisoft)
Players will be causing havoc on land, and on the high-seas (image: Ubisoft)

The next iteration of Assassin’s Creed takes the title to new heights, and many elements have been designed for the title that has never been tried before.

Fortier-Auclair added that a lot of work has gone into Black Flag, and everything has been crafted meticulously. Could Black Flag be Ubisoft’s most ambitious game to date?

“Year-on-year we try to top ourselves, and the evolution of that is that we try to ramp up the scale with every game. Some elements are very ambitious, but whether it’s Ubisoft’s most ambitious game yet, I don’t know.  It’s definitely the most ambitious Assassin’s Creed title for many reasons, as none of the elements are wasted. It’s an ambitious design challenge and the era is a huge story to focus on. It’s ambitious for its design, the world it takes place in, and everything that is related to it. So yeah, if I think about it that way, then it is probably our most ambitious game yet.”

Black Flag makes use of a number of elements from Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 title, most notably the ability to battle a shark underwater, and Fortier-Auclair said that they put their own pirate spin on it.

“We took a page from Far Cry 3 – which is a really awesome game – and tried to make our own Assassin’s Creed version of it. But as always, there are so many things that we haven’t talked about in public, but people will discover it while playing the game,” he concluded.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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