Comic-Con 2013: ‘Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag’ First Impressions Aboard the Jackdaw

Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag First Imperssions

It’s time to set sails on the seven seas with Edward and his crew from Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. The Ubisoft team has taken San Diego’s Star of India and transformed her into the Jackdaw as they offer a once in a lifetime fan experience at Comic-Con for those looking to get a taste of the latest Assassin’s Creed entry. I got my first personal glimpse and hands-on experience with the game myself. Learn what I found out and saw after the break.

With three expansive levels to explore, the mock-Jackdaw was fully decked out in Assassin’s Creed 4 art, pirate actors, and a live weapons demonstration. The most impressive part was the Assassins’ pirate insignia on the sails. I navigated throughout the ship until I came upon a line for an open world demo of the game running on a PlayStation 4. When I sat down, each audience member was given an inflatable cutlass sword and was commanded to say “yargggh!’ every time they saw something from the demo that interested them. Needless to say, there was a lot of “yarggghs!” to be heard.

The demo began with Edward in the West Indies during 1717. He is still a pirate at this point, not fully committed to becoming an assassin. Edward seems to be more complex than the previous characters in the Assassin’s series and does not want to give up the pirate life quite yet. He does take assassin contracts to gain fame and fortune. The mission we see in this demo tasks Edward to kill two Templar smugglers in the fisherman’s village. We switch to the expansive world map to find our targets. The world Ubisoft has ever created is the largest they have ever created. Gamers can travel up to Cuba, the Bahamas, and more. It’s very impressive.

Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag Screenshot Naval Battle

Everything is so incredibly detailed and sleek on the PS4 demo. The sounds, the bright colors, and the vibe feels so fresh compared to exploring the contained cities in the last entries. What’s also new is that gamers are given many options to take out our enemies. On land you can use the close combat kills or use the new free-aim system to shoot the Templar down with his pistol. But instead, to make things more interesting, we allowed a Templar that we haven’t killed to board his ship so we could go on a merry chase on the Jackdaw to showcase naval warfare.

Once aboard the Jackdaw, the demonstrator mentions that your ship is about as important as Edward as a character and every player will have to make upgrades in order to travel to certain areas of the game. The interactions with the AI are great because the crew always cheers when you come aboard. Taking the wheel of the Jackdaw we begin the pursuit. Gamers are able to use the spyglass to look upon other ships’ cargo. We can see that the enemy ship has a lot of rum, which can be used to Edward’s advantage based on how the economy works in the game. It’s clear that Ubisoft has thought out every little detail. It’s incredible.

Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag Screenshot Boarding Enemy Ship

There are different classes of ships, and there are multiple ways to take each one of them out. Some ships like the Man-of-War have over 100 cannons and it is vital for the Jackdaw to be considerably upgraded to stand a chance against it. Enemy ships are immobilized by taking out the sails with the side or front cannons. You can use the swivel guns to take out the crew when the Jackdaw is close enough. When ships are seized, players are given three options: gain crew members, add the ship to your fleet (which you can use for mini games or use in mobile app for Vita), or salvage parts to repair the Jackdaw if too much damage has been done. This whole new addition of plundering and naval war takes the franchise to a whole new level. It will be interesting to see how Ubisoft will be able to one-up themselves.

With the battle won, we explore more of the open world out on the ocean. We are told that the developers wanted to always give players something to do, so they created little playas for Edward to hop on and look for buried treasure or other unique items. Here we find a treasure map. It’s important to scout these locations because what can be found can help Edward and also upgrade the Jackdaw for important missions. What Ubisoft has done, by creating zero load times, and allowing Edward freedom to stop steering his ship and jump off into adventure is fantastic.

Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag Screenshot Playa Treasure Map

We also see a lot of sea life such as dolphins, crabs, and whales – which you can hunt. Something else that is considerably noteworthy is that Edward can interfere in faction battles between British and Spanish ships. These battles may not be in a players best interest if you are low on crew or cargo. Again, more little details and awesome little additions to the game that make this world so unique.

Heading off to find the treasure from the map we acquired on the playa we encounter a storm, which can be very dangerous, especially if you run into water spouts or lightning storms. Crew can be lost here as well. But if you’re in a fire fight, storms can be used to Edward’s advantage by luring enemies in to the storm and letting them do the work for you. We take the serious tone down for a bit and have the crew sing a song – there are many to find throughout the game to grow the karaoke list of songs that can be sung.

Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag Screenshot Naval Warfare

Reaching the Mayan ruins pinpointed on the treasure map, we are met with guards that users can either face head on or avoid using stealth. Continuing the trend of Assassin’s Creed 3 by using rocks, bushes, and trees as cover, Mayan ruins are perfect playgrounds for Edward. Showcasing another new feature, the demonstrator uses the blowgun. with a bezerk dart, to confuse the enemies and take each other out.

Coming upon the treasure, we find guards with prisoners. It’s important for players to use stealth otherwise the prisoners can be killed, which is not good if you are low on crew members because prisoners can be easily persuaded to join your crew or your fleet’s crew. Ridding the guards, we come upon the treasure to find a blue print, which are vital to upgrading the Jackdaw.

This demo was a perfect use of my time and has convinced me otherwise that this will be a solid entry for fans to enjoy come October.

Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag Screenshot Whale Watching

I was also able to get my paws on the multiplayer demo that was hosted by the Frag Dolls. I sat down to get my first hand look at the game. We picked our pirate’s avatars and jumped right in. I faced off against four other players. The object of this round was to take out as many of my opponents as possible without being detected or get killed myself. Players are given a shield option to cover up from long distance kills or stealth camouflage to disguise yourself as a different pirate. It was down to the wire, but I actually finished in first. The level we played on was quite large and there were many ruins to climb on, areas to hide around, and many A.I. characters to confuse with actual players. It was fun, but nothing too special. Maybe if there were more options or abilities it could be a bit more exciting.

(Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images)

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag hits shelves in North America on October 29 for the Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, and in November for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The PC release date is yet to be determined.

For more Comic-Con 2013 coverage, follow the SDCC tag or you can find TTRC on Facebook or Twtiter for updates as they are made available.

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