It’s no secret that to keep up an annual release cycle for the Assassin’s Creed series, Ubisoft has relied on multiple teams to share the load, not simply the Montreal-based studio that created the series. With Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, seven studios from around the world are working together to portray the Golden Age of Pirates.
Keeping hundred of designers separated by thousands of miles on the same track is a tall order, but one that will ultimately determine if Black Flag is s success or failure. As the latest ‘Black Flag Diaries’ developer video shows, the studio is confident that pirates and exploration are themes that everyone is committed to (how couldn’t they be? There are whales!).
Although such a studio structure seems like a surefire way to produce an inconsistent or clunky product, Ubisoft has found success so far. Sure, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Assassin’s Creed 3 may have not been what every fan hoped they would be, but they were still among the best triple-A games of each year. Using multiple studios to maintain their annual release cycle is a risky strategy, but if it also means more standalone, spin-off titles that focus on unique time periods or settings, we’re all for it.
It’s also worth noting the shift in marketing from the last game in the series to Black Flag; it’s no secret that one of the most underwhelming aspects of AC3 was the protagonist Connor, hailed in the trailers and screenshots as a one-of-a-kind hero of the American Revolution. Following on the heels of Ezio Auditore, any hero would have a hard time measuring up. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that to this point, Black Flag‘s hero Edward Kenway is taking something of a back seat to the setting and historical figures of the game. Trailers that are intended to put Edward in the spotlight don’t waste time with morality or jingoism, simply make the message clear: he is a pirate, and will be doing pirate things.
To be fair, that is probably enough to convince fans of open worlds, Assassin’s Creed combat or swashbuckling to pay attention. Ubisoft is already conceding that it may not attract the same amount of fans AC3 did, but with this developer diary focusing on the many teams building a cohesive world, not necessarily story, the priorities may be shifting. After the taste of naval combat we got in the previous game, an entire game built around the concept is enough to hold our interest until launch.
What do you think of Black Flag: will it inevitably fall in with the previous ‘side stories’ of the series, or is it looking to be the kind of game you’ve always wanted from this creative team? Sound off in the comments.
Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag will be released October 29, 2013 for the PC, PS3, Wii U and Xbox 360. Releases on Xbox One and PS4 are also confirmed.
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