Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag may still be found in the disc trays of gamers worldwide, offering one of the biggest and most-detailed game worlds in the series so far. But that doesn’t mean that Ubisoft isn’t already looking to the future, and what directions the franchise could take next.
Although more AC4 content is still on the way – courtesy of the ‘Cry Freedom’ DLC – yet another of the publisher’s surveys has provided a few hints at what gameplay changes they may have in mind, and some questions regarding the very nature of the Assassin’s Creed series from here on out.
This isn’t the first time that Ubisoft has consulted gamers concerning the future of the series, having revealed the setting of AC3 in the past. Unfortunately no clues to where Assassin’s Creed 5 (or another 4?) will be set are given the time around – the developers put those into the game itself – but new gameplay, online cooperative play and even some what fans thought of Black Flag‘s place in the AC lore are all discussed.
Black Flag’s lead game designer had already confirmed that the blend of singleplayer and multiplayer seen with Watch_Dogs is blazing a trail they will likely follow, either in the next major installment or sometime down the road. So it’s no surprise that the survey (uncovered by IGN) asks for general opinions on the attractiveness of “sailing and fighting with friends,” or the chance to “sail and fight with other players.” Since naval combat was one of the most impressive additions seen in Black Flag, we can’t blame Ubisoft for thinking that introducing cooperative or PvP sailing is promising.
But the most interesting questions are those concerning the value players placed in Black Flag’s positioning as an Assassin’s Creed entry. Asking those taking the survey if they think “this game could have been a whole new franchise (pirate only and not an assassin?)” is a fair one, since the modern elements of the Templar/Assassin war were significantly downplayed. But the way the publisher frames the question is telling.
For starters, we’d bet that the answer most will give to that question is a resounding “yes,” since Black Flag was not only a standalone adventure in every right, but one of the best entries in the series thus far (read our review). But Ubisoft takes things a step further, giving survey-takers the option to claim that Black Flag could have been unrelated to the AC series, both because it “doesn’t fit” with the franchise, or “even if it fits.” Moreover, the reasoning attached to the claim that it couldn’t have stood on its own isn’t due to its quality, but it being “totally integrated” into the greater mythology.
In other words: Ubisoft apparently wants to know how necessary the presence of the Assassin/Templar drama was to Black Flag‘s success. Now, a skeptic could look at that question and think that Ubisoft might be concerned that they passed up a chance to create a brand new pirate franchise, while an optimist might see them simply gauging the amount of players who were attracted by the pirate setting, and those Templar/Assassin faithful.
No one will argue that two franchises are better than one from the publisher’s perspective, but we’d caution those ready to claim that Ubisoft is only thinking of the potential profits in splitting Black Flag from the core series. Firstly, the pirate-themed adventure, while built upon the same traversal and combat mechanics, innovated on the formula to a great extent. But that innovation meant changes (a new approach to an open world, and a completely new naval gameplay system); changes that Ubisoft accepted would attract fewer players than Assassin’s Creed 3.
If you take that as a vote of confidence on the publisher’s part, then the option of simply cutting ties with the AC name and pursuing their next high seas adventure with more creative freedom might seem a bit more honorable. And that may be the plan, as the survey also asks which features should be added to a non-Assassin’s Creed-branded pirate game: a customizable character, ship, hideout, and more.
Again, it’s all just speculation at this point, but Ubisoft has shown that fan feedback is valued with this game more than any before. And with DLC coming that puts players into the boots of Blackbeard – most certainly not an assassin – perhaps they’re testing the waters already.
What do you hope to see from the next Assassin’s Creed? A continuation of Edward Kenway’s world, or a brand new one? Sound off in the comments.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.