Pirates of Dark Water

Pirates of Dark Water:

A quick look at the True Golden Age of Pirates trailer for Assassin’s Creed 4

The term “Golden Age” conjures up a very specific set of imagery regardless of which Golden Age it refers to.  Innovation, progress, wealth, hope or in one word: Prosperity.  When I hear that phrase I see the height of Rome, men in togas bringing civilization to the world. But what is a Golden Age to someone whose prosperity is based on plunder?  What is a golden age to a pirate and more importantly, when?  Ubisoft answers that question with the very first words in its latest trailer for Assassins Creed 4.

“It is now the dawn of the 18th century…the monarchs of Spain, France and England have fought for control over the new world…”

Control has always been the central motivation of the Assassin’s Creed series.  The Templars seek to rein the world in using the Apple of Eden while the Assassins struggle to disrupt the Templar’s lasso.  It is a battle of independence against hierarchy and at the dawn of the 18th century hierarchy has won.

“…in 1713 a succession of treaties has brought a surprising and welcome calm and for the first time in decades; order is restored.”

The Templars have sought an order from the start; their order.  The first third of the trailer sets up the world in a way you rarely see outside of historical works.  We now have the setting but what of the people in this world?  What is their motivation?

Altair, Ezio and Connor all fought against the Templar’s machinations for very specific reasons.  Honor and revenge are very high among them but they also realized that freedom was preferable to control.  The trailer goes on to describe the character of the men in this setting and we see some very interesting parallels.

“Now poor and hungry and resentful of their distant king these desperate sailors band together to live their lives as they see fit, establishing ideals of true freedom that would live for generations to come.  “Men of Fortune” they call themselves and their life among these bountiful islands is a cruel one…”
That entire paragraph could apply to an assassin as easily as it does to a pirate.  Resentful of powerful rule, yearning for self-determination, a tough violent life with a real possibility of it being cut brutally short…sounds very familiar.

Now that we know what the characters will be like and the backdrop for their activities the final third of the trailer gives us our environment.  What kind of locations will this game take place in?  The answer is literally spelled out for us:

“…on golden beaches, immense untamed jungles, exotic blossoming cities, in hidden coves, and most especially on tall ships bursting with cargo.”

This is quite the departure from the dark ages of the first game or the snowy forests for the third.  Initially, I was very skeptical of the direction this series was going.  It seemed every game was a radical departure from the last and Black Flag will be no exception.  Like the other games in the series this one is filled with little hints of “this is how it really happened and it is far different than what history books wrote.”

The gameplay seems to have taken a wild swing away from the original intent, though, and I am concerned if they will be able to synergize the brand new gameplay with older values of the series.  The expanded ship combat, the implied ability to raid and plunder, the exotic locations and activities all make me wonder how they will tie in the standard Assassin’s Creed narrative of protagonist brought into the order due to some tragedy.

Ubisoft sails in to unknown seas with every new iteration of this series and so far they haven’t lost their way.  With the somewhat middling reception of AC3 though and such an extreme shift  in tone that seems present in AC4 it remains to be seen if they will be able to keep the Assassin’s Creed ship afloat.

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