Joab gazes deeply into his naval to find out some answers.
By Joab Gilroy on September 12, 2013 at 11:36 am
A storm breaks just as my hands-on demo begins, and instead of the gorgeous tropical Caribbean Sea I am thrown in the deep end — figuratively speaking — as I wrestle with strong winds and massive, ship-lifting waves.
The Jackdaw, Edward Kenway’s ship, takes on the storm like a champ — if a champ sat immensely still while it got the snot kicked out of it. My only point of reference for (seaborne) piracy is Pirates! Gold, so I figure as long as I keep my sails up (or down?) and I hold onto the helm I’ll be ok.
Apparently I could have hoisted my sails and powered through the storm, but I didn’t — because safety comes first — and so I spent a good minute of my hands-on time sitting still, politely telling my Ubisoft guide to cool his jets while we watched a storm. Luckily Assassin’s Creed 4‘s weather has a Melbournian temperament, so the storm passed and we were able to move on to activities!
Naturally this meant my sailing towards the closest ship and filling it full of lead.
When I arrived, I found that I’d actually stumbled into two fleets at war. My guide urged me to pick a side and help them out, and the Pirates! Gold player in me agreed – but my lack of time with Assassin’s Creed 3 did not. I accidentally shot a ship on each side of the encounter, and immediately had to deal with the wrath of every bloody boat nearby.
Anyone who has played Assassin’s Creed 3 will apparently quickly get the hang of the ship combat here – and after my initial misfire I will admit I found it quite easy to understand. You sidle up next to a ship you want to ruin, you fire all your bloody cannons at it and you then circle them, like a shark with guns for gills, until they die. Once you’ve disabled their sails you’re given the option of boarding their ship, but I rammed every single one of them to death by ‘accident’ instead.
You read that right, I took on seven ships at once and I won, so either they’d made ship combat easier for the journos to get through or I’m going to be whisked away to pilot a space pirate ship, like in some Jerry Bruckheimer remake of The Last Starfighter.
After straight up murdering close to 100 people, it was then time to go for a little swim. There’s nothing like a bit of a snorkel after sending men to their watery graves.
The world of Assassin’s Creed 4 is littered with sunken treasure locations, and once you purchase the diving bell for the Jackdaw you’re able to visit them. To be clear — you can’t swim underwater wherever you like in AC4. That doesn’t take anything away from the experience though.
When the diving bell makes it to the ocean floor the game takes on another tone. I felt weak and vulnerable. The rest of my time had been spent at the helm of an epic Clipper — now I was a squishy, shirtless human being, well out of my element. I could see sharks and rays swimming about like they owned the place, and it was all quite scary.
I stuck to objects, staying out of open water so the sharks couldn’t attack me. I (figuratively) crapped myself when I started to swim towards a piece of sunken ship and saw a moray eel living within it. I panicked when I stopped and realised I’d been seen by the shark. I swam around in a circle accidentally as I tried to work out which way the diving bell was. Then I left without getting any treasure because it was all a bit too much for me.
People with better nerves will be able to get heaps of treasure out of these locations — and treasure is good. The Jackdaw is your home in Assassin’s Creed 4, and upgrading it is apparently quite costly.
After I finished my brief soiree underwater my guide pointed me to land, and we fast-travelled to a port. There isn’t much to say about Edward Kenway on the shore. Like any assassin he can win almost any encounter by countering which boils all combat down to a timegate — something I just don’t care about. I spent a brief amount of time as a landlubber, but I could hear the sea calling me. “Joab. Over here. Joab. I got you some sushi,” it called as it waved at me. I had to get my sea legs back, and so against the will of my guide I returned to my ship — and then my time was “up”.
Seeing how I’ve skipped the last two games in the series, I feel it’s obvious I don’t want an Assassin’s Creed game. But a pirate game? Ubisoft has made a pretty darn good pirate game. Pretend the ground is lava and I can see people having a lot of fun with Assassin’s Creed 4. Especially me. I’ll be back, my briney mistress.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag launches on October 31.