The alternate history of the Assassin's Creed universe can be an intimidating world to navigate. Spanning multiple eras in time, the franchise has its many disparate heroes connected by Desmond, a modern day successor that taps into memories trapped in his DNA. It's so complicated that Ubisoft has created an encyclopedia--one that is constantly revised year after year.
Assassin's Creed 3 ended Desmond's story, letting go of narrative baggage that was holding the franchise down. "It was a barrier to entry for people that want to pick it up," Darby McDevitt, lead writer of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, admitted.
With Desmond out of the picture, Ubisoft believes that Assassin's Creed 4 will serve as the perfect jumping point for series newcomers. "AC4 is really the one that people can enter without knowing anything about the franchise. This is because we really want the player in the present day to really mirror Edward's own journey," creative director Jean Guesdon told us.
"Edward starts as a pirate and knows nothing about templars and assassins," Guesdon explained. If you don't know anything about the story so far, it doesn't matter as you'll be in the same shoes as Black Flag's main character. "You will stumble upon this hidden war… We think that for players that know nothing about the franchise yet, it's the perfect moment for them to be taught, introduced in that world very smoothly, softly."
The modern day will still play into the storyline, although in a very different way than before. With Desmond's story completed, McDevitt said that the team wanted to "use this as an opportunity to step back and look at what's fun about the present-day. What do people love about it? How can we let you explore the present day without making you feel like you're coming into the middle of a story that you know nothing about?"
Unlike in previous games, where you controlled Desmond in the present-day storyline, you'll be playing as yourself. "You are the main character, so you bring to the present day story as much or as little as you know about Assassin's Creed. So if you know nothing, we're slowly going to teach you breadcrumbs about this strange conflict between Abstergo and the modern-day assassins," McDevitt explained.
In Black Flag, you're actually an employee of Abstergo Entertainment, hired to work on a "pirate-themed product." However, although you work for Abstergo, that doesn't necessarily mean you're a Templar. Ultimately, "we let players make that choice," Guesdon teased.