So it may be clear at this point that I am very late to Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, and much of that would be attributed to my own personal fatigue when it cam to the series. The characters were the primary point of exhaustion, particularly Ezio and his trilogy of games. Connor on the other hand, excited me as the game was first announced, but when his time in the spotlight finally came I felt his arch was simple and the rich history of the American Revolution was underused. So until recently I had passed on the AC series pirate adventure and disregarded it as a game made only to reuse the popular Ship Battle system from AC III.
Man was I wrong, and apart from some minor frustrations (hacking, sharks, and 100% Sync) I think it might be my favorite in the series so far. What’s more, I found that Edward Kenway (the iteration’s Protagonist) is the most refreshing and interesting character I have seen in a far too long. To start on the list of things that I like best about Kenway, is that he is not an Assassin. In fact throughout the entirety of the game he never becomes official indoctrinated with their creed and is repeatedly condemned by the Assassin’s. His story details the journey of a man who backs into the war between Assassins and Templar’s, and decides to make his allegiances as and when they profit him.
On the surface he is a terrible man, everything he does is motivated by one thing: greed. There is a back-story which more clearly describes his lust for wealth, as a means to create a life of comfort for his estranged wife back in Swanzy. But this is the start of what makes him more interesting than most. Outwardly Edward Kenway is a a lecherous scoundrel with little to no concern for anything beyond the bow of his ship. This is what makes him great! He’s not a a typical hero, hell he’s not even a reluctant hero. What I found is how refreshing it was to embrace someone who was selfish, short sighted, and impulsive so that I can just accept a loose sense of “morality” for a change. Edward Kenway isn't the scoundrel with a heart of gold, or the Han Solo archetype, he is a true bastard which is what I like about him. Making his motivations do a much better job to justify his behavior throughout the narrative.
Motivation is a powerful instrument for a characters development, however the confusion between motivation and goal needs to be clear. Our heroes motivations are sometimes defined because as players they are motivated by our actions. Meaning that our actions are motivated by our ability to interact or complete the experience of the game. That is to say that our objective in the game becomes the characters motivation in an underdeveloped story. We would get the key, save the princess, solve the puzzle etc. We don’t spend much time on why, because it doesn't service the gameplay. As for Edward, once I adopted his ethos as the player, I found terrible joy in the game as a plundering pirate of the Caribbean Sea.
What it comes down to is how unique a character Edward is. It is his complete lack of altruism that makes him so interesting. His actions, being motivated by his greed lead him directly into poor decisions, so much so that he finds his dispositions a bit worse for ware. Often governed by a propensity toward anger, Edward is for lack of a better term – a fuck up. He fails, often and sometimes to monumental effect. In ways that would in any other games only present themselves as obvious challenges to overcome, Edward instead climbs into a bottle in an effort to redirect his rage. Sometimes it would seem that the appropriate action is to stumble off drunk before you can stand up again.
The theme of Edward’s story does come into focus the further you get into the game, and as you would expect Edward does become something of a heroic character. His story isn't about revenge, love, or courage and at the same time it could be said it is about all these things. Creed is a word that is brought up often in the story, and as we know “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is the Assassin’s Creed. An appealing motto to a lecherous pirate, debauched by a life of open seas and the freedom of a privateer. Edward’s understanding of the Creed is never solidified as his own creed remains paramount, and it is one that only just overlaps with the Assassin’s.
In the moments that he kills his targets as with other games there is a dissertation of ideologies. These are usually two opposing arguments that seem to only mirror each other and function as a moral guide post for the series. I always liked these moments as they tore away all the posturing and rhetoric to better illustrate the series themes. Edward’s moments with his target’s are different though, as even though is targets are Templar’s his feud isn’t ideological but personal. The conversations then aren’t long winded feuds about morality, but instead are quick and simple moments between two characters in more basic fray for life and wealth.
Edward Kenway is by no means an inspirational hero, he should not be modeled after, or imitated. But he is flawed, he makes mistakes, and he is driven by greed and guilt. But when we see how important it is that not all heroes need to be magnanimously good. I like that, and I think that more characters like Edward could help enrich the landscape of game heroes. But what also hope is that I never seem him again, his story is told and to hear more of it would probably ruin what made this tale so great. read