Assassin's Creed is my favorite franchise of the Xbox 360/PS3 era. I know that's an increasingly unpopular opinion, but this series gripped me from the very outset. The wonderful combination of conspiracy theory intertwined with historical events, all wrapped around an open-world experience that encourages exploration is what enticed me in the beginning, and it's what keeps me coming back for more.
That being said, I don't view the Assassin's Creed games through rose-tinted glasses. Just the opposite, I hold these titles to a very high standard. One that I believe reciprocates the potential that they have. To this day, Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood are the only games that I look back on with completely favorable opinions.
With the official reveal of Assassin's Creed IV came a ton of information on the direction of the game. As is almost always the case, just about everything looks promising as of right now. It's yet to be seen how it all translates to the final product. As a veteran and enthusiast of the franchise, these are my major concerns about Assassin's Creed IV.
The Viewpoints won't be high enough
Climbing ominously giant buildings, synchronizing, and then gracefully swan diving to safety has been one of the defining characteristics of the Assassin's Creed experience. Cities such as Damascus, Rome, and Florence featured some amazingly tall towers that were fun to climb, and once at the top, it was equally enjoyable to look around at the sights. The series has been in somewhat of a decline in this respect. Constantinople, Boston, and New York didn't have the architecture that was present in the earlier games.
The cities announced for Assassin's Creed IV are Havana, Kingston, and Nassau. Given the seaside nature of these locales (especially in the 1700's), I don't expect that they'll play host to many large structures. Assassin's Creed IV can possibly make up for it by introducing Viewpoints on the edges of the islands that require tough, arduous climbs through the wilderness to surmount.
There will be too much emphasis on guns
I understand that as the series progresses through time, it makes sense for each assassin to have an arsenal available to him that is representative of the era he lived in. It's just that, well, it feels like cheating using a freaking gun.
The early promotional materials that have been generated by Ubisoft depict this protagonist strapped with four guns. Four! There's no doubt that the trusty blunderbuss was a mainstay in a pirate's weapon cache, but being equipped with four guns leads me to believe that it's going to be heavily featured in the game.
Crossbows aside, firearms aren't something that the Assassin's Creed franchise has done particularly well. They feel clunky in the throes of combat, and are generally a pain to use. More importantly, gun blasts are basically the opposite of discreet -- something that being an assassin is all about.
They'll overdo it with the naval combat
One of the most well-received aspects of Assassin's Creed III were the naval combat missions. They added a nice sense of variety to an otherwise familiar experience. However, I can't shake the feeling that it worked because it was in moderation.
Assassin's Creed IV will surely have plenty of fighting across the mighty seas. That's sort of what pirates do. There will probably be lots of ship boarding and plundering of other vessels. That's all fine and dandy.
What I'm concerned about is the prospect of the battles akin to the ones in Assassin's Creed III becoming commonplace. What if every time you try to sail somewhere, a couple of these fights take place between Point A and Point B? It won't take long before their welcome is thoroughly worn out, and they're met with nothing but exasperation.
Assassinations will be too linear
Open-ended assassinations were one of the main characteristics of the earlier Assassin's Creed titles that went a long way toward making me fall in love with the series. Nothing was better than plotting my own route to the target and disposing of him as I felt fit.
In recent years, the Assassin's Creed games have made a departure of sorts from this style of gameplay. In an interview with Destructoid, Ashraf Ismail, Assassin's Creed IV's Game Director, told us that this game would make a return to open-ended assassinations.
If he means what he says, this is great news. Nothing makes you feel like a crafty assassin more than be given a setting and turning the wheels of fate yourself. It's good to hear that the developers acknowledge this, but this concern won't be put to bed until I actually play the game.
Who will replace Desmond?
As Ubisoft had said many times before the release of Assassin's Creed III, that game was the last in Desmond's story arc. Personal opinions of him vary widely, but regardless, he was the only constant across the first five Assassin's Creed titles.
Ubisoft has reported that the present-day protagonist of Assassin's Creed IV will be you -- that's right, you, the player. Unfortunately, I don't think that this statement could be any more unclear in its meaning. We'll have to wait to see how this one plays out.
Desmond's story in the present was the one definite that the Assassin's Creed games always had to fall back on in the event that the ancestor's story wasn't engaging the player. With Desmond out of the picture, hopefully Ubisoft has a solid replacement lined up.
All that being said, I still eagerly await my turn as a pirate assassin.