A stroll in London
Markuz, September 29, 2013
Translated by: Sara

Earls Court One, half an hour before the beginning
We can finally announce it! ATA, represented by the undersigned, has visited the Eurogamer Expo in London! In Earl's Court chaos, I managed to try Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag several times in order to write an interesting preview of the game just one month before its release date.

I am not used to write gaming exprience articles, especially talking in first person, so be patient if my style will be a little different from the classic previews one. For starter,I will begin by telling you that the the Eurogamer Expo is a show mainly centered on video games, similar to the more famous E3 and Gamescom but a bit smaller. This difference in size, however, should not delude you, because it still is a fair located in a huge building, the Earl's Court One, capable of holding about 20,000 visitors.

Earls Court, Syncronization point :p

This year there were a lot of playable games or trailers for titles like Watch Dogs, Batman: Arkham Origins, Ryse: Son of Rome and our Assassin's Creed 4. At the fair, AC4 had, in particular, three different demos: the first one was at the Nvidia booth and it was about the attack and conquer of a fort. The second one was playable at the Playstation4 booth and it revolved around Julien Du Casse assassination. The last one, located in AC dedicated area, gave the possibilty to explore the huge Open World.
AC dedicated area, game floor

Just a little warning before beginning, I'll make reference to Playstation pad buttons because two out of the three demos were playable on PS4, while the third, the fort one, was displayed on the PC.

The fort Demo
I will just skip over this one because it is the already wellknown strategic demo widely shown in a lot of previous videos. It was not possible to perform different actions or to visit new places but the ones already known.

Du Casse assassination Demo
Even this one gave me few additional information. As the previous demo, it was largely explored in the past and, in addition, it is a mostly linear mission in which they show the three pillars of the AC saga: free running and freedom of action, stealth and combat, in this very order. The demo started from a high point in the jungle and it was necessary to perform basic parkour between rocky platforms and broken wooden bridges: they had to be used as ladders in order to reach a path that led Edward into the jungle.

Free Running
The first section, without guards, gave me the opportunity to taste the quality of the next-gen graphic effects and AC4 dedicated improvements: the management of the lights, the movement of plantation to the passage of Edward, his "real" camouflage between the leaves. Then I came to a larger area, always in the jungle, in which I found several low houses with thatched roofs and many guards, some placed on the top of them. Being a good average player, the mission started in stealth mode and ended with a disastrous misstep and subsequent fight with all the guards. In this area, on a raised platform, there was an Animus Fragment too.

Small enemy village
The path, then, drove me outside of the jungle, into a small village by the sea, full of guards. In order to walk a different road from the known demo, I turned left instead of heading for the center of the village. I ended up in an open area with a corn field and even this place was strongly guarded. This plantation too worked as a camouflage but, in this case, Edward was visible even on next gen.
This side path would have led to the harbor and would have given me the possibility to avoid some of the guards ... it obviously didn't work for me. The guards noticed me and I had to face another battle. Once I managed to bump them off, this "alternative" route took me to the rear of du Casse's ship. The rest is already known from the famous demo: Edward attacks du Casse and the guards on the deck and he shows him the hidden blade while his enemy is on his knees with a golden key around his neck.

Open World Demo
The Open World Demo is the one from which I have been able to extrapolate a lot of new information about various matters. It began with Edward at the rudder of his Jackdaw with Adewale at his side, obviously with folded arms. Having the possibility to go anywhere within the playable area, there were a lot of things that could be done and the first was, obviously, the navigation.
"Cruise" visual of the JackDaw during the Full sail
In AC4, as in the previous game, it is possible to navigate with three different speeds: the slowest, useful to tack as in AC3, the half speed to move around better but always with an acceptable turn quality, and the fastest, the full sail. For the latter, unlike AC3, you will have the visual point of view behind the Jackdaw, far enough to contain the entire ship in the screen. A sort of "cruise" visual that will allow you to admire the surrounding landscape and which will prevent you from using weapons. As already shown in other videos, the Jackdaw will have four basic weapons: the frontal attack through rostrum / tip of the ship, the side cannons, the swivel cannons (this time they can be used several times after hitting ships with side cannons) and the explosive barrels that are released into the sea from the back of the Jackdaw. The first enemy I met was a very small ship. Side cannons and a swivel were enough to take it down.
Looting the ship's remains
Immediately after the sinking animation, on the sea, exactly were the ship sank, some floating remains appeared, covered by the smoke of the attack - some boxes and planks. They are the equivalent of the murdered soldiers' bodies and in fact, in the same way, from the ship "body" I was able to loot, by pressing the square button, members of the crew and some cloth. These remains can not be picked up while traveling in "cruise" mode.

Right after, I met one of the playas that Ismail talked about so much in the last days, one of those small beaches that are not considered like real islands but on which, sometimes, you can find interesting things. To move Edward from the rudder, it was necessary to stop the ship and to hold the circle button (with the control visible on the screen). Here I could see the seamlessness Ubisoft was so proud of, and I have to say that the absence of loading times between ship sessions and ground ones actually makes a lot. Before leaving the ship,
From hook to hook
I moved Edward, by mistake, towards the nearest mast of the ship and an animation started. It made me reach the top of the mast itself by holding to a hook with the classic animation used to get on the top of the rooftops. In a similar way, from where I arrived, I hung up to another hook that helped me returning to the deck of the Jackdaw. I guess these two hooks can be very useful during the exploration phase and especially during the boardings.

At this point, I dove into the sea and then I swam to the beach. The beach itself was not particularly interesting in terms of objects or enemies thus, being a quiet place, I took some time to evaluate the inventory that could be managed with the directional pad.
The inventory
The inventory is cross-shaped in order to exactly resemble the directional cross and so to be intituitively used. On the vertical axis I could select the melee weapons: bare hands, the double hidden blades and double swords. On the horizontal axis I could select long ranged weapons: rope dart, smoke bombs, guns, blowpipes to put enemies to sleep and to get them crazy and coins.

Since I had nothing to do on the beach, I went back to the Jackdaw and I walked between the crew while heading for the rudder. Each member of the crew was intent to perform different actions: there were those who were repairing or loading the cannons, those who was cleaning the deck, others who were pulling the ropes, some who were relaxing leaning against one of the edges of the ship and those who stood with their arms folded next to the rudder (of course Adewale ...) As I approached him, I noticed that the doors of the room under the rudder was glowing (it was impossible not to see it).
The Captain's room
The interaction with it made me enter the Captain's room, the one that developers often talked about. The room is characterized by dark colors, in plain contrast with the bright light of the day, and by a foggy atmosphere. It's a four-sided room with a round central table on which there are several rolled sheets, an inkwell on the side, some bottles and glasses, a candleholder and an open map. This map represents the access to Edward's fleet. Obviously I tried to go in by pressing the circle button, but on the screen appeared an error message with which the PS4 apprised me that I needed to log in to PSN to manage this feature. This means that, likely, the fleet will be managed through internet connection (and so by any chance there will be the possibity for the companion app to communicate with AC4 main game).
On the left of the room there was a bench equipped with different weapons (swords, guns etc..) and a mannequin with some clothes on it. Interacting with it, allowed me to choose Edward's equipment. The equipment consists of three entries: swords sets (the description says: "A pirate with only one sword is no true pirate"), guns sets ("A pirate can - ney, MUST - be judged by the number and the quality of the guns he carries ") and clothes.
The clothes in the demo were 20 and not all of them were actually selectable. Among them, there were really interesting ones and to see them, please visit this page:

Guns selection
The guns sets in the demo were seven and, among them, two were particularly interesting: the Golden Flintlock, famed for their "extraordinary precision". They can be gained by completing all the naval contracts. The second interesting set is the Captain's Wheellock, gained by completing community challanges.

The swords sets were fourteen and four of them stood out:
  • Pistol swords: Gained by completing all the Assassination contracts (seems like gunblades are going to appear in AC too...)
  • Scottish broadswords: Gained by finding three social trasures.
  • Persian Scimitars: Gained by completing community challenges.
  • Swords of Toledo: Redeem on Uplay. A sleek pair of swords Edward Kenway accepted in the famous city of Toledo.
I got back to the Captain's room and I saw Edward's desk in the background covered with papers, maps and a few bottles. On the right side of the room there was a Jackdaw model from which I could access to the ship's upgrades. There were a lot of upgrades and I could choose between several entries in order to improve the power of my weapons or the strenght of my Jackdaw's armor, or else I could decide for small gameplay upgrades(for example, improving swivel guns makes them able to draw on multiple consecutive targets by holding the "triangle" button down). The entries allowed me to modify the Jackdaw's appearence too and, in fact, I could change even the diving bell, the hunting boat and also the harpoons.

The hunting boat

In addition, for what concerned the Jackdaw's appearence, it was possible to modify the sails, the front part of the ship and the rudder: some of these upgrades were blocked and they required to fullfil a plan / project to be unlocked. Among the various versions of these three elements, as we already know, there will also be those of the famous pirate ships of the time.


Once I satisfied my curiosity and checked everything in the Captain's room, I set sail again and I ended up between several enemy ships. The battle began and, after a continuous use of cannons and swivels, I defeated all of them but one. I put it to use in order to try the boarding process: first, it was necessary to lower the enemy ship's health level without destroying it. It was not difficult to understand when the right level came because the "life" bar of the ship was divided into slots with different colors based on the suffered damage. In addition, another thing that helped me understanding that I could board the ship was that it was not moving anymore and it was not sinking yet.
The boarding symbol
When I approached the ship, above Edward's head a boarding harpoon symbol appeared and, by holding the circle button, I gave my whole crew the order to attack. I fought the enemy ship with the crew and I moved myself between smoke and flames. At the end of the fight, the enemies surrendered and a short animation started with the defeatd crew on its knees in front of Edward. I received plundered objects like metal, cloth and members of the crew and I had to choose between of three different actions: repair the Jackdaw, reset wanted level or send the ship to Edward's fleet. I selected the first choice and another short animation started with the crew members repairing the ship.

The last thing I could see in this demo was the vast Havana that I reached using the fast travel. The fast travel directly took me to the city port which was the best setting to enter the town. In this case too, there were a lot of guards and many non-playing characters and every one of them was busy with different actions. After the classic stroll in the crowd, I climbed to the roofs to move faster.
Automatic escape animation
As I wandered, I saw some blue squares on the map. These symbols represent the automatic escape points through the buildings. I personally tried one of them with which, starting from a high floor, I reached the ground floor. From there, I started to walk among the crowd heading for the main square with its imposing cathedral. The map showed me a Skull symbol (that represents the Assasination contracts) and another point of interest. It was the classic mission to save someone from the guards but, this time, instead of joining the Assassins Brotherhood, they joined my crew. At this point, then, I HAD to complete an Assassination contract but, as I walked toward the icon, I saw on the map the symbol of a musical note, which meant sea shanty. In this very moment I got a taste of what the developers meant by saying "having in mind to do a certain action but being distracted from the game world and ending up doing something different." I decided to get the note and surprisingly I noticed that it was not in a crate. At least in the city, in fact, the songs in AC4 will have the same function of Benjamin Franklin's almanac pages. Meaning: we will jump and run through the city trying to reach them before they disappear.
The Assassination contract
The last thing I had to do was the Assassination contract in which I had to kill a Templar captain hidden into the Havana commercial district. For once I succeeded in completing the mission in a respectable way, completely stealthy. The Templar captain was in a "restricted" area (those red areas on the map, so to speak) and Edward, who wasn't wearing his hood, put it on as soon as he reached the place. This means that Edward will act incognito, or even hooded, only if it's required by the mission (as the developers already revealed). I then completed the assassination by killing a guard from the hay, shooting another one with the blowpipe and killing the Templar captain from behind a column. During this session, I experimented also the Eagle Vision ability that allowed me to see enemies even if they were behind barriers (trees, walls, etc..).
End of the mission
The focus, however, should not be placed on how I've completed the mission but on the various possibilities with which it could have been accomplished: I could have shot the victim directly from the rooftops (the aim is free with the left shoulder button), I could have shot the explosive barrels placed nearby, I could have used the blowpipe to get the guards crazy and to make them fight each other before approaching the captain or even I could have chosen a frontal attack. In short, the assassination contracts seem to be returned to the ones of the past and so does the freedom with which the player can carry them out. We'll see if this applies also to the rest of the game.

That's all, folks, for the Eurogamer Expo 2013 preview! For any doubt, leave a comment below and stay synched for other news and spoiler!


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