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Warning: spoilers for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations follow.
When we last saw Desmond, our modern-day hero and narrative lynchpin through the entire Assassin’s Creed franchise, he was dead. Or close enough.
That leaves a pretty big hole in Creed’s mythos going into Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (due November 1 on PlayStation 4 and PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, and PC). The series pulled off its epic trips into history via Desmond, who strapped into the genetic-memory-decoding Animus and relived his ancestors’ adventures in professional murder. No Desmond, no access to the litany of hooded killers stretching from the Crusades to the 21st century.
Luckily, the team at Ubisoft Montreal found a replacement to fill the gap: You.
“We wanted to remove this barrier that you’re playing a guy who’s playing in a machine playing a guy,” says game director Ashraf Ismail. “So instead, it’s really you as the hero in the present day using the Animus to go into someone’s life.”
No one at Ubisoft would confirm it, but if “removing the barriers” is indeed the goal, it’s possible Black Flag’s modern-day segments could be Creed’s first foray into a first-person perspective, perhaps even with a silent protagonist. Either way, it still leaves the tricky bit about slipping into Desmond’s family line to ferret out secrets lost to history. Ismail has an intriguing answers for that, too.
For starters, Abstergo — the modern-day front company for the Templars, ancient enemies of the assassins — has expanded. “Abstergo Entertainment is a subdivision of Abstergo Industries created to do research on historical events and characters for entertainment value,” says Ismail. Naturally, their true motives run deeper and darker. “You’re hired by Abstergo Entertainment to do research on this great pirate known as Edward Kenway. As far as you know, you’re just doing research on some dude in the past using this awesome machine called the Animus.”
But Edward Kenway isn’t some dude. He’s an assassin — Assassin’s Creed IV’s cover boy, in fact. Something happened in his life that’s very important to the power-hungry Templars. You’re going to help them learn the details, and their new Animus doesn’t depend on your being a direct descendent.
“Now it’s not just Desmond who can go back into his own lineage,” says Ismail. “The Animus technology’s progressed so others can do this, and that’s part of the story.”
We’ve already seen “Animus farms” where Abstergo trains their agents (it’s even the metastory behind Creed’s multiplayer mode), but Abstergo Entertainment’s huge, mall-like environment and open-to-the-public Zen rock gardens comes off as far more sinister for what it’s hiding. And it remains to be seen how extensive their little research project is, what it’s truly for, or how you’ll stop it.
Because this time, without Desmond to fall back on, it’ll all be on you.