As every employee at Abstergo Entertainment knows, you can tell great stories if only you’re willing to fudge history a little. It would be easy to weave a narrative in which Assassin’s Creed 3 saw Ubisoft Montreal recognise their own hubris, and Black Flag display their newfound humility - but the truth is that the two projects were in the works simultaneously.
In fact, Black Flag learned its strongest lessons from its more lately successful sister series - Far Cry.
“Every game, every project has its own history, its own challenges and its own reception,” Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag creative director Jean Guesdon told VG247 of Assassin’s Creed 3’s less than warm public welcome.
It transpires that Guesdon’s team were already in conception and pre-production when Assassin’s Creed 3 jumped headlong into full production. By the time the first reviews came in, their key decisions had been made.
“For sure we read [the reviews] and identified some points that we wanted to make sure to address,” said Guesdon, “but in no way was Black Flag decided or majorly influenced after or by Assassin’s Creed 3’s reception.”
Rather, the Black Flag team were looking to other contemporary events in Ubisoft Montreal’s busy release calendar. At that time, Far Cry 3 was in the wild, and Guesdon looked to that game's reception during his team’s decision making process.
“We’re always listening to players, even players of our competitors,” he explained. “We’re always trying to improve our own game, incorporating good ideas if we think they make sense in the game.
“We listened as much if not more to comments about Far Cry 3 than comments about Assassin’s Creed 3.”
It’s certainly true that Black Flag’s open world structure has a lot in common with Far Cry’s. Where Assassin’s Creed 3’s environments felt like bear traps waiting to close as soon as its generation-sweeping plot decided to funnel the player to a new area, Black Flag’s West is a permanent space to gradually explore and own every inch of - much like Far Cry 3’s tropical island paradise.
Can you see any other telltale spots where elements of Far Cry have filtered into Black Flag? Our Tim called Far Cry 3 the year's best shooter in, oh god, 2012. Two calendar years ago. Did somebody speed up the planet?