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Talk about a poorly kept secret, right? Ubisoft has now officially unveiled the next instalment in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, even though posters, screenshots and the reveal trailer were leaked over the course of this last week. The thing is, we’ve known about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for some time now; we’ve just been unable to talk about it due to those pesky embargos and NDAs we signed at the media unveiling in London.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is an entirely new story arc for Ubisoft. At the end of the disappointing Assassin’s Creed III, lead protagonist Desmond Miles’s story concluded. Thankfully that means we’re not going to be subjected to further, subtitled Assassin’s Creed III games starring Connor, because Connor was awful.

This time around we’re playing as a completely new assassin called Edward Kenway. If that surname is ringing a bell, it’s because Edward will later go on to father Haytham Kenway, who was one of the redeeming elements of Assassin’s Creed III. Another redeeming element of the previous game was the naval combat, and Black Flag is going to have that in droves thanks to its historical setting: the twilight years of the Golden Age of Piracy. Drink up me hearties yo ho!

Edward Kenway is a pirate, and a rather good one at that. At the start of the game he will already have established himself quite a reputation among the other pirates sailing the waters of the West Indies (which will later become the Caribbean). Edward is driven by his desire for infamy, and as such he’s honed his skills in naval warfare and combat.

But hang on, isn’t the Assassin’s Creed series all about, you know, assassinating Templars and stuff? It still is, yes. Central to the on-going Templar-Assassin war is the concept of freedom versus control; the Assassins want people to be free, whereas the Templars believe that stability is only attainable through controlling humanity. At around the beginning of the 18th century, very similar ideals about freedom formed the basis of what would be a cornerstone to the Republic of Pirates. The pirates formed a democracy among themselves and chose to adopt a very liberal interpretation of freedom in order to justify their pillaging of English, Spanish and French supply routes. Eventually, Edward becomes embroiled in the Assassin-Templar war and receives training to be admitted into the Assassin Brotherhood. Ubisoft told us that Edward’s involvement with the Assassins will result in his character development, as he changes from a life of wanton piracy to one of standing up for freedom on the side of the Assassins.

Ubisoft has been working on Black Flag since 2011, and they have some lofty goals planned for the game. For a start, the whole thing will be open world and based around ship travel. Edward’s ship, The Jackdaw, is being treated like a second character in the game and it will be your primary means of navigating the vast island chain in which the game is set. Ubisoft is boasting that this Assassin’s Creed will feature the most varied locations in the series so far. There will be 50 locations for you to explore ranging from full on, historically accurate towns to small fishing villages and hidden smugglers’ coves.

Naturally, naval combat will be one of the major gameplay mechanics, but the system will be much more freeform than it was in Assassin’s Creed III. For a start, the ocean is open, so you’ll be free to approach potential piracy targets from any direction. Once you’ve incapacitated the ship, you’ll be able to board in any way you see fit. You might get your crew to use boarding hooks to create a diversion while you hop overboard, swim around the back and sneak onto the enemy ship for a silent takedown of their captain. Edward is an assassin, after all.

We’ve got a super-massive Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag feature coming up in next month’s NAG Magazine, so be sure to grab a copy to check out all of the print exclusive content we got out sticky paws on. The game is out on 31 October for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U and Xbox 360. Ubisoft has said that the game will be on all “next generation consoles” so expect Black Flag to be on whatever Microsoft has planned as well.

In the meantime, check out the screenshot gallery below as well as the reveal trailer, which you’ve probably already seen a bajillion times because leaks.

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