When Assassin’s Creed IV arrived on consoles recently, many gamers liked the game’s sailing and piratical activities even more than the traditional assassination missions. Ubisoft must have known the pirate stuff would go over well, as they’re about to release a nautically-themed mobile spin-off called Assassin’s Creed Pirates.
We recently snuck over to Ubisoft’s San Francisco headquarters, played Assassin’s Creed Pirates, and lived to tell the tale. Check out our hands-on preview after the break!
From zero to antihero
Players take on the role of Alonso Batilla, a new character in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Since this spin-off revolves entirely around piracy (not assassination or the recollection of a past life), Alonso probably won’t don the series’ traditional assassin’s robe. Instead, he’ll build a reputation as a pirate and seek a legendary treasure.
The main character doesn’t start out as an established pirate. When we first meet him, Alonso has been taken captive aboard a vessel. His captors come under attack from the pirate La Buse’s ship.
Captain La Buse quickly takes a shine to Batilla. Not only does he free Alonso, he gives the former prisoner a ship of his own. Talk about moving up the ranks! Perhaps La Buse’s reasons for trusting Alonso will become clear later in the game.
Learning the ropes
After the introductory cinematic wraps, players will set sail towards their meeting with La Buse at Scorpion’s Reef. Steering the ship takes place in a first-person perspective, just as in Assassin’s Creed IV. Swipe left or right along the ship’s wheel in order to navigate the waters and avoid obstacles. Buttons at the bottom-right corner of the screen control acceleration and deceleration.
Since the steering is so simple and intuitive, you’ll have ample time to take in the lush islands, volcanoes, and other landscapes of the Caribbean Sea. Speaking of the sea, Assassin’s Creed Pirates features some of the most detailed and eye-catching water ever seen in a mobile game. The water effects rival those of the latest series installment on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. No wonder Ubisoft recommends a high-end device to play this one.
Before long, Alonso’s ship will encounter another seafaring ship and attack it. This is a game about piracy, not diplomacy.
Ship battles consist of attack and defense phases. Drag left or right to aim your cannons. You’ll have to lead a little to compensate for the opponent’s movement, but firing too far ahead can lead to a miss too. Cannons take a little time to recharge, so all the more incentive to fire carefully.
Your opponents won’t just sit there and sink without a fight; they shoot back too. When an enemy ship prepares to fire, the camera pulls out to show their planned trajectory. You can then tap left or right to dodge in either direction. Successfully avoid damage to receive a Perfect Dodge rating (and keep your ship afloat).
Sailing into the sunset and beyond
After sending an enemy ship to Davy Jones’ locker, players will engage in a fun little salvaging minigame. Boxes of supplies can be roped and pulled aboard. The harvested resources can then be spent on items, crew members, and even new ships. Having finished the tutorial, players will visit the map screen from which they can choose their next mission.
There’s much more to conquer and explore in Assassin’s Creed Pirates. Experience the pirate life for yourself when the game arrives on high-end Android devices this Thursday, December 5th. It will cost $4.99.