History Reveals the plot of ACIV
Assassin’s Creed IV has been officially unveiled today, along with information on the main protagonist, Edward Kenway, and on the age it’ll be set in. Based at the beginning of the eighteenth century, we know for a fact that the story absolutely has to take place between 1700 and 1725 (the year Edward’s son, Haytham, was born). There’s always a chance that part of the game will have you controlling Haytham, but for now let’s presume that Ubisoft are being genuine in the details they’re giving us and that those are the dates we’re almost definitely going to need to look to for the events we’ll experience in the next Assassin’s Creed.
Today we’re going to take a quick look at some of the events of the early eighteenth century, and of the pirates we’re no doubt going to meet and what we might learn about the game, the plot and locations from looking at confirmed characters and dates. From the pirates already announced, we can almost work out where the plot’s going to go and some of the other people we’ll be meeting on our journey…
The West Indies/Caribbean
The Caribbean is almost synonymous with piracy in the minds of millions, thanks in part to the Disney ride and films. With good reason as well, there were over 2000 pirates in an area roughly four times the size of New York State and mostly covered in ocean. With hundreds of “Pirate Ports” covering the various islands, the area became almost entirely unmanageable and it is from this age that images of rows of hanging bodies come from. The punishment needed to be harsh, the problem was ridiculously rampant.
With several of the biggest countries in Europe claiming ownership of various islands and trade routes, it’s amazing to think that the piracy problem got as terrible as it did, but the truth of the matter is that much of what was stolen was there for the taking. Large ships filled of spice and, sometimes literally, treasure could be easily boarded by people who knew the waters after years of earning their living honestly. Fights between the Dutch, English and Spanish meant those inclined could easily take more than their fair share without worrying too much about repercussions.
The cost of the trade wars meant that many big ports were down on their luck, and so piracy was even encouraged by some officials. An English-born pirate raiding a Spanish vessel and bringing the money back to spend at an English colony will have been ignored, even helped by colony officials. It’s for reasons like this that Port Royal and similar ports have become so well known for their pirate populations.
It was perhaps inevitable that, once the main nations in the Caribbean had signed peace treaties, pirates would begin to be frowned upon. In the space of only a few years (and, in some colonies, a few weeks), pirates went from be semi-celebrated rogues to evil criminals. It says something about the way in which the English, Dutch and Spanish handled pirates prior to 1715, that the “problem” went from being a huge issue to all but stamped out in a matter of years.
Captain Kidd is famous more for the myth around him, than for any actual deeds. It’s said that he’d buried a great deal of treasure during his travels and, although there’s no real reason to think it exists, there have been searches for it as recently as within the last thirty years.
Actually fitting him into the game might be difficult – he was executed in 1701 – but being aboard Kidd’s ship would make for an excellent tutorial level. Kidd wasn’t ever technically a pirate, although his acts against foreign vessels might certainly be viewed as a little harsh. Even his own crewmen were badly treated.
It’d be a nice way of introducing why Edward is such a fine privateer, how the different nations interact with one another and the hypocrisy of the countries involved. It would also, of course, display the ultimate punishment for being caught, and give Edward good reason to lose trust in his country and his family.
One of the confirmed characters, Edward Teach is one of the most notorious pirates of all time. Like Captain Kidd, the myths surrounding him have become more well-known than the facts. Whether it’s placing candles into his deep, thick beard, or that sing a song of sixpence was a song he used to recruit crewmen, the best known stories aren’t always true (and Snopes is wrong on this one, as well).
Although Teach is perhaps the most iconic of the pirates, his time as a pirate coincided with a pretty quick decline in piracy as a whole. Although often painted as a powerful, ominous figure, Teach’s biggest tool was his use of rumour. Sailors throughout the Caribbean shivered at the sound of his name and that suited him down to the ground.
There’s no doubt that Blackbeard will be a big character in the latter parts of the game, but in what capacity? His use of influence and talk seems very “Templar” and maybe he’ll even have access to his very own Apple of Eden. That’s not to say that he couldn’t handle himself and command his men efficiently, the rumours built from actual acts and he certainly wasn’t a man you’d want to come face to face with.
Something tells me that in Assassin’s Creed IV, that’s exactly what will happen…
The other named pirate in the press release was Charles Vein, and he almost certainly continues the Templar tradition. Vein was a pirate in the true sense of the word, attacking ships regardless of who was sailing them. He also had a very nasty reputation for cruelty, both physically and generally. He’d happily kill captured men and usually kept the lion’s share of any plundered ware to himself.
Whereas Blackbeard was feared (and secretly respected), Vein was hated by everybody. His own crew mutinied against him and left him out at sea to rot. When he was finally captured, it took a year to execute him (although no one knows why). Nobody really minded.
Vein was pure evil and his country-blindness would make him a fine Templar. Only his real life greed and general bucking of authority would be uncharacteristic of that order, but I suppose we’ve seen a wide variety of Templars in previous games and Ubi will handle it fairly well.
Although not officially confirmed, Calico Jack Rackham is almost certainly going to make it into the game. The crew that mutinied against Charles Vein was led by Calico Jack and he became their captain. Oddly enough given how abhorrent Vein was, it’s difficult to agree with the mutineers. Vein attacked a boat that turned out to be better armed than they’d thought. Jack – naturally wreckless – wanted to continue attacking, but Vein ordered a retreat. If they hadn’t have got away, there’s every chance they’d have been sunk, but that didn’t stop Jack and pals coming to the conclusion that Vein had lost his nerve. Charles was kicked off the boat.
As a member of Vein’s crew, Jack is almost certainly going to be a Templar as well. He wasn’t killed until 1720 though, when he was executed and his body put on display for all to see. He was caught by pirate hunters whilst drunk, leading me to believe that perhaps the game won’t deal with the fate of Calico Jack (or go as far as 1720), although that’s really only a guess.
Anne Bonny/Mary Read
Anne Bonny was a strong female pirate, partner of Calico Jack and mother to his son. In a game about a group that was largely male dominated, Anne is almost certainly going to take part. After cheating on her husband with him, Jack offered to buy Bonny but she refused to be traded like an animal. Instead, they just escaped out to sea.
The best evidence we can go on says she was released after Jack was executed, that her father used his connections to get her out of trouble (as there’s evidence of him doing time and time again throughout her pirating career). She would remarry and live to the very healthy age of 80. To have a chance to ask the old woman what she thought of her younger self’s pirating would have been a great opportunity, but as far as we know she put it entirely behind her and never spoke of it again.
Mary Read was also a member of Calico Jack’s crew, although I don’t think she’ll make it into the game. She spent much of her career pretending to be a man, and did so incredibly successfully. She spent two months on board Calico’s ship without any of the crew realizing her true gender. Instead, I think there will be female characters based upon Read.
Once the crew was captured, Read claimed to be pregnant and died from a fever in prison.
From taking a quick look at the events and people of the early eighteenth century, it’s fair to assume that much of the game will take place at the very end of the golden age of piracy – between 1715 and 1720. The plot will likely revolve around the player hunting down and killing pirates, and the Templars financing them.
Although there’s a lot of possible characters for Assassin’s Creed IV, we can almost certainly see a pattern forming. The Templars are in true control of the Caribbean and those with money and influence within the various nations are recruiting and putting to use men like Teach and Vein.
Where does this leave our protagonist? Edward is most certainly an assassin, and he’ll almost definitely finish off some of the most famous pirates ever. But he’s also a pirate himself. Without the boundaries of nations and even laws, it’ll be interesting to see exactly how the line between Assassin and Templar, between good and evil, is blurred.