Assassin’s Creed IV’s First Story DLC Focuses On Slavery

By Nathan Grayson on December 17th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

Please, I beg you! Stop pinching my elbow! I'll give you whatever you want!

The bulk of Assassin’s Creed III’s story DLC was rather silly (though disappointingly self-serious about it), but Assassin’s Creed IV has its eyepatched sights set on much grimmer subject matter. There’s still plenty of pirating to be done, but this time the backdrop is a St. Domingue (Haiti nowadays) ruled by savage slavery. As a former slave himself, new player character and former Black Flag sidekick Adéwale naturally gets involved – though not without some initial reluctance. Given that gaming’s often wont to gloss over this sordid truth of our world, I am hopeful that Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry will tell a worthwhile tale. The fact that Assassin’s Creed: Liberation scribe Jill Murray is involved doesn’t hurt, either.

The DLC episode, which will run you $9.99, should be out and buckling swashes any moment now. Here’s a brief synopsis:

“Set 15 years after the end of Black Flag, Freedom Cry stars an older Adéwale, who has since stepped out of Kenway’s shadow to become a seasoned Assassin and valued member of the Brotherhood. When the DLC begins, Adéwale is shipwrecked in St. Domingue (modern-day Haiti), where he comes face to face with some of the most brutal slavery in the West Indies. As he makes his way through St. Domingue, Port-au-Prince and the surrounding seas, Adéwale will counter the abominable cruelty festering in the region with his own ruthless justice, delivered via bloody machete, powerful blunderbuss – and while aboard his fearsome brig Experto Crede.”

Murray was also sure to note that, while slavery is obviously quite key to this story, it’s not the be-all, end-all of it. On that note, Ubisoft isn’t aiming for some mighty, overreaching takedown of slavery as a concept. It’s frighteningly multi-faceted (not to mention still existent) brand of terror, and Assassin’s Creed is, well, a videogame about stabbing men in the neck. Hooded men, sure, but not those hooded men.

“I always think it’s important to keep in mind that a character is first and foremost themselves,” Murray said in a blog post. “When I write them, I hope they’re never just a stand-in for an issue, and the idea isn’t just to confront this thing. Adéwale’s not standing in for every black man who was ever a slave in the 18th century. He’s Adéwale.”

Against all odds, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was actually quite good. I applaud Ubisoft for taking what seems to be a critical yet level-headed approach with this subject matter, so here’s hoping Freedom Cry follows in the peg-steps of its piratey predecessor. Then again, this is Assassin’s Creed we’re talking about. Rare is the grounded tale that stars men who gleefully leap from stories-tall roofs, land in hay bales, and emerge without a scratch. Also, there’s all that sci-fi silliness, largely inconsequential though it might have been in Black Flag. I will hold onto cautious optimism for Freedom Cry, but with a quadruple helping of caution.

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38 Comments »

  1. Cam says:

    I think these depictions are a good thing, even if they are inside a silly franchise. While playing Assassin’s Creed 3(bugs and lack of excitement aside), i couldn’t help but think to myself “even with the stabbing and magic, this is still more realistic than what passes for history lessons in the American public school system.”

    Full disclosure: I’ve been through the American public school system. XD

    • Premium User Badge basilisk says:

      Yep. That is one of the things that I really liked about AC3, actually. With the whole silly Templars/Assassins thing they’ve got going on, they could have depicted the war of independence as a fully black and white affair (British evil! Colonists good!), but instead they chose to go deeper and tell a much more nuanced story than that. For such a pulpy piece of pop culture, and a videogame to boot, that’s seriously impressive work.

      • Soulstrider says:

        They didn’t? Still haven’t played the game but besides the Washington dlc thingy, I got the impression from the trailers that it was good colonists vs evil british.

        • Toadsmash says:

          No, not even close. I won’t spoil the story, but several prominent American revolutionaries end up being your archenemies.

        • Premium User Badge basilisk says:

          Yeah. I think they’re doing this on purpose, actually; intentionally pretending it’s going to be a very simple affair only to inject a healthy dose of moral relativism into it later. Even in the base game, George Washington himself is no hero. A bit of a bastard, in fact.

          • Guiscard says:

            Shame that was pretty much “you ruined my life Washington, you villain! Now I’ll win this major battle for you, aiding both the revolutionary cause and your own personal goals because I’ve not got anything better to do!”

            While the Templar storyline was woven reasonably nicely into it (in spite of Connor), I always felt that while we didn’t get “British = evil, Colonials = good”, we got a “British = evil, some Colonials, including Washington and Templar ones = dodgy, while most Colonials = good”. Stuff like the Boston Massacre still manages to grate. Having a friendly (or at least non-hostile) British or Loyalist historical character to interact with in the main story line would have helped. Alas, they went with a fairly faceless approach to the British that was usually represented by the 18th-century equivalent of brutal ski-mask wearing soldiers coming at you.

    • kazooka says:

      Assassin’s Creed has always been secretly a lot more interesting than the murder-bro mainstream franchise that people seem to think it is. This is a game that contains a codex of dozens of historically accurate entries on the relevant architecture of the time, as well as pretty faithful (minus the convenient handholds) reproductions of those structures. And it’s always been sensitive about race and religion in ways that I don’t think EA or Activision ever would have considered. This is a franchise where you’ve played as a Middle Eastern man, a black female slave, and a Native American, as well as this upcoming DLC. But every time it comes out, people kind of talk about it like it’s the latest Call of Duty or something. I don’t think there’s been a single AssCreed game that’s gotten super-positive reviews, which is astonishing considering the strength of the franchise.

  2. Surlywombat says:

    I like the sci-fi sillyness. I feel it adds to the game and breaks up the game play in interesting ways. My most memorable moment of the series came because Desmond was “playing” enzio.

    • lordcooper says:

      Your opinion is wrong.

    • Soulstrider says:

      You are not the only one, I quite like the touch the sci-fi stuff gives to AssCreed

    • Volcanu says:

      I thought it was drivel. And worse than that those sections were dull and immersion breaking.

      Plus that Desmond guy was a jerk.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        A much better game involving someone called Desmond

  3. Bedeage says:

    The earnestness of the writer does him credit. On the other hand, “this sordid truth of our world” is hardly hidden. As far as I’m aware we have Black History Month which deals almost exclusively with slavery and the abuses committed by European colonials.

    • Volcanu says:

      In fairness he did say “gaming” is wont to gloss over it.

    • Surlywombat says:

      “Her”

    • h_ashman says:

      Also in fairness it wasn’t just the European colonials doing this. Europeans went to Africa to buy slaves from various African tribes who had captured them from other tribes. European nations were also banning slavery long before America did (e.g. UK banned it almost 60 years before the US did). Doesn’t make it better, and as the article says, it’s not going away, after all it’s been around for thousands of years (Egyptians and Israelites, Romans & Anyone they ever conquered for example).

      • Premium User Badge Okami says:

        While it’s true that slavery wasn’t uncommon in Africa before europeans established their slave trade there, the nature of slavery used to be very different there. Usually being a slave meant having to work off certain kinds of debts or obligations. The whole business with whole tribes being enslaved and sold off into slavery didn’t start until the europeans arrived and brought their version of slavery and slave trade.

        • Bedeage says:

          Too much of a generalisation, you cannot simply say that slavery across the African continent followed one practice. It’s also beyond naive to think that a debt that leads to slavery can be easily paid.

          Edit: and frankly, many SS African tribes colluded with Europeans in enslaving people. Mass slavery reached its endgame when the British called time on it.

        • RanDomino says:

          It was largely Africans who captured and sold Africans to Europeans.

      • Ich Will says:

        In the UK, you couldn’t be charged with slavery until 2010.

    • Allandaros says:

      @Bedeage – Oh! Oh wow. A history month!

      Goodness. I guess racism’s over, then. You’ve told me, you have.

      A whole month!

  4. almostDead says:

    More fuel for the Tumblr gods.

    I have to call fail on the alt-text today Mr. G.

  5. Premium User Badge Shockeh says:

    Easily my surprise great title of 2013. I bought it expecting a mild diversion as I enjoyed the Ezio games despite their quirks, and I was delighted with how much fun I had with ACIV so I’ll definitely be sinking for this.

    In a way, I wish Ubisoft wouldn’t do their ‘open world’ thing with the side missions though; It’s pleasant enough at first, but it becomes shallow (Oh so many naval puns, argh!) after you’ve been around the world a bit and realised how static it is, just waiting for you to turn up and obviously be the catalyst for anything to happen. It’s also a little prone to copy/paste habits towards the back end.

    It’s a minor thing, but I feel like it detracts from the game overall, it’d just be a better game without it.

  6. db1331 says:

    Slavery and murder is all just in good fun. They’d better not even imply that any character is about to be raped, though. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

    • misterT0AST says:

      And all the characters that die are at least 16 years old, or else those murders would leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. Gotta keep some good taste in them crimes against humanity.

  7. Jimbo says:

    Powerful Blunderbuss tag.

  8. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    Fun fact – Bristol still has a day commemorating this person: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Colston

  9. SuicideKing says:

    AssCreed IV: Freedom Cry 3

  10. The Random One says:

    If there’s a big developer that can tackle slavery sensibly, it’s Ubisoft.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t one. No ifs about it. Cheers on them for trying though.

    • Turkey says:

      Well, just by having the Assassin’s Creed game mechanics in there it’s going to turn into blacksploitation.

      I kinda enjoy that stuff, though. Django Unchained was one of my favorite movies last year.

  11. TT says:

    Have yet to play this.I like the period/ theme but whenever I watch the (acclaimed) naval battles I´m put off. Ramming sail ships steering like motorboats firing full 360…
    1.29 Sword to the knee! must play now

  12. Premium User Badge Matt_W says:

    Very nice. I’ll be checking this out. Also just read that AC:Liberation will be out for non-portable consoles/Windows in January.

  13. Turkey says:

    I enjoy this new trend of Ubisoft doing a little more adventurous stuff with their DLC and budget games.

  14. AJLeuer says:

    Brilliant. I’ve been looking for a way to sublimate my imperialist white guilt. Nothing like a bit of mindless violence for that.

    • RanDomino says:

      It’s at least a step in the right direction that the trailer suggests that this is a wholly oppressed-led revolt, without the usual white savior complex.

  15. CookPassBabtridge says:

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