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.