Assassin's Creed IV isn't just a pirate adventure, and it doesn't just take place on the high seas. See, there's also a fictional present-day bit that takes place in a Montreal game development studio that makes Assassin's Creed games. They're basically a more sinister, fictional version of the game's actual developer, Ubisoft Montreal.
As you explore the present-day bits, you'll hack into your co-workers' computers and find all manner of files. Some of them pertain to the ongoing Assassins vs. Templars fiction, some flesh out the backstory for the series' longrunning characters. And some give you a look into the inner workings of Abstergo Entertainment itself, Ubisoft Montreal's evil stand-in.
A lot of the collectables are fun, but one in particular stands out. It's a lengthy email thread between studio head Olivier Garneau and the rest of his creative team. In it, they talk about the many (many!) possibilities for future games in the series, and lay out the various historical timeframes made possible by Subject 17's DNA line, the same DNA that's been mined for the previous main games in the series.
While, of course, this entire email thread was "written" by fictional characters and is meant in fun—none of the settings are going to necessarily become real-life Creed games—it's worth noting that the information about Subject 17's DNA is canon, so each one is at least possible.
Also, the characters eventually point out that there are thousands of ancestors they've yet to investigate, and really, they can now re-create just about anyone's history, so future games could potentially go way beyond the possibilities listed here.
A quick warning that the thread contains plenty of what some would consider spoilers for the future content of the game, though nothing too serious about Edward Kenway's story. Also note the reference to the Chicago shareholders' meeting, which is likely yet another fun, small tie-in to the Watch Dogs universe.
Feel free to use our image annotation software to make notes on any bits you think are particularly interesting:
The whole thing is a lot of fun; I like the part about why they don't put cars into their games. At times, it hits almost too close to home—the postscript questions about lunch meetings, and the way Oliver shuts the whole thing down at the end... painfully familiar to anyone who's engaged in a group-cc'd corporate email thread. Another note: The images that turn up midway through the email aren't new, they've been around for a while along with some other cool concept art for places the series might go.
Update: As our own supersleuth columnist Superannuation points out, the image of the pyramids at the top of the article looks like concept art from Project Osiris, a possible Prince of Persia reboot Ubisoft Montreal was rumored to be working on, which they've since said is no longer moving forward.
In my review, I mentioned that this email thread felt to me like an echo of Ubisoft's real-life struggles with the series, and the question of what kinds of historical scenarios they want to recreate for players. Who are these games for? Do they continue to go with what sells, or is there room for other, richer experiences?
We'll probably never get to read Ubisoft's actual internal emails debating the future of the Assassin's Creed series. But hey, reading their fictional counterpart's email kinda feels like the next best thing.