For Edward Kenway, it was always a choice. The hero of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag follows a unique path into the Brotherhood – one that’s unlike any of his predecessors, each of whom seemed fated to become an Assassin. But don’t think that Edward’s journey is any easier just because he chose to get involved with the Creed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“The way Edward is introduced to the Assassin/Templar conflict is surprising and it’s a fresh approach to the storyline,” says lead writer Darby McDevitt. “Altair was born into it. Ezio and Connor both, through personal tragedy, met the Assassins and felt right away that it was not only a good philosophy but that it would help them accomplish their goals: Ezio’s being revenge and Connor’s being protecting his people and ensuring, in a general sense, that liberty wins out over tyranny.”
While McDevitt is keen to avoid story spoilers, he tells us that Edward first gets involved in the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars when he learns about a mysterious object that could make him powerful and wealthy. Naturally, both sides are after this object as well – and this serves as a jumping off point for the Edward’s journey.
From that point onward, Edward struggles. He struggles to become a better man. He struggles to become an infamous (and respected) pirate. He struggles to define who he is and what he’s after in life: be it riches, wealth, power…or a deeper meaning and true value. That very struggle is what defines who Edward eventually becomes.
Falling Far From the Tree
“Edward is almost a counterpoint to Connor in some ways,” McDevitt says. “Connor begins very idealistic and the experience he has through Assassin’s Creed III starts to make him really jaded. He’s doing all these things he believes are right and they don’t pay off in all the right ways.”
Edward’s path is almost the direct inverse,
which was intended by the creative team from the very beginning of Black Flag’s development. Indeed, when the idea first emerged about doing a Kenway family saga, the team wanted to show how each of the three generations (Edward, Haytham, Connor) picked a different path through life. McDevitt also wanted to create a character who stood in stark contrast to his own grandson. “So I started with a guy who was already jaded. He was cynical. He’s out for himself. He has this marriage that’s really rocky. He’s estranged from his wife. He wants to try to prove he’s a man worthy of her affection, so he goes to the West Indies to become a privateer, and that falls apart really fast and he falls into piracy.”
‘Edward is almost a counterpoint to Connor in some ways’
Even after Edward begins to associate with the Assassins, he doesn’t fully commit right away. “He kind of bounces between the Assassins and Templars for a time, trying to find something that makes his life more meaningful,” McDevitt says. “At first he has all these selfish goals but his experiences focus him on what is and isn’t important in life.”
Man in Conflict
Naturally, that makes the Assassins wary of Edward – even after they start to bring Kenway into the fold. They know Edward’s a decent man. They see the promise in him. But they can also see that Edward’s initial interest in the Brotherhood revolves around the pirate’s selfish desire to gain access to the group’s powerful tools and techniques – with little appreciation for the Creed itself.
“Because he’s a good man at heart and the Assassins can see that, they pop into the story and try to steer him right, but he just refuses to listen after a time,” McDevitt says. “He’ll come into contact with Templars at the same time and they’ll be interested in him too.” Throughout it all, Edward remains steadfastly focused on his own goals. He wants to be rich. He wants to be infamous. He wants to be a great pirate captain. He wants to show people he’s better than the poor guy he grew up as. “That’s the core conflict in our story: this attitude he’s struggling with and these people who want a piece of him in different ways, and how he deals with that.”
Edward also finds the Creed restricting – until he starts to bend it to his will, starting with the Creed’s central maxim: Nothing is true, everything is permitted. “If nothing is true and everything is permitted, then Edward can do whatever he wants,” McDevitt says. “But that’s not what it means at all. When I wrote Assassin’s Creed Revelations, I had Ezio describe what the Creed means to him. He said it’s a description of reality. It’s not a license to do anything you want. Everything is permitted, but that means if you cause harm to others, harm might be caused to you.”
As for the actual tenets of the Creed – never harm an innocent, hide in plain sight, don’t compromise the Brotherhood – Edward plays fast and loose with those as well. “If you’re a pirate, you harm innocent people. You rob merchants,” McDevitt says. Also, because Edward isn’t fully committed to being a member of the Brotherhood, he doesn’t mind if this secret underground society is compromised in some way. This creates a dynamic tension between what Edward wants from himself and what he’s borrowing from the Brotherhood. That tension will be constant in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, and it’s that very struggle – borne out of choices made by Edward himself – that will define both the game and the character himself.
For another look at Edward Kenway, be sure to check out: Edward Kenway – Portrait of a Pirate Assassin