Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag lead writer Darby McDevitt has commented on the similarities of the open ended gameplay to the first two games in the series.
He said, “the cities operate very similarly to the way Assassin’s Creed 2 did it. We brought it back to an Assassin’s Creed 1/Assassin’s Creed 2 style with open-ended assassination. I don’t know if it was a response to [criticism of Assassin's Creed 3], because we started developing the game a year before Assassin’s Creed 3 came out, but we were all fans of the open ended quality.”
“I think we were actually looking back at Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Assassin’s Creed 3, both of which had kind of gone towards a more linear Uncharted style of experience. We wanted to go back to Assassin’s Creed 1/Assasson’s Creed 2 style open-ended assassinations, so even before we saw the result of what Assassin’s Creed 3 was doing, we just knew this was a philosophy we wanted to follow.”
“There’s a very light present day wrapper on this. It’s got a lot of extra content for thost people who like the present day and will really be rewarding for people who like the present day story, but its not too burdensome for people who just want to do the pirate game.”
“It’s about, I’d say, 45 minutes total content through the whole story. The main path in the game takes about 20 hours on average. Its actually quite a bit longer than other Assassins’ Creeds have been because the naval stuff gives a very different pace to the game, a very different feeling to the way exploration works.”