Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Decoding the Uncharted 4 Teaser

Robert Rath | 9 Jan 2014 16:00
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Physically, Libertalia was your standard 17th century colonial outpost: It started out as a wooden fort and grew until it had a dock, farmland, a town and several cannon batteries to defend the town - think one of the smaller pirate settlements in Assassin's Creed IV. Not exactly impressive compared to Uncharted's lost cities. In fact, the entire place was destroyed not by cataclysm, but because local tribes raided the town and killed everyone while the pirates were away. Mission himself died shortly thereafter, when his remaining sloop sank in a storm.

The problem is James Mission, Caraccioli and Libertalia probably never existed. The best source for them is Captain Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, a book that shaped pirate lore, but is also full of errors and fabrications. For example, Johnson states that Mission died before Thomas Tew in 1695, but Mission was supposed to have begun his career by sinking the HMS Winchelsea in 1707. Given the evidence, it's likely that Mission and his crew are probably composite characters used as a prop to discuss political ideas. Early modern writers frequently discussed revolutionary politics this way, since pirates, castaways and stories of foreign lands let them explore political or religious ideas that might be too seditious if they were set at home. Both Sir Thomas Moore's Utopia and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe made use of the structure, (Defoe was long thought to have written The General History of the Pyrates too, but historians how reject this.)

But Naughty Dog has never been a slave to history - in reality Uncharted 3's Ubar probably was a tiny stop on the silk road - and they could easily scale Libertalia up into something epic.

Henry Every

So now that we have a place, we need a treasure - and the trailer hints toward one of those too. Most of the clues in the Uncharted teaser are little more than vengeful scribbles, but among the frantic handwriting lurks the phrase "Every betrayed us all." This might look like bad grammar at first glance, but it's a reference to Henry Every, a notorious pirate with links to Madagascar.

Henry Every (Evory or Avery in some records) has been called the most successful pirate in history for two reasons. First, he made the single biggest score in the history of piracy. Second, he actually managed to survive and retire - at least we think he did, since he vanished shortly after his greatest triumph.

Historians know little about Every's early life except that he served in the Royal Navy, traded slaves off the coast of Africa and by 1693 had landed a job as the first mate aboard the Spanish privateer Charles II. Unhappy, unpaid and having languished in port for almost a year, in 1694 the Charles II's crew mutinied and installed Every as captain. Every renamed the ship the Fancy and made for the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.

After a year raiding, Every was an established captain with a half-dozen prizes under his belt. Still unsatisfied, he shifted his focus to the Arabian Sea. Every year, the Islamic Mughal Empire sent a convoy from India to Mecca, not only as a religious pilgrimage, but also so the merchants could trade spices and cloth for gold and coffee. That year, the convoy was particularly ripe - 25-ships, including some owned by Emperor Aurangzeb himself. Every smelled gold.

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