Everyone is familiar with Ubisoft. Love them or hate them, they are the studio that has made some of the biggest franchises in gaming. From Assassin’s Creed to Watch Dogs and the Far Cry games to Rainbow Six, Ubisoft is a powerhouse of a developer.
Ubisoft doesn’t make bad games. In fact, they’ve made some pretty good ones and it’s hard to find one of their games below 75 on Metacritic. Everything they make has some satisfying gameplay, a decent story and mechanics that work pretty well. When you buy a Ubisoft game, you know it’ll have a certain level of quality.
So with the recent releases of Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I should be excited. But really, I don’t care. I have no interest in these two games, and I doubt I will ever have any interest. The idea of playing a Watch Dogs or Assassin’s Creed game is just boring to me.
Same Stuff, Different Game
These games just look like every other Ubisoft game that I’ve played. Without playing a second of either one, I already know that the map will be open world and covered with stuff to do like a chore list. I know that every mission will be “Go to this marker for an arbitrary reason”. And I know there will be some task I need to complete to unlock a section of the map. I know this because it’s everything I had to do in their other games.
After Far Cry 4, I realised that this series was the same as their other franchises. Ubisoft would keep selling the same game over and over again, just in a new location. Far Cry New Dawn wasn’t even subtle about it. Rockstar and Bethesda might keep re-releasing GTA V and Skyrim over and over, but at least they don’t make it out like it’s a brand new game every time.
The moment that killed Assassin’s Creed was when the modern-day storyline ended. It was never the big selling point of any game, but the modern-day sections gave the series an overarching plot. But now that there is no overarching plot, Ubisoft can just keep making these games as much as they want. There’s no longer any creative force behind wanting to make another game in this franchise.
Take a Little Bit of This and a Bit of That
There’s no problem in taking inspiration from existing properties, every media property does it. Jedi Fallen Order is basically Dark Souls, but it addresses the issues that some people have with the series. Like making the game easier and telling its story in a way that’s less cryptic, making it more accessible to casual gamers. To a lot of people, Fallen Order is an improvement on the Dark Souls formula. Plus being a Jedi is pretty cool.
The problem with Ubisoft’s approach is how their games just end up being this mish-mash of ideas that were better in other games. Combat, skill trees, driving, crafting and open worlds are all elements you can find in so many other games that do it better. These elements have been proven to work, which are the only elements that Ubisoft uses.
The worst part of any Ubisoft game is their “open world”. Games like Breath of the Wild and Grand Theft Auto try to make their world feel alive, packing in details to create this illusion. They make the world full of character and charm to make it memorable. Ubisoft’s worlds just feel empty. There are no details, no hidden gems that a designer wanted to throw in, there’s just a location so that gameplay can happen, and you can check off stuff from your chore list.
Why This Matters
This kind of cookie-cutter design is damaging to any creative industry. Once big studios stop taking risks and only want to make properties that are safe investments, then you lose the creative spirit that’s behind the work. There are some things that indie games just can’t do, so the big studios have to take the risks to come out with some great AAA games. Without taking these risks, we wouldn’t have ended up with Doom (2016) or Half-Life Alyx.
Ubisoft’s model is the most harmful thing to the industry as a whole. Even EA, the devil incarnate, is at least trying stuff. Their loot boxes are pure evil and Anthem was a bomb, but they’ve at least managed to set a standard that the industry as a whole can learn from. There is nothing to learn from when it comes to Ubisoft.
Their model doesn’t help to push the industry forward, but rather encourages it to remain stagnant.
While they do make good games that many people enjoy, Ubisoft’s approach to game design is harmful. There is no desire to innovate, no desire to tell a story or immerse the player in a world, and no creative vision behind their games.
What do you guys think of Ubisoft’s games?
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