I stumbled upon an article bashing Ubisoft this morning, it was an article that got published by CCN on January 18th (at https://www.ccn.com/ubisoft-finally-realises-how-bad-most-of-their-games-are/), yet as I was reading it, there was also this nagging feeling that I did not agree and I felt, especially after all the bashing (which was fun mind you) to partially disagree with this article.
Even as today is all about ‘Ubisoft has acquired a majority stake in Kolibri Games‘, the people behind all the idle click games, we need to see that there are two sides in all this and even as bashing Ubisoft is high entertainment, it should be done for the right reasons.
It starts with the headline ‘Ubisoft Finally Realises How Bad (Most Of) Their Games Are‘, they aren’t that bad, even some of the franchises that are hit with all kinds of issues, I see that their basic problem is the lack of proper testing, in addition to that, I fear that marketing within Ubisoft is too powerful forcing release of software before it is ready (like the day one patches that are 7GB or larger), it is at times a time management issue and as we see that CD Projekt Red is stating that Cyberpunk 2077 is delayed, the gamers do not mind (they are a little upset) that is because they know that the final product of CD Projekt Red delivers, they always have.
Then we get
- Ubisoft’s most recent games have suffered from some pretty bad reception.
- Their editorial team is getting a much-needed shakeup to help fix the lack of variety in their line-up.
The first is very true, bugs glitches and a total iterative way of playing has that effect on people (Ubisoft buying Kolibri) implies that iterative gameplay will continue for some time. Then we get the second part ‘the lack of variety‘, I cannot agree to that, we can see that there is a repetition within a franchise, yet For Honor, Assassins Creed, Far Cry, Watchdogs and the Division are different. If it is about lack of variety because the Division, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six are shooting games, then we need to see that this is what buying consumers wants.
When we look at Assassin’s Creed and that in the past there was too much ‘Prince of Persia’ chase sequences than I would to some degree agree and other games have this crossover to some degree. Yet I feel that ‘lack of variety‘ is a bit of a stretch.
This is easiest seen in Far Cry, when Primal came, it was a larger surprise, and yes we know that it was based to some degree on the Far Cry 4 map, but I did not have an issue with that part (and the game is different enough to not notice it to the degree that some claim. The game (as many others) is largely repetitive and preventing that is a big issue, yet in Far Cry Primal getting a bird fly over going ‘Squeek Squeek Squaaa’ and then attacking almost every 5 minutes gets to be tiring real fast (Far Cry 4 had that down the road as well). Such an event was also the case in Far Cry 4. Then there is the collection part, I like to get an almost complete set of achievements, having to empty loot boxes in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is nice in the beginning when you have nothing, but consider, if this is the Victoria age, would you really find a £50-£500 in almost every chest out and abounds? You gotta be kidding me, I think that there are around 25 per region and there are 13 districts? (I forgot how many there are) but it amounts to running to 300+ chests for the achievement. And lets not forget that this game was an improvement to AC Unity and the Guardian still gave it only 2/5. That is the behemoth that Ubisoft fights, that and to some extent massively shody testing (see Breakpoint for that).
Then we get: “The fact that 100 Parisians basically controlled their entire output for years in the first place seems like a poor move“, I completely disagree with that, Ubisoft has had great achievements (AC2, AC Brotherhood, Far Cry 3, AC Origins, For Honor, Ghost Recon, and Splinter Cell Blacklist), for the most decent games, if only that pesky part ‘testing’ was properly done and a testing division that can override the word of Ubisoft Marketing that would be nice too.
Then we get “Ubisoft games are pretty rubbish these days. You might think that a blanket statement like that needs qualifying. Honestly, their games are all so similar that it barely feels like I’m talking about multiple games. Over the past decade, they’ve managed to homogenize their entire catalog into the same murky paste” in the first they are not rubbish, but they are at times too much below average. then we get the one statement that is true as I see it “they’ve managed to homogenize their entire catalog into the same murky paste“, I believe it comes from a feeling that they imbued during one of their E3 events ‘This game will please everyone!‘, I believe that this expressed feeling is their greatest flaw. If you create a game that pleases all, you end up with a game that pleases no one. I believe that to be true. I can see the brilliance of For Honor, but I personally dislike multiplayer games and their single game campaign was lousy. So it is not a game for me, do I care? No, they had other franchises, and I did recognise the brilliance that For Honor delivered. They also reinvigorated the AC franchise with Origins (and then screwed it up with Odyssey, for me that is), yet Origins is a piece of brilliance and the differences to the previous AC line makes you want to play the game. also the first game in 4K was overwhelming too.
This is a stage we recognise and to see other games become the ‘same murky paste’ is to some degree true when we see Far Cry, Ghost Recon and the Division as one (they are not) but they have too much of each other and that gives a consideration to a larger degree (especially when you have all these franchises). a Franchise needs to distinguish itself from all others, not hand out to each other. That is perhaps the larger flaw at Ubisoft, iteration never goes anywhere, it merely holds you in place.
Personally I agree with “While we’re at it maybe follow Sony’s lead and do a game without any online elements either“, although for the most many games allow for that, you do not need to play AC online (unless you want 100% achievements), in Black Flag I never needed the online element, but for the blue chests it was essential, I had mixed feelings but not one of pure negativity. However, having strangers jump into my game of Watchdogs 2 and screwing up my stealth part by shooting all the cops in the neighbourhood is something I could have done without.
I am not certain whether shaking their editorial team fixes things, As I stated, it is the testing that is a larger problem and even as we accept that the editorial team will come up with the story and adjusts the programmers perception, the issue of repetition needs to be adjusted as well, I believe that too many fans have complained about those parts in the past, as such I hope Ubisoft listens. We see Watchdogs:Legion and what we got to see is a huge step in another direction, yet that is optionally not a bad thing, I merely hope that it gets properly tested and in the second part, I hope that Marketing does not push it before it is ready, a hype on a flawed game is a lot worse then an early hype on a delayed game for all the right reasons. CD Project RED showed us that part.
If Ubisoft does go under, it is by embracing the flaws they had and not taking a larger effort in fixing things, when we consider that the AC III, AC Black Flag, AC Unity, and AC Syndicate have certain issues that repeated over the games (like the AI, the control glitches you face and the repetitiveness) all whilst there was no real fix until AC Origin, we see a much larger failing and I have always stated that it was on the desk of Yves Guillemot (that is why he gets the big bucks).
And AC is only one of a few franchises that had issues. And for a gamer I have the weirdest mindset, when I see a 60% game that could have been an easy 80%+ game by fixing the issues I feel sad, because if I saw it, the bigger wigs at Ubisoft saw it too and they did not speak out when they could. It was a sad state of affairs!
So as such, Ubisoft might be in a predicament, yet I had some issues with the CCN article and I just could not resist taking it into a corner and bashing it a little.