The “You’re starting to take the piss” Award
Across the last six months since this blogs birth, one publisher has continued to be in my line of sight. With a growing list of homogenized and rushed out games, 2014 was a mixed year for Ubisoft from start to finish. So lets run through what went well and what went wrong for one of the biggest developers/publishers in the industry.
First lets see where they were at the end of 2013, with the recent release of the much loved Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, It looked like Ubisoft had saved it’s floundering flag ship franchise and was now on top once more. With hype building for the next gen herald that was Watch Dogs, Ubisoft looked to be having a great 2014 from the get go. To their credit they started off strong with South Park: the Stick of Truth which was a fun RPG which used the license of South Park to great effect. I had considered giving the game the award of best use of a licensed property but Wolf Among Us edged it out.
The next month they had Child of Light, a more kid friendly RPG which was certainly divisive on it’s release, some found it charming while others found it a bit twee. I watched a few lets plays of it, and while the poetic dialogue did grate it seemed to be a very serviceable RPG. But both of these games were going to be nothing compared to what Ubisoft had planned next.
Watch Dogs. Meant to be a console launch title, but pushed back a few weeks before, Watch Dogs had plenty of hype behind it thanks to it’s E3 unveiling in 2012 that made it look gorgeous. But as time went on, and we began to see more of the real game itself it’s clear something wasn’t quite right. Upon release it was easy to see that the graphics had been downgraded and that even the PC version had be noticeably hamstrung by developers seeks ‘Console Parity’. The game it’s self it thoroughly mediocre, and borderline offensive story line. this failure clearly shook Ubisoft who were planning on this being their GTA. Watch Dogs was the first sign that something wasn’t quite right over at Ubisoft and a text book example of why you shouldn’t get hyped for a game that hasn’t been released yet.
What followed was Valiant Hearts which appeared to garner a bit of consumer good will. I of course had my own issues with the game’s portrayal of the German people but I was clearly in the minority. I will of course admit I am glad to see the Great War portrayed in a game which doesn’t glorify killing, a first person shooter in the setting would be incredibly distasteful.
From there, Ubisoft kinda went quiet until October. Since then we’ve had the following: Assassin’s Creed Unity/Rogue, The Crew and Far Cry 4. This is when the penny dropped and we all realised just how far Ubisoft had fucked up. Unity was borderline unplayable and took the best part of Black Flag out (the boats), Rogue was just a reskin of Black Flag but with a bad protagonist, The Crew suffered from awful technical issues and Far Cry 4 tried to replicate what Far Cry 3 did but failed dismally. With recurring mechanics across all of their major titles, it was clear that Ubisoft had found a formula that once worked and decided to squeeze the life out of it. That’s why they’ve won this award, for being so shamelessly brazen and idiotic in releasing basically the same game four times in one year. Video game design lives off constant repetition and improvement, Ubisoft seem to have forgotten the second part.