Ubisoft’s recent release of ‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity’ ignited a backlash from gamers who criticised the publishers for essentially ‘milking’ the franchise to the last drop, leaving the game to be released with a lack of various changes and instead seeming as another rehash with failed attempts to even intrigue the gamers. Not only was the gameplay scolded by gamers, but Ubisoft also evidently rushed the release to match its annual schedule, neglecting the fact that the game was riddled with various game-breaking, or frankly just disturbing bugs. A bug-filled game doesn’t provide an appealing impression towards the developers, but instead left gamers disappointed and caused Ubisoft shares to decrease by 12.8% since the release. The first alarm bells which signified a worrying sense was the embargo for reviewers, forcing many popular review websites to release their review 12 hours after the game release in America. Gamers were at an unsure state whether or not to purchase the game immediately, only because they were unsure what respected critics thought of the game; those who therefore bought it immediately were left uniformed as to how issued the game is from its bugs, and how stale the gameplay and plot has become.
Since the release, many became judgemental upon Ubisoft, stating that they attempt to excitingly market their games yet provide a unfulfilling experience in the long run. This isn’t only established by ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’, but also from the lacklustre gameplay provided by ‘Watchdogs’ too. Forbes contributor, Paul Tassi, claimed that Ubisoft is the new EA, which of course sparked even more of an uproar against Ubisoft, causing them to neglect the fact that other games they’ve released such as ‘Assassin’s Creed Rogue’ is actually quite promising, despite it being available to only last-generation consoles and PC. I’m not here to pile on the hatred towards Ubisoft, sure they’ve made mistakes, but hasn’t every publisher? Let’s consider the recent release of both ‘Watchdogs’ and ‘Assassins Creed Unity’ as stepping-stones to evolving the values of Ubisoft in creating games – perhaps they can learn from their mistakes!
Is pest control needed for these bugs?
The expectations that a modern game would be released in a fluid state during day-one has now decreased; there are now too many variables and situations in which the developers and game testers cannot possibly predict until it reaches a mass market; that being said, it should still be functional to an extent. ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ is not functional. The multitude of evident bugs are likely to reoccur to players and will most likely ruin the gameplay experience for some. If you do hope to play the game, perhaps it would be wiser to hold off purchasing the game until many of the bugs have been diminished, as it has essentially become a gamers duty to await for the initial week-one patches.
I’m not saying what Ubisoft should learn is to release a non-buggy game, whilst that would be ideal, that would also be highly improbable. What Ubisoft can actually do though is to realise just how precious bug testing can be, as bugs truly extracts the player from the immerse virtual world they were in. ‘Watchdogs’ received many delays before the actual release, which not only allowed Ubisoft Montreal to add extra content, but also to optimise the game more so – a stratagem that Ubisoft should constantly follow for all their games. Rather than bearing in mind a release date to provide a convenient annual release, the actual functionality of the gameplay should be assessed and be prioritised over the release date. Unfortunately, PC gamers still ended up purchasing a poorly optimised version of ‘Watchdogs’, as the primary focus on providing a coherent experience was based on console platforms instead. The Wii U release date was delayed until November 21st 2014 to allegedly optimise the game for the platform (whether or not this is entirely true is a different matter), suggesting that perhaps Ubisoft to an extent do respect the idea of tweaking their bugs opposed to actual release dates.
Embargos and hype.
The Embargo controversy was perhaps the most major topic alongside the release of ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’. Like it or not, reviews play a major part in the success of a video game or a movie. Audiences are influenced to either pursue the game or stay away from a game, based on the dominant thoughts expressed through various critics. Ubisoft essentially left gamers blind for these 12 hours, causing them to be unsure whether or not this game is approved by a certain critic, which was practically immoral on Ubisoft’s behalf. The main reason for enforcing the embargo so that there were late reviews was most probably with the intention of having a herd of gamers purchasing the game before the negative reviews kick in. A BBC report quotes a Ubisoft statement in which the “complexity” of an online multiplayer title meant that delayed reviews were essential so that those reviewing the game would be able to experience the online co-op missions first hand; it’s worth noting that other recent games with online servers being heavily integrated into the game such as ‘Destiny’ didn’t suffer through as strict of an embargo as Ubisoft imposed for Assassin’s Creed.
“Ubisoft added that the complexity of creating a multiplayer title, in which players join forces via the internet, was the reason that the game had only became available for review relatively late in the day.”
Some gamers natural instincts from the delayed game reviews were to rely on the hype which Ubisoft previously enforced. The marketing team have had questionable ideas such as providing additional content for ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ alongside buying an Edge Shaving Gel, however one thing they’ve been able to truly achieve is the hype. My suggestion to Ubisoft will sound absolutely absurd, yet somewhat wise, do not construct hype if the game will not deliver! ‘Watchdogs’ suffered through anti-climatic thoughts after the original hype, just as ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ was with this “revolutionary” game in the series. This isn’t a problem of a franchise becoming stale, as ‘Watchdogs’ being a new IP still managed to feel a disappointment and became a mediocre game; the problem is that Ubisoft are providing us with trailers and gameplay clips that do not deliver in the actual release!
Many now fear that ‘Far Cry 4’ is going to fall into the same category of being over-hyped, yet failing to deliver. ‘Far Cry 4’ will be released during November 18th, yet isn’t receiving a harsh embargo on the reviews as did Assassin’s Creed. Furthermore, at this point of writing there’s only a selected few of early reviews released, however they all seem to be generally positive, with high scores such as Eurogamer’s 8/10, CVG giving it a 9/10, Joystiq giving it a 4.5/5 and even The Guardian giving it a 5/5 .
“Far Cry 4 is well worth a visit, but it’s more a backpacker’s delight than a five-star island paradise.”
Differentiation is good.
Whilst ‘Far Cry 4’ has received high reviews and has been praised by various different institutions, all reviews seem to acknowledge that there isn’t much change to the franchise to distinguish the changes between ‘Far Cry 3’ and ‘Far Cry 4’, but rather ‘Far Cry 4’ seeming to be just a refined version of the predecessor.
This same issue has also been referred to in many ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ reviews, and one can most likely predict that had Watchdogs been a sequel, it would’ve been alike to this hypothetical previous version too! Ubisoft have become too familiarised with their formulas for their games and have almost become afraid of experimenting with their key franchises to provide a riveting and different experience than what we’ve played through before. If Ubisoft do not want to suffer through the same hatred received by gamers this past week, they should begin to accept that experimentation is a necessity to their franchises.
What are your thoughts on how Ubisoft have handled their past few games, do you disagree and think that they’ve done the best they could, or is their particular faults to how they released their game?