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E3 2018 recap and reflection: Ubisoft

Ubisoft had a very positive 2017. Sure, For Honor had one of the roughest launches for an online game in recent memory, but the year quickly turned around for Ubisoft. Assassin’s Creed: Origins boasts some of the best reviews since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, setting the series on a more positive course. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was hailed as an unexpected success on the Switch. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon opened to tepid review scores, but updates and patches have transformed the game. Ubisoft has also had success this past year with the release of South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Far Cry 5. 

Can Ubisoft’s presentation get even better than last year’s? How will they capitalize off a year of success and keep fans excited for the future?

The summary

  • Just Dance got another dancing panda to get people hyped for the game and the rest of the conference.
  • Beyond Good and Evil 2 got a new cinematic trailer showcasing the return of Jade, the protagonist of the first game.
    • Gameplay footage followed, taking place in the city of Ganesha.
    • The game will be playable alone or in singleplayer, traversing a seamless open universe.
    • The Space Monkey Program is a program for real life fans to submit their art (visual art, music, etc.) with the help of HitRecord, a company founded by Joseph Gordon Levitt.
    • Fans will see more at BGE Fest in Montpellier this Fall.
  • Rainbow Six Seige pimped out its esports offerings
    • Another Mindset, a new documentary about Rainbow Six: Siege that follows 8 different members of the Siege esports community will release mid-August.
  • Trails Rising was introduced by a guy riding in on a motorcycle who took an amazing pratfall on stage.
    • The game will have a closed beta later this year.
    • Trails Rising will release February 2019 on PS4, Xbox, PC, and Switch.
  • The Division 2 has a new cinematic trailer, showing game with more socio-political coding than its prequel.
    • The game will feature advanced progression systems and enhanced 8-player raid co-op for the endgame.
    • 3 free DLCs will be launched during year 1 of The Division 2, introducing new features, customizables, and other content.
  • Mario + Rabids Kingdom Battle celebrated the upcoming release of its Donkey Kong Adventure DLC with live music from the game’s composer Grant Kirkhope underscoring a new trailer.
    • Season Pass owners will get the DLC one day before it goes on sale.
  • Skull & Bones received a new cinematic trailer, showing off worldbuilding and atmosphere of the game.
    • Ships are highly customizable with different aesthetic and functional elements to change out.
    • Players can team up to face more dangerous challenges, but they also can turn on each other to make the loot all their own.
    • The game releases in 2019.
  • Transference VR brought out Elijah Wood, founder of Spectrevision, to introduce a new trailer for the first person horror game.
    • The game will be available in Fall of 2018.
  • The toys-to-life game Starlink Battle for Atlus will be available on October 16 2018 for the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
    • Fox McCloud, his Star Fox crew, and the iconic Arwing ship will appear in the Switch version of Starlink.
  • For Honor Starter Edition for PC will be free on Uplay for one week.
    • For Honor is getting a new faction from the Wu Lin clan adding 4 new classes.
    • This update, titled Marching Fire will add a 4-v-4 castle breach mode.
  • The Crew 2, releasing on June 29th will have an open beta starting on June 21st.
  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey had several cinematic trailers shown, featuring naval combat, hand to hand combat, undersea exploration, and a halfhearted attempt at lip-synching.
    • The game takes place during the Peloponnesian War.
    • Players can choose to plat as Kassandra or Alexios, a descendent of Leonidas, wielding his broken spear which gives the player enhanced abilities.
    • Gamers will get to embark on their own odysseys on October 5.

The fantastic

The conference was peppered with some great games throughout. Beyond Good and Evil 2, The Division 2, Skull & Bones, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey were all spaced out to keep the conference moving and never feeling like there was too much of a lull in the action. Aside from the pacing, the new games offered a lot of interesting depth, with gameplay being showed off for The Division 2, Skull & Bones, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

When instruments were wheeled out on stage while the audio on stage was signaling an announcement about the Rabbids, I got scared, thinking that Ubisoft was going to pull a Rage 2. Luckily the music underscored a new trailer, showing off DLC content for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, which was lauded for its musical score. In short, crisis averted and expectations subverted.

The lackluster

Let’s Dance has always been a niche title in Ubisoft’s library, but it was nice that they started their conference off with a live demonstration promoting it. The dancing panda is still confusing, but it was nice to get it out of the way early. Another awkward showing was The Crew 2; the presenter did not look comfortable on stage, but it was over with quickly.

Also, as much as I appreciate the commitment and energy brought by the creative director of the Trails series, Antti Ilvessuo. But as much as I don’t think Todd Howard would approach the stage on a motorcycle and purposefully fall through and destroy a podium and television, it still felt fake and gimmicky. Regardless of the staging of the moment, Ilvessuo’s energy and positivity was infectious.

The divisive

When the first Division game released it’s beta, many publications pointed to a potentially troubling and uncomfortable part of the game: the player is a government agent tasked with killing waves of looters and thugs clad in hoodies and street clothes. The imagery was disturbing, especially with the proliferation of protests about police misconduct and the renewed consciousness about the US’ history of law enforcement interacting with perceived “thugs” clad in hoodies. References to Trayvon Martin were not uncommon in the initial coverage of the game.

Now The Division 2 has arrived, taking place in Washington DC. The player takes control of “a small group of fighters” rising up against the corrupt “tryants” controlling the country’s capital. The developers said, “If you fail, history will be written by tyrants; if you succeed, history will remember the small group who rose up and fought to reclaim their country.” There is nothing explicitly wrong with this approach, but the potential for missteps is high. Remember when Ubisoft co-opted the iconography of a gun-loving, religious extremist cult in Far Cry 5? Now phrases like “civil war” are being invoked to promote The Division 2. Perhaps Massive Entertainment and Ubisoft should take a page from Bethesda’s #NoMoreNazis marketing book and keep their intentions crystal clear.

All in all, if Bethesda’s conference was a conference that got better with every announcement, Ubisoft’s conference was a well-paced conference that kept the exciting announcements spread out. The more in-depth demonstrations were slated for the latter half of the conference, slowly building the excitement to a fun crescendo in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

 Source: YouTube

Image: Game Focus

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