Ubisoft E3 2017 Recap

Feature article

I was pleasantly surprised with what appeared during the Ubisoft E3 2017 press conference this year.  My predictions for the content were comprised of some solid fact balanced with hopeful speculation.  I have to say I wasn’t expecting to have so many of them come true.

I’m not going to waste anyone’s time with this piece.  Ubisoft brought us games for days this year. It’s the games we want to see, feel and experience at E3 so here is a recap of what Ubisoft brought to the table.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Release date: August 29 2017
Platform: Nintendo Switch

My eyes lit up with this one. Claiming to be a strategy / turn based game with exploration elements, the development team was challenged by Miyamoto to make a Mario game unlike any other currently in existence.  This game looks great, with plenty of variation in how you can tackle stages and customise your team. The inevitable humour of the Rabbids can be seen in the trailer and game footage revealed.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Release Date: 27 October 2017
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Based on the in-game 4K footage captured and presented, this game is set to be the most visually stunning entry into the Assassin’s Creed franchise to date. This is also the benchmark it has set itself given the 2 year break since Syndicate. The demonstration of the new Eagle Vision had me impressed, but the lack of content about this game given its close release date has me worried.

The Crew 2

Release date: 2018
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC

Claiming to have taken on board a lot of player based feedback around what they wanted to see and the direction the game should take, The Crew 2 looks promising. The footage of the trailer cleverly introduced the range of new vehicles (of land, sea and sky) and environments in mind bending fashion. Having Lorde on the soundtrack is also a good move in my opinion.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Release Date: 17 October 2017
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC

Barely anything other than a new trailer shown off for this one, with no additional gameplay or exploration given time on the main stage. Disappointing given how close we are to release.

Transference

Release date: 2018
Platforms:  Playstation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC

Transference is claiming to be a psychological thriller and will be the first collaboration between SpectreVision and Ubisoft Montreal. Set to bridge the gap between movies and games, we will be made to explore digitally recreated memories. I loved the statement made by Lisa Whalen, CEO of SpectreVision:

” We want you to be able to take off the gear (VR gear) and still feel unsettled”.

Skull and Bones

Release Date:  2018
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC

I was secretly hoping that this game would be the one to feature a strong female lead protagonist given the starting scenes we were shown. I now believe that we may have the option to customise our characters (definitely hoping this is the case).

This game looks to have capitalised and grown the naval combat that made Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag so enjoyable. It made this game the one title I want to buy above all others in this press conference. I’m so keen for this. Having to be able to sail in cutthroat PvP with a huge variety of ships is right up my alley. Coming up against a giant Kraken? Somewhat terrifying… but I’ll give it a go!

Just Dance 2018

Release Date: October 24, 2017
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Switch, Wii U, Wii

Also nothing really new here, and the panda was far from cute. I’ve also never heard of Bebe Rexha before this press conference.

South Park: Phone Destroyer

Release date:  2017
Platforms: iOS, Android

The beta for this game has already launched in selected European countries which makes me jealous. Looking like a South Park spin on Clash Royale type tactics, I’ll be interested to see if it takes the mickey out of any in-game purchases given the whole episodes of the show dedicated to the topic.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Release Date: 2018
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Demonstrating what appears to be real time in-game customisation via additional peripherals, this game looks good in concept but I wonder about its actual execution.

Steep: Road to the Olympics

Release Date: December 5 2017
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC

Again Ubisoft has taken real life experiences of world class athletes and channelled it into Steep’s first expansion. Set to release just before the 2018 Winter Olympics, I wonder if this would redeem some players faiths in the game.

Far Cry 5

Release Date: February 27 2018
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC

With a new trailer showing off the religious element of Hope County you will be coming up against, this segment actually piqued my interest. The gameplay trailer did the same, showcasing environmental interactions and co-ordinated play styles.

Beyond Good and Evil 2

Release Date: To be announced
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

15 years after the original we have solid proof of the sequel actually happening.  Seemingly fast paced, sci fi / futuristic and kicking things off with a hilarious sleight of hand, the trailer is amazing. Finishing off with a quest for “true freedom” amongst the stars and I’m hooked. This game stole the show for me.

Narrative director Gabrielle Shrager explains that the game is going to be a prequel to the first, while still being set far into the future. What I especially love is that it imagines that China and India became the superpowers of the world, and the eastern influences are made very apparent.

What worked?

For me, the following games had a good showing:

– Transference
–  Beyond Good and Evil 2
– Skull and Bones
– The Crew 2
– Mario + Rabbits: Kingdom Battle
– Far Cry 5

Beyond Good and Evil 2 , Skull and Bones  and Mario + Rabbits: Kingdom Battle were by far the highlights of this press conference for me. I’m loving the collaborative creations coming out of Ubisoft and I’m looking forward to Transference for this reason also.To reboot a title after 15 years is no small feat and I am so pumped for Beyond Good and Evil 2.

In terms of overall performance Ubisoft did bring a lot more gameplay content to the stage than previous years as far as I’m concerned, which was a welcome change. I commend Ubisoft for wanting to place the developers more front and centre, it was actually really cool to be able to see the people involved in these games talk about them on stage.

What could have done better?

The following games could have had a better on stage presence:

– Assassin’s Creed Origins
– South Park: The Fractured But Whole
– Starlink: The Battle For Atlas

2 out of 4 huge releases fell flat this year which is never a good sign. I am so keen for Assassin’s Creed Origins due to its Egyptian context but it was really disappointing to not see more of it on the main stage. Given that Syndicate didn’t hook me at all, I am hoping for this game to be the one that will reinvigorate my interest in the series, and my hunger for more info was left ravenous.

Starlink: The Battle for Atlas was also a bit underwhelming for a game that looked great. I inherently dislike any game that requires you to purchase anything beyond the standard game + console combination to play it after the recent let down of Playstation VR.  I hope that the emphasis in this game remains in the internal content rather than its peripherals. I also hope that the spur of the moment customisation is as responsive in reality as it appears to be in the trailer.

I also missed Aisha Tyler (pictured above). Her energy and spunk is such a staple inclusion in Ubisoft’s press conferences that her absence was tangible through the screen.

Last Impressions

Overall Ubisoft did a much better job in 2017 than they did in 2016, with the exception of a few things. The only real things I would caution them about from a consumer perspective is to:

  • show rather than tell their games  (which they did better at this year)
  • Don’t jeopardise winning elements of the E3 formula (Aisha Tyler) when trying new elements out

I am keen on a lot of the games showcased this year and look forward to watching Ubisoft as a whole continue to evolve over the next couple of years.