E3: Ubisoft Post-Show Analysis

by Sage Ashford

With the last third-party conferences before Sony and Nintendo make their premiere, Ubisoft has the pressure of presenting a show that was both strong enough to be worth remembering once Sony and Nintendo were done, as well as good enough to top EA, Bethesda, and Microsoft–and this year Square, though that turned out not to be a problem either way. So, how’d they do?

Well, as predicted they started things off with the premiere of the next Just Dance game in the form of another dance routine. At this point, Just Dance has been around so long that shows like this have just become charming rather than annoying. Plus, they had a sassy panda and a marching band. Who hates marching bands?

After that, Ubisoft brought back the surprise of last year’s show, Beyond Good and Evil 2.  It really is great how far along this game has come in just twelve months. Last year, series creator Michel Ancel got dinged by fans everywhere for showing off an incredibly early build and then saying “these are just test graphics, a few weeks ago, there were no graphics”, but look how far we’ve come in a year. They had a playable demo available behind closed doors, and from my understanding of things they’ll have a beta out at the end of next year.

They also had Joseph-Gordon Levitt on stage to talk about his company HitRecord and how creators can send stuff in to participate in the game. As a freelance writer I find this a tad sketchy, but from my understanding creators retain rights to it whether or not Ubisoft selects their work, and they’re paid if it is, so hopefully it’ll work itself out.

Next they talked about Rainbow Six but it was mostly just details about their competitive eSports scene. It’s hard to believe how Ubisoft took a franchise gamers didn’t believe they knew how to do anymore and turned it into this massively popular title where Ubisoft constantly adds new content and the players keep rolling in.

Afterwards they introduced the next Trials title, Trials Rising launching in February of 2019. The introduction itself came with an awkward presentation involving a guy attempting to do motorcycle tricks only to destroy his ramp. It was pretty adorkable, but then that described the vast majority of Ubisoft’s conference this year, in the best way possible. Though the focus on how easy and all the creative ways you could die was a bit awkward, this still looks like a fun game, and it shows the breadth of titles Ubisoft has available.

After having it’s debut gameplay at Microsoft’s conference on Monday, The Division makes it’s second appearance here. This time the game’s set in Washington DC, as we learn the pandemic didn’t just hit New York but a large number of metropolitan cities. A sizable gameplay chunk plus a release date?  What more could anyone ask for?

With the success of Mario x Rabbids, everyone kind of assumed an expansion to the game was coming, and a Donkey Kong expansion pack to Mario x Rabbids: Kingdom Battle feels like the most natural thing in the world.  With how well this was received, Nintendo should really consult Ubisoft on more games like this to give the Nintendo Switch a larger catalog of titles.

Honestly, Skull & Bones really lost me when they revealed the players were trapped on the ship the entire time. Being at sea is an important part of being a pirate…but so’s landing and raiding villages and causing havoc inside cities!  How they got this right in Black Flag only to botch it up in the game about actually being a pirate is a mystery. They are giving this game the time it needs for development though, as the title was delayed back to some time in 2019, pushed entirely out of Ubisoft’s FY2019 which means the earliest we could see it would be sometime in April.

Despite having no celebrity guest for either Just Dance or their presentation like they usually do, Ubisoft still managed to fulfill their quota for “More celebs than any other E3 presentation” between JGL and Elijah Wood, who was there to talk about his company’s new VR game, Transference. It seems like a title focused more on the suspense of living inside of someone’s head than a proper horror title. What was most surprising is they had Transference, but not any other VR games which means they’re either putting them in the works and none were ready to show off, or VR’s appeal as a way to make money for new titles is beginning to wear off.

The hilarious thing about this Starlink video is I was actually thinking this game would make a perfect reinterpretation of Starfox…and then Ubisoft went ahead and revealed Starfox would indeed be exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.  Hopefully you can recruit him early and keep him the whole game. Also, hopefully this news leads to Starlink performing excellently when it launches this October–preferably on the Nintendo Switch primarily. At some point maybe Nintendo will get the picture that new gimmicks aren’t especially necessary when reviving beloved franchises.

For Honor continues to be the most popular fighting game the FGC doesn’t actually acknowledge. And now they’ve added an entirely new faction of monk warriors.  I’ve also heard they’re moving towards turning each of the archetypes into actual characters with personalities, pushing things even further into the territory of being a proper fighting game.

We also got a brief look at The Crew 2 and it’s open beta, which ran from the 21st to the 25th. They didn’t spend much time on this, likely because it’s so close that at this point and they were counting on the open beta to sell people.

The last game for their show was Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. This was meant to be the big surprise, but it got spoiled about five times over the course of the week before E3, and by the time we got there the only thing we didn’t know was what the game actually looked like. We knew it would be set in Greece, we knew about the dual protagonists, we even knew about the dialogue trees and the pushing of more RPG elements. The show simply confirmed all of these things and gave us a look at what the world we’d get to explore this October would look like.

Overall, this was a strong show from Ubisoft. It’s major weakness is there simply wasn’t much there, but that’s a result of showing off seemingly everything they had last year and most of those games not being out yet. Ubisoft has really settled into its stride. By having thousands of employees in studios around the world they’re in the best position to create AAA (and the occasional AA) experiences in a variety of genres–racing games, shooters, RPGs, even outer space ship combat titles. They’ve got no shortage of titles, and they’ve really mastered the presentation aspect as well, knowing how to make their show’s pacing snappy while taking advantage of their developers’ awkwardness on stage to seem endearing.

Grade: B+

I’m petty, this would have gotten an A if Watch Dogs 3 had been there. But this was a fantastic show!

Sage Ashford

A writer with way too many hobbies, Sage can often be found catching up on the latest anime, or reading a stack of comics between Wednesdays and Thursdays.