E3 2018: Ubisoft Predictions

by Sage Ashford

E3 rolls on, with part five of our seven part prediction series for the show. This time around we’re covering Ubisoft, a company which has one of the most polarizing reputations in gaming. Core gamers tend to have problems with them due to a perceived homogenization of their gameplay, despite their titles continuing to sell millions of copies without fail. Last year’s E3 was particularly a landmark for them, as they seemingly unloaded everything they had prepared–from Game of the Year candidate Assassin’s Creed: Origins to the now smash hit Far Cry 5.
This year, they’re back with many of the titles from last year, though undoubtedly they will have a few noteworthy surprises in the mix as well.

The Crew 2: The first Crew was known for its ability to intelligently navigate players through key parts of the United States seamlessly. For the sequel, the open world racing game is introducing what appears to be additional locales, while allowing gamers to alternate between cars, bikes, planes, and ships just as seamlessly as they travel cross country. Due out this month, we’ll get one last glimpse of what this title has to offer. If there’s a story mode we’ll finally be clued into it here.   Having just ended closed beta, I imagine there’s a strong chance they announce an open beta for the following weekend of E3 in order to keep excitement for the IP high.

Beyond Good and Evil 2: The most surprising appearance at Ubisoft’s E3 last year, Beyond Good & Evil 2 is seeking to be an open world game with strong RPG elements where you play a created character who climbs their way from a nobody on an alien world to running their own space pirate crew. You’ll explore a small solar system while searching for treasure and avoiding the authority.
We expected this game to take forever, but series creator Michel Ancel has been quite forthcoming with information here. We’ve gotten constant updates of concept art on Instagram, and two live stream shows thus far in the last year, with the last one giving us a glimpse of combat and flight systems. But they’ve also confirmed there will be a bigger appearance at E3, while also promising members of their Space Monkey program an opportunity to play a closed beta.  Methinks this game is further along than people believe.

Skull & Bones: Skull & Bones is a curious title. Not long after the success of Black Flag, we got rumors Ubisoft was working on a full pirate game that did’nt include the messy Assassin bits.  Things went silent for years while the game was being worked on, but it finally surfaced last year in the form of Skull & Bones. It…doesn’t seem to be what anyone expected.  Rather than getting to play as a pirate who forms their own crew, you essentially…are the ship. The trailer we saw last E3 was entirely focused around multiplayer, but supposedly there will be a strong single player component.
…I’m still not sure that matters if it’s just more sailing the seas as a ship, but with their relatively small sales projects (only 4 million), maybe that’ll be enough. Still, it’s been delayed from the fall of this year into the 1st quarter of Ubisoft’s fiscal year, which means it’s likely an April release.  Expect some information on additional modes, and potentially confirmation of the release date as well.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Announced earlier this year, The Division 2 is a follow up to their first massively successful persistent online multiplayer experience.  The first title was a smash hit and it’s doubtful this will be anything less. We’ve yet to see any gameplay, or even get any confirmation on story or setting–we only know the game will be present at E3, and that it’s scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2019 before the fiscal year ends for Ubisoft in April.
With the first Division having successfully turned into a game it’s fanbase enjoys, The Division 2 will doubtlessly find a way to improve on the formula.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: Thanks to some miscommunication from Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, people were under the impression that there wasn’t an Assassin’s Creed coming this year. People really wanted the franchise to become a once every two years thing, but it was not to be. Confirmed just a week ago, the popular franchise returns–this time sending us to ancient Greece. We don’t know much about it yet, but according to Jason Schreier, the game will amp up the RPG mechanics more, adding dialogue choices and other things to improve on the changes of Bayek and Assassin’s Creed: Origins. There’s no release date yet, but this franchise is massive–it wouldn’t be shocking to see it launch in November.

Just Dance: This is here every year. We’ll get an over the top dance segment in the middle of two games about shooting and/or stabbing that feels incredibly out of place, the host will point out how awkward it is, maybe there’s a famous singer involved. Maybe this year they’ll finally move away from the Wii, even though that’s their best performing SKU.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas: This game was scheduled to come out sometime this fall.  A cool looking sci-fi title focusing on ship combat and exploration of an alien galaxy, you play a member of the space ship crew the Equinox, when you get ambushed by hostile aliens known as The Forgotten Legion. It’s already confirmed to be at E3, where they hopefully reveal the game dropped its weird toys to life element, something they were a year late to even when it was first announced.  It’d also be pretty awesome if they showed off some on-foot missions…but that might be asking for too much. This game either has a very short reveal/release cycle, or its going to get delayed to avoid having to deal with Black Ops 3 and Red Dead 2.

Transference: A VR-based psychological thriller from Ubisoft Montreal and SpectreVision, Transference was given an unsettling showing at E3 last year. You take a trip through the mind of a PTSD patient, occasionally seeing echos of the character and seeing their actions in the past.  As weird as this trailer looks, Transference feels like exactly the kind of unique experience VR needs if it’s going to keep growing.
Lightning Round:

  • Splinter Cell has had way too many rumors for there not to be fire with all this smoke.  That Wal-Mart leak has gotten literally nothing wrong so far, aside from what iteration of Forza Horizon we’re on. One suspects they won’t miss with this either.
  • Massive Entertainment is supposed to be teaming up with Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Interactive to introduce a game based in James Cameron’s Avatar world.  They said it wasn’t meant to come out before Avatar 2 does, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t see some gameplay of it here.
  • For Honor is working on some cool new features and characters for the IP.  It doesn’t have to be here, but it wouldn’t hurt if they had some minor focus on it to show how much has changed since the game’s launch last year.
  • We know Watch Dogs is still an important franchise for Ubisoft, as they just opened a studio not long ago as a support studio for Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and the popular open world city based hacking game.  As to whether it’s going to show up or not, that’s up in the air.  We know last year Ubisoft delayed a game meant to come out this year, and speculation is WD3 was that title.  If it was pushed into the summer of next year, there’s no way they don’t try to start hyping it here.
  • Some kind of Nintendo Switch partnership is in the works, even if we haven’t seen it just yet.

Though they lack the size of an EA or Activision-Blizzard, Ubisoft has quietly built up some of the largest franchises in video games.  They’ve figured out what it takes to churn out high quality experiences on a consistent basis, and everyone should be taking notes.  Last year Ubisoft had one of the strongest conferences of the show, and I’m looking forward top them having a similar quality showing this year.

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