Let’s Chat: Ubisoft Forward Reaction!

It’s Let’s Chat time again! This go around, we’re reacting to the Ubisoft Forward; this essentially took the place of the usual Ubisoft E3 event. With Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and more shown, there is plenty to discuss! Let’s go!

William Robinson: Hey again Ash! We’re back, back, back again… with the way the world has gone this year, game companies are finding alternative ways to showcase the games we otherwise might have seen around E3. We’ve seen a strong showing from Sony for the PS5, and there have also been presentations from EA, Limited Run Games, and Devolver Digital. The most recent was yesterday, the Ubisoft Forward – and it seems a great candidate for our newly-returned Let’s Chat series. We shall go game by game, but first, your initial reaction to the way this was presented?

Ashley Harrison: Hey again Will! Seems weird doing what’s basically an E3 chat a month after E3 should’ve taken place. This Ubisoft Forward… it was certainly… a thing. Honestly, content wise, I can’t say I was actually much of a fan of it; the lack of gameplay really turned me off from it. Pacing wise however, I don’t think it was all too bad. It gave enough time to games to showcase what they’re about, whilst also being brief enough so that each game didn’t overstay their welcome.

WR: Yeah, I really appreciated the pacing of it; there did not seem to be much that was not necessary, with each section focused on the games – this sounds obvious, maybe, but there have been multiple game showcases where this isn’t the case. I gotta say, though, it was lacking a Just Dance dance as we usually get from Ubisoft at E3… We kicked off with Watch Dogs Legion, which we already knew was on the way, but we got to see more of the story and gameplay here. Was this on your radar before, and either way, did this make you more likely to play it when it releases on October 29th? The dystopian London setting is a fascinating choice with all that is happening…

AH: You can’t do the obligatory Just Dance section without the dancers on an actual stage and the audience sat there with “what the hell am I watching?” expressions on their faces, it just doesn’t work. We’ll just have to hope there’s a section twice as big dedicated to next year’s game instead haha! It was almost certainly on my radar before this, it and Cyberpunk 2077 are my most wanted upcoming games now that The Last of Us Part II has (finally) released. Though, I’m unsure whether I’m going to get it on launch day, or just wait until I get a PS5 and buy it alongside the console. The fact that it’s set in London is the main reason I’m buying it honestly, I love our Capital City and just how distinctly atmospheric each different part of it is. I can’t wait to go round Camden (my personal favourite part of London) and just screw around. Hopefully the Electric Ballroom or The World’s End pub will be in the game!

WR: Yeah, next year, take over E3 with Just Dance haha! Get Phil Spencer involved, as he seems to be joining a lot of conferences nowadays! Right, Watch Dogs. I wasn’t aware it was up there with Cyberpunk for you! I guess that depends on when the new consoles release relative to it, then, in terms of the choice of PS4 and PS5 versions. The Watch Dogs series has been known for being quite accurate in how it portrays the cities, so I reckon you may actually be able to do that! The multiple character mechanic actually reminds me a lot of the Ubisoft Wii U launch game ZombiU, where if you died you then played as a different person. Here, though, you are recruiting people for your resistance; did any characters stand out to you?

There’s Camden for you, Ash!

AH: It’s definitely timing for me – it’s a game I’m looking forward to, yeah, but I don’t think it’s one I’m going to play on both consoles to be honest with you. For example, the first Watch Dogs game I played through the story once, then any other time I played afterwards was just spent messing around in the world, and I think it’d be the same situation with this if I were to play on both PS4 and PS5. MATE, shoutout to ZombiU, we didn’t deserve that game at the Wii U’s launch. It was so good, and the ‘each time you die you lose everything and have to play as a new character’ mechanic was so much fun. Anyway, ignoring that, is it not obvious which characters stood out? I’m spending my whole playthrough as a Gangster Granny, and I’m never changing. Quite interested in the Football Hooligan characters though, what are they going to bring to the gameplay?

WR: It’s hard to know whether to find the characters endearing or offensive in terms of British stereotypes haha! Yeah, it seems the elderly woman is gonna be a fan favourite for clear reasons. This, to me, is a game that could be ideal if there is a lull in the launch schedules to play it – shall wait and see on how that goes. I’m glad you’re a fan of ZombiU, that game has so many great ideas! Next up, we got an announcement for the mobile release of Brawlhalla on August 6th. The concept of this game is awesome to me, being a sort of Super Smash Bros. game for characters from independent developers (and more). However, learning it is going to be on mobile doesn’t really do much for me.

AH: It’s just so absolutely batshit insane, I love it. What other game can you play as a Granny and taser people? At the moment, Cyberpunk is scheduled to come out a little over 2 weeks after Watch Dogs Legion, and if that’s the big farewell to the PS4 and Xbox One, it’s a hell of a sendoff. Will definitely be interesting to see what PS5 and Series X launch titles they have to compete with. Yeah, mobile games are a straight skip for me, could not care less about them if I tried. However, it’s not an indie game, or a collection of indie characters, without Shovel Knight, so I look forward to his inevitable announcement.

Brawlhalla is soon going to be on mobile platforms

WR: I am confident we will be having a Let’s Chat about the launch line-ups at some point near the end of the year! Soon after was the first actual new reveal, Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad; I really enjoyed the trailer for this! It’s a team-based action game incorporating characters from multiple Ubisoft franchises, and the appearance of Sam Fisher (from Splinter Cell) was an awesome moment. The art style reminds me of Overwatch and seems suitable for bringing different series together in this way – I just hoped it would be a console game, not mobile-only, which immediately dampens my enthusiasm. I enjoy some mobile games, but a crossover of Ubisoft characters? Get that idea on my console, please. It’s another reminder that we haven’t had a Splinter Cell since Splinter Cell: Blacklist

AH: Honestly, I’m definitely going to seem like the guy who doesn’t like anything here, but it doesn’t do anything for me to be honest with you, but I’m just not the target audience for the game and that’s fine. Don’t get me wrong, it looks fun enough, and with how popular team-based shooters like Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege are currently, I’m sure it’ll do well even as a mobile game. It definitely seems weird not coming to consoles though, it just seems like it’d be an absolute no-brainer.

WR: I wouldn’t say that; it is reasonable to not be into every reveal, especially if they are not releasing on consoles you use much for gaming. It makes sense that they are making a game for that genre, I agree – and that ties into the next game, Hyper Scape, which is their take on the battle royale genre. Compared to, say, Activision or EA, Ubisoft have taken their time with their battle royale, and I wonder if that will pay off in terms of quality. The tone of it intrigued me, set in a dystopian future with these characters trying to achieve victory in the “Crown Rush” within a virtual world which seems to have more going on below the surface. If there is more of a story to this than a Fortnite or one of the other many battle royale games going around, that may get me really invested.

The futuristic and enigmatic trailer for Hyper Scape is intriguing

AH: I’m right there with you on that one. I’ve always found the concept behind battle royales quite interesting and they seem like they’d be quite fun to play, but I just can’t get into stuff without a story behind it. This definitely seems like it’s going to have some kind of story to it (re-watching the trailer now it’s giving me almost Ready Player One vibes to be honest with you) so I’m intrigued to see how Ubisoft manage to tie the story into the gameplay style.

WR: I reckon Ubisoft may have told their team to focus on making a really cohesive take on the genre instead of rushing one out. It also has vibes of The Hunger Games with how people are going for victory to escape, with reminders around of how many are left. I’m keeping my eye on this as potentially my favourite battle royale yet. So far Apex Legends is the one I have enjoyed the most, how about you?

I’m keeping an eye on this as potentially my favourite battle royale yet.

William Robinson

AH: Again, honestly, I’m probably not the best person to answer that. There hasn’t really been any of the Battle Royale games to keep my interest after just a game or two, they all just feel the same to play albeit with a different skin if you ask me. Like I said, I need story to keep me captivated whilst I’m playing games, rather than just feeling like I’m doing the exact same thing all the time for no reason. Hopefully Hyper Scape is the game to break that trend (and also get me to regularly play a mobile game!).

WR: It’d be cool if we both found new enjoyment in it! Ubisoft ended the conference with two major reveals, both of which we either new about or suspected. First up was Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, the next entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. This is based on Viking times, and seeing mentions of East Anglia and other past names for places was fascinating. Of the new games shown, this is the one I am most excited for. Environments seem really varied and packed with content, and the characters and story have a distinctness that reminds me a bit of Horizon Zero Dawn. I have so far never fully got into the series, but I reckon I may end up playing a lot of this one.

In Valhalla, you play as the Viking Eivor; they can be either female or male

AH: It’s funny to me because I’ll admit, I’ve only ever played 2 Assassin’s Creed games, those being 3 when it released on Wii U, and Black Flag on my PS4. Whilst 3 is widely regarded as probably the weakest game in the mainline series, I actually far preferred it to Black Flag, so I’m sure someone is going to say I have no right to comment on the quality of Assassin’s Creed games as a result. As for Valhalla though, honestly this one I spoiled for myself because I looked at the half an hour of gameplay that leaked in the days prior to the Ubisoft Forward, so I knew what to expect. It definitely interests me because of the time period it’s set in, but it honestly really bothers me that it’s seemingly just a reskin of Odyssey. That sounds hypocritical as hell when considering the fact that Zelda: Majora’s Mask is just reused Ocarina of Time assets and that’s one of my favourite Zelda games, but I really prefer if for brand new games if there’re new assets created instead of just putting a new skin on old ones and pretending they’re new. Also, it bugged me that Ubisoft tried to make a deal out of the fact that you can play as either a male or female Viking, then proceeded to show about 4 seconds of gameplay using the female Viking, everything else instead focusing on the male version. Also, gotta get the home area mention in there with East Anglia though huh, Will?

WR: Haha yeah, you got me, though I am writing this from London… I am actually similar, I played 3 through on Wii U, then got Black Flag and proceeded to not play much of it in comparison. For some reason it did not grip me… back to Valhalla, I disagree – a lot of it seems different, or a twist on the gameplay we have seen before instead of just an aesthetic change. How the characters move and act appears markedly different, too. Did you watch any of the extra gameplay shown after the show?

AH: Honestly, no, I can’t say I did. I’d assumed it’d just be the rest of the already leaked footage, did I miss anything interesting?

WR: I haven’t viewed the leak, myself. It just struck me as detailed and engaging, and a sign to me that I may be intrigued by different side stories – not just clearing up icons on a map, which the series has done before.

With this time period, this could be one of the most engaging game worlds in the series

AH: Yeah, it’s a definite improvement in that regard. A lot of Ubisoft’s open-world games rely too heavily in my opinion on filling the world with collectibles to find or areas to clear rather than making an interesting world, so I’m quite looking forward to seeing how this one develops instead. I don’t need more content in games for content’s sake, give me an interesting lore and story/side stories behind areas I’m visiting, and it’s an astronomical improvement in my view.

WR: That connects back to the Let’s Chat we did in 2018 about game length, actually. I agree about seeing more of the female character, as personally I am likely going to play as her. I wonder how different the two options will be; being a woman or a man in those times would have been a different experience, and I wonder if they show that.

AH: It’ll be interesting to me to see if there’s any difference in play styles between the male and female protagonist, or if they’re simply going to be a reskin of the same model, given the fact that you can switch between the two genders at any point in the game. I really hope there’s differences, but given that fact, I’m going to be extremely surprised if there actually are.

WR: It’s releasing on November 17th… I wonder if it is a launch game for either or both new systems? If so, we may have just gotten a hint at the release dates…

Environment design in Valhalla appears both varied and fascinating

AH: I can definitely see it being a launch game for the new systems, especially given that the 17th November is smack bang in the middle of when the PS4 and Xbox One consoles released back in 2013.

WR: So, we then had Ubisoft Co-Founder and CEO Yves Guillemot give a talk about the presentation, before he introduced the final reveal: Far Cry 6. This had been rumoured and hinted beforehand, though it was still a great trailer (no gameplay however). Taking place on the newly-invented Caribbean island Yara, with a design based off of Cuba, this game stars Giancarlo Esposito as Antón Castillo as well as Anthony Gonzalez as Diego, his son. Castillo is a dictator figure and in the cinematic trailer we see him using disturbing methods to try and get a message across to his son. I wonder if his son becomes the eventual leader of the villainous group? There is a lot of striking imagery in this trailer, from the use of red to images such as a statue being pulled down – there are similarities to actual real-world events happening…

AH: We’re living through a cultural revolution currently in the real world, with the likes of the Black Lives Matter and Free Hong Kong protests and it’s definitely striking to see just how closely this resembles the revolution in the fictional game world, I thoroughly agree there. I really don’t think that any of the developers could have ever imagined that happening when beginning to develop the game. Given those same circumstances though, I’m really apprehensive about the game, and how the protagonist is going to be portrayed. With such a close parallel, they definitely need to be treated with care and been shown that it is all happening for the right reasons.

Giancarlo Esposito as Antón Castillo on the left; Anthony Gonzalez as Diego on the right

WR: Yeah, I hope that they are smart in how they portray it. Far Cry 5 had a controversy around it and how it may or may not have commented on real world events; when you are putting out a piece of media though, I reckon you need to be aware of how it can be seen. We also have not seen any gameplay yet, so it is hard to judge. I hope the bold use of red in the trailer matches up to a similarly dynamic visual style in the game itself.

AH: I hope that it’s just not the stereotypical “red is for communism, and communism bad” viewpoint, because it’d be really lazy if it was. Whilst I’m sure that it wouldn’t have been originally intended, it’ll be a great opportunity to comment on the real world situation happening now too through a gaming perspective, and hopefully open people up to what really happens to bring about a revolution. Plus, there’s nothing funnier to me than people on Twitter complaining to “keep politics out of video games” when their favourite game is Call of Duty or something.

WR: That’s a whole other topic that maybe we can do a Let’s Chat about sometime! It’s hard to judge my excitement of it without seeing gameplay, though. From the whole presentation, which games were your standouts?

The island of Yara is purposefully similar to Cuba

AH: For me, it was absolutely Watch Dogs Legion. Like I said, it was already in my top 2 most anticipated games for the rest of the year, and getting to see more of it was great. However, there’s one thing that really bugged me about it, but at the same point it’s probably something I’m reading far too much into. During the trailer, we’re introduced to a character by the name of Mary Kelley, a seeming side-protagonist who is the leader of a gang selling illegal items on the Dark Web, including human organs. Now this is where it puts me off. I’m sure you’re aware of Jack the Ripper, right? England’s most famous serial killer, who killed 5 prostitutes during the summer of 1888, and his (or possibly her) identity still remains unknown to this day. As a bit of a true crime fanatic, I’m extremely interested in this case, as it was the one that sent me down this path. Anyway, the last of The Ripper’s 5 canonical victims was a woman called Mary Kelly, who was savagely killed in her own home and had all of her organs removed and were either found spread out across her room, or (in the case of her heart) missing completely. The Ripper had also been known to remove the uterus of his second victim, Annie Chapman, and the uterus and left kidney of their fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes. In my opinion, there’s absolutely zero chance this was a coincidence of any kind, and even if I am reading way too far into it, I find it in really poor taste.

WR: Hmm, I wonder if they are going to be asked questions about that as I can see the potential for it to be a misjudgment. Have you seen any official comment about that?

AH: Nah, I’ve seen nothing like that.

Ubisoft needs to be asked questions about this character in Watch Dogs Legion

WR: Perhaps it shall be a question posed in an interview one day. Was there any games you were really hoping to see that weren’t present? The game they revealed at E3 last year, Gods & Monsters, I am really excited about – it seems a response to the magnificent Breath of the Wild from the people who created Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. I am also still waiting for the next Splinter Cell game (no, Sam Fisher in Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad doesn’t count), and I also miss the UbiArts games they used to make – Child of Light and Valiant Hearts are great! Also, another Rayman at some point, yeah?

AH: I’m honestly extremely surprised that neither Rayman nor the Raving Rabbids showed up at any point during the conference, I would’ve put money on there to be a new game in that series beforehand. It seems like so long since the last game released, and we’re about due for another remake of Rayman 2, surely?

I actually quite enjoyed Kingdom Battle from what I played of it, so I’d love to see how Ubisoft would make, say, a Zelda version of it.

Ashley Harrison

WR: Haha, it is a great game so I wouldn’t say no. Put those games on Switch, yeah? Oh man, I am having memories of Rayman 2 now and I really would like to play that game again. I was also curious about whether they would have any more team-ups with Nintendo after the success of Kingdom Battle. From the way Yves Guillemot talked, though, I got the sense that – understandably – projects had been delayed. So perhaps there is a lot of that in the background?

AH: I hope so, I actually quite enjoyed Kingdom Battle from what I played of it, so I’d love to see how Ubisoft would make, say, a Zelda version of it. You could bring it so many new mechanics with it, such as like the boomerang weapon to stun enemies for a turn or something. Plus, with the amount of weapon choice available in Breath of the Wild, it’d give multiple different play style options for just Link alone in a turn-based strategy RPG.

We got to see Sam Fisher… during the trailer for Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad.

WR: They seemed to do great work with the Mario franchise, so maybe Nintendo would allow them Zelda. We shall see, I guess! After seeing other recent conferences online, how did you find the Ubisoft showing in terms of presentation? I really appreciated the no-nonsense way they showed the games efficiently, even if I am not into all of the games themselves.

AH: They seemed to have nailed this first go round presentation wise, unlike Sony’s first few State of Play attempts. Definitely appreciate the no-nonsense “the bigger games get about 15 minutes”, the smaller games get 5 approach, it definitely helped the conference to move forward and stop me from tuning out, even for games I didn’t care about also. Unlike for say Nintendo, remember when they’d have Directs and focus for like half an hour on just Smash Bros. alone?

WR: I mean I don’t mind half an hour on Smash Bros. myself haha! Sony did it well for their recent PS5 event, really focusing on games. We have the Xbox and – hopefully – Nintendo events to come, and I reckon we are going to be having lengthy Let’s Chats about those too! Until then, though, I guess we’ll have to go and find our copies of Rayman 2… unless you have any other thoughts in particular on the Ubisoft Forward? They seemed to imply this is not the only Ubisoft Forward they are going to do – perhaps this is going to be their Direct now? Forward is quite similar to Direct as a word, haha! With Sony and their State of Plays, more and more companies seem to be making their own versions of the Directs. Oh, and Devolver Digital, though they’re a TAD less subtle about the whole Direct comparison, haha! It all appears to have been accelerated by the COVID-19 situation, too.

The first Ubisoft Forward was impressively produced

AH: I hope that companies do start going down the “Direct” route and giving us smaller showcases of games throughout the year, rather than just a big blowout showing at E3. It means that you won’t see a game you really like the look of, then completely forget about it for a year until you see it again at next year’s E3 conference. I personally also like to be able to see the game progress through development each time it’s shown, rather than there be a stark contrast between the reveal and a year down the line.

WR: Or not even see it… I mean, er, where is Beyond Good and Evil?

AH: Yoooooooo I completely forgot about that! Where the hell is it? That’s a great question. We’ve seen literally nothing of it since that reveal, right?

WR: It was at more than one E3, but recently it has gone very silent… There was that E3 where they were taking fan submissions for the art in the world.

AH: Oh yeah, there was that too wasn’t there? How can a multi-million billion dollar company possibly justify sourcing assets from fans rather than their own development team?

WR: *Cough* Shenmue 3, Sony *cough*

Cynical mode: Unless it’s Beyond Good & Evil. Above is Roller Champions, another Ubisoft game

AH: Ehh, I’m not too bothered by the Kickstarter to be honest with you. Like yeah, there really isn’t any need with how much money Sony has, but Shenmue is quite a niche game that hadn’t been seen since the Dreamcast, so I can understand funding the game through fans essentially pre-purchasing it rather than sinking the money into development then it completely flopping.

WR: OK, we seem to be off on a tangent away from Ubisoft now, so that may be a sign to end this haha! It isn’t long until the Xbox showing, which I hope is really fantastic and a counterblow to the Sony reveals. We shall be back with another Let’s Chat for that!

AH: Haha, yeah, definitely seems like it’s time to end it now! Until next time, man!

As mentioned there, our next Let’s Chat shall probably be a reaction to the Xbox Games Showcase on July 23rd – until then!

4 thoughts on “Let’s Chat: Ubisoft Forward Reaction!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s