It would probably be fair to say that Ubisoft hasn’t had the easiest year. Though Far Cry 4′s launch appears to have gone out more or less without a hitch, Watch Dogs was widely regarded as one of the biggest letdowns of the year, failing to live up to E3 trailers and gameplay footage that promised a greater experience than gamers felt they had received.
Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that – with all its ups and downs in quality – has had its fair share of difficulties over the years. And even Unity itself wasn’t without controversy well before its launch. Back in June, the developer took heat over not offering female assassins in the co-op, citing claims that female character models for the role would be too time-consuming to make.
And now, to cap it all off, Unity could be well pegged as one of the biggest letdowns, nay disasters, of the entire year. With surprisingly mixed-to-average ratings on Metacritic, to say nothing of the wealth of glitches reported by gamers within the first day of its release, it’s hard not to feel disappointed – both with the series and the developer. Riding a tidal wave from Black Flag – widely regarded as one of the best (if not the best) in the series since the much-beloved II – with stellar environments in Revolutionary-era Paris, and a co-release alongside last-gen exclusive Rogue, this very well could, and should, have been a high point for the series.
Instead, it’s almost rather a model for what Assassin’s Creed and Ubisoft have become: repetitive, full of bugs, lacking in creativity, and a little too money-grubbing for its own good.
Of course, Unity is now infamous for its myriad of in-game glitches, which now exist in a swath across the internet in spite of the game only being a couple weeks old. Any number of YouTube videos can be viewed that demonstrate the almost painfully hilarious kind of encounters that fans have stumbled on to (not to mention the horrors that will now be haunting our dreams). But on top of that, the quality has been widely criticized: from the limited environment in Paris, to the blasé nature of the game’s protagonist (who comes up wanting alongside series-best Ezio), as well as many staples of the series itself becoming bogged down by issues. No more free-form running through the city as the overabundance of NPCs weighs down the environments. And many a mission or quest is made near-impossible to complete with awkward and poorly-drawn mechanics.
Beyond that, it’s also the business practices that have been inserted into so much of the decision-making behind this game. Ubisoft raised some eyebrows a while back when they announced that not only would they only be focusing on games with franchise potential, but that hits like Assassin’s Creed would be seeing releases on a yearly basis. Indeed, since its initiation into the world of gaming back in 2007, we’ve gotten around a dozen titles already. That’s an enormous amount to invest any in series, leaving the very real question if legitimate quality can continued to be made upon each return.
Add to all this the game’s atrocious macrotransactions, some of which reach up to $99 in cost – a full $40 greater than retail price of the game. Micro- and macrotransacations are already an iffy prospect for many a gamer; this will very likely push most into full on hate. Numerous fans have reportedly also been unable to access many a treasure chest due to not having the proper connectivity in external devices via in-game app or the UPlay function.
What all of this is to say is: it feels a great deal like Ubisoft is trying to force a specific kind of direction for gaming – but didn’t tell anyone about it. More specifically, that they didn’t bother to see if it was the kind of thing everyone else would buy into. Such numbers would be kept tightly secret by the developer, but one can’t help but wonder how many people would actually shell out the $99 for an in-game purchase – if any at all.
This all has caused much uproar throughout the gaming community, and Unity is now well synonymous not only for what’s wrong with Ubisoft, but also portending a dark future for the developer (possibly taking the place of EA as America’s most-hated company). Fans are understandably upset about the release of this game, especially those who have invested long-term, and were willing to pay full price at launch.
And while all of this doesn’t bode well for Ubisoft – at least for the immediate future – there is still very much the question of if this is really going to be the future of the industry. The answer is: most likely not. The negative backlash has been too loud and true widespread – this has to look unappealing to any publisher or developer. And the perceptions aren’t winning Ubisoft any fans, especially on top of an already troubled year.
It is true to say that many of the more minor of complaints may very well get lost in the fray. The macrotransactions and many a glitch are amongst the loudest cries of foul, but the requirement for peripheral attachments – like apps on an external device – are in their own way just as disconcerting a reality. And such discussion of those complaints may be lost amidst the noise of people expressing their discontent.
Still, if there’s one thing gamers are, it’s passionate. No matter how one may feel about the game itself and the resulting response, the fact is gamers were able to cry loud enough and hard enough that BioWare released an extended cut for the ending of Mass Effect 3, free of charge. We’re a loud, spirited, opinionated bunch – and it’s hard to imagine that the anger and frustration over Unity is going to be seen as any way positive or enticing for any amidst the industry. If anything, it seems more likely that fewer would take up the mantle in the wake of Ubisoft’s errors: sure, released-too-soon titles is a trend that many a fan understandably fears. But after incidents like this, more likely other developers will take note. And there’s no sure way to make enemies of microtransactions than by rising the cost so high that it surpasses the price of the game.
Which is all just to say, Unity is a disturbing reality, but by the very nature of its frustrations points to a bleak future that is less likely to come to pass. Ubisoft won’t walk away from this unscarred, and these events could likely dog the developer for some time to come. Sure, we’ll probably keep getting Assassin’s Creed titles on a regular basis, but Unity is going to demand so much in recovery that it could go any direction at this point. For the first time since the series became a hit, there’s a greater chance than ever that the games might not generate the surefire in financial in returns that Ubisoft has come to count on.