Welcome to Third Person's (timely) coverage of E3 2017. We'll have a podcast for each press conference going up soon, as well as usual weekly roundup on the conference as a whole and our thoughts. Be sure to check out the other articles and podcasts and let us know what you think! (Editor's Note: Having your editor in chief get very ill right as E3 ends is bad for #content.)
Ubisoft’s press conferences have always been sort of a party. From Just Dance to the hit or miss (but mostly hit) hosting from Aisha Tyler, Ubisoft has always felt a bit different from the other publishers and companies. This year, we lost Tyler but Just Dance stayed on strong, unfortunately. Despite that, Ubisoft showed of an impressive suite of titles, some expected and some coming as welcome surprises.
The conference opened with a Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. When it was leaked ahead of its reveal, people were skeptical. However, Ubisoft seems to have found a great mixture of Mario with XCOM-like combat, using turn-based tactics to bring Mario and friends into a genre they haven’t yet lived in. The Rabbids themselves are still a bit controversial for some people, especially with the over-exposure of their long lost cousins, the minions from Despicable Me. They can be seen as annoying and even childish, but personally I haven’t grown tired of them yet as we haven’t seen them in a major Ubisoft release for a very long time, and never in a game like this. I think they’ll inject a good bit of humor into the game. Plus, we got to see Yves Guillemot and Shigeru Miyamoto stand back to back with arm cannons and guns which was incredible.
The usual suspects were also there, with a new Assassin’s Creed being the worst kept secret. The game is moving back to it’s roots, or origins if you’d like, and exploring the founding of the Assassins. It takes us to Egypt, a setting that I’m pretty excited for all things considered, as it hasn’t really been explored in this medium. Unless you count Pharoah, the city-building game from Sierra, which I definitely do. But while the setting is unique, the gameplay seems to stray to close to previous releases in the series, and other Ubisoft games. One part in particular, when the protagonist uses his eagle to scout an enemy settlement, reminded me of the drone from Ghost Recon: Wildlands a bit too much. The game seems to lack a unique identity beyond it’s use of Egypt, and I fear it is going to fall into the trap that many Ubisoft games fall into, where the open world concept has become to formulaic. Ubisoft has a lot of ground work to do to rebuild support for this series, and it’ll be interesting to see if Origins can do it.
Two more sequels made their way to the stage as well, neither coming out of left field but only one looking to carry on the series in a meaningful way. The first was The Crew 2, which is an open world driving game featuring all of the United States as its playground. The first game was flawed, and hopefully Ubisoft can work its usual magic (Assassin’s Creed 1, Watch_Dogs etc) and make the sequel expand on a great concept. The sequel is Far Cry 5. Franchise fatigue is really starting to set in for Far Cry and hopefully this new one can do something to shake up the formula. They are taking on a setting that is fairly topical, exploring the darker parts of the current American identity such as white supremacists and religious fanaticism by basing the game in rural Montana. It is a bold move and one Ubisoft needs to handle properly. If done well, it can be a good reflection and commentary on American culture. In terms of the gameplay systems, Ubisoft’s open-world trappings are starting to feel formulaic. From the “tower-capturing” to the simplistic crafting systems, many of their games, including Far Cry, need to start finding new footing in these systems.
Ubisoft still hasn’t abandoned VR yet, showing off Transference, a sort of horror-esque game with Elijah Wood that appears to be quite meta, referencing technological advancement and virtual spaces. It also looks to subvert what players have come to expect from VR play. They showed a few other games as well, such as Skull & Bones which appears to rip the pirate boat part out of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and add some sea monsters, which sounds good on paper but I am curious to see what the full scope of that game is. They showed off more South Park: The Fractured But Whole as well. As someone who never really played the original, this didn’t grab my attention but editor Craig Jay and contributor Glen Mullan were very interested in this newest installment.
Then, Ubisoft took a left turn and entered the toys to life genre with Starlink. A game that reminds me of both Disney: Infinity and No Man’s Sky which… isn’t the most inspirational of comparisons. Despite the uninspired premise, the ships look cool and if there was any one of these sorts of games I might get into, Starlink looks to be the one. The main selling point is that they are also allowing all of these physical purchases to be made digitally which is important. I might like a cool ship or two on my shelf but I don’t need extra clutter. That said, with weapons being part of this purchase scheme, the pricing needs to be right.
The last (and best kept surprise) game Ubisoft showed has been a long time coming: Beyond Good and Evil 2. The first game was fantastic for its time (and I’m curious to see if it still holds up). It told a great story with Jade, the protagonist, serving as a early rare example of a very well written and realized female character. The themes of corruption and government conspiracy were unique and I’m curious to see where this game takes that. It is a prequel (which is sort of disappointing as I’d like to see where Jade’s story went) but it is full of style and character. It’s release date is likely a long time from now I think; perhaps next E3 we’ll get some gameplay.
Overall, Ubisoft had a solid showing. Many, safe sequels were shown off–similar to what other companies are doing–but they did have some exciting IP further on the horizon. For such a global company with studios all over the world, including here in Toronto, I know they must be working on more things that we still haven’t seen yet. I hope they are new worlds for us to explore, or explore new tech that is now becoming available.
Growing up in a small town, going to school for graphic and web design and finally moving to Toronto, Colin began to look for a new project and landed on Third Person. He has always had a passion for video games and finally decided to do something about it. Inspired by websites like Giant Bomb, Polygon, and Waypoint, Colin has founded Third Person with the intent of covering games using a mix of the old and the new.
Colin loves to dive into RPGs of all kinds, exploring their worlds and developing his character. Well-crafted stories draw him in too, and he is always on the lookout for a new adventure.
When he's not spending a billion years in a game's character creator, he can be found behind his camera, reading comic books or probably sleeping.
Some of his favorite games: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Overwatch, Life is Strange, Persona 4