As I sat here in this very spot, casually passing the 100-hour mark of the Division and bemoaning, once again, my agent’s propensity to get stuck in a wall, I had the strangest sense of deja vu. I’d made this complaint before, and not just about the Division – Ubisoft games and I have a complicated relationship, you see. I’ve loved many of their games over the years, and I’m sure there’ll be many more for which I’ll feel the same, but whenever I reach out for one I always feel… hesitant. A series of memories begin flashing before my eyes, stirring up old feelings of anguish, and that moment of hesitation stays my hand more often than not.
It’s the technical problems, my friends – bugs, glitches, completely game breaking issues that CAN DRIVE A MAN INSANE– but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m talking about the classic, classic technical issues that seem to plague me across the Ubisoft games I’ve truly enjoyed over the years, as though my happiness makes them manifest. Oh, Ubisoft, how many times hast thou wronged me? Let me count the ways…
Ahhh, my first love on the Playstation 2. The PS2 was the first non-Nintendo console I had owned for myself and with it, I was given a copy of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, which I played to absolute death. There’s a part near the beginning, however, perhaps you’ll remember it; after the Prince has inadvertently released the Sands of Time, he encounters his sand-zombified father. It’s a tense moment, both for the Prince and the player as it’s one of the most difficult fights near the beginning of the game. It was made all the more difficult when, depending on how the game was felt at the time, this literal sand-zombie King, a hulking, shambling beast of a mini-boss bugged out and became immortal.
It took me awhile to figure out what was happening because this was back in the good ‘ol days of gaming, where bugs just weren’t as common as they are today. Shipping a game with a major bug could be devastating since there was no way to fix it post-release (at least on consoles). Sure enough, however, a restart cleared things up, and I finally beat him; I wasn’t to know that this was but a mere taste of things to come.
The next year Prince of Persia: Warrior Within was released, and you can bet your sweet biddy I made sure to get hold of a copy. PoP: WW still stands as one of my all-time favorite games, and also as the one that hurt me the most. See, PoP: Two Thrones was due to release the following year (holy crap, Ubisoft were doing annual releases even back then) and it’s story would actually follow on from the alternate ending of WW. Knowing this, I went back and replayed the game, collecting all the health upgrades so that I could face the Dahaka once and for all, and– Wait, why isn’t this portal working? WHY ISN’T THE DAMN PORTAL WORKING!?
Right at the end of the game, there’s a glitch (with a lot of debate surrounding what causes it) that prevents the portal from working, and the doors to the portal room from opening. If you trigger this glitch, you’re trapped, and there was no workaround available for 14-year old Paddy; no hotfixes, no patch updates, and no user-made mods to fix what was happening. It was right before a boss fight so, naturally, I saved. It was from that day forward that I learned to save across multiple files, and at varying stages of whatever I was playing. You’d all do well to do the same.
I loved the first Assassin’s Creed, it felt new, exciting, and Altair is a total bad-ass – everything about the game was awesome, riiight up until the final fight against Robert de Sablé. First, there was the illusory ground, appearing corporeal but in reality was immaterial, giving way the moment Altair alighted upon it before falling he’d tumble into nothingness. Following that was the trial of the clone, where Altair had to face off against himself and it was a good long while before I realised that wasn’t meant to happen. Finally, after my trials and tribulations, I reached Robert, the man that I’d been hunting the whole game, and hey – why is he just standing there? And his men, shouldn’t they be attacking me? “God dammit,” I muttered to myself, “another freaking glitch?” It was a miracle I finished the game at all. By this point, as I was back then, you may be sensing a pattern.
There were others that have added to my Ubisoftphobia over the years. Titles like Beowulf: The Complete Trainwreck Of A Game, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, which straight up killed my X360 HDD, and Watchdogs…. Oh, Watchdogs. I placed my trust in Ubisoft over and over and was consistently punished for doing so. For a very, very long time, I flat out refused to play Ubisoft games on principle. It was only with much convincing from a friend and required the phrase “it’s kind of Borderlands-ish,” that I finally caved into picking up The Division. I honestly thought that it would be different this time, it seemed like it could be a great game. People were excited and, if you’re a current or former player of the Division, you were probably excited, so I ignored the alarm bells ringing in my ears and picked up a copy of the game.
Until I upgraded my machine and got a different gfx card, every light source in every building would strobe like I was having a firefight at a Skrillex rave. And post-upgrade? I fell through the world a handful of times while reviewing the game. At least on one occasion, I encountered the faceless character models that Unity made infamous. To this day, I still occasionally get stuck in the scenery, the only fix for which is fast travelling to another player or location. I’ve seen players that shoot directly at their feet while enemies spontaneously exsanguinate around them, before pulling back into cover to reload ad-infinitum. In the world of The Division, guns floating and whirling in circles in front of their owners is a fairly common phenomena.
I know not why Ubisoft perpetrates these crimes against game-anity, why cursed bugs and glitches – some familiar and some surprisingly new – have plagued me throughout my life. Perhaps I’ll never know; but I swear to God, if I fall through the world one more time, Massive, I’m coming to your studio and exacting my revenge from your scalps.