Last year, the Ubisoft E3 presentation seemed like a series of teasers for upcoming projects. This year, I expected the presentation to be filled with progress reports and DLC rather than the reveal of any new IP. However, Ubisoft have been known to pull a Rabbid out of a hat, so it is difficult to know what to expect. Further, in the week leading up to E3, the existence of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey was spoiled and rumours of Splinter Cell circulated.
The presentation began with the franchise Ubisoft refuses to give up on, Just Dance. The iconic dancing panda and dancers in colourful costumes were accompanied by a marching band playing arrangements of the well-known pop songs as they made their way from the foyer to the theatre stage. No one lingered on or gave any details about Just Dance other than the title of the upcoming game – Just Dance 2019 (who would have guessed?). The dance routine was merely used as a hype builder. This was a good move.
Sans Aisha Tyler, it was up to the game producers/directors to introduce their respective games. It seemed as though there were three points of focus for Ubisoft during E3 – community engagement, reminders about games from last year’s presentation, and new game reveals. The first few presentations all focused on community engagement.
Beyond Good and Evil 2: A new game trailer and some pre-alpha gameplay footage for Ubisoft’s highly anticipated space opera, Beyond Good and Evil 2 revealed new and the return of existing characters. The focus, however, seemed to be on the partnership between Ubisoft and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s social and collaborative production company, Hit Record. Musicians, artists, writers, game enthusiasts of any kind can now contribute to the game via an online service.
Rainbow Six Siege: This presentation existed purely to celebrate the 35 million Rainbow Six Siege players around the world and advertise the Pro league. There was also a sneak peek of a documentary, titled “Another Mindset,” which follows eight Rainbow Six Siege community members.
Trials Rising: It wouldn’t be a Ubisoft E3 conference if there was an poorly executed comedy skit. Antti Ilvessuo, creative director for Trials Rising, rides in to the theatre on a motor bike, proceeds to clumsily destroy a fake lectern then proclaims that he is the president of Finland. After a trailer for this new Trials game, the creator of YouTube channel “Trials University” discussed how the game was created through collaboration with the pro players of the community. It was all a bit awkward.
The Division 2: During this presentation we learn that the Division 2 will be set in Washington D.C., that players will now be able to pick a specialisation (which has implications for the equipment and skills that their avatar has access to), and that the game will be supported by years of frequent, major content updates. The biggest cheer came after the announcement that eight-player raids would be an in-game option.
The next set of presentations simply felt like reminders about games that were presented last year, or had been released recently.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure This presentation could have been as simple as, “Hey guys, we’re adding Donkey Kong to Mario + Rabbids via a DLC.” Instead, a hype trailer was played while Grant Kirkhop and the band, Critical Hit, performed a mixture of classical music and rock on stage. It would have been fine if they didn’t keep cutting away from the trailer to watch a woman try to rock out on a cello.
Transference: Spectrevision’s VR (but also on traditional platforms) upcoming psychological thriller game reminds me of a cross between Her Story and Get Even. We now have a new trailer for it.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas: Fox McCloud (Star Fox) was revealed as a playable character and Miyamoto made an appearance. Yves Guillemot decided that it would be a good idea to emphasise that Ubisoft and Nintendo had a strong relationship, and then presented Miyamoto with a model of Fox’s ship. I wonder if this Guillemot- Miyamoto double act will become a regular thing.
For Honor- Marching Fire: With this update, the game will have a new faction – the Chinese Wulin – and a new 4v4 multiplayer castle siege mode called Breach.
The Crew 2: There is a new trailer for the game and you can now pre-load the open beta.
The last two games I want to mention are my stand-outs for this presentation.
Skull and Bones: This this year we were treated to some in-game footage rather than just a trailer. The pirate formula is successful – consider Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Sea of Thieves. If Ubisoft can get the multiplayer element right and the final version of the game looks like the footage they presented at E3 this year, this game will be a winner.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey: Unfortunately (or, strategically?) for Ubisoft, the existence of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey was spoiled in the week preceding E3. However, that didn’t stop the audience from giving this game the biggest cheer. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is set in ancient Greece and focuses on the Peloponnesian War. We were treated to an in-game sequence that showed off some one-on-one fighting, horseback riding, a city scene, equipment customisation, a skill tree, and a large-scale battle. Despite the distinct historical setting, there is a focus on making it your journey. To that end, players can opt to play as a female or male assassin. The game looks amazing, and the trailer alone acts as a good argument against those who criticise the frequent release of Assassin’s Creed games.
Unlike the past two E3 conferences, Ubisoft did not spend any time discussing the personality of the publisher. It felt like it was back-to-back game trailers. Though, some of the character of the Ubisoft staff shone through when microphones often accidentally caught post-presentation backstage chatter like “we nailed it!” Ultimately, it felt like Ubisoft’s E3 conference was quite rushed. You got the impression that none of the developers were up to the stage where they could present a significant in-game sequence or playthrough portion. However, demos were made available to E3 attendees and shown during the post-show, so the lack of discussion about the games and in-game footage was likely due to time constraints. There were still a lot of titles to get excited about, and enough substance to keep my interest piqued until next year. Grade: B-