ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ubisoft @ E3 2015 - Trying Harder

I have a saying: there's always something broken about a Ubisoft game. Sometimes I enjoy them enough to live with it anyhow, but in the past several years I've said it, so far I have yet to really be proven wrong. Well, that may just change. Like EA, Ubisoft tried to push 'listening to players' as the big selling point for their latest and greatest, and while at first coming from Ubisoft it just felt like marketing speak, after seeing what they have to offer for the near future, I'm actually inclined to believe them...for the most part.

South Park: The Fractured but Whole

South Park: The Stick of Truth is getting a sequel? Of course it is.

For Honor

It could either be said that it's hard to know what to expect from Ubisoft at E3...or that it's very easy, in a bad way. For Honor defies both types of expectations. There aren't a lot of medieval-style games that aren't called 'The Elder Scrolls', and there are even fewer that aren't some type of RPG. For Honor is one of those pleasant exceptions, focusing on 'art of battle' melee gameplay with no magic, no dragons, and no pausing for 10 minutes to sort through the thousands of items in your pocket to find that super health potion. For Honor aims to be as realistic as possible, so that the weight of every strike is felt by the player. Combat in For Honor resembles Assassin's Creed at first, but the similarities end there. Battles are carried out by two teams of four human players joined by dozens upon dozens of AI footsoldiers, and to survive for long you'll have to learn how to take on multiple enemies at once. And your opponents aren't pushovers, either--it looks legitimately difficult to even land a strike without it being deflected or returned for an even greater blow. There's no release date for For Honor just yet, but the game will have a beta run at some point later this year. To sign up for the beta, head on over to the official site.

The Crew: Wild Run (Expansion)

Among last years slew of racers was Ubisoft's The Crew, an open-world cross-country MMO of sorts that failed to attract a lot of attention with so much competition in the same genre. This year Ubisoft is aiming to reignite interest by releasing an expansion to what is already a massive game: The Crew: Wild Run. The expansion features motorcycles, new cars, locations, and challenges focused largely on off-road and dirt road driving, which should provide a breath of fresh air to those looking for reasons to dive back in to The Crew as opposed to playing a different racer. No information was given on the expansion's release date or pricing.

Trials Fusion: Awesome Level MAX (Expansion)

What could a trailer featuring a fire-breathing unicorn mounted by a cat possibly be advertising? How about a new Trials: Fusion expansion? Somehow, that actually makes sense. Following its first season of expansions, it appears Ubisoft will continue to add new tracks and 'vehicles' to Trials Fusion with Trials Fusion: Awesome Level MAX. No actual gameplay was shown, but if you are familiar at all with the game, you probably get the idea. If not, you won't have to wait too long to find out just what all Awesome Level MAX entails: it releases on July 14.

Tom Clancy's The Division

Ubisoft hopes you like Tom Clancy, because they had plenty of the brand to show off, starting with one of the most anticipated titles in a long while, The Division. It's not exactly an MMO, it's not exactly a third-person shooter. Ubisoft is calling it an open-world action RPG, set in New York after a weaponized virus has devastated the population. In some ways it plays like Destiny--items are obtained through random drops, and players can encounter other players whether they're playing together or not. Unlike Destiny, The Division doesn't make any distinction between players and NPCs as far as game rules are concerned. Player killing is a thing, and with everyone out for themselves you'll never know who to trust. Not that you can't trust anyone--players can work together to tackle bigger challenges, too. could just be that guy and take all the loot for yourself, stabbing everyone else in the back. We've still got a ways yet to go before The Division will be in gamers' hands, but it's well on its way. A playable demo is available all week at E3, and betas are set for all platforms early 2016. The Division has a final release date of March 8, 2016 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Anno 2205

Taking a quick break from Tom Clancy came Anno 2205, another totally-not-Sim-City city/building simulation game from Ubisoft that takes things...well, to the next level. Literally. As in, the Moon. You don't start there, but building your way there will of course be every player's goal. The idea of building and managing cities on the Moon is a new and interesting take on the old city simulation formula, so if someone doesn't mod Cities: Skylines to have the same feature you can look forward to trying out Anno 2205 on November 3, with a beta launching earlier in the year.

Just Dance 2016

The Wii got a new game at E3 2015? Why, yes--yes it did. While most music games have fallen by the wayside, Ubisoft's Just Dance series has apparently maintained something of an audience despite the decline of motion gaming, because Just Dance 2016 is coming out for Wii, WiiU, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, and no, you won't need a camera peripheral to play it. Instead, Just Dance 2016 will also feature a free smartphone and tablet app that will act as a motion sensor. The app isn't required, but it's another means of play for platforms with no alternative--and a pretty clever one, at that. In addition, PS4, Xbox One, and WiiU will have access to a streaming service, Just Dance Unlimited, that will regularly update the game with new songs all year long. Just Dance 2016 is set to release this November.

Rainbow Six Siege

Diving back into Tom Clancy games, we next got a live gameplay demo of Rainbow Six Siege, the close-quarters, tactical, slow-and-thoughtful homage to the series roots all the way back in the late '90s. Unlike back then, however, in Siege every map is fully destructible. Players and AI can blow through doors, walls, floors--you name it--opening up a variety of new tactics to the infiltration formula. But don't get cocky: the AI can pull all the same tricks as players, and evidently it's pretty good at it, too. Even the demo team at E3 struggled to successfully pull off their mission, reportedly even failing outright during rehearsal. Why the difficulty? Unlike most modern shooters, in Rainbow Six Siege, once you go down, you're dead. Teammates have only a few seconds to help an incapacitated team member, and once that opportunity is gone, it's gone for the match. Rainbow Six Siege will feature 4 main modes as well as one PvP mode, and the beta launches September 24, 2015, presumably on all platforms.

Trackmania Turbo

After something of a hiatus, Trackmania is back--already one of the toughest race-against-the-clock games out there, now with even more speed and challenges. The new game, Trackmania Turbo, will ship with over 200 tracks set in a variety of locations and progressing difficulty levels, but the bigger news is the latest addition to the game's famous track builder: a 'random' mode that will generate entire new tracks in seconds, complete with custom terrain, track, and scenery. It's an impressive feature that works incredibly well, and basically gives the game unlimited variety. As if that wasn't enough, Trackmania Turbo will support virtual reality and come with a new multiplayer mode, though what exactly that mode entails was not revealed on-stage. It will hit PC, PS4, and Xbox One in November.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

When Ubisoft unveiled Assassin's Creed Syndicate weeks before E3, everyone scratched their heads. Surprisingly, it only marginally featured in their actual press conference, too, though it makes sense why. Assassin's Creed is a yearly event. We know it's coming, and we know more or less what to expect. We've already seen gameplay of Syndicate, and it will release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One October 23. For E3 all we got was a new cinematic trailer, though a playable demo is available on the E3 show floor for attendees. And the trailer was rather different as far as Assassin's Creed demos go. Rather than take place in an open city square with thousands of civilians, this demo was in a little tavern with a smaller crowd who's on the Assassin's side for a change. It gave us a taste of story and little more. No gameplay really necessary for this series--we've already seen it, and it's more or less the same Assassin's Creed we know and (maybe) love, just in a new time period...though one thing that certainly changes is every year is that the hood feels more and more out of place as the timeline progresses through history.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

And last but not least, if The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege aren't enough Tom Clancy for you, then perhaps you'll be satisfied with undoubtedly the biggest of the bunch: Ghost Recon: Wildlands, an open-world shooter taking place primarily in some of the world's less-civilized areas. Being open-world means you won't just be using one or two tactics to take out the bad guys, but whatever you can come up with. There are vehicles, there are utilities galore, and any approach you want to take is likely a viable option. It was Ubisoft's surprise announcement for the event, and one that comes bearing no release date, but you can certainly expect to see this one hit current-gen consoles and possibly PC when it's ready.