The Gift & Curse Of The Ubisoft Formula
Beginning with the critically acclaimed; Far Cry 3, Ubisoft birthed a certain gameplay formula that slowly crept into nearly all aspects of their future titles. What formula am I speaking of? Go open the map in the latest Assassin’s Creed title and be mesmerized by the amount of content on display. The overwhelming number of objectives/player attractions will intimidate any gamer. You may be wondering what in the world is wrong with too much content, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. But let’s travel back to the wonderful year of 2012 and learn the origins of the Ubisoft formula.
The Best Of Times
So... the surprise success of Far Cry 3 was something that the industry never expected. The previous entries in the series were by no means bad games, but they’d never reach the critical and commercial success that Far Cry 3 would see. Each entry seemed to be missing a certain element or have some inherent flaw that would keep the title from greatness. Enter Far Cry 3 which at the time not only boasted some of the best graphics in a first-person shooter but also had an interesting premise of rich kids getting stranded on an island full of pirates. The ever charming villain; Vaas Montenegro, was even compared to Heath Ledger’s Joker.
The story overall was fairly entertaining throughout and was a huge surprise. However, it was the gameplay loop that would solidify the future of Ubisoft’s titles. Far Cry 3 forced players to start the game as a fragile rich kid with barely any health or weapons. Players would have to scavenge resources which meant hunting animals in order to craft better gear. Not only that but the way that players were given free rein to tackle objectives was refreshing. You could either attack enemy strongholds in a loud manner or silently execute guards one by one. Creative players could even send local wildlife to do their dirty work if the situations allowed for it.
When players weren’t murdering their way to the top of the food chain, they were exploring the massive island. At the beginning of the game, the entire map would be shrouded in the fog of war. Players would have to climb radio towers that reveal the countless activities. Once players discovered a new mission, stronghold, or other attractions, the cycle would start all over again after they found another radio tower.
So...in a nutshell, this was the revolutionary Ubisoft formula and it was glorious back in 2012. Far Cry 3 seemed so intelligently designed because there was always a sense of progression as player explored the world or complete story missions. It seems simple now but this formula is what skyrocketed the Far Cry series into its current juggernaut status. Not too soon afterward, an 80’s themed expansion called Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was released. The seemingly random expansion was an 80’s movie spoof that used the gameplay of Far Cry 3. Again, this was beloved by fans but wasn’t exactly large enough to be considered the next major entry into the series.
“Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact... same f*****g thing... over and over again expecting... s**t to change... That. Is. Crazy.” -Vaas Montenegro
So after a few years, the highly anticipated; Far Cry 4, was released. Again, the franchise received rave reviews from publications. Players went to another exotic location with the flamboyant Pagan Min as their lovable psychopath this time. Without delving too much into the story, it was overall a more compelling tale this time and extremely memorable. However, in terms of actual gameplay, it felt very familiar. Sure, players got some cool new gimmicks such as riding elephants, but the overall gameplay wasn’t too different from Far Cry 3.
Nevertheless, the game was beloved by fans and credits and it sold relatively well. And then… Far Cry: Primal was released two years later. Set in the caveman era, this game was essentially a reskinned Far Cry 4 with fewer weapons and activities for obvious reasons. The premise was intriguing at first, but gamers had finally gotten their fill of the Ubisoft formula. Not only that, but games such as Watch Dogs, The Crew, and even the latest Assassin’s Creed titles were all starting to share the same design styles. The games began to feel like a copy & pasted shopping list instead of handcrafted experiences for players. These weren’t outright bad games by any means, but fatigue had begun to set in.
With Far Cry: New Dawn, receiving a mixed reception, it’s time that Ubisoft switched up their formula. There’s nothing inherently bad with how they design their open-world games, but they have to hide the fact that players are just checking off one huge list of objectives & collectibles. Look at how Red Dead Redemption 2 organically allows interesting events to occur in-game. Ubisoft should vary up the content and make each quest/event worth the players time. Despite the controversies that the company may endure sometimes, they still publish some of the most innovative titles in the industry. Regardless, the Ubisoft formula is long overdue for a makeover.