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Once upon a time, Ubisoft's library was simple: it made platformers starring , and roughly 17,000 Tom Clancy tie-ins. But over the last decade, Ubi has muscled in on the genre that GTA made famous, building huge worlds spanning radically different time periods. Regardless of whether you’re controlling a historical hitman or a coma-bound cop, though, Ubisoft’s sandboxes love to borrow mechanics from other Ubi games.
Join us as we look back at the history of the Ubisoft's open world games, to see just how these sprawling sandboxes have evolved (and grown more and more alike).
Ubisoft first began to dabble in the sandbox space with 2007’s Assassin’s Creed. Skip back a decade, and you’d never guess the seismic scope the franchise would reach. Before the 2D spin-offs, books, and shitty Michael Fassbender films could wear us all down, there was just this ambitious (more than a bit broken) sandbox that spawned many of the features open world games still cling to in 2017.
Chances are you don’t remember much about the original Assassin’s Creed. You probably recall moping around ancient Jerusalem stabbing folk as a dude in a hoodie. Perhaps you have a dim recollection of eavesdropping on NPCs chatting away on benches. Maybe you even remember that early .
The one thing you’ll definitely recall is Ubisoft’s obsession with making players scale super lofty buildings. That all started in Altaïr’s adventure. To fully scope out all of the Holy Land’s side activities, you had to climb the tops of the tallest structures across Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus. Doing so gives you a very literal eagle’s eye view of the sprawling mass of humanity hundreds of feet below; a bird of prey swooping around the building when you reach its summit.
These vertigo-bating landmarks birthed Ubi’s most infamous open world feature: gradually filling up a map with mission markers.
Assassin’s Creed may have introduced us to the idea of big-ass buildings that revealed points of interest when climbed, but it was 2012’s Far Cry 3 that really cemented the feature. Jason Brody’s leopard-punching, pirate-blasting, tattoo-inking tropical holiday had the sort of wide reaching influence on the open world genre its two predecessors could only have sweaty night terrors about… mainly because its predecessor .
Surprisingly, Far Cry 2’s obsession with making you stuff pills down your throat to keep mosquito-borne diseases away never caught on—nor did its love of . Far Cry 3 ditched the annoying obstructions in favour of features that kept you itching to explore.
Far Cry 3’s antenna towers undoubtedly cast the longest shadow on almost every Ubi open world that followed. Scaling these rickety structures—which often feel like they’re being kept up by little more than prayers and a few loose screws—helps Brody fill his map up with all manner of side distractions. Haphazardly jumping, swinging and climbing your way between the crooked layers of the towers in Far Cry 3 isn’t just a hoot in and of itself, it also makes tracking the series of wildlife hunts, enemy encampments, treasure chests and races spread throughout the densely packed archipelago a lot easier.
Also, animals. An ark's worth of animals. Brief hunting escapades may have popped up a few months prior in Assassin’s Creed 3, but it was Far Cry 3 that really took the pelt-collecting ball and ran with it. Forget quietly ruminating on the unspoken majesty of the animal kingdom: Ubi’s critter-obsessed shooters just want to make you shoot endangered species in their furry faces.
Not that the trend Far Cry 3 kicked off (which seemed heavily inspired by Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption) entirely revolves around needless slaughter. Hunting down and skinning animals allows Brody to use pelts to craft ever larger ammo bags and other weapon-focused accessories.
The creature carnage in Far Cry 4 takes things even further, with attacks coming from land, sea and air—lord are that game’s ultra aggressive eagles ever jerks. The Himalayan sandbox would also introduce rideable beasts in the form of rampaging elephants, which the prehistoric follow-up would go nuts with.
Last year’s Far Cry Primal makes the toothy, tusked inhabitants of its ancient world the stars of the show. Far Cry 3 may have let you punch sharks, but next to Primal’s wild encounters, that's positively tame. When you can train sabertooth tigers, command jaguars to stealth kill fellow cavemen, and use an owl as a sort of feathered, Mesolithic drone to tag enemies—a feature both Watch Dogs 2 and Ghost Recon: Wildlands would quickly reskin—bopping Jaws’ cousin on the nose ain’t no thang.
Ubisoft has since pushed more animals into Assassin's Creed: Origins. Even Watch Dogs 2 depicts San Francisco's Pier 39 with a rookery of slovenly seals leisurely sunning themselves on gangplanks.
Stealth has also played a large role in many of Ubi’s open world games, regardless of the setting, era or enemy type. It started with players blending into crowds with the ‘social stealth’ gameplay of the original Assassin’s Creed. It was an innovative feature for its time—after all, most stealth games up to that point forced their characters to either hide in the shadows or a cardboard box.
Sneaking mechanics were quickly shoved into most of its games following Assassin’s Creed's success. Who cares if these stalking scenarios were often absurd: they make for easy mission design, dammit!
Diving underwater, then pulling pirates into the drink as you clear out enemy strongholds in Far Cry 3. Slipping between cover to slap a chokehold on Watch Dogs’ various shortsighted guards. Poking Edward Kenway’s head out of Assassin’s Creed 4’s suspiciously plentiful patches of long grass. Using a tiny, extra voyeuristic RC car to infiltrate the offices of a tech startup in Watch Dogs 2, then zapping any security personnel that get too curious. Solid Snake and Sam Fisher have a lot to answer for.
Whether you’re whacking religious zealots in the time of the Crusades or putting San Francisco office workers to sleep with a taser gun, over the years Ubisoft has proven there’s no open world setting it can’t crowbar a stealth section into.
Tagging enemies is another prominent feature most Ubi games have turned to over the last few years. This actually predates Ubisoft's open worlds, in games like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Rainbow Six: Vegas, but it's since become a vital part of their sandboxes as well.
Placing markers down to keep track of your foes’ positions popped up in Far Cry 3, with Brody’s super useful set of pirate-tagging binoculars. Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, and Ghost Recon have all subsequently borrowed this eagle-eyed feature, while even the likes of Metal Gear Solid V have benefited hugely from Jason’s peeping Tom bouts of recon making tagging an open world staple.
Oh, and almost every one of those games lets you perform stealth takedowns, too. Because of course any self respecting hipster hacker/out of his depth fratboy/neanderthal can neutralise foes with the quiet, deadly efficiency of a Navy SEAL team.
This is the big one. More than any of the above crossover features, one recurring element has helped prop up Ubi’s increasingly sophisticated sandboxes this past decade: collectibles. ALL the collectibles.
Eagle feathers in Assassin’s Creed; lost letters and spirit totems in Far Cry; Watch Dogs’ key data caches; Kingslayer files in Ghost Recon: Wildlands; even crystalline shards in the otherwise wonderfully nonconformist Grow Home, and its sequel Grow Up. Grand Theft Auto 3 may have introduced the world to sandbox collectibles with its fiendishly placed hidden packages, but we doubt Rockstar envisioned game worlds rammed full of bird feathers, PC files and statue heads.
Hell, Ubisoft has even managed to cram several garages full of collectibles into its vehicled-based sandboxes. 2011’s brilliantly offbeat Driver San Francisco has 130 movie tokens to hoover up as you bomb around the Golden City while you mind-jack cars in gaming’s most exciting coma. The Crew wouldn’t miss this OCD party for the world, either. The flawed 2014 racer scatters 20 Wreck Parts in each of the five sections that make up its vast North American sandbox of endless highways.
It’s almost as if Ubisoft doesn’t trust you enough to leave you to your own devices for five minutes. A good thing, too. Why take your time admiring the painstakingly recreated canal networks of Renaissance era Venice in Assassin’s Creed 2, when your inner completionist could be making Ezio ruin his shins by scampering up rooftops for mangy bird feathers?
There’s no question Ubisoft’s open worlds have evolved drastically over the last ten years. Place the original Assassin’s Creed next to the upcoming Beyond Good & Evil 2 (Michel Ancel’s long awaited sequel lets you explore entire galaxies), and you may as well be comparing a kid’s crayon scribbles to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Still, there’s no question Ubi’s plethora of internal studios love to crib concepts from each other’s games.
So whether its a slightly out of place stealth mission, wads of XP to splurge on increasingly convoluted skill trees, or vaulting up towers to open up that fog covered map, you should probably expect Ubisoft open worlds to continue to share crossover features as they continue to evolve. Darwin would be delighted. Probably.
In an announcement via his Facebook page, Adi Shankar revealed he’ll be working with Ubisoft to develop and Assassin’s Creed anime series. We saw this coming during when head of content for Assassin’s Creed Aymar Azaizia confirmed a TV show project was in the works. Shankar’s a busy man it seems, having recently developed an anime show based on the Castlevania series for Netflix, which debuts July 7. , so if any of its style and self-serious melodrama makes its way into the Assassin’s Creed project, I’m on board. Shankar’s full statement follows:
It’ll be an original story set in the Assassin’s Creed universe, but we don’t know much more than that. What network it releases on, what brooding male protagonist looks like, what time period it’s set it, and exactly how anime it will be still up in the air—but, really, if it’s anime, what can go wrong? Seriously, if it's better than the movie (which should be the easiest thing in the world) I'll be happy.
The best sidequests in PC gaming have historically, for me at least, been few and far between. That is to say: while I've thoroughly enjoyed certain quests in certain games, far too many side ventures eschew narrative reward, often serve as filler, and are ultimately plain boring. This is particularly true in open world games—The Witcher 3 is perhaps the exception—however the Assassin's Creed series is looking to improve its side quest design into the future.
Officially revealed at this year's E3, Origins will reduce its icon clutter by introducing a new "quest system".
Speaking to our Samuel on the show floor, the game's creative director Jean Guesdon said: "That's one of the three main things that we reworked a lot. Traditionally in past Assassin's Creed [games], we had what was called a mission system. So, it was really about missions, but missions are really good to tell a little bit, a chapter, of a big story. So we had a main story and side activities, basically, which were not really supportive of narrative.
"This time we're embracing a quest system, much more [like an] RPG, where you have dozens of them in the world, meeting different people, and each quest this time is a different story. We wanted that first to give a lot of meat to the world, to have the player really understand the world, and it's really allowing us to depict the setting well, because Ancient Egypt is incredible. It's a long lost world—we did a lot of research, and through the quests, we have a [chance] to help you experience that."
Assassin's Creed: Origins is due October 27, 2017. Here's its latest trailer:
If there's one dependable lesson to be learned from E3 every year, it's that consumerism is good. And that's no better demonstrated than by this ludicrous Assassin's Creed: Origins edition. Tidily dubbed the Dawn of the Creed Collector's Case – Legendary Edition, it'll set you back $800 (or $1,250 in Australia).
Rather amusingly, this pack doesn't get you absolutely everything offered in the bajillion (ie, five) other special editions of the game, but crucially, it does get you a 73cm figurine in resin (it's in resin, you see). The game is there of course, as is a season pass, a physical world map, and an eagle skull amulet, which is nice.
The full rundown of what's in it can be perused over here. Or you could watch this video. Scroll to the bottom for an image showing everything in the edition.
Ubisoft rolled out another Assassin's Creed: Origins trailer at its E3 press event today, this one showcasing animals, action, and the "Mysteries of Egypt" in glorious 4K.
With ten years of Assassin's Creed behind it, Ubisoft "wanted to go back—very far back—to show how it all began," game director Ashraf Ismail said. Egypt "challenged us to fundamentally reinvent what it means to be Assassin's Creed," he added.
The trailer is pure teaser, but if you'd like to scope out some proper gameplay we can help with that too: A trio of new videos including a mission gameplay walkthrough were released yesterday at Microsoft's E3 presser.
Assassin's Creed: Origins is set for release on October 27.
At is pre-E3 press conference today, Microsoft unveiled the debut Assassin's Creed: Origins gameplay trailer, finally confirming that the new game will depict the origin of the Brotherhood in ancient Egypt.
Origins depicts "the birthplace of the Assassins Brotherhood," creative director Jean Guesdon said, and is "also the story of one man, Bayek," the last Magi and the protector of his community—something of an "Egyptian sheriff," he explained. Naturally, stealth is central to the experience, but there's plenty of action as well, and Guesdon said Ubisoft has "added many RPG elements to a huge systemic world.
A second trailer, depicting a short mission in which Bayek returns to his hometown of Siwa to kill the fake oracle Nedunamum, was also shown at the event and can be seen below. We'll have more information about Assassin's Creed: Origins, as it becomes available.Update: Following the (finally) official announcement, Ubisoft posted another video taking a more behind-the-scenes look at the development of Assassin's Creed: Origins.
Update: Following the (finally) official announcement, Ubisoft posted another video taking a more behind-the-scenes look at the development of Assassin's Creed: Origins. Enjoy!
A slew of leaks has already revealed the high points of Ubisoft's next Assassin's Creed, an ancient Egyptian adventure subtitled Origins. And today, thanks to a Redittor who posted pictures of the latest issue of GameInformer on Imgur, we even have a release date: Barring delays, the game will be out on October 27.
The image of the inside cover indicates that Assassin's Creed: Origins will be available for purchase in four separate editions: standard, Deluxe, Gold, and Gold Steelbook. And in case the title wasn't sufficiently on-point, the cover itself strongly suggests that the game will depict the origin of the Assassin brotherhood, stating, "As an empire falls, a brotherhood rises."
We called Origins "one of the worst-kept secrets in videogames" yesterday, but today I think that's actually overstating it. I mean, is anyone even trying to keep their mouth shut at this point? It would be tremendously funny if all this virtual Egyptology turned out to be a great misdirect from Ubisoft, and that the real game is going to be a sci-fi extravaganza set in the far-flung future (Assassin's Creed: Andromeda, anyone?), but come on—that's not going to happen.
Despite all the leakage, none of this is official, and it will remain that way until Ubisoft's pre-E3 press event, which we will be covering for you at 1 pm PT/4 pm ET on June 12.
One of the worst-kept secrets in videogames right now is that the next Assassin's Creed will be called Origins, will take place in ancient Egypt, and will be released sometime this year. We've got a whole roundup post about it right here, in fact. But in case you needed more convincing, an image of a preorder card that leaked out of Target and landed on Imgur makes it all very clear.
The card confirms both the title and the Egyptian setting, and also reveals the preorder bonus (from Target, at least) as a mission entitled Secrets of the First Pyramids. A season pass will be offered, which comes as absolutely no surprise at all, and included with a "Gold Edition" of the game that also comes with a "Deluxe Pack", whatever that is, and what I'm sure will be a very nice Steelbook case. And the fact that the card exists right now pretty obviously points toward a release sometime before the end of the year.
It's not exactly a revelation, then, since it's really just another nail in the foot of what we already know. And the full facts will presumably all be revealed very soon anyway: Ubisoft's E3 press conference, which I'm pretty sure will make some mention of the new Assassin's Creed—and which we will be covering live—will take place at 1 pm PT/4 pm ET on June 12.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
The first Assassin s Creed, with its underwhelming and repetitive missions, seems destined to be judged as Ubi s half-decent prototype for the much better AssCreeds to follow. But as much as the sequels added some much-needed character and features, the series also lost something. Most people will probably be happy it s no longer a part of the game, but I really liked it when you had a long, final chat with the people you killed. … [visit site to read more]
Ubisoft announced today that four of its biggest franchises will be returning for its 2017-18 fiscal year (which we're currently in, and ends March 31, 2018). Far Cry 5 and The Crew 2 are both on the way, and the oft-delayed South Park: The Fractured But Whole is (hopefully) coming, too. The publisher also teased a new Assassin's Creed, although details—like, for instance, a subtitle—are being held back, possibly for a full-on E3 reveal. (Though Egypt is heavily rumored to be the setting.)
"Over the last three fiscal years, Ubisoft has—with remarkable success—created numerous new brands and rebooted Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said in a statement. "These successes have strengthened our visibility for the coming two fiscal years, with a line-up of releases principally comprised of established franchises. In 2017-18 we will see the exciting returns of Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, The Crew, and South Park."
The Crew is probably the one semi-surprise of the bunch: It had something of a rough launch in 2014, and it was actually one of last year's Ubisoft anniversary freebies—not exactly a sign of a highly lucrative money-maker. On the other hand, Ubisoft recently announced that it had hit the 12 million player mark, which is no small feat, and it hasn't given up on the game by any measure either, releasing the cops-and-robbers expansion Calling All Units in November 2016.
It's an ambitious lineup, but a strong FY2017-18 (and beyond) has to be even more important than usual for Ubisoft: The conflict has gone quiet in recent months, but Ubisoft is still facing a possible hostile takeover attempt by Vivendi. The company needs to do everything it can do to bolster its position—and as quickly as it possibly can.
Naturally, details are in very short supply at this early stage, but tweets from Ubisoft UK at least give us some logos to look at.