As predicted in my Anthem review, The Division 2 has ended up being a significant beneficiary of The Bad Game Effect.
This is something that may not come across in my reviews of their games, but I have a lot of respect for the various Ubisoft development studios. They work to deadlines that would put nearly every other game developer to shame, and if you ignore the writing (which is practically required when dealing with anything under the Tom Clancy name) there’s a refreshing lack of pretension about the games they’re making. They scope out what they’re going to make at a very early stage during development, and once it’s defined they don’t muck about with spending years bogged down in ridiculous scope creep such as accurately-modelled horse testicles; they just knuckle down and make the game they planned in the first place. They’ve mastered the process of developing games better than any other company in the triple-A space — things such as efficient content pipelines, consistent design philosophy and effective project management across all of their games1 — which is how they’ve been able to publish a whopping eleven Assassin’s Creed games in eleven years and have only two of them be crap.
The headline “Why The Division isn’t Destiny for the PC” edrew hollow chuckles from me when I read it the other day. Because it is. It totally is, and trying to pretend otherwise by implementing some nebulously misguided quality standards as a bar separating the two is simple overcontortion of an argument to generate inevitably clickbait-y column inches.
08/02 – I’m halfway through the XCOM 2 review and it’s shaping up to be a monster, so I’m postponing it to tomorrow so that I can a) finish it and b) get some screenshots that aren’t of the late game.
So I guess it’s admission time: I would not have had anywhere near as positive an opinion of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue as I did if I hadn’t immediately gone on to play Assassin’s Creed: Unity afterwards. Rogue is a great game, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t until I experienced the series debacle that is Unity that I realised I’d been taking a lot of the good stuff Rogue was doing completely for granted. It turns out there’s a hundred little things about Black Flag and Rogue — from the ease of the movement to the speed of the combat (even if it is a bit button-mashy) to the sheer sense of freedom that having a ship gives you — that you don’t notice until they’ve been replaced with clunky, regressive mechanics that take the AC series back at least five years to a time when it was far weaker as a game and was coasting largely on the strength of its history porn and a charismatic main character. This was fine when the star of the series was Ezio and the games were all set in Renaissance Italy (and Constantinople) and abused the historical elements of that setting in a particularly egregious yet crowd-pleasing way. It’s less fine when you have a lead with all the charm of a particularly smart-ass 12 year-old; a locale that, while not inherently dull, is something that Unity summarily fails to do anything even remotely interesting with; and an additional half-decade on the clock that means your game comes across as a relic from the very historical time period it is supposed to be set in.
It’s 2016 now, and I find myself suffering from the same bout of madness I did almost exactly three years ago: a delusional desire to play through all extant Assassin’s Creed titles in one fell swoop. I’ll stagger the reviews out over a few months so this blog doesn’t turn into all AC all the time.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is a bit of an odd game. On the surface it looks like a shameless cash-in on the excellent Black Flag: it was released just one year after Black Flag and uses a reskinned version of the same engine and most of the same gimmicks (i.e. boats). It was also available for last-generation consoles only, which heightened my impression that it wasn’t really anything more than an attempt to squeeze one last bit of cash out of the 360 and PS3 install base before everyone’s attention moved on to the now current-gen Xbox One and PS4. I picked it up mostly because it was cheap, because it let me play as series bad guys the Templars, and because even if it was just a blatant reskin of Black Flag it wouldn’t be too bad because Black Flag was really, really good. I wasn’t expecting great things from Rogue at all.
Which is why I find myself somewhat surprised to be writing the following sentence: if Black Flag didn’t exist, Rogue would be the best game in the series yet.