Thursday, July 18, 2013

Open-World is Here to Stay for Ubisoft

Still never gets old.  It is about the only thing that doesn't.

Ubisoft's CEO recently stated that Ubisoft needs to release open-world games on a regular basis to keep on like they have been.  And by 'needs to', he basically means "This is what we're going to do, so just, you know, keep that in mind".  It's not really a surprise, considering Ubisoft has...pretty much only been putting out Open-Worlds from everything that springs to memory, and everything currently announced for them is similarly open, but it's something different altogether when it's just stated as such.  And it pretty much all just comes down to whether or not you actually like Open-Worlds on whether or not this is good news.  Personally?  I'm okay with this.  If it wasn't for the Assassin's Creed games, I would be ecstatic with this, and therein lies a type of distinction.

I don't quite think anyone has sufficiently nailed down what makes an open-world game 'great' even still, after all this time that it's been popular.  I know it was around before them, but you could argue heavily in favor of stating that it was the Elder Scrolls games (specifically Morrowind) and Grand Theft Auto 3 that -really- kicked the Open-World sandbox scene into everyone's eyes.  It's not without reason, however, as both of those games were never, ever at a lack of things to do.  With Morrowind, that was almost literal given how much content is actually crammed within its confines, but with GTA 3, I think the bulk of it was being most people's first exposure to the type.  A large part of it was the freedom it offered, but also how that freedom espoused with a type of 'role-playing' part of ours brains that took the Claude we were playing as and made him -our- Claude.  Though, it's hard to think, now, that any of us did anything rather 'unique' with 'our' Claude, given the limitations of the map at that point.

For instance, 'my' Claude, on several occasions simply had enough of people and would take a sniper rifle on the top of the strip club to take out as many of the annoying jerks in the city as he could before anyone finally realized what he was doing and from where.  When the authorities arrived in force, it was always a new game to see if he could bolt from the alleyway, hop into a car and make it to the nearby Pay-and-Spray without being witnessed so he could make a clean escape.  He...barely ever did.  It's hard to imagine now that 'my' Claude was the only one to do that, and I don't suspect he was, but it certainly -felt- a little more like you were 'owning' the character you were given to play around with.

San Andreas, I think, brought us the pinnacle of that type of 'ownership' that the series has seen with CJ.  He was customizable enough to make your own, yet he was static enough that he was -always- CJ, just that he was your CJ on top of that.  You as the player could decide if your CJ was going to be out-of-shape from his frequent excursions to Cluckin' Bell, or fit and imposing from a daily trip to the gym.  You could decide what kind of melee techniques he could use.  You could decide what kind of a dresser he was, and whether it was his goal to impress the ladies or not.  You could decide if he was really good with a car, a motorcycle, or just -anything- with a steering mechanism.  There are innumerable other ways I could expound on this further, but I think you get the point by now.

That kind of ownership is exactly the reason why I am slightly mixed on this announcement, considering it's Ubisoft.  On the one hand, Far Cry 3 absolutely nailed this to the damn wall, given that it's so chock full of things that doing a simple thing like getting from Point A to Point B can become some kind of wonderful journey if you're in the mind of 'role-playing' akin to simply the type that my GTA 3 point mentioned.  Which, clearly I can be.  It's staggering just how dynamic and lush and alive Far Cry 3's world manages to be, and how smartly the developers created some of the gameplay mechanics around that.  It's not perfect, of course (If simply because hunting becomes unnecessary after you've crafted everything, when hunting was damn fun) but it came really, really close.  Close enough that it ignited a type of verve for Open-World games that I've never had before.

Assassin's Creed, on the other hand, has always been disappointing to me as an Open-World game specifically for that reason.  I have never felt attached to my character in an AC game.  I have never approached a situation -my- way, but rather simply the 'easiest' way.  I have never felt like my AC experience was a unique one, even though it might have been.  I'm not sure how many people went bare-handed at every opportunity simply to counter, steal weapon and kill, or constantly used heavy axes as projectile weapons because it was fucking fun, but I have to assume the number is up there.  There's simply not enough diversity in any given AC game to make it 'yours'.  It was always just a large map sprinkled with 'content' which is a big distinction to make.

Still, it's weird to point at this game and that and say "That got it right" and "That didn't" because not only is it an opinion, obviously, but it's based less on what it did on paper, but how it felt while you were playing it.  Gravity Rush, while being a fantastic game, didn't feel like an open world game because there was next to nothing to do other than flying around (which was admittedly so fun).  On the other hand, inFamous 2 similarly didn't have -tons- of content, but it didn't feel empty if only because the actual getting around was sort of a meta-game in itself because the ease of movement was so astounding.  Dragon's Dogma is astoundingly good at giving you a wide world to explore at your leisure, but still manages to keep you into level-specific areas for the most part by way of rather large, imposing battles awaiting you in other portions of the land; it's cautionary, not mandatory.  There are all sorts of qualifiers, but none of them are tangible enough to throw down as 'necessary' or something that will improve the experience by simply being in it.

That's all why I'm simply okay with the knowledge that Ubisoft is going Open-World from here on out (aside from things that they're just publishing).  They've shown that they have the capability of putting out something like Far Cry 3, but Assassin's Creed is their bread-and-butter franchise.  Watch_Dogs looks like closer to the latter than the former in terms of Ubisoft games, but if it's truly on the level of a Grand Theft Auto title, then that would similarly be fantastic.  I just have to question whether or not I wholeheartedly believe that they can pull it off.  I'm simply not sure that I can, but it's obvious why I have a little bit of hope for that type of outcome, too.

so I just sort of realized that I really like Open-World games, imagine that

1 comment:

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