2014 was a rough year for gamers. A lot of games that were wrapped up in thick layers of anticipation failed to deliver. Among the more criticized game developers of 2014 was Ubisoft, a french video game firm which has produced the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Rayman, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and Far Cry. 2014 was a year that Ubisoft both brought more of the same and something completely different. This year gave us Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, The Crew, Child of Light, Valiant Hearts, and Watch Dogs.
Ubisoft’s three biggest disappointments of 2014 were Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and The Crew. Most of these games weren’t bad as one could say about other 2014 titles like Teyon’s Rambo the Videogame, and Activision’s Duck Dynasty. In fact, the three games hovered between 60 and 80 scores on metacritic from the critics.
With only one of these games being a return to a previously established franchise, most of Ubisoft’s failures were in their efforts to try something new. This was an unfortunate trend for gaming in 2014 with Bungie’s Destiny being a kindred spirit to the failed innovation of Ubisoft. The problem with Ubisoft in 2014 was that while new IPs were created, there was little innovation to speak of in the titles themselves. Watch Dogs had the promise of the highly hyped hacking mechanic but outside of the cheap thrills of making some things explode and opening doors, hacking did little to add to a by-the-numbers sandbox game. Ubisoft’s new IP still has promise for the future as the hacking could truly make an interesting game series if done right. Of course, Watch Dogs would have to reinvest in a new protagonist. One of the complaints that individuals had with the game was the bland story and the completely uninteresting main character. Perhaps focusing on one of the side characters would be a more fruitful venture.
The Crew was another game which was new territory for Ubisoft. While this was not the first racing game by the French developers, it was meant to be an ambitiously fresh breath of air into the stagnant racing genre. The Crew boasted of being able to ride around a scaled-down open world version of the United States. This feature, combined with its multiplayer emphasis, seemed like a sure success. Unfortunately, the game was riddled with outdated graphics, problematic AI, and bad car physics.
Though I’ve been familiar with a lot of Ubisoft games, Assassin’s Creed Unity caught me off guard. Unity was not one of the Ubisoft games that I invested in last year. I was lucky, for the most part, with my Ubisoft purchases as I only managed to get burned by Watch Dogs. Even without buying Unity, I heard plenty of gamers lash out at the glitches, frame rate, and the microtransactions which hurt what could have been a shining title among a lot of disappointments.
So what did Ubisoft do right in 2014? Clearly the developers must have had some bright spots to look back on. The answer to this question would lie in one major seller and a couple sleeper hits. Far Cry 4, Valiant Hearts, and Child of Light were arguably the best games that Ubisoft had a hand in for the year. Far Cry 4’s success was built off of only minor deviations from Far Cry 3. For other franchises, changing too little can be seen as a point of needed improvement (e.g. Madden and other EA sports games) but the fourth installment in the Far Cry series shows that some games can please their fans by doing what they do best, namely creating beautiful open-world environments and interesting crafting systems.
Valiant Hearts was a game that I had little to no knowledge of until I was alerted to its existence through my Game Informer subscription. Valiant Hearts bears some similarities to This War of Mine only in the respect that it provides commentary on war that isn’t completely based on soldiers killing other soldiers. Though the game was a linear puzzle platform, it’s strong message and interesting blend of comedy and emotion made it stand out among the plethora of games released last year.
Child of Light is not the type of game I would have expected to like. Prior to 2014, I rarely played games featuring side-scrolling platforms or turn-based combat. All that to say, Child of Light sold me on its soundtrack, artwork, and interesting blend of real-time and turn-based battles. The game takes a dramatic step away from the tone of Ubisoft’s other releases like Far Cry 4, Watch Dogs, and Assassin’s Creed, and delves into gaming as a means of art.
Ubisoft isn’t a bad company, even considering it was labelled the “new EA” by Forbes. That’s not to say that Ubisoft doesn’t have glaring issues that it needs to address (see the Forbes article for more on that). As far as the quality of the games it has released in 2014, this is not indicative of the studio as a whole. 2014 saw a lot of new ideas coming from Ubisoft, most of which did not pan out as well as they had hoped/marketed. At this point, Ubisoft needs to get back in the huddle and get back to work on retooling their newer franchises and strengthening their more established series.
Angry Joe Show. “Top 10 Disappointing Games of 2014.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 19 Jan 2015. Web. 25 Mar 2015.
“Assassin’s Creed Unity for Playstation 4.” Metacritic. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 25 Mar 2015.
Tassi, Paul. “Congratulations Ubisoft, You’re the New EA.” Forbes. Forbes.com LLC, 12 Nov 2014. Web. 25 Mar 2015.
“The Crew for Playstation 4.” Metacritic. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 25 Mar 2015.
“Watch Dogs for Playstation 4.” Metacritic. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 25 Mar 2015.