While watching E3 at home, I am really perplexed at the way two companies are changing their traditional focus. Both Bioware and Ubisoft seem to be on a slow path to switching places with a high profile game. Welcome to bizarro world.
Since I am at home during E3, there may be more info about these two games that I have not seen or read. This is based on the presentations during EA and Ubisoft’s press conferences, but these are the initial impressions both companies have decided to give and my inferences from the gameplay.
First, let’s talk about Bioware. Anthem is a real change from its previous titles. During EA’s presser, they chose to focus on multiplayer hard. You can play the game or part of the game solo. They were a little coy about what single player actually means.
My guess is the same that many of you have made. This is EA’s Destiny. There will be a single player campaign of sorts, but the game will be more about exploring the world in multiplayer and buying future expansions. Some of the content may be impossible for or closed to a solo player.
I don’t have a problem with this at all. Bioware is free to make whatever it wants. If it’s good, that’s a good thing even if it’s not for me. Although creative studios need to evolve, it just doesn’t seem like a Bioware game.
At no point did it seem like the story and characters were the real focus. That is normally one of Bioware’s strongest and most compelling points. Choice is a defining characteristic of its past games, but it looks as if I can only choose missions or javelin suits and buy customization items.
Where is the RPG aspect? I know there will be skill trees for the pilot and javelin suits, but it seems like that is it. Is my character a faceless nobody in a sea of freelancers? I like making my own fun, but Bioware games normally have a grand and epic feel. I get to choose where my character fits in whatever world they create. Anthem feels pretty cookie cutter in that regard.
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey strikes me as a little different as well. Yes, it’s Assassin’s Creed in Greece. (It’s an awesome setting by the way.) Yes, it’s a big open world adventure game in which I will be climbing a lot to unlock things. Yes, it will probably have annoying microtransactions.
The difference is that they have given me choices. The biggest choice is the gender of my character from the very beginning. Even if you don’t care, it’s a nice gesture to know that I can play as either, and it is indicative of the direction for this game.
I love the tight narrative of a linear game, but choice is becoming really important to me. I know it is marketing speak on stage, but they call it an RPG. The video presentation shows you picking skills, but wait…are those dialogue choices?
The game will let you pick from multiple responses when speaking to characters. I don’t know if it’s a surface level choice only, or if it makes a big difference later. Either way, it is a good sign. It shows me that Ubisoft is taking narrative more seriously in the big open world sandboxes, and it is giving me the ability to shape parts of the world, relationships with characters, and be responsible for my own ending.
That’s really what is surprising me. Bioware is going for a big, multiplayer open world, devoid of their past story-driven goodness, and Ubisoft is going toward player-driven RPGs with story. It’s weird, right?
It’s too soon to tell if either company is making a truly dramatic shift in its overall direction, but the stark contrast between the two companies in these two games and the way they were presented is telling.
In no way am I saying that either game will be objectively better than the other or even good or bad. I don’t know. I look forward to giving each game a try when they are available and making my mind up then. I can only judge them on what I see, and what I see is what each company has chosen to show me.