Watch Dogs Legion? Check. Ghost Recon Breakpoint? Check. Some game about rollerskating? Check. Here are the biggest announcements from the Ubisoft E3 2019 press conference.
When we’ve been doing these conference round-ups, we’ve been titling them “the X biggest announcements” for a few reasons:
- Because it keeps the scope of the article down a bit. We’ve already got an article listing every announcement; this one is more of a commentary on what has been shown.
- Because people like lists.
- Because people like to know how long an article is going to be before them embark on it (and lists with the number right there in the title help with that.)
But we can’t really call this “the X biggest announcements from the Ubisoft E3 2019 press conference” and keep a straight face, because there was one really big announcement – Watch Dogs Legion – and then what felt like a bunch of DLC, expansions, and retooling of existing games. Oh, and a subscription service.
Not necessarily a bad showing, but compared to the impact of Watch Dogs Legion? The rest of the line-up doesn’t really stack up.
Assassin’s Creed Symphony
Rather than the usual Just Dance intro, a sampler of the 80-piece orchestra and choir for Assassin’s Creed Symphony opened the show with a medley of pieces from the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack. It was rather lovely.
Not an announcement, as such, but we thought it worth mentioning before the show kicked off proper.
Watch Dogs Legion
The big-ticket item at this year’s Ubisoft E3 press conference was, of course, Watch Dogs Legion. Leaked before the show and confirmed by Ubisoft in the run-in, we already had an inkling of what was to come: A Watch Dogs game set in a post-Brexit London, with a new mechanic that allows you to “control any NPC”. Which sounded interesting, but also, a bit like lobbing your cap onto passers-by in Super Mario Odyssey.
So when Ubisoft opened with a gameplay reveal of Watch Dogs Legion – complete with a budget Jason Statham alike shooting his way around Laaandon, calling everyone slaaaags – we were waiting to see how that was handled.
Then budget Statham died.
Watch Dogs Legion has permadeath, and that “control any NPC” mechanic? It’s actually the ability to recruit any NPC into Deadsec. We’re introduced to it with budget Statham trying to recruit a hacker to take down some aggressive drones, and getting himself killed in the process.
We then switched to a couple of other members of Deadsec – including Helen, the badass nana, who became an instant star – until the new recruit was rescued. Once he was, and he’d accepted the invitation to join Deadsec, he was playable. It’s an instantly accessible and incredibly clever mechanic.
In this instance, the recruit was a hacker and was in bother with the police, so he was a fairly easy NPC to persuade. But you can build your team however you want, with anyone from hoodie-wearing teenagers from the Ends to an army of grandmothers. You just need to use your hacking skills to figure out their motivation and how to recruit them, then set about bringing them into the fold. It sounds like basically anyone will be recruitable in this way – including antagonistic authority figures like police officers and MI6 agents – which makes for a very unique expansion on both Watch Dogs’ core mechanics, while riffing on permadeath squad games like XCOM or Suikoden.
We do have a couple of small concerns with Watch Dogs Legion, however.
First, there’s the game’s reliance on guns. That level of violence isn’t exactly typical for a hacking collective, but to try and do it in the UK, with our strict regulations on firearms? At best it’s unrealistic. At worst, it’s downright stupid.
Hopefully, the ability to build your team from anyone you want will mean you can tackle situations in whichever way you please, offering truly passive options a la classic Deus Ex.
The other concern was the tone. While Watch Dogs 2 is really goofy, it’s also a lot of fun. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the first game, with its relentless dirge of a personality vacuum of a protagonist, Aiden Pierce. The decision to set Watch Dogs Legion in London after Brexit ruins the United Kingdom – remember, Ubisoft is not making a political statement with any of its games – could have turned it back into a slog of maudlin misery, like the first game.
Luckily, it seems like the sense of fun from Watch Dogs 2 has been retained in Watch Dogs Legion, at least based on what we’ve seen, including the immortal line: “That fella over there? Proper bell-end!” (Which had us doing spit-takes). The stereotypical mockney characters are going to get annoying fast though, cor blimey Mary Poppins, they is!
Watch Dogs Legion releases on March 6, 2020.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint
Jon Bernthal had a dog with him on stage for some reason, as he talked about the story in Ghost Recon Breakpoint. There was also mention of some DLC, confirmation that the game has AI teammates for solo players, and details of a beta starting on September 5, a month before the game’s release.
That’s really all we have to say about that.
Mythic Quest is a new TV show from Rob McElhenney and Apple TV, developed in collaboration with Ubisoft. Set in the studio behind a popular MMO, it didn’t make us laugh once in the clip we saw. And setting it in that sort of studio (*cough* Riot Games *cough*) means that if they don’t directly address some of the awful business practices that are endemic in the industry (like crunch, sexism, and other nasty stuff) then it won’t be a particularly effective show, either. Better off with Dead Pixels, we think.
There was confirmation of the next season of Rainbow Six Siege, including two new operators, but that wasn’t the most interesting bit of Rainbow Six news.
No, the announcement of Rainbow Six Quarantine, a 3-player, co-operative, PvE survival horror was the interesting bit. It looked rather scary. We probably won’t be playing that.
Ubisoft announced Uplay+, its own subscription service to rival the likes of Xbox Games Pass and PlayStation now. It promises to bring over 100 games to the catalogue, including both new titles and classics from the back catalogue.
It launches in September of this year, and will be available on both Windows PC and Google Stadia.
Gods & Monsters
The final game shown was Gods & Monsters, which sort of looks like what would happen if you put Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Breath of the Wild into too hot a washing machine together. It’s a stylised world with monsters of Greek Legend, but we don’t know all that much about it, and then the conference ended in a really low-key way as the trailer ended.
It was a bit weird.
Assorted other musings
- A nice treat from before the show was the announcement of two new modes for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The first is a historical tour mode, like in Origins, while the second is a story builder that will allow players to make their own quests, which is really neat.
- There will be a Just Dance 2020, of course, and it will be celebrating the game’s 10th birthday. Someone said: “This is why Just Dance is more than just dance,” which made our heads hurt a bit.
- Finn and Jake from Adventure Time will be coming to Brawlhalla. So if you think about it, Marcus Fenix from Gears of War is kind of in Brawhalla now? It’s like an alternate reality Smash Bros. cross-over.
- Roller Champions, another of the pre-show leaks, was officially revealed. It looks like they’ve copied Speedball 2 to take on Rocket League, which isn’t a bad idea on paper, but it didn’t really excite us.
- There was talk of the next season of For Honor, which takes place in Japan.
- There was no talk of Beyond Good & Evil 2. We suspect that one has been pushed back to Project Scarlett’s generation.
- The Division 2 is going free to play this weekend, June 13-16, to get people excited for its year two content and additional DLC.