Tag Archives: ubisoft

Far Cry 5’s Prepper Stashes Were The Best Kind Of Sidequest

The best video game sidequests are detours worth taking. They can be even more delightful than a good game’s main quests by their very nature of being optional. Bad sidequests are tedious filler that are best ignored. Those good ones, however, were made for you to find and enjoy, but only if you want to.

I found some great sidequests in Far Cry 5 early last year and just got back to finishing them in the last week, as I took a break from playing more recent releases. They’re called Prepper Stashes, and they amazed me. They’re a wonderful deviation from the series formula. These games are mostly about chaos, but each of these Prepper Stashes is a conundrum set in relatively calm crevices of these violent Far Cry worlds. They’re also coming back in a modified form in next week’s Far Cry New Dawn, a return I learned more about as I quizzed Ubisoft about how Far Cry 5’s superb Prepper Stashes came to be.

The big Far Cry games of late offer satisfying first-person shooting set in a vast, violent open world full of bases to raid, animals to fend off, and vehicles to commandeer. They have main missions and side tasks, but they deliver their best fun when players roam a map that is always on the verge of eruption. You stalk an enemy soldier only to get pounced on by a bear, rush to a Jeep to escape, get chased by an armed patrol helicopter, drive off a cliff, and dive into the sea. That’s the series’ thing. It’s cool.

Prepper Stashes are different. In Far Cry 5’s fictional Hope County, Montana, the towns and countryside are overrun by a violent, religious doomsday cult. Hidden throughout are hideouts made by “preppers”—people preparing to survive a catastrophe by building shelters and stockpiling necessities. The Prepper Stash missions involve accessing these hideouts, all of them abandoned and all of them initially blocked off by some sort of environmental puzzle. Or sometimes the prepper was trying to flee Hope, but they left their stash behind in a box that can’t easily be cracked open.

One Prepper Stash mission involves trying to access a hideout that’s been set up in the trestle of a massive steel bridge. You need to swing on a grappling hook underneath the bridge to get it.

Another presents you with a locked box on a lake shore. You need to follow a debris trail underwater to find the key.

Then there’s the one about trying to find a key eaten by one of the dogs living at an otherwise-abandoned summer camp. The clue you’re given is that the one of the dogs must have shat it out:

“In Far Cry 5 we wanted to encourage players to fully explore the world, and Prepper Stashes were created as a way to hide loot in specific locations and points of interest,” the game’s assistant level design director Alain Greco told me over email. Far Cry worlds are vast, but he and his colleagues at Ubisoft Montreal noticed that players wouldn’t wander into areas of the map where there wasn’t combat. “Level designers then started to add some ingredients to make the loot in these locations more challenging to get: for example, players had to push a vehicle to access a bunker, break crates to access hidden doors, or wingsuit into a rooftop to get rewards.”

Far Cry games are knocked for being formulaic to the point of being repetitive. If you’re not into, say, stealthily raiding a base filled with a dozen guards, a few explosive barrels, and a caged attack dog, then you’re going to be tired of these games before any one of them presents the tenth such base to take down. Some of us find the basic mechanics and the myriad ways attacking such a base can unfold to be fun enough, but the Prepper Stashes need no defense against monotony because they’re refreshingly varied. There’s a clever one set in an overstuffed garage and another in a toxic mine. Greco said the dog poop one is a team favorite, and that a fan favorite is the game’s Prepper Stash that involves a haunted house.

One of my favorites is called “Long-Range Lockpick,” which involves a lakeside building that is locked from within. It’s Greco’s favorite, too. “The main reason is that for this stash, we do not explicitly tell players what to do but just give them clues on how to resolve the puzzle,” he said. “The title, the notes, the enemy on the outer shore, the ladder, the zipline, the boat, the hidden sniper gun on the shed, the bullet holes on the building—every single ingredient used in this location points to the Prepper Stash, without giving away the solution of how to get it. I like how this Prepper Stash gives players agency, and provides them the foundation to create their own story, accomplish their own goal, and play their own way.”

One of the reasons I got back to Far Cry 5 in the last week is because I am fascinated by the fact that Ubisoft is releasing a sequel, Far Cry: New Dawn, next week, just 11 months after 5 came out. I’m curious how the game will connect to the original. It’s set 17 years later, after a disaster has transformed Hope. I figured I’d experience all of FC5’s story and then see how New Dawn references it, but as I went back I kept breaking from the main path to do more of these Prepper Stashes. That got me wondering if New Dawn would be making callbacks to that design features as well. It will, Greco said.

Prepper Stashes are evolving in the new game into something called Treasure Hunts. Greco said they differ from the Stashes in two ways. “First, on the gameplay side we are not holding players’ hand anymore. Treasure Hunts are much less objective-driven and much more demanding of players’ attention to detail and experimentation. Instead of asking players to ‘get the key’ and give them an objective marker, we are asking them to ‘find a way to get the key,’ and any means of doing this is valid. Increasing the challenge was in line with the overall goal of providing a more challenging experience in this harsh but beautiful world.”

Greco said New Dawn’s Treasure Hunts are also being used to provide glimpses to what happened to some key characters and locations from the previous game. The sidequests will reveal the fate of the fisherwoman Skylar, or of that big bridge that had that stash in its trestle. “With Far Cry New Dawn we were able to mix the familiar and novel in very exciting ways,” he said. “Each Treasure Hunt is unique, and the rewards you will get from them are invaluable to your progression through the game.”

It’s inevitable that a good new idea in a Ubisoft game will become part of the formula for the next. Prepper Stashes were a winner in Far Cry 5 and I’m looking forward to seeing what they become in New Dawn. Our violent pastimes can always benefit from some smartly-structured puzzle-solving calm.

Source: Kotaku.com

For Honor’s New Fighter Leans Into The Game’s Simple Pleasures

Screenshot: Kotaku (For Honor)
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

For Honor got its first new fighter of 2019 yesterday: Black Prior. I could talk about how it’s cool that Black Prior is sort of emo and brooding and has a weird affection for skulls. Or how the character puts an interesting emphasis back on turtling, a strategy that almost strangled the fun out of For Honor early on. Really, though, I just like how he can flip people with his shield.

In the two years since Ubisoft’s medieval brawler released it’s basically become Mortal Kombat for ancient weapon nerds, especially the type who might find themselves watching someone on YouTube analyze who would win in a matchup between say, a European broadsword and a pair of Chinese dagger-axes. For Honor has depth for sure, but the thing that most keeps me coming back (and potentially others when the game becomes free with PlayStation Plus next month) is the excitement of seeing what will happen when two strangers try to cut each other’s throats with wildly different weapons.

Black Prior is currently live in the game for anyone who bought the the $30 year three season pass but will be available to everyone else for 15,000 steel (the in-game currency) on February 7. He’s by no means my favorite character, at least after spending a few hours with him. He’s a bit slow to react, and hiding behind a giant kite shield isn’t my preferred style of play. Still, I can’t get enough of his unique counter ability. Unlike other fighters, Black Prior can go into something called Bulwark stance and block everything from any direction save for a guard break. In addition, he can counter incoming attacks by going from Bulwark stance to an attack at just the right moment. When timed right, this happens:

I love doing this. Especially when going up against two or more opponents at once. I don’t ever see myself being good with Black Prior, the same way I’ve never been good with say, Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion. But few things are more satisfying than successfully spearing someone’s neck and whipping them across the screen. Black Prior’s shield flip is the same way. Win or lose, you know when you successfully shield flipped someone. They know too. And sometimes that’s enough.

While a lot of the new fighter equipment added in the latest update feels a bit lackluster, the emotes and executions remain top notch. The only thing better than shield flipping a gigantic Shugoki as it comes hurtling toward you is shield flipping them and then going into a combo that lands you one of Black Prior’s execution moves, all of which are pretty amazing. I don’t usually worry about grinding steel in For Honor to buy new stuff, but I think I’m going to have to make an exception for this:

The game is still due to get three more fighters this year. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend getting season pass right now just for Black Prior, it’s definitely worth unlocking him as soon as he’s available next week. The game has also had a few issues since the new update yesterday, including missing items and frozen matchmaking, so it’s also probably a good idea to wait until most of those are sorted out.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Real Story Behind Pioneer, The Troubled Sci-Fi Game Teased In Watch Dogs 2

A tweet two weeks ago from a former Ubisoft director led the gaming world to believe that Pioneer, the sci-fi game that was teased inside of Watch Dogs 2, was canceled. Is it, though? The answer to that question is hazy, and may depend on your definition of “canceled.”

Some background: In November 2016, a side mission in Ubisoft’s hacking adventure Watch Dogs 2 tasked the player with infiltrating an in-game version of the company’s San Francisco offices. Play through the mission and you’d uncover a sci-fi trailer that looked a little too good to have been made just for Watch Dogs. It blended Western guitar twangs with gorgeous shots of colorful satellites as a small ship flew through space, reminiscent of No Man’s Sky. We did some digging at the time and learned from our sources that it was in fact a real-life Ubisoft video game project, code-named Pioneer, that had been going through some trouble.

News remained quiet on Pioneer until earlier this month, when former Ubisoft creative director Alex Hutchinson implied on Twitter that the project was dead. “RIP Pioneer,” he wrote on January 14, with a link to the trailer. Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Cooper, formerly of Ubisoft, also wrote the same. The tweets understandably led gaming sites and enthusiasts around the world to believe that Pioneer was canceled.

Yet as I’ve asked around since then, I’ve heard from three people familiar with goings-on at Ubisoft that there’s still a project called Pioneer in development. It’s just very different now. “Old Pioneer is dead,” said one. “Pioneer’s half-undead brother is here.”

Those people, and others who talked to me about Pioneer, spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to press about development at Ubisoft. Ubisoft declined to comment on this report.

So what is Pioneer, exactly? Originally conceived in 2013, not long after the launch of Assassin’s Creed III, it was at first envisioned as a non-violent space exploration game that would be made by a small team of people at Ubisoft Montreal. It was directed by ACIII’s Hutchinson, who would also go on to helm Far Cry 4 (2014), and its development happened in fits and starts over the years. “We wanted to be as new as possible: new forms of navigation, new ways of gaining objectives, no overt violence,” said a person who worked on Pioneer. “The scale of the newness made it very hard to coalesce into a finished game.”

As Pioneer progressed between 2014 and 2016, the Watch Dogs 2 team decided to design a mission in which you’d infiltrate fake Ubisoft, and they thought it might be fun if you got to steal a trailer for an actual Ubisoft video game. Pioneer was a good fit. “We needed something to leak that would be more fun than Division or Assassin’s Creed DLC,” said a person who worked on Watch Dogs 2. “And not a big announcement, like the next Assassin’s Creed. So the footage of [Pioneer] covered the right amount of ‘What the hell is this?’”

But a confluence of factors had led Pioneer to struggle, including tensions between Hutchinson and other staff. In the fall of 2016, Ubisoft removed him and other leads from the project and rebooted it with new creative leadership, according to three people familiar with what happened. Some of Pioneer’s leads, like Hutchinson, later left Ubisoft to go indie, while others moved to other internal Ubisoft projects or went over to EA Motive, which at the time was primarily working on the single-player campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II.

As Watch Dogs 2 came out in November 2016, we all saw the trailer for a project that was already in trouble, as we reported then. Pioneer continued under new creative leadership, however, and it turned into something of a running joke as staff at Ubisoft Montreal exchanged whispers about whether it might actually ever come out.

Then, in early January 2019, word came out that Pioneer was canceled for real. Except it wasn’t. Instead, according to three people familiar with the project, Ubisoft actually rebooted Pioneer once again, transforming it from a non-violent exploration game into a coop multiplayer alien shooter that uses some of Pioneer’s old features. What’s more, Ubisoft has told Pioneer’s staff to use the Rainbow Six branch of the publisher’s Anvil game engine (in other words: the code and tech that helps make Rainbow Six games), suggesting that the new Pioneer may be related to or at least inspired by that series.

The Rainbow Six games are realistic military shooters, but in the past, according to two people familiar with the publisher, Ubisoft has greenlit and then canceled a Rainbow Six spin-off in which you’d fight zombies and/or aliens. So this won’t be the first time the company has used Rainbow Six’s game engine for science fiction.

In other words, the project called Pioneer is still in development, and it may still even resemble the trailer that was snuck into Watch Dogs 2. But it no longer resembles the Pioneer that was originally planned. And we’ll have to wait and see if it ever actually comes out.

Source: Kotaku.com

For Honor’s Third Year Looks Promising

Ubisoft detailed upcoming plans for For Honor’s third year in a developer livestream today, showing/hyping new heroes, maps, and balance changes, alongside narrative driven seasonal events.

The first major update of year three goes live on January 31 adding a new heavy class fighter belonging to the Black Priors, a cult-like group of “dark agents” who look like knights but will fight dirty to win. It’ll initially only be accessible to those who buy the game’s new $30 season pass, but will be unlockable a week later to anyone with enough in-game currency. The update also adds a Black Prior-themed map called Harbor that will be free and available to everyone at the same time.

The Black Prior knight brings a darker aesthetic to the game. He or she is decked out in skulls and a Doctor Doom-like mask that can be earned in-game. It’s also supposed to introduce a new fighting style based around two abilities: Bulwark Stance and Bulwark Counter. The first allows the Black Prior to block in all directions simultaneously, something no other character can do, while the second negates all incoming attacks except for guard breaks if timed correctly. The only way to successfully beat it is by using a guard break, but if the Bulwark Counter misses it will also leave the player briefly vulnerable, making baiting a potential strategy as well.

Year three doesn’t seem poised to introduce as many radication changes as last year did, when a graphics overhaul and the move to dedicated servers helped make the game feel new all over again. For Honor is in a much stronger place overall right now though, so more modest updates make sense. Last October, the game got an entire new mode inspired by MOBAs like League of Legends as well as a brand new faction of four fighters, so there’s still plenty for players to chew on, especially as year three updates continue to shake up the meta.

“Balancing will continue be the top priority for the team,” creative director Roman Campos Oriola said during the stream, including improving reaction times and revenge mechanics whereby players are able to come from behind and reverse the tide of a fight. As part of this, the Shugoki, Warlord, and Peacekeeper fighters are all getting reworks as well in next week’s update.

The Shugoki changes, including faster attacks and more of them that can be charged into unblockables, are aimed at making the character more offensive rather than just a reactive character. Peacekeeper is also getting buffed in order to make her more deadly without completely retreating to last year when she was super quick and dealt a ton of damage. Meanwhile, Warlord has gotten slight damage buffs, as well decreased costs for going into his full block stance. You can see the full list of changes over on Ubisoft’s website.

In addition there’s the normal list of bug fixes and more general improvements, my favorite of which is that players can no longer be hit while climbing up or down ladders. Previously it was possible to slide down a ladder and knock into whoever was below to get a headstart on combat. “Damage was applied inconsistently in these scenarios and we think ladder conflict should not be a valid form of combat,” the developers write.

The game is supposed to be getting three additional characters at the start of the year’s remaining roughly three month-long seasons, each of which will be capped off by a limited time event that builds out the game’s ongoing faction war story.

Source: Kotaku.com

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Latest DLC Has A Romantic Ending You Can’t Change

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s first expansion, Legacy of the First Blade, started strong, introducing players to the first Assassin and offering a self-aware take on the series’ mythos. The second episode in Legacy of the First Blade, Shadow Heritage, aims to continue the experience. It provides a strong villain and exciting ship combat. But it is ultimately most notable for forcing the player’s hand in a major way—one that I found disappointing.

Legacy of the First Blade focuses on Kassandra’s (or Alexios’s) adventures with the first Assassin, Darius. He and his son Natakas are on the run from the dangerous Order of the Ancients. In the first chapter, players help them fend off a dangerous assassination squad, getting close with the pair. It mixes exploration, cultist assassinations, and a welcome bit of introspection. The second chapter, Shadow Heritage, focuses mostly on naval combat. After an Order lieutenant called “the Tempest” blockades a portion of Greece, Kassandra must help Darius and Natakas defeat the Order and escape the country.

What follows is a string of missions that mix difficult combat on land and sea. Slowly dismantling the Tempest’s security and drawing her out requires rescuing civilians from forts and destroying part of her fleet. Eventually, you even steal an experimental weapon: a flamethrower that is attached to the front of your ship. The story is a bit more pulpy than the first episode but builds to a conclusion that treats its villain with a lot of care.

The first episode, Hunted, opted for uncomplicated villains. They were butchers and manipulators, a vanguard for the Order of the Ancients trained specifically to kill “tainted ones” like Kassandra, or anyone else who bore the blood of the extra-terrestrial Isu. They were effective villains but not very sympathetic. Shadow Heritage goes down a different path. The Tempest is one of the most dangerous naval commanders in the world. But she is conflicted, having been forced into the cultist life against her will. She still has family ties in Greece and much of this secondepisode is spent deciding if you want to redeem her. When I failed to save her, I felt a genuine sense of loss. If I had been more careful, she might have been a great ally.

Legacy of the First Blade has spent time allowing Kassandra to explore her feelings about being a misthios, teasing at choices in which she yearns for a calmer life. Some of those hints involved Darius’s son, Natakas, and one major scene in the first episode involved hunting with him and talking by a fire. There were hints of a romance, but little else to suggest the forced path that Shadow Heritage would ultimately venture down.

Shadow Heritage, unlike the rest of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s quests, doesn’t give you the choice to avoid romance. No matter what decisions you make over the course of this new expansion, your Kassandra will wind up with Natakas. (If you play as Alexios, then Darius will instead have a daughter, Neema, and you’ll wind up with her instead.)

After getting word this morning that this might be the case, I decided to rebuke Darius and Natakas’ companionship whenever possible throughout my playthrough. I was a misthios, after all. A lone mercenary who wasn’t ready to settle down. After defeating the Tempest and parting with the pair, I returned to an abandoned home from earlier in the story only to see Natakas and Darius come back. A montage played out of the trio refurnishing the home and I played out a sequence where I grabbed groceries from the market. We were running out of food thanks to a new addition to our family: Kassandra’s son Elpidios. Shadow Heritage forced me to abandon my mercenary ways and have a baby, regardless of the decisions I had made.

This is not the first time that Assassin’s Creed has revealed lineages over the course of play. Assassin’s Creed 2 contained a sequence in which the player, as Altair, had a romantic rendezvous with the Templar Maria that led to a child. There are two key differences with Odyssey. One is that the series has moved away from the need for its modern day characters to have a blood relation to the past characters, as they did in games before Assassin’s Creed Origins. The other is that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a role-playing game.

Whereas Conor and Ezio were characters with their own personalities, Kassandra is one that we define.Dialog choices help define her personality and, more importantly, her sexuality. Looking back on the main story, I cannot recall having sex with any male characters. My Kassandra was strictly lesbian. And yet here, after countless hours where my dialog selections defined her character, Kassandra is forced down a path that I wouldn’t have chosen. Hell, I’d tried to avoid it. It can feel like a slap in the face, particularly if you were playing Kassandra as gay, to have her embrace domesticity, a heterosexual relationship, and motherhood.

Today, when Shadow Heritage went live, players started to notice the incongruity. On social sites like Reddit, there are multiple threads full of players who feel betrayed by the decision.

“I’m a lesbian,” one Redditor says in a large post. “ I was happy to be able to play a character like myself the same way guys or straight women who play games do. Ubisoft made a big fucking deal of being able to choose your character’s sexual orientation. It was part of their marketing campaign. They used what is clearly a lie to sell the game.”

The reference to a “big fucking deal” about choosing seuxual orientation seems to come from an Entertainment Weekly article that quotes creative director Jonathan Dumont on the topic of sexuality and queer relationships within the game.

“Since the story is choice-driven, we never force players in romantic situations they might not be comfortable with,” Dumont says. “Players decide if they want to engage with characters romantically. I think this allows everybody to build the relationships they want, which I feel respects everybody’s roleplay style and desires.”

And yet, Shadow Heritage’s ending seems to push back against that notion. There doesn’t appear to be any option to avoid that final sequence. There is a third and final episode in the series coming in March, which will presumably continue after Shadow Heritage’s ending, but Kassandra (or Alexios) is now settled down, and the Order of Ancients continues to ominously gather its forces.

When asked by Kotaku about this development, Ubisoft sent over an e-mailed statement. “We strive to give players choice whenever possible in Odyssey and apologize to those surprised by the events in this episode,” the statement said. “Without spoiling it, you will engage in an important relationship as part of a set story. The motivation behind this relationship is yours to explore in game and will be reflected in your character’s story arc. There is one episode left in Legacy of the First Blade which will tie your character’s actions together.”

Source: Kotaku.com

In November 2016, we reported that the hidden sci-fi teaser inside of Watch Dogs 2 was for an unanno

In November 2016, we reported that the hidden sci-fi teaser inside of Watch Dogs 2 was for an unannounced game called Pioneer that was, at the time, in trouble. Nobody at Ubisoft had acknowledged the project publicly until last night, when former director Alex Hutchinson wrote on Twitter, “RIP Pioneer” with a link to the teaser video. Looks like it’s now dead.

Source: Kotaku.com