The launch of Ubisoft’s big tentpole title Assassin’s Creed Unity has been a bit of a roller coaster. From astronomical expectations as the first true next generation evolution for the Assassin’s Creed franchise to the harsh reality of game-breaking bugs, poor performance and a publisher that refused to cooperate with retailers and media outlets, the lead-up to Assassin’s Creed Unity has been incredibly disappointing.
Ubisoft responded to some of that feedback in an interview with BBC today where they claim that the ever-changing evolution of video games was the primary driver in why Assassin’s Creed Unity received such a late review embargo. Ubisoft had sent press copies of Assassin’s Creed Unity, but had place a media embargo on those reviews until noon November 11, the game’s release date. The move had been harshly criticized by several gaming media outlets as detrimental to both the media and consumer and served only to protect the initial sales rush for Ubisoft.
While not directly responding to the embargo related criticisms, a Ubisoft representative told the BBC that “having the online elements available and having populated worlds is essential to creating a representative and complete experience for reviewers. Achieving this prior to launch is incredibly complex, which is why some games are being reviewed much closer – or as was the case with Destiny, even after – the game launches.”
But the biggest problem with this statement is that it cites the way that Activision and Bungie handled the reviews for Destiny. Yes, review embargoes for Destiny were held until the day of release and Activision referred to the need for online servers to go live and a complete experience be available to reviewers. This is a true statement that also applies to some of the features of Assassin’s Creed Unity. Unfortunately, not all of Unity’s problems are centered in the way it handles online interactions, many of the issues stem from terrible bugs in character models, breaking the game and falling beyond the boundaries of the environment and overall poor performance in inconsistent frame rate on a game already throttled to a lower resolution.
As Ben Kuchera pointed out on Polygon, the decision to have such a late review embargo screams of a company trying to protect their product. A product that they have little confidence in.
This statement absolutely infuriates me as there should be no reason that a game isn’t stable as it approaches its actual launch. If a game is certified gold, it should be complete, stable and ready to play. While this may be unreasonable to expect, that is how things played out in a game prior to online patching and last second reversals.
Yes, online features absolutely need to be measured in real world conditions. Sim City and Battlefield 4 are recent examples of high reviews coming online before rough online launches. But as I recall, Destiny, while they also held reviews, requested that reviewers do their due diligence and at least play through most of the online content that Destiny offered before providing their opinion. A request that many outlets adhered to.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is a disappointing, broken mess. The fact that Ubisoft is failing to recognize that is a blatant misstep. I’m all for standing behind your product, but the best thing they can do is focus on their mistakes and rectifying them.