Tag Archive: Ubisoft Montreal

After seven years of annual releases, the Assassin’s Creed series seemed to hit a wall creatively and technically. What had once been one of the more groundbreaking IPs of the last generation of consoles instead become formulaic, and even the most hardcore members of its fanbase were beginning to feel a bit fatigued. So, Ubisoft did something we don’t expect companies to do once their series goes annual: they took a year off. Now, I can’t definitively say how much that extra year of development helped the team that worked on Assassin’s Creed Origins. I can happily say, however, that it worked, and that Assassin’s Creed is back—not just in the literal sense, but in the sense that it’s again pushing the envelope of open-world action-adventure games like it did when it first debuted a decade ago.

Assassin’s Creed Origins takes fans of the series back farther than any other game has with its primary setting, as you’ll play as an Egyptian man named Bayek towards the end of the Ptolemaic Era (47 BCE to be exact). Bayek is the last of a breed of Egyptian protectors known as Medjay, but when he fails to protect his own son from a sinister threat lurking in the shadows of the country’s highest ranks of government and society, Bayek’s mission goes from one of protection to one of vengeance. With the help of his wife, Aya (who you also play as in certain missions), and other key allies, Bayek will slowly uncover the puppet masters—known only as The Order of Ancients—that have been manipulating Egypt from behind the scenes, while also potentially finding peace over what he has lost.

The story of Assassin’s Creed Origins is one of the most personal tales of the series, and Bayek’s journey (and subsequent transformation as a character over the course of the game) is easily the most complete since Edward Kenway in Black Flag. What drives Bayek is a visceral and easily-justified emotion, but his evolution as he explores the world, meets new characters, and ultimately comes to grips with his internal struggle while dealing with the obviously outward conflict against the Order is a beautiful thing to play and see unfold.

Bayek’s tale also succeeds in another pleasantly surprising way: it’s unpredictable. We know going in that Origins is a prequel to the rest of the series, that the game’s events will lead to the creation of the Brotherhood of Assassins, and of course you’re going to kill some people at some point. It could have easily drawn a straight line from the catalyst of Bayek’s rage—the death of his innocent son—to the formation of the Creed. Instead, how we get to that formation, and then what happens after we actually get there, was both shocking and tremendous fun to play. Seriously, it kept me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of my 30-hour playthrough.

The narrative also does a great job of referencing past games in subtle ways. These nods won’t detract from the experience if you’re new or have only played a couple of Assassin’s Creed games in the past, but definitely up the enjoyment factor if you’re someone like me who has played every main game up to this point. And, if you pay close attention, you’ll be rewarded by seeing how Origins fits perfectly into the chronology the series had established up so far, whether referencing the first assassin, Xerxes, or laying the groundwork for Altair, Ezio, and all the other assassins that would come after.

Origins isn’t just a return to the roots of the Brotherhood, however—it also brings back a key element from previous games that had slowly been phased out in recent iterations. Basically, you’ll get to play around in the modern era. Early in your adventure, you’ll step out of the latest version of the Animus and take control of Layla Hassan, an Abstergo employee with an axe to grind. In a real throwback, you control these segments from the same third-person viewpoint always used when inside the Animus. Layla’s story is unique in its own right, but just like Bayek’s, finds a way to fit perfectly into the Assassin’s Creed overarching narrative—it even makes that Michael Fassbender movie somehow make sense! In a way, Layla’s adventure might even be more important than Bayek’s, because it lays the groundwork for where the series can go from here.

While it’s great that this new Assassin’s Creed tale really seems to have righted the ship in terms of the narrative element of the game, what will really suck you in is all the brand new gameplay. Sure, you’re still going to skulk around in the shadows and use your hidden blade to assassinate people, and even some of the naval gameplay that really hooked people in Black Flag returns in designated sections (it’s really awesome sailing a trireme). But, I admit that I was very worried when we were first shown all the RPG elements being added to the game, with recommended levels for enemies and areas of the world, random loot drops, and potential grinds for resources to upgrade gear. After having played the story from beginning to end, though—and being allowed to craft my own Bayek through his three skill trees and adapt him to my personal playstyle—I think Origins strikes a brilliant balance between the action from the series we love and this new layer of RPG gameplay that has been introduced.

The biggest worry I think I had was the potential of being surrounded by enemies who were way higher levels than me and not being able to really advance through the game. Although the game does give you the freedom (after it takes you through your first assassination) to basically go wherever you want in the world, if you follow the main story, and then do all the side quests in each subsequent region, you should never have to worry about where your level will be. By the time you’re ready to move on, you should be right within that perfect range recommended on the world map.

Of course, this brings up the quality of the side quests. I will say that a fair amount of them do a good job of grabbing your attention while fleshing out the world and the characters. In fact, there are some side missions that are even more heart-wrenching than Bayek’s personal tragedy. It’s really easy to see an exclamation point on your HUD, learn the plight of the NPC, and then find yourself following a thread that’s several missions long, guiding you around the entire region before coming to a conclusion with a fat XP bonus, maybe a rare item, and a feeling of satisfaction.

However, in an attempt to fill the world with content and make sure you have enough opportunities to level Bayek up so as not to hit a wall in combat, there are a fair amount that felt like copy/paste fetch quests, too. This is an issue with a lot of RPGs, and not just Assassin’s Creed, and so I understand why they have to be there. Still, I could see some players getting frustrated by this fact and trying to stick to the main story, only to find they might have to do those quests for XP—and that’s when it might feel like a grind.

There’s a lot of content here in Assassin’s Creed Origins, though. Whether racing chariots, fighting in the arena, or completing side quests and main quests, Ancient Egypt is a busy place. Another way to avoid that potential XP grind is that everything in Origins gives you XP. Kill an enemy, find a new area, synchronize the world from a high point, clear an enemy barracks, finish one of the aforementioned missions, and so on, and Bayek is going to get stronger. In theory, if you really wanted, you could just run around and kill bandits to level up. Clearing a fort only nets an XP bonus once, but those soldiers will respawn at some point—or you can manually light a brazier in the fort to purposely call for reinforcements and more enemies to fight—and you can kill them again if you’d like. I also mentioned earlier that I beat the game in 30 hours, but there were still dozens of side quests for me to finish. And, after I finished the story, I was able to go back into the world and keep playing. In those 30 hours, I completed 93 total side and main quests and reached level 37, which was plenty for me to beat the main story.

So, even if some of those fetch quests leave a bad taste in your mouth, there’s plenty of other things to do in Origins—which leads me to the world itself. Ubisoft has crafted what is probably its most beautiful world here in Ancient Egypt, but it’s also easily the most massive. Every couple of regions feel like they could be the size of entire older Assassin’s Creed game, and the major hub cities Alexandria and Memphis, and even lesser cities like Philadelphia or Cyrene, are absolutely breathtaking. Whether it was the swamps around Krokodilopolis, the swirling sands around the pyramids of Giza (grave robbing the Pyramids might’ve been my favorite side activity), or even Bayek’s rural home region of Siwa, it never got old to just take a moment and look around at the world created here. And, if you want to get fancy, you can even take a picture in photo mode, then upload it for everyone to see.

Another worry some might have is spending a ton of time in your inventory now that a lot of enemies will drop gear for you to potentially equip. Luckily, I found the menu UI to be crystal clear, and comparing two items was as easy as just hovering over something in your inventory. Scrapping unwanted gear was also a great way to get crafting items like bronze and iron, and that made sure I was rarely lacking in the resources I needed to improve the strength of my hidden blade or increase my health by reinforcing my armor. I never felt like I was wasting time navigating the menus, and wish more RPGs had a system as straightforward as Origins.

Moving around in the world has also seen some changes this go around—although the improvements here are subtler than everything else I’ve talked about at this point. Bayek will still occasionally get caught on a rough patch of geometry in the world, but for the most part, it feels smoother than ever when climbing or parkouring around. In particular, more of the hand and footholds in the world are cleverly hidden this time, but in a way that makes it look like Bayek is accurately climbing a rock face instead of looking for conveniently-placed rocks jutting out of the side. It’s a tiny detail, but one that helps with immersion.

For combat, a lot of the buttons have been changed around. The default is now to assign your light and heavy attacks to the right shoulder buttons, and your new bow and arrows to the left shoulder. I ended up switching to the alternate control with those right shoulder button attacks being reassigned to the face buttons, because the right trigger for me will forever be how to climb in AC. Still, it’s nice to see the team trying different things, and the options are there to go back to something more comfortable if you feel the need to.

There’s also a new parry system, but I struggled to find the proper timing because it was never really clear when I was supposed to parry. I’m not saying we need symbols above an enemy’s head like in the Batman: Arkham games, but clearer tells could’ve helped here. I found it easy enough to get through the game on normal without having to parry almost the entire game, though, so that might be a system that needs to go back to the drawing board entirely.

As great as Assassin’s Creed Origins is, there are a few issues with the game, and although I’ve nitpicked here or there over the course of this review, there’s no getting around the fact that the game has some rough bugs. Sometimes the animation breaks, and you’ll end up with something that looks like a breakdancing flamingo in the middle of a pond. Or, Bayek will get caught on something he shouldn’t get caught on. Nothing crazy, mostly comical, but they’re there. Also, Alexandria is the biggest city in the game, with the most NPCs out and about at a given time, and occasionally there were some framerate drops while running through that particular city’s streets. Ubisoft had a review event for some folks to play the game on an Xbox One X (that I did not attend), and I wonder if that issue is remedied thanks to the system’s higher power, or even the PS4 Pro’s, as compared to my regular PS4.

Something that I don’t think can be fixed with more powerful hardware is some of the glitches on quests. There were easily half a dozen moments throughout the game where an NPC glitched so badly that I needed to restart the checkpoint. A lot of times they just wouldn’t go anywhere when I was told to follow them, or they wouldn’t follow me when I was asked to escort them. There was also a couple of times when the game wouldn’t recognize when I had achieved the condition to trigger the next part of the mission. The worst was when I died mid-mission on a late-game side quest where I was asked to undermine war efforts by stealing the formula for Roman fire from a nearby fort. Even still, no matter how many times I select it and try to restart the checkpoint, or even restart the game, Origins refuses to let me advance the quest—even when I achieve the objective I died on, which was to destroy some barrels full of the Roman fire. This was the only instance of this, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

Now, considering again that I did 93 different missions, that means something went wrong often enough to be a notable nuisance for sure. Most of them were just inconvenient, and none of them experience-breaking to the point I couldn’t actually beat the game—still, I felt they needed to be pointed out, and hopefully there is a patch in the future that will smooth things out.

Despite these rough edges, Assassin’s Creed Origins has already cemented itself as one of my favorite games in the series. The world is gorgeous, there are a ton of things to do—so much so that had I not been reviewing this game, I could’ve easily sank another 10-15 hours in before touching the final missions—and the story is amongst the best told over the series’ history. Yeah, there’s some bugs, but it was impressive how the series was able to bust out of its slump and find a new way to evolve, making all those RPG elements their own in a way that feels fun and exciting. This was an epic adventure that was more than fitting for what serves as the starting point of the Assassin’s Creed storyline.

Publisher: Ubisoft • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 10.27.17
Assassin’s Creed: Origins delivers a robust experience that mixes up the traditional Assassin’s Creed formula in a way that’s fresh and fun to play—but which also harkens back to the series’ roots in some welcome ways, too. It marks an evolution fans might not have even known they were waiting for, delivering one of the best overall experiences we’ve seen yet from the series.
The Good A return to form in a game that explains so much about the series’ past while laying the groundwork for its future.
The Bad There are a lot of bugs, and I’m not talking about all the beetles and scarabs in the tombs Bayek can explore.
The Ugly That beard Bayek was sporting at the beginning of the game.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Great ideas are born all the time in the video game industry, but not all of them reach fruition—and fewer still achieve their fullest potential. It seems Ubisoft’s For Honor, at least at this moment in time, falls into the latter category of a game that just isn’t where it needs to be. After conquering the campaign and playing well over 100 multiplayer matches over the past week since it’s launch, I’m sorry to say that For Honor just seems to be another in what is becoming Ubisoft’s calling card of the past several years: a tremendous idea that falls short due to lackluster or questionable technical execution.

For Honor puts players in a fantasy world that mashes up regions and time periods, placing three of the world’s greatest factions of warriors together on one limited landmass. Samurai, Knights, and Vikings fight in perpetual war over scarce resources in this fictitious world, unwittingly serving as pawns in the plans of Apollyon, a particularly ruthless black knight who feels that only in war can people maximize their abilities.

The campaign takes you through each of the three faction camps as you begin to piece together Apollyon’s plot. There are 18 chapters (six for each group), and all told the campaign shouldn’t take more than 4-6 hours to finish. There’s some replayability here, with collectibles and multiple difficulty levels (including the hardest “Realistic” difficulty that completely removes your HUD), but not much else. It’s also a bit on the repetitive side, with occasional surprises to keep you pushing forward, but what serves as the brightest spot for the campaign is that it is an excellent teaching tool. As a de facto proving ground, it gives you plenty of opportunities to test strategies and learn more advanced combos with particular classes against the computer before you take those skills into the online world.


One glaring flaw with the campaign, though, is the fact that if one of its major purposes is as a way to familiarize yourself with the game’s 12 distinct characters and it’s unique combat system in a safer offline setting, then it should give you an opportunity to play as all of the character choices. Only eight of the 12 are featured in the campaign, with the Berseker (Vikings), Conqueror (Knights), Shugoki (Samurai), and Nobushi (Samurai) being exempt.

Though, it could argue that some of these class styles are covered in other chapters. For example, the Vikings’ Warlord—who does get his own chapter—is classed as a heavy, which Shugoki and Conqueror also both fall under. However, there are enough differences between each choice and their playstyles that not being able to figure out how to fit playable sections for all 12 characters into 18 chapters—especially when many campaign chapters have all the characters in them already as NPCs—is bothersome. For example, the Nobushi has probably the most range of any character in the game (plus some attacks that can poison an enemy), while the Shugoki is the only character that can actually absorb a hit without flinching—but you need to experiment in multiplayer to find all that out. You can play the online modes against AI to get some experience with characters, and I admit that For Honor’s bots are some of the most intelligent you’re likely to find in any online game, but I believe that wrapping your training around a story and a tutorial increases your retention of learned skills, as opposed to just button mashing against a bot that falls into predictable patterns.

A big reason why it’s particularly frustrating having to learn characters in multiplayer, instead of more ideally just honing and mastering your skills against humans, is For Honor’s aforementioned combat system. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic system, but it has a steep learning curve and can be incredibly complex at times. The core of For Honor is three-way directional blocking/attacking. If you are swinging from the left, and your foe blocks in that direction, nothing happens; if they leave themselves open, you do damage. It looks like a simple third-person hack ‘n’ slash mechanic, but once you get past this, you’ll find there’s more to this game—and, again, each character’s specific nuances only diversify and add wonderful depth to the gameplay. Throws, stuns, parries, specials, and unblockable attacks all must be learned if you’re to have any success in campaign or online. The beauty of it, though, is how all of this plays off that initial mechanic, which requires you to lock onto an opponent in one-on-one “honorable” combat while trying to predict their movements.


Combat is like a miniature chess game, with strategies forming and coming undone in an instant as your strikes hit, miss, or are blocked by your mark. Even positioning on the field, with one-hit kill obstacles like spikes or ledges, play into the combat, requiring you take in far more information than just which direction your opponent is blocking. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it all, and found my adrenaline pumping during the thrill of combat, screaming into my headset as cowards ran away from my Raider’s axe. (Of course, it also makes it frustrating to learn on the fly when your K/D may be on the line.)

There are some flaws to combat, though. While the game is surprisingly well balanced—with a smart player able to overcome most any other character’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses—there are those infuriating moments when it looks like the game’s physics or hit detection isn’t where it needs to be. A perfect example is when trying to throw someone off a ledge; a great way to overcome situations where you are outnumbered. Sometimes, a character will barely clip the edge of a rock or wall, and slam up against it as if a full support was there, saving the person from going over the edge and potentially falling to their doom. Or, you’ll get situations where a thrown body lands with half of it not on solid ground. You’d expect the body to slide off the edge—since that’d be the natural result—but instead the character just stands up as if their body had been fully supported. It reminds me of the original Super Mario Bros. way back in the day; as long as you had just one pixel of edge, Mario would never fall off. It’s not nearly as charming here, and definitely breaks immersion and draws my ire.

The crux of For Honor, though, is of course the multiplayer, which I’ve touched on briefly already a couple of times. The first thing everyone has to take part in is the War of the Factions. Similar to what was seen in Mortal Kombat X’s Faction War, as soon as you start the game, you choose one of the three factions to align yourself with for the entirety of a season (this doesn’t limit what characters you can play as, to be clear). By playing online you’ll earn war assets, and the better you perform, the more assets you’ll receive. Unlike MKX, you’ll get to personally assign where your assets go as you try to move the front lines of a never-ending assault against the other two factions on a satellite view of the game’s map. The faction that has procured the most land at the end of the season will receive special in-game bonuses. You can also change your faction mid-season, but at the penalty of lost rewards at the end of the season. Surprisingly, it’s one of the more addictive features of For Honor, as it gives players a sense of actually taking part in a living, breathing conflict.


Then there are five different game modes under three different umbrellas. In Deathmatch, you’ll find the 4v4 single-life-to-live Elimination mode and the point-based Skirmish mode, where you can respawn until the opposing team reaches 1000 points (where points are awarded on a variety of factors, but killing human opponents always racks up the biggest points). Then there are the Duels, offering up 1v1 matchups and 2v2 Brawls, and which I personally recommend you start off with since they’re a great way to hone you skills. Finally, there is the 4v4 Dominion mode, which combines the point scoring of Skirmish with capturing zones like you’d see in a Domination mode for other games.

Although there are only a few maps, sections of each one are cordoned off depending on the mode you’re playing, and each map has multiple times of day available to offer some visual variety. The game is also graphically stunning as a whole; the detail of each character and the world around you is absolutely breathtaking, and makes you feel at times like you’re in a real medieval fantasy. For Honor’s customization is also something that should be lauded. While each character’s face is a given, you can change the sex of most characters (some are permanent female or male), earn ornaments, victory poses, and executions, and each character’s weapons and armor, piece by piece, can be changed out or given new paint and pattern schemes. It’s just enough personalization to make you stand out on the battlefield while making sure you still come across as your character class. Of course, it needs to be mentioned that a lot of items are locked away behind certain achievements or the game’s “steel” currency, but many of these can be bypassed by buying resources through microtransactions. This isn’t necessary, since you can easily grind for a lot of items, and most of them are cosmetic anyway, but that’s entirely up to you.

Despite the issues I’ve already laid out, when For Honor works, it works supremely well. When For Honor doesn’t work, though, it’s one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had to date with an Ubisoft game. While the campaign was mostly issue-free, there have been tremendous connectability issues with the game since launch. In fact, part of the reason I’m so late with this review is that I tried to see if these issues would work themselves out or if we’d get a patch of some kind. Even as recent as last night, however, I was still seeing matches drop and disconnect on a regular basis—if I could even connect in the first place. As I stated at the start of the review, over the past week I’ve played and finished well over 100 matches—there was probably another 200 times, though, where the match would never connect or drop midway through.


If this weren’t bad enough, because For Honor doesn’t have dedicated servers, not only does the game suffer frequently from lag, but every time someone else drops, the entire game freezes up, as it often has to re-instance. Half the time, it is unable to, and boots the remaining players back to the multiplayer lobby. I don’t understand how, after launching so many games in a row with shoddy or broken netcode before this, Ubisoft has yet another game—one that is so multiplayer heavy in particular and has had so many betas—come out in this condition. It’s absolutely unforgivable to launch in such a sorry state, and Ubisoft should be embarrassed.

For Honor could’ve been one of the best games of this young calendar year; instead, it’s riddled with issues, particularly on the technical side, which hold it back. It might still bounce back and become the game it has the potential to be thanks to its solid gameplay core—but if you were looking for something to play right now, I’d tell you to take a wait-and-see approach with For Honor in hopes the bugs, in particular the connectivity ones, end up getting worked out.

Publisher: Ubisoft • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 02.14.17
An inventive premise and surprisingly deep combat system sits at the core of what could’ve been a great game—if so many technical issues didn’t surround it and detract so much from the whole of the experience.
The Good The inventive new combat system takes some getting used to, but rewards players who put the time in with it.
The Bad A litany of technical issues and questionable decisions keeps it from reaching its fullest potential.
The Ugly This is now a thing and I can’t stop watching it: For Honor—Call on Me
For Honor is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I had a chance to play the first couple hours of Far Cry Primal‘s campaign at a recent Ubisoft event. Here are two missions where I got to tame my first animal, and also took on one of Takkar’s rival tribes, the sun-worshipping Izila. Far Cry Primal will be available for Xbox One and PS4 on February 23, 2016, and PC on March 1, 2016.


Break the walls down

Over the 10-year period of 1998-2008, the Rainbow Six franchise released 16 different titles or expansions, by far the most of any single brand under the Tom Clancy umbrella. Then, there was nothing. The series disappeared from Ubisoft’s lineup of huge blockbusters post-Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and fans were left wondering when they could get the squad back together. There was a glimmer of hope when the Patriots project started being shown off, but as quickly as hype started to build, the game was shelved. From its ashes, however, has risen the first Rainbow Six game in seven years, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege—and it looks to bring tactical multiplayer gameplay back to the masses like never before.

The key word there, though, is multiplayer. Something that we need to get out of the way is, yes, Siege is a multiplayer-focused game. There is a single-player mode called Situations, but it’s really nothing but a glorified tutorial. While it does a nice job of helping players become familiar with the game’s modes, maps, and operators, Situations offers little value to the product as a whole in the long run. Especially if you’re a fan of Rainbow Six as a franchise, it’s hard not to miss a more dedicated single-player mode, given how important they were to previous entries in the series.

In fact, on the surface, there’s not really a lot of multiplayer content either. The online component of Siege is comprised entirely of two modes: Terrorhunt and Versus. Terrorhunt pits a team of five people against AI opponents in varying scenarios, including saving hostages, defusing bombs, or eliminating all the enemy terrorists. Meanwhile, Versus is your classic five-vs-five match, where each person on a team has only one life to live—with the twist that objectives similar to those in Terrohunt can also be achieved as an alternate path to victory.


There are Casual and Ranked versions of both modes, but in order to unlock the Ranked options, you have to grind until you’re level 20. That’s a pretty lofty barrier for entry, even if you are trying to appeal more to the hardcore audience—although the journey does go rather quickly if you and your team keep winning in either Versus or Terrorhunt. Ranked changes the game somewhat by turning off all major HUD options and giving players a more true-to-life experience, giving you a carrot to at least to pursue the unlock. However, you can purchase XP boosts through microtransactions if you don’t have the patience.

Although it may sound like there’s not a lot to Siege, it makes up for it where it counts: in its gameplay. When you look past its lack of options and single player, this might actually be the best multiplayer game to come out this year. Siege has forgone all the bells and whistles that other similar-styled releases try to beat you over the head with, instead giving you the sleekest tactical shooter we’ve seen since Rainbow Six first hit PCs nearly two decades ago. Enemy AI is smart and ruthless, and when playing against other people, the emphasis on only having one life makes every decision a potential game-changing one, amping up the stakes alongside your adrenaline.

Siege features 11 of the best-designed close-quarters combat maps you’re likely to find in modern games. Maps may look small from the outside, but each location is filled with plenty of nooks and crannies that will have you checking every corner twice, just to make sure your rear is constantly covered.

The best part of each map, though, is how much you can destroy them. As long as it’s not a load-bearing wall, chances are you can punch a hole through it with a variety of devices depending on your operator and playstyle. This means sightlines are constantly changing, and that no match will ever play the same way twice. As well, the game looks absolutely gorgeous—how it’s able to chug along at a steady framerate considering the metamorphosis each level is constantly undergoing is phenomenal.


There are also the operators, the unlockable special forces agents players can use. There are 20 different characters to play with that not only feel unique due to their specialty gadget, but who also are perfectly balanced so that no matter how your team is comprised, or how you customize them, no matchups are better or worse than any other. The game has a character option for almost everyone on both offense and defense to suit your needs, and each brings with them their own strengths and weaknesses.

Like on offense, I love using Sledge, the SAS point man who, as his name would imply, carries a giant sledgehammer to punch holes in as many walls and floors as I want, but it also leaves me vulnerable and directly in the line of fire if I don’t have a buddy ready to clear the hole after the smoke clears. Meanwhile, on defense, Kapkan is my man, as I can set up booby traps in entryways that serve as a deterrent or a funnel to push enemies where I want them to go—but I’m limited in how many homemade devices I have. I know others, though, that put everything on guys like Tachanka, the stationary machine gunner on defense whose rear is vulnerable after he hunkers down, or Ash, the quick on her feet FBI agent with a special bullet that can breach barricades from a distance on offense but who really can’t take a hit. And those are just four of the 20 that you can play with.

Siege is also an enjoyable multiplayer experience because it does away with the “Lone Wolf” concept frequently seen in most other FPS multiplayer games. You have to work as a team to succeed in this game. Learning how the different operators work and developing a rapport with teammates so that you can most efficiently conquer the objectives actually becomes a large part of the fun, and pleasantly much of the burgeoning Siege community has headsets of some sort. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many enjoyable conversations in an online experience—ever—and it’s because Siege encourages objective-oriented people to come together for a common cause.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege lacks content—there’s no doubt about that—but what is there is absolutely stellar. With the promise of Spectator mode, more maps, and more operators down the line, this could develop into a really special game and community. As is, its exemplary gameplay is carrying the day, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lack of content turns a lot of people off. But if you’re dying for a new Rainbow Six game like I was, or the idea of a hardcore tactical teamwork-based shooter sounds like your thing, Siege is worth a look.


Developer: Ubisoft Montreal • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 12.01.15
What Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege lacks in content it makes up for in intense, fast-paced, heart-pounding action and tight gameplay. If tactical multiplayer is your thing, there may be none better. If not, though, you’ll likely find the experience to be a bit bare bones.
The Good Great balance between the 20 operators; amazing destruction, map variety.
The Bad Matchmaking issues persist, lack of a single player campaign.
The Ugly We miss you Ding Chavez.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I had a chance to play Far Cry Primal at a recent Ubisoft event and finally got to try my hand at being the beastmaster, Takkar. Using my owl and wolf buddies, I liberate an outpost, but then things take a turn and I go from being the hunter to the hunted. Far Cry Primal will be available for Xbox One and PS4 on February 23, 2016, and PC on March 1, 2016.

I had a chance to capture some of the new single player Situations mode that is going to be a part of Rainbow Six Siege. Here, I played as IQ who has a wrist-mounted device that can track electronic signals. Rainbow Six Siege will be available on December 1 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.


The Ubisoft teaser stream that started yesterday has culminated in the announcement of the next chapter in the Far Cry franchise.

Traveling back in time to the year 10,000 B.C., Far Cry Primal puts players in the shoes of Takkar, a seasoned hunter who stands tall as the last surviving member of his hunting group. In a world where man isn’t at the top of the food chain yet, Takkar will be tasked with putting together a new tribe while fending off woolly mammoths, sabertooth tigers, and other humans who would rather kill you than join you.

“The interesting thing about Far Cry is that it’s flexible. So when a team proposed to explore the idea of a Far Cry taking place during the Stone Age, we just said ‘let’s hear it!’ And the more we heard about it, the more we realized how much of a damn good idea it actually was,” said executive producer, Dan Hay.

Ubisoft Montreal is back at the helm of this project, leading a four-studio coalition comprised of Ubisoft Shanghai, Toronto, and Kiev to bring the prehistoric region of Oros to life. Far Cry Primal is expected to be similar in both scope and size to what was seen in Far Cry 4 and is not an expansion like Blood Dragon was.

“Stone Age is the perfect setting for a Far Cry game,” said creative director Jean-Christophe Guyot in a press release. “Far Cry usually puts you at the edge of the known world, in a beautiful, lawless, and savage frontier. The Stone Age is, in a way, the very first frontier for humankind; it’s the time when humans put a stick in the ground and claimed land for their own, the time when we started climbing the food chain. That came with conflict, against other humans of course, but also against nature itself.”

It should be interesting to see how this time period affects the gameplay of Far Cry. Obviously guns and traditional vehicles are ruled out, but a larger emphasis on fire and weapon crafting should be expected. And I can’t wait to see how prehistoric outposts are set up without explosives and alarms.

One thing is already evident, though. It looks pretty as hell.

Far Cry Primal is set for release February 23rd for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with a PC version to follow in March.

Mollie L Patterson and I had a chance to play some more Terrohunt at PAX this past weekend and not only did we record our match, but also the team’s headset audio so you can hear our chatter.

The video is from my perspective as Sledge, the aptly named soldier who wields a giant hammer that can break down walls and doors. The team’s most vocal member is MatchGrade Nation’s Miss Magitek, who expertly helped coach us to victory.

Rainbow Six Siege will be available on December 1st for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, but if you want to try it out before then, you can sign up for the closed beta that kicks off on September 24th.

The past repeats itself

It’s a little hard to believe, what with all the releases the series has seen, but Assassin’s Creed Unity marks the first time that an entry in Ubisoft’s history-based action-adventure franchise has been developed solely for a new generation of consoles since, well, the very first game. The original Assassin’s Creed was full of great ideas and really showed the potential of what the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation could offer developers and players alike, but it had some rough edges and poorly implemented early concepts, many of which wouldn’t be realized until its sequel, Assassin’s Creed II.

The hope this time around was that Unity would allow Assassin’s Creed to make a splash on new-gen without having to deal with the growing pains usually associated with a shift in technology—that it could introduce new ideas without the bumps and bruises seen when the series first launched. Unfortunately, Unity’s ideas are as much of a mixed bag as the 2007 original: Some are great, some are bad, and some are just poorly implemented.

Continuing the thread started in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Abstergo—the megacorporation at the heart of the series—has begun mass-producing the equivalent of a set-top box Animus they call “Helix”, allowing everyone at home to now enjoy a variety of Assassin adventures filtered through their rose-colored glasses. When you start playing, though, your box is hacked by the actual Assassins, and they ask you to help them by playing through the French Revolution in 18th-century Paris. So, you’re basically playing a videogame where you play a person playing a videogame. So meta, Ubisoft. Also, very boring. Here, though, you take over as Arno Dorian, a young lad whose father dies under mysterious circumstances and is adopted by the Grandmaster of the Templars.

You watch as Arno grows up and then begins a love affair with his adopted sister, Elisé, always in the dark to his adopted father’s affairs. When the Grandmaster is murdered, however, Arno comes across the Assassin Order—which, unbeknownst to him, puts our hero at odds with his love, who’s been trained in the Templar ways all this time. What follows then is easily one of the most gripping stories to date in the Assassin’s Creed universe: Arno’s tale is filled with romance, intrigue, mystery, and lots of action. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Arno might have to duke it out with Black Flag’s Edward Kenway and Assassins Creed II’s Ezio Auditore on my all-time favorite Assassins list because of his robust character growth over the course of the game.

Sadly, all the other players in Arno’s story—except maybe Elisé—fall completely flat in terms of their development. Characters who are important to the canon of Assassin’s Creed like Napoleon Bonaparte (he wields an Apple of Eden at one point in his life), critical figures in the French Revolution like Maximilien de Robespierre (commonly believed to be one of the architects to blame for the Reign of Terror), and even Arno’s mentor, Pierre Bellec, along with many others, are underutilized and barely serve as little more than footnotes in the development of our protagonist. This was disappointing, considering how many great supporting characters we’ve had in previous games like Leonardo da Vinci, the Borgias, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Blackbeard, and Black Bart. I wanted Arno to pal around with Napoleon. I wanted him to learn more from Bellec. And I wanted him to have some banter with Robespierre. I got none of this.

And since I mentioned the real world, I think now’s a great time to bring up the most startling thing about Unity’s story: the complete removal of that aspect from the game. Not once do you leave Arno and Helix and move about in reality. Instead, you get a handful of voiceovers from your random Assassin hacker telling you what to do and why to do it.

These sequences, which were a welcome respite in previous games, are now replaced by “server bridge” scenarios where Abstergo IT security tries to track you in the primary French Revolution scenario—so, in order to protect you, the hidden Assassin jacks you out of 18th-century Paris and into one of three other time periods. Once you complete a traversal challenge, you go back to the French Revolution, but if you want to revisit these other time periods, you’ll be welcomed back by minigames in which you have to collect inconsequential data clusters that award you 10, 20, or 50 points. This is by far the worst thing Unity attempts to add to the series—it feels like a pointless excuse to give players a chance to climb the Eiffel Tower during World War II or see familiar Templar designs in medieval times.

But there’s more to Assassin’s Creed than just the story. Ubisoft loves to point out their three “pillars of gameplay” (combat, stealth, and navigation), and they’ve said that they set out early in Unity’s development to address each one and hopefully improve upon it for new-gen—but they were only successful in some regards.

The first major tweak comes with the combat, which feels like a change we didn’t know we needed until it happened. It’s much more difficult now, since the overpowered counter button has been removed in place of the more finesse-oriented parry maneuver. Shades of the Batman: Arkham games bleed through here—your enemy’s lifebar will light up above their head when they’re about to attack, which allows you time to prepare your parry. If your timing’s right, your opponent will now be left wide open for a follow-up attack. If you’re surrounded, however, you may have several opponents try to attack at the same time—and Arno’s far more human than Ezio or Edward and will fall to enemy blades if he finds himself surrounded by more than three foes in most cases. The days of piling up dozens of enemy bodies in the streets are over, but walking away from an encounter alive is surprisingly more satisfying now.

Another huge improvement comes in the form of the stealth elements, particularly during assassination missions. This was a huge focus for the development team, because fans have been clamoring for more emphasis on this for years—and part of the success of this change comes about due to the aforementioned combat becoming more difficult. Sneaking around enemy fortresses and encampments is now a must if you want to survive.

The assassination missions are also more open-ended, and the game tells you before you even start your attempt how many entrances exist and how many opportunities you’ll have for special assassinations (my favorite was on a guillotine stage) before letting you loose to overcome the seemingly impossible odds however you choose. Optional mission objectives, such as paying off a maid to open up a particular window or retrieving a monk’s lost keys to open up a church’s back door, are also present and allow for more possible strategies when tackling your task, but they’re by no means mandatory. I had so much fun with these that I wish there’d been more—or even an extra mode just dedicated to assassinating different targets again and again.

As welcome as these improvements are when it comes to two of the three gameplay pillars, however, there’s one that falls flat on its face: the new parkour system. I put more than 35 hours into Unity, and I still never felt like I got the full hang of it. In the original Assassin’s Creed, you held the RT and A buttons (or R2 and X on the PS3) to climb around. Later on in the series, the trigger button alone handled this duty, and the series did away with the grip that became known as the “Creed claw,” since you’d spend most of the game holding those buttons. Unfortunately, in Unity, the developers have gotten away from the one-button concept in favor of a ridiculous four-button system. You still hold the right trigger to run, but if you want to run up, you need to hold A (or X on the PS4) in conjunction with the trigger. If you want to run down or climb over low walls, you hold B and the trigger (or Circle on the PS4) instead. If you want to climb into windows of a certain altitude, you hold both triggers.

Honestly, it becomes a real pain in the neck after a while, because it never feels as intuitive as the one-button system. At one point, I spent 30 seconds dancing around the four corners of a window I was trying to sneak into—before I remembered that I needed to press the left trigger, too. And there’s nothing like falling into a crowd of angry soldiers because you slipped and pressed B instead of A. It felt like I was fighting the controls the entire time, and even when I thought I was doing it right, Arno felt floaty and not nearly as controllable as he should’ve been.

To Ubisoft’s credit, the “controlled descent” feature, which allows you to slide down high walls or quickly get down from towers with RT and B (R2 and Circle on the PS4), is a welcome addition. But I don’t understand why the developers couldn’t just keep the one-trigger system and then add that controlled-descent mechanic on top of it.

And this seems to be Assassin’s Creed Unity in a nutshell. For every good feature or two that Ubisoft Montreal implemented here, they did something else that made me question what they were thinking.

Another example of elation and disappointment comes during the side missions, where you’ve got a cornucopia of tasks that vary greatly in scope and objective. I loved some of them, such as the Café Théâtre’s missions. The Café Théâtre is a small bistro in Paris under Assassin ownership and serves as Arno’s home base, much like Monteriggioni did for Ezio. It also affords the game an excuse to reintroduce an economy system like that seen in Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood. Having a constant flow of currency (and being able to increase that flow via special missions and unlocking other clubs around Paris) is a huge boon and also makes the customization far less daunting, since you’re more able to easily afford the pricier, more powerful items over time. The customization and upgrade system are also surprisingly well balanced, and I never felt like I lacked the necessary skills to complete an assassination.

The co-op missions are also a healthy change for the series and provide some really interesting side stories, along with the single-player-driven Paris Story missions that add both color and context to the time period, as well as the Assassin-Templar war. My only wish is that co-op could’ve somehow been worked into the main campaign. Also, since these missions—much like the game itself—are so narrative-centric, many of them lack the replayability you might expect.

But for every great Club or Paris Story mission, there are the disappointing Murder Mysteries and Nostradamus Enigmas. In the Murder Mysteries, Arno must help the bumbling police force solve various crimes around Paris using his Eagle Vision—but these segments are beyond simple. While you’re awarded with a rare item upon the completion of each case, these mysteries often require far too much running around Paris to solve a crime that you could easily piece together after only a few telling clues—or, if you’re really lazy, you can just Google the answer, since many are based on real-life events.

The Nostradamus Enigmas, meanwhile, are supposed to be the spiritual successors to the Glyph puzzles of Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood or the hacking puzzles from the real world in Black Flag. Instead, cryptic riddles point you to landmarks around Paris, where you scour the building in time-sensitive Eagle Vision and look for weird drawings. There’s no thinking involved—just more tiresome legwork.

Even in terms of the look and feel of Paris, you can find things that’ll leave you scratching your head. The city does feel more alive than any previous Assassin’s Creed setting, with gorgeous graphics and animation helping highlight the scores of NPCs crammed onscreen. But it also brings about the potential for several hysterical glitches, like people snapping into place like a movie extra late for the “action” call trying desperately to get their spot, or some getting constantly stuck on random pieces of furniture in houses or boxes in the market. The vibe is also rather bland, with most of the districts taking on similar, monotonous tones that just start to wear you down after some time. The game does briefly take an aside in Versailles, but even then I found myself longing for the cities and landscapes from previous games.

For the first time in a long time, in fact, an Assassin’s Creed game felt like a bit of a grind. Arno’s story, the new combat, the return to stealth, and the economy and customization were all high points. But the implementation and addition of many other ideas fell short of the quality I expect from this franchise. I can’t help but think that even with a four-year development cycle, this game needed some more time to polish and flesh out the concepts. It’s kind of funny how a franchise built around reliving history is reliving some of its own now, though—so, at the very least, I’m still looking forward to its sequel when, hopefully, they finally get a lot of this stuff right.

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 11.11.14
Unity follows in the original Assassin’s Creed’s footsteps in many ways as the first game in the series developed exclusively for the new generation of consoles. And, much like its ancestor, for every good thing Unity does, it adds something else that just leaves you scratching your head—giving the whole experience a hit-or-miss feel that we haven’t seen from the series in a long time.
The Good A strong main narrative; combat and stealth are much improved.
The Bad Fighting the parkour system the entire game; side missions are hit-or-miss.
The Ugly All those French people…and almost no French accents.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review.

United we stand

In many ways, Assassin’s Creed Unity aims to be the most ambitious game the franchise has ever seen. Featuring systemic gameplay, narrative driven co-op that uses the same world as the single-player campaign, and a huge emphasis on stealth mechanics that bring the series back to its roots—especially Assassin’s Creed II, which many still consider the best—Unity has vast potential as the first Assassin’s Creed developed solely for the new generation of consoles.

With all that in mind, I was excited to finally get the opportunity for some quality hands-on time with Unity, about four hours in all. Unfortunately, from the sample I played, Unity goes a bit too far back in time when it comes to Assassin’s Creed, because it reminded me more of the original game with Altaïr: tremendous ideas alongside some very poor execution.

My demo consisted of Sequences 3 and 4 in protagonist Arno Dorian’s timeline. He’d just been fully inducted into the Assassin Brotherhood and now had access to the entire city of Paris while he carried out missions to further the Assassin cause—and here’s where my first issue arose. Unity includes a new progression system where, much like in an RPG, players will be able to buy skills and abilities for Arno and customize him as they see fit. Since I was already into Sequence 3 when the demo started, I had some ability tokens in the bank. I like the idea of a progression system and unlocking more moves as you go along; when I went to assign these tokens, however, I was shocked at just how bare-bones Arno was.

Skills that we’ve come to expect over the years, like crowd blending, double assassinations, and even just carrying a pistol, all needed to be purchased with skill points. If he was a full-fledged Assassin now, I hate to think of what he’s like in Sequences 1 and 2. What exactly did he learn from his teacher? How to pull the hood up over his ears? I’m not expecting Arno to have everything at his disposal from the get-go, but these skills in particular are staples of what it means to be an Assassin—especially during the setting of the French Revolution in the late 18th century—and the fact that I had to spend points just to raise Arno up to the standards of those who came before him made me feel extremely underpowered. I suppose that’s one way to artificially amp up the difficulty, though.

And since skill tokens are acquired by completing many of the side missions around Paris, it’s also a way to force you to deviate from the main narrative. This could be a way to artificially extend the game, however, because the sequences I played were only four missions long, making me worry greatly about the length of the main narrative compared to previous games.

It also plays into a lot of the new systemic gameplay, where the player can tell their own story and have it play out as they wish—it’s very cool to see random fights break out in the streets as warring factions butt heads or approach an assassination target from multiple directions. Unfortunately, though, the only word that came to mind for me during some of these missions was grind. Yes, the sidequests are far more entertaining than hunting animals, since they’re a story within a story, but I felt like I was being pushed away from the main narrative instead of being sucked into it, simply because I needed to make Arno a more formidable force to take on the difficulty as it ramped up. And let’s be honest, folks—for most of us, the story is still the main draw.

Now, that’s not to say that Arno can’t defend himself at all. With his hidden blade, he can still stab people in the face rather effectively. But one change that I didn’t mind related to the combat, which is far more difficult than in previous games—piling up bodies in the street as never-ending waves of enemies swarm is a thing of the past. If you’re not trained well enough, taking on more than three foes will probably spell the death of you, since the counter button’s been removed. In its place is a parry button that must be perfectly timed for you to take advantage of your off-balance foes. Enemies also strike more quickly and more effectively, which puts an emphasis back on stealth and smarter enemy encounters. It’s now a must to wait for guards to be alone before going in for the quick kill or use the whole gamut of tools at your disposal, like poison gas, smoke bombs, and noisemakers.

You can also strengthen Arno by purchasing new items. You’re able to buy dozens of different outfit parts, such as hoods and boots, and you can swap between all items you acquire to accentuate different statistics in four key categories: armor, stealth, health, or effective range of weaponry. This aspect of customization and progression is a lot clearer, and it hearkens back to buying new armor and weapons in Assassin’s Creed II. I will say that the interface back then was a lot sexier than what we see here in Unity, though.

And speaking of Assassin’s Creed II, another aspect that I loved seeing was the Café-Theatre. It basically serves as Arno’s version of Monteriggioni, Ezio’s upgradable home and fortress from Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood. As you buy upgrades and renovations, you can unlock new missions and items—plus, you get a treasure chest that keeps collecting money as the café makes more money from its customers. Along with the new missions from Café-Theatre, Unity also sees a spiritual successor to Assassin’s Creed II’s glyph puzzles, called Nostradamus puzzles here. Since they’re so directly tied to landmarks, I wasn’t able to solve any during my demo time. The landmarks seemed to already be unlocked in-game, and many of the buildings just started to blend together, which sometimes made climbing up to a synchronization point a bother.

This leads me to another negative: the new parkour system. I actually felt like I had less control over Arno than most other Assassins before him. Unity features a new control scheme that allows you to parkour up or down across much of the landscape, and I admit that it takes some time to get used to. Once you’re experienced, though, and can pull off all manner of flips and stunts, it still feels like you’re fighting the controls to get them to go where you want—or, worse yet, you go bounding off in the completely wrong direction. Since there’s such a return to emphasis on stealth, the last thing you want is a lack of pinpoint control when free-running through Paris.

Besides the two single-player sequences, I also got to try out two co-op missions. The first one, the Heist, is great for earning a lot of quick cash, but it’s really meant more for players near the end of the game. Coordination among the team is critical, since Heist missions require four players to infiltrate a heavily guarded location and raid it to stuff their pockets with gold. If you get spotted, you’ll walk away with less gold, and if one person dies, the mission restarts.

Though I enjoyed the concept, everyone playing was at such a high level that we just started spamming attacks, throwing a bevy of smoke bombs into every room and then running in and clearing it out. I know that’s not the purpose of the game mode, but when you’ve got 25 smoke bombs, they’re cheap to buy, and you can walk away with as much as 60,000 credits, it’s hard not to.

The other co-op mission was the more narrative-driven one—and I loved it, because the reason I still play Assassin’s Creed is for the story. In this mission, I had to save a French spy who’d happened upon a Templar plot. Once they found him out, the Templars branded him a traitor and sentenced him to death. First, I had to free him from the Templars and then help him escape. My co-op partner and I were a force to be reckoned with as we used our environment to our advantage and quickly dispatched the Templar agents in our way, zigzagging across rooftops and using our smoke bombs when necessary to escape.

I appreciate that Unity offers players more to do than ever before. Whether it’s the new sidequests or the openness with which you can complete missions, it definitely feels like a step in the right direction for the franchise. But I can’t get over the progression system and the shoddy parkour. These are two definite missteps—and I worry about how they’ll affect the main game as a whole when Unity releases next month.