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What? Ubisoft and the problematic third act - Reader’s Feature
Assassin’s Creed Origins – why do Ubisoft games never stick the landing?

A reader identifies a recurring problem with the ending of Ubisoft games, from Far Cry 3 to Assassin’s Creed Origins.

Ubisoft’s passion for storytelling has delivered some thrilling campaign narratives over the last 10 years. From Far Cry 3’s evocative adaption of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, through to Assassin’s Creed Origins’ diorama of personal grief and Ancient Egyptian power politics; these are stories that passionately want to engage the player with their depth.

Yet despite Ubisoft’s commitment to narrative, many of its games’ stories arguably fail to deliver strong enough third acts (and ultimately endings) that satisfy the player’s investment in them.

Looking at Far Cry 3 in more detail; its story takes our protagonist Jason Brody on a nightmare journey into the jungle (arguably of his own and his friends’ arrogant making) that changes him forever. In the first half of this game Ubisoft invests heavily in telling the story of his transformation from naïve dudebro into a pirate-killing sausage machine with Vaas acting as his tour guide into madness. It’s brilliant – thrilling and chilling the player’s bones simultaneously.

Yet in sharp contrast the last act of Far Cry 3’s story frustratingly ignores this set-up, lumbering the player with a second island of cliché machismo mercenaries and dull ‘trying to be kewl with da bad kids’ villain-dad Hoyt. This third act feels devoid of any new interesting ideas, and then throws in a hard-cut rushed ending with Brody proclaiming in voiceover that he’s still a good person or something equally forgettable (and boring).

So, after all that ultraviolence, personal sacrifice and pharmaceutical merriment; we actually know next to nothing about Brody’s state of mind at the end – did things really go back to ‘normal’ for him? The vacuous third act robs the player of such a satisfactory conclusion leaving us to shrug our collective shoulders and simply sigh, ‘what?’

Sadly, it seems many of the Ubisoft games that followed Far Cry 3 also fall into the same narrative traps. Take Splinter Cell: Blacklist. First half a mostly successful provocative take on real world geo-politics (and America’s place in it); second half, a bloated mess where it seems every country in the world apart from America is involved in a conspiracy that isn’t actually global terrorism at all but some kind of overly complicated data robbery, or something? What?

Another more recent guilty suspect is Ghost Recon: Wildlands, that uses what little narrative meat it does have to be a professional how-to business guide about turning a country into a drug state corporation, or something? What?

OK, so those Ubisoft games are one to six odd years old – does the new and shiny Assassin’s Creed Origins suffer the same fate…?

(Through gritted teeth) Yes.

Origins kicks off strongly, blending many of today’s themes of power, religion, and sexual politics together through the prism of the fictionalised history of Ancient Egypt. Bayek as lead character is equally memorable, due to some terrific voice acting, mo-cap, and writing. And despite some tiresome Ubisoft gameplay mechanics, so far so good.

And then the third act reeks into view and its Ubisoft’s traditional vertical drop from here. Suddenly cut scenes stop making sense; like massive chunks of dialogue have been cut. New characters get five second intros and we’re supposed to give a monkey’s about their fate. Bayek sees things that would blow a 21st century mind apart, let alone someone living in 48 BC. Good turned instantly bad guys now have superpowers. What? What? WHAT?!

So, our never-ending quest for narrative subsistence beyond Ubisoft’s tasty first course continues. Perhaps in 2018, with releases like Far Cry 5 planned, we will stop saying ‘what?’ and start saying huzzah!

By reader NewWaveRetro (gamertag)


The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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