Far Cry 5 is the most recent open world game developed and published by Ubisoft. It is a great game and a world success. The French publisher masters all aspects of successful open world games:
- Highly diversified environments that bring many surprises and reward exploration
- Live and credible worlds whose components impact the gameplay and are not there for cosmetic reasons only
- Interesting narrative backdrops
- Large choices of actions that allow gamers to play the game the way they want and expand drastically its play length
- Effective and diversified gameplays.
This recipe is well polished and Ubisoft turned it into a game template used in other hits: Ghost Recon, Watch Dogs, The Division and, to a lesser extent, Assassin’s Creed.
However, even if those games offer vastly different backdrops, they tend to offer similar game experiences; when we begin to play one of those games, we know what to expect: Lot of traveling, progression trees to unlock equipment, higher attributes or new teammates, but also repetitive actions and a narration that is a mere pretext for action instead of offering true drama.
This is an issue: The repetitiveness of the player’s experience over several titles could lead to player’s boredom and affect the commercial success of its future titles. Ubisoft is facing a situation that is both enviable and dangerous: It has developed a winning formula but is has become dependent on it.
Which solutions could Ubisoft develop to preserve the future of its open world franchises?
- To continue its present strategy which consists in refining its open world game template over each new title. This is the less risky strategy. Actually, it is the one Activision is implementing with success for its Call of Duty franchise. However, the big difference between Ubisoft and Activision is that the latter applies it to one title only, not several of them.
- To better differentiate each franchise by focusing on one strong feature. For instance, Assassin’s Creed focuses on the historical background of each sequel. Games like Ghost Recon and The Division could benefit from better differentiation in their gameplay.
- To focus on high quality storytelling. The themes and backgrounds of each Ubisoft open world games are significantly different from each other but that’s not enough to make good narration. In nearly all Ubisoft open world games, it is impossible to develop the slightest empathy toward main characters and secondary ones are shallow stereotypes. Furthermore, narrative arcs are either weak or nonexistent. Now, imagine how a game like Far Cry could benefit from a quality narration like the one found in The Last Of Us!
- To give up the total freedom of movement and limit the game environment to a semi-open world the way This War Of Mine does it. The benefit of this strategy is to focus development resources on the locations where missions take place. That will allow level designers to develop more interesting and better tuned missions.