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E3 2018: Ubisoft Conference

Ubisoft’s E3 2018 conference today was awash with weirdness, starting with a “live” marching band. I put “live” in quotes because, as a marching band geek myself, I know there’s no way a live performance ever could sound that polished. Also, the music continued after the band started to leave… A strange way to start the conference — a marching band with elaborately costumed dancers to announce Just Dance 2019, but then no trailer video or explanation for it. The slightest of teasers with the most elaborate set-up.

Beyond Good and Evil 2’s announcement was exciting for fans of the much-beloved original, which came out over 15 years ago. The space opera’s trailer teased characters from the original, like Jade and Pey’j, and lots of explosions. Labeled as a prequel, we will see the backstory of Jade, the first game’s main protagonist. Gamers will play as a space pirate captain, exploring the secret city of Ganesha, a center for sacred rituals, with a seedy underbelly. This action-adventure RPG will allow players to explore combat and story on the ground and in space, with a seemingly very open universe. Through Ubisoft Montpellier’s Space Monkey Program, the BGE community can contribute ideas, music, and art to expand the development. In conjunction with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRecord, fans can collaborate to create music and visuals together, rather than individually. It was rather strange to see Joseph on stage shoulder-punching the Ubisoft team in excitement, but hey — somebody’s gotta bring the hype. No platforms or release dates were mentioned.

Rainbow 6 Siege had a brief moment on stage with the release of an upcoming documentary, “Another Mindset,” which features the lives of eight Rainbow 6 Siege players.

Trials Rising came screaming into the auditorium with a motorbike, white leather fringe, and lots of swagger. After an excellent “crash” into an on-stage tv display, the announcer brought out Professor FatShady, a YouTuber who specializes in helping people master Trials through video tutorials. He was brought on-board to help with the tutorials for Trials Rising, and hopefully his skills in coaching will translate, as Trials is harder to master than… a thing that’s hard to master. As with the past installments, players can create custom courses, but now can also customize outfits and bikes, and share them online. Career mode will allow gamers to play through small competitions up through worldwide sponsorships. The biggest reveal here is the local co-op multiplayer, called “Tandem Bike.” Two players will work together to control one bike through the courses, which I can’t see being anything more than hilariously frustrating gold. A closed beta for Trials Rising opened today, with the game itself launching in February 2019 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 came out next, with the continuing story taking place seven months after the first Division. Set in Washington, D.C., we see the aftermath of the Dollar Flu, a virus spread on dollar bills on Black Friday. While this metaphor for our overconsumption and disillusion with government is pretty on-the-nose, so is the world-building in the game. D.C. is shown as almost 1:1 with real D.C., so players familiar with the area will find themselves at home. While the future of America may be bleak, The Division 2 is not — the story based campaign will feature progression specialization paths, with unique weapons, new tools to unlock, and different abilities and skills for each character. In Raid modes, eight players can play together. Year One will feature three DLC episodes, with new areas, stories, and quests to complete, and will be free; lots of content updates were also promised for years to come. There is currently a beta online, with the full game coming out March 15th on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Hot mics were a problem for Ubisoft this year — at least three separate times, announcers kept talking after they’d left the stage, interrupting the footage of the conference. While I understand how this could easily happen, after the first time… I mean, come on. Still, on some level I appreciate seeing little failures like this happen to professionals, as it reminds me we are all prone to mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, look, it’s Mario + Rabbids: Donkey Kong Adventures! Hey-O! OK, that was harsh. But seriously, live music? Critical Hit performed well, but it was odd to watch the trailer while the music was being performed, it just didn’t line up correctly to me. My feeling is this: if you like Rabbids, and games that are actually rather hard despite their childish appearance, and the nostalgia that Donkey Kong reminds you of, you’ll probably want this. If you’re a season pass holder, the game is out on June 25th; the rest of y’all can get it on June 26th, on the Nintendo Switch only.

Skull and Bones showed up and showed out, with footage of intense pirate battles, legendary treasure, devious theft, and fortune telling. In a shared world (i.e., online with others), you can fight or ally with other pirates to take over the bountiful trade routes of the Indian Ocean. “Fortunes” read to you by the teller will predict changes in weather, factions, and trade routes. The gameplay footage was gorgeous, and seemed to incorporate some of what I had hoped Sea of Thieves would have — coordinated battle and upgrades that actually changed the game more than just aesthetically. The life of a pirate is harsh: will friends become foes? Will the winds change in your favor? Will you find the treasure you desire? Will you be able to name your boat Boaty McBoatFace before another player does? Skull and Bones will release sometime in 2019.

For Transference, a haunting, psychological horror-puzzle game, Ubisoft partnered with Elijah Wood’s Spectrevision (which sounds bizarre in and of itself). The hobbit himself announced the game, while adorably stumbling through his speech, at one time just saying, “no.” Similar in a way to Layers of Fear, where you slowly unravel a dark, unsettling family past, Transference is about entering an unstable mind and switching perspectives. The footage seemed to be a combination of real actors and great visual effects. Out on VR, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC Fall 2018.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas gets all the nostalgia points here. While appearing at first to almost be a No Man’s Sky clone, players traverse the Atlas star system, finding alien worlds and strange biodiversity, all with a storyline. The big reveal: Starfox! Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, of course. As a toys-to-life game, there are plenty of miniature figures to buy, though I’m really just wondering if the giant mini starship given to an adorably energetic Mr. Miyamoto in the audience will be available. The game can be preordered, and will come out October 16th on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

For Honor: Marching Fire is an update for the already out game, and adds a new 4v4 player mode, called Breach, as well as castle siege battles. It also adds a new faction, which looks to be incredibly detailed and badass: the Chinese Wu Lin. This update includes four new fighters, as well as a single player option. The immense sand dragon at the end — oh man, this looks good. The starting edition of For Honor will be free on PC for this week only (June 11-18) on Ubisoft’s uplay. Marching Fire comes out October 16th on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The Crew 2 allows players to choose their weapon, I mean vehicle, in this colorful game — car, bike, plane, or boat — for open land, air, or water races. You can preload the open beta now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, though it’s not open until June 21st.

The final announcement of Ubisoft’s E3 conference was the recently-spoiled-with-a-keychain Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. While there was some hopeful speculation online that the player would take the role of Aya, Bayek’s wife in Assassin’s Creed Origins, this is not the case. While I was initially disappointed that the protagonist is a Greek warrior, I am thrilled that the character build allows you to choose your character: Alexios (dude), or Kassandra (dudette). This epic RPG puts players in the middle of the Peloponnesian War (Sparta versus Greece, you’re welcome), and it’s up to them to be the hero Greece needs and deserves. With a mysterious weapon at their side (shown as Leonidas’ spear, but may vary on the character you choose?), players will encounter Socrates and other historical figures, and for the first time ever, make DIALOG CHOICES YOU GUYS. Adding a dialog option, like lying, joking, or flirting, adds a huge element to the game — your choices will affect other Greeks, as well as your character. Like Origins, there are mercenary mini-boss battles, larger scale boss battles, a complex hub and skill tree, boats, and your feathered seeing eye bird. Also, minotaurs?! Releasing fairly soon on October 5th, you can get this on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

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