Yesterday, in the wake of 343 Industries' heartfelt apology for Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Ubisoft's management finally owned up to the errors of Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Before we get onto ripping the message apart, though, let's look at what the publisher actually did do. The failings of Assassin's Creed: Unity are well-documented on this site, partially-hidden on launch day by a time-gated embargo that was so idiotic and publicly slammed that Ubisoft say they have revised their approach to reviews going forwards. People bought the game in the US at launch to find no reviews published, with many players angrily reporting a plethora of bugs and technical issues. In a statement from Ubi Montreal's CEO, Yannis Mallat, Ubisoft "sincerely apologized", suggesting that "the overall quality of [Assassin's Creed: Unity] was diminished by bugs and unexpected technical issues", and offering compensation for those who'd bought an Assassin's Creed: Unity Season Pass:
"To show our appreciation for your continued support, we’re making the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity Dead Kings DLC free for everyone," wrote Mallat. "For Season Pass holders, we will also offer the choice of one additional game from a selection of Ubisoft titles for free. More details on the offer for Season Pass holders can be found here: AC Unity FAQ."
Those free games are not to be sniffed at either, including Far Cry 4 (it's excellent), The Crew (hmmm), Assassin's Creed: Black Flag (much better than Unity), Watch Dogs (bloated, but still better than Unity), Rayman Legends (10/10), and Just Dance 2015 (it's Just Dance).
It's sort of the same move that EA pulled with SimCity, which sort of lends credence to my hypothesis that Ubisoft are actually just copying EA at this point. Things is, just like in the SimCity situation, this damage control is just a seemingly classy move that does nothing but paper over the cracks.
As nice as it was to get free Battlefield or SimCity 4 when the SimCity fiasco happened, I would have much preferred that the game I was excited for hadn't been a broken, truncated, shoddy mess. As nice as a free game for people who paid money upfront for unannounced DLC for a broken game is, it doesn't make Unity a better game. And I dearly wish Unity was a better game.
Handing out apologetic digital codes for games is easy as piss, and let's remember that EA handed out free gifts to everyone who bought SimCity, not just people who'd invested blindly in the game's future as Ubisoft have done. Free DLC for a fairly average game that's broken and unoptimised doesn't fix those issues. Moreover, it doesn't demonstrate that Ubisoft have learned anything from their mistakes.
Reading Mallat's statement more carefully, I'm struck by the line that suggests the game's launch was "diminished by bugs and unexpected technical issues". None of the major technical issues for Unity came in relation to the game's connected state. Tests run post-release showed that there was little difference in performance when the game was run online or offline. The evidence points towards a game rushed out to meet a deadline, with eleventh-hour QA jettisoned in favour of a timely arrival. I cannot believe that these bugs and problems, picked up by the untrained eyes of consumers within hours of release, could have feasibly slipped by Ubisoft's professionals. It seems ludicrous to say that these issues were unexpected, Unity is not an MMO, the gameplay systems in Unity aren't exactly new, and the new engine isn't an excuse to hide behind either.
Ubisoft handing out freebies is a sign of nothing more than being caught in the act. It's sort of like bribery in a way, a one-off act of goodwill to make everything that came before seem hazy. "Take this and love us again," Ubisoft are saying, with a finger pressed against the lips. "It's okay. There's nothing to see here. Shhhhh!"
Better would have been a statement determined to put quality before the strict annualised milking of the Assassin's Creed franchise. Better would have been an unreserved apology backed up by reassurances that this won't happen again. Better would have been addressing the issues that continue to abound in Unity, beyond the bugs, in terms of the abhorrent commercialisation of the series and the plague of companion app gated content and Uplay rubbish.
I don't want vague, placatory excuses. I want a series that I love to be back firing on all cylinders. And so should you, Ubisoft.