Gamechangers – Episode 1: Ubisoft Towers
GameChangers; the series where we have a look at the mechanics or design choices that have gone on to change the gaming landscape, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The series will look at the history of these changes, whether or not we feel these changes are positive and the impacts they've had on how they affect games today.
The Ubisoft Tower is a game developer design choice in which the player needs to reach a particular point of interest (usually the top of a tall structure or building) in order unveil sections of a game's map or highlight points of interest like side quests and collectables. Ubisoft towers were heavily implemented and then popularised by, as the name implies, Ubisoft.
The first game to utilise the towers was Assassin's Creed; released November of 2007. In Assassins Creed, players took the role of Altair, a master assassin. The game was set during the third crusade and the primary goal of the game was to carry out a series of assassinations ordered by Al Mualim, the leader of the Assassins. The game was lauded for its open-world and gameplay mechanics. Players could climb structures and barrage their way through crowds, as Altair realistically pushed and shoved his way past NPC's. It was well ahead of its time and although it did get quite tedious towards the end, was a good game none the less. In Assassins Creed, players had to climb the towers to unlock sections of the map and activities, such as; side quests, collectable items and such, within that 'district'. This almost segmentation of the game through exploration enabled players to play the content in chunks of their own choosing, rather than a completely linear experience. You'd need to figure out how to navigate the location and reach the top of a tower to remove the 'fog of war' which covered the section of the map you were in, thus the "Ubisoft Tower" was born.
Ubisoft have since gone on to utilise this in a number of their following games, notably, the Far Cry franchise. While the towers in Assassin's Creed were more of a tedium, Ubisoft upped the ante by adding little challenges for the player to overcome.
In Far Cry 3, players had to climb dilapidated radio towers in order to remove the fog of war from the current segment of the map. Each radio tower had become damaged in different ways, meaning players had to observe their surroundings and figure out the best way to climb each tower. Some even had snakes and other small animals present, which would attack the player if they were not careful.
Infamous: Second Son had DUP bases and towers, which instead of simply scaling, you had to destroy as well. The player-controlled Destin, who had a variety of superpowers at his disposal. Players would have to use their powers to dispatch enemies who were guarding the towers, before using the PlayStation 4 touchpad to destroy the towers.
Another Ubisoft game to use these towers was Watch Dogs, in this game they "towers" themselves were not structures that you were forced to climb they were servers accessed via CTO towers that needed to be reached utilising the characters hacking skills. Upon connecting to each CTO tower certain pieces of information were unlocked on the map.
In Shadow of Mordor, players had to scale forge towers and strike an anvil. Once this, rather trivial feat, was accomplished the tower would act as a fast travel point for the character when not in combat or in a mission; as well as a re-spawn location upon the characters death.
Dying Light, similar to Far Cry 3 and 4, had antenna towers that needed to be climbed, in this case taking advantage of Dying Lights free-running mechanics, working as climbing puzzles that needed to be overcome to scale the tower.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild, had Sheikah towers, which, you guessed it, had to be climbed to unlock a segment of the map. However it wasn't as simple as just climbing in some cases, unless your stamina bar was maxed out, it would require a little thought to approach certain towers that had obstacles blocking a simple climb, others had a crew of monsters that needed to be defeated, sneaked past or distracted in order to allow you to reach the towers peak. BOTW also rewarded players differently by only unlocking the geography of the map, points of interest would have to be scouted out using the Sheikah binoculars.
We think that Ubisoft Towers are a decent inclusion in games. They have definitely become over-saturated and unnecessary in some titles, but when implemented correctly, can be very effective. We would like to see developers think of new ways to implement them and only use them if it makes sense in the game they are being used in.
There are a number of other developers that have adapted and used the "Ubisoft Towers" in some way shape or form in their own games, they have been a topic of discussion since they became a mainstay of gaming development. Many gamers have expressed dislike in their constant re-implementation; Ubisoft themselves have even have poked fun at the design choice in their design and use of the towers in more recent games. It seems recently developers have begun to use them more sparingly butt one thing is definitely for sure; Ubisoft's Towers changed the game.