Ghostwire: Tokyo proves there’s nothing wrong with Ubisoft’s malicious open-world formula

Ghostwire: Tokyo Exploration Loop is a brilliantly crafted conceptual pun. It is the game version of the Tower Unfogs Map mechanic popularized by Assassin’s Creed. Instead of climbing things and checking the clock as the camera pans around a murderous aristocrat striking an unlikely pose atop the Bastille (or whatever), here you cleanse the torii gates of demonic influence eh cleared the streets of literal fog quite usefully. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be funny, but whatever, it’s a chuckle meta twist on a now ubiquitous gaming trope found everywhere from Zelda to Mad Max.

It’s become something of a lightning rod for online complaints about the predictability of open-world design. The dreaded Ubisoft Towers; Their mere presence implies that every game they loom over is another bloated Icon Janitor sim, often in stark contrast to pre-release marketing. Another ‘Assassin’s Creed But’.

Assassin’s Creed, but… you hunt robotic dinosaurs. Assassin’s Creed, but… you’re Spider-Man. Assassin’s Creed, but… You’re in a vaguely problematic cartoon of Cuba, and the villain from Breaking Bad has been given about three minutes of screen time in a desperate attempt to give this bullshit some prestige. The sheer number of these games seems overkill, especially considering that Assassin’s Creed itself comes in a variety of flavors spanning the entire second half of recorded history and spanning genres as diverse as stealth action, pirate simulator, and copying The Witcher 3 .

So the market for blockbuster games is saturated with derivative Ubisoft open world games and, uh, their derivatives. And everyone is fed up with them. Except that they clearly aren’t. The last Assassin’s Creed game actually grossed more than a billion dollars. No Canadian either, which would still be an absurd amount. American. Which means there’s still an absurd amount of money left over when you factor in adult things like, I don’t know, publishing fees and corporate taxes and stuff like that.

For a formula so despised, she’s extremely successful, and not just for her home stable. People who audibly groan when they announce a new Assassin’s Creed will happily devour the next Spider-Man or Ghost of Tsushima. Even the critically-favorite Breath of the Wild, which we’ve all become infatuated with after all this time for its uncompromising Nintendo attitude and beautifully interacting systems, is, whether you want to admit it or not, an open-world game in the Ubisoft franchise. Style with towers to climb and climb symbols to Janit. So what is it about Ubisoft’s specific approach that draws so much vocal disdain? At least in terms of their game design.


On the surface, Tango’s Ghostwire: Tokyo and Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion seem very different. One is a lonely supernatural thriller set on the deserted streets of Shibuya and played in a narrow first-person perspective for tense up-close encounters with eerie monstrosities heavily inspired by contemporary Japanese horror. The other, as the name suggests, features legions of potential player characters in an energetically un-abandoned near-future London, played with a third-person camera that’s superbly withdrawn to capture the sights and sounds of a city with more recognizable landmarks absorb per square mile than arguably any other major metropolitan area. Ghostwire Tokyo wants you to think about what might be around the next corner. Watch Dogs lets you look around and manipulate the world from the shadows. Basically, one game is about being haunted, the other about being the ghost.

But there’s a ton of crossover beneath the surface. Both are Ubisoft-style open-world games set in a contemporary real-world city and feature a large to-do list in which the player is tasked with liberating the city’s populace from an oppressive power. There’s also an emphasis on ray-traced puddles, although that’s just testament to the striking similarity of Britain and Japan as countries (sea nations with a constitutional monarchy, foul weather, and a culture of armed courtesy).

Mechanically, they’re as remarkably close as any other game of their kind. Same fundamentals, heavily remixed. detective vision. Do X to show Y. RPG Lite player progression. What’s interesting is that Legion is configured so that not a single part of it gets stuck on landing, while Ghostwire Tokyo – for all its flaws, many of which it shares with Legion – is an extremely satisfying package that does a few things extremely well and a few other things that are just about competent enough to pull through, but certainly enough to leave Legion in the dust in terms of metacritic averages (unless you’re annoyingly pedantic about the platforms you’re comparing) .


Legion is a sprawling, muddled mess with very little personality that, with its unique selling point of “play like any NPC,” evolved from what I can most kindly say probably seemed like a smart idea on paper. It also horribly misunderstands the place it represents: London is by no means a bustling city. It is a place where life takes place on train tracks. Its major railway stations are cathedrals of commerce: thriving hubs teeming with the hustle and bustle of big city life. In contrast, the Watch Dogs version has all legendary stations closed and boarded up and relegated the tube to a loading screen. It has no sense of place. It has no truth. It’s a strange version of London as imagined by North Americans. It’s, like the Thameslink project, a lot of ill-conceived nonsense that baffles anyone who actually lives there. Although they have turned Vauxhall tube station into a stunt ramp that will fulfill every idle fantasy of anyone who has ever walked by it.

In contrast, the authenticity of Ghostwire Tokyo seems much more real. It absolutely captures the atmosphere of wandering urban Japan in the early hours – the street furniture, the convenience store shelves with hot or cold Boss Coffee and Onigiri, the precise color and distribution of the light – it’s all perfect (apart from the demon invasion). and the prevailing feeling of fear of death). The world feels painstakingly crafted by people who know the source intimately (Tango Gameworks is based near Shibuya rather than on another continent, which probably helps). That’s not to say that games should only be set to places that developers are familiar with, just that their settings should feel tangible.

Most importantly, Ghostwire is a much shorter, better curated experience. Clearing a torii gate reveals a single digit number of side quests, not several dozen. Collectibles tend to have tangible gameplay and story benefits. In general, the focus is much narrower. Compared to bloated behemoths like AC: Valhalla, it’s lean and snappy, and doesn’t outdo its welcome, although — if you allow me to be reductive — it’s the same gory game.


The precious little we know about the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Infinity suggests that Ubisoft is correcting course, away from bloat. We’re told it will be a platform for blockbuster vignettes – big stories told through smaller experiences. In theory, the same sheer amount of AssCreed offered by Valhalla, but much more varied, and fed us in bite-sized chunks over several years. It sounds too good to be true; a way to have multiple cakes and eat them all. It’s an experiment that I hope pays off, but what’s perhaps most welcome are the rumors of an upcoming Valhalla spin-off that will take players as Basim on a thoroughly linear, stealth-focused adventure will take away.

Without being a business savvy person, it’s tempting to think Ubisoft really doesn’t need to try its next moves. Almost every other developer of its playstyle has created a gift-wrapped proof of concept for Ubisoft, outlining what could happen if it reduced the amount of content in its flagship properties, narrowed the focus to the basics, and made a commitment to longevity for to avoid the personality. They all say it’s gonna be alright, probably?

And if all else fails, just make sure you nail the location. Nobody would give a damn about Ghostwire Slough. Ghostwire: Tokyo proves there’s nothing wrong with Ubisoft’s malicious open-world formula

Fry Electronics Team

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