Ghost Recon Breakpoint - No More Squad Support For Solo Players
Ghost Recon Wildlands was my introduction to this long-standing Ubisoft franchise. I bought the game a year after launch so got a good deal on a comprehensive package of all the content. Broadly I like the game and really enjoyed the massive open world environment. Although there was a four-player co-op option, I tackled the game using A.I. teammates and didn’t find them as problematic as some player did. Perhaps their tactical deficiencies were more prevalent at higher difficulty levels. As for the characters’ cheesy dialogue, it really wasn’t a problem. Most banter between friends in real life is far from erudite. So it is unrealistic to expect witty ripostes and “puckish” epigrams from a squad of special forces soldiers. Overall, I found playing through the game this way, rather than with other players a far more enjoyable experience. I could take my time, plan my strategy and my AI team mainly did what I expected them to do. For a player of my skill level, this was a win, win situation.
Hence, I was pleased to learn of a direct sequel to the 2017 game and watched the announcement trailer for Ghost Recon Breakpoint with interest. Frankly, these sorts of videos don’t really give you much information about the nuts and bolts of the game, so I then decided to see what a few websites had to say about what was on offer. It didn’t take long for me to read a short paragraph that effectively killed my interest in Ghost Recon Breakpoint dead. It would appear that Ubisoft have elected not to address the shortcomings of the squad A.I. in this iteration of the game. Rather than increase their functionality and give the player greater control over their actions, they’ve simply removed them from solo play. If you want the support of a full squad you will have to play with other players and endure the problems that are inherent with such a system. According to Emil Daubon, the lead writer on the game “the mission statement that we received was we want to create a fantasy that replicates being alone trapped behind enemy lines. Ultimately, if you choose to play a solo, you have the option to immerse yourself deeply in that aspect of the fantasy. The A.I. teammates would have taken away from that”. Yeah and if my Granny had wheels, she’d be a wagon.
I really dislike this ongoing mindset of primarily placing a player’s enjoyment and progress in a game, in the hands of other players. I don’t enjoy being reliant on random strangers, all of whom have different play styles, varying ability and personal notions of what is or isn’t “fun”. Perhaps the biggest problems for me is that such auto-grouping systems have zero impact over issues such as social skills and one’s ability to interact with others in a commensurate fashion. The alternative to this is to play with friends but most of the people I have on my various friends lists tend to play different genres of games. I doubt if I know anyone who will play Ghost Recon Breakpoint. If I do, then there’s the logistics of arranging a suitable play session that suits respective time zones. Another issue that stems from removing the A.I. squad is that solo players are now at a disadvantage when it comes to effectively using vehicles. There are apparently over 30 available to use in the game, but solo players will no longer have teammates that can utilise turrets and provide tactical support. And then there’s the issue of the famous sync shot mechanics. In previous games, you’d potion your squad and simultaneously take down multiple enemies. It would seem that Ubisoft have got around this by allowing the solo player to now use drones, but it lacks the panache of the original method.
So there you have it. Once again, a game studio has made a change to a long-standing game mechanic associated with a franchise and as a result lost a percentage of potential customers. I have no idea if that is a large or relatively small number of players, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way about the ubiquity of co-operative play. It one of the reasons I decided not to buy the new World War Z game. Again, there is no single player mode with an A.I. Squad. As for the reasons used to justify such decisions such as “immersion” and such like, I simply don’t believe them. Removing A.I. teammates means eliminating a problem. It is one less coding headache to address and it makes it easier for companies such as Ubisoft to assemble their cookie cutter games. That’s not to say that their games are bad, because they are not. But they all seem to share common components, systems and mechanics. Without straying into hyperbole, it is this approach to gaming and the continued stripping away of anything that doesn’t easily integrate into the “live serves” business model, that is driving the triple A video games industry towards an inevitable crash or major recalibration.