When I start a new Ubisoft game for the first time, I don’t immediately play it. No, I find the Ubisoft Club option in the game’s menu, load it up and start unlocking rewards. The rewards are rarely good and they sometimes imbalance my game, but I can’t help myself.
What did I do when I started The Crew 2 this week?
Grabbed myself this comically unimpressive legendary exclusive outfit...
Picked up this gold helmet...
At least I had the self control not to snatch this soundtrack that I’d never listen to...
And when I started Far Cry 5 a few months back?
I snagged the baseball gear...
And the Rabbids bobblehead...
Ubisoft Club is, in part, a rewards programme, similar to other loyalty programmes for companies and products of all types. As I accomplish things in Ubisoft games, I accrue gold Ubisoft points that I can then redeem for virtual stuff.
The things you can get should be neat extras for the game, but inessential for those not in the Club. In addition to new outfits or variations on weapons, there might be a booster pack that contains some crafting materials, or in-game money that I can use to progress through a single-player mode more quickly.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins’ Club Rewards improved throughout the game’s six-month post-release season, with new crossover outfits tied to other AC or Ubisoft games added regularly. That game had dozens of weapons available through regular gameplay, but you could get Club exclusives, too. I grabbed them and, if I recall correctly, I briefly enjoyed the advantage of having better weapons than I’d found through gameplay. Eventually, what I found in the game topped anything in the Club.
I enjoy the loop Ubisoft provides in which my thorough playing of an Assassin’s Creed game can earn me enough gold to unlock something in a Far Cry. That cross-game potential is neat. But I also sense I’m feeding some bad impulses with all of this.
I should look askance at anything that distracts from the purity of starting a game and just playing it—aside from taking the time to properly invert the Y axis, of course. I should start a game with the desire to interact with its gameplay, not first explore what sort-of-free extras I can grab.
I also don’t think I’m doing the world of game design any favours by supporting a system that encourages developers to make tiny pieces of their games that can be carved out and doled out separately.
Most of the time, Ubisoft seems to handle this programme responsibly, though ironically their worst abuse of it is probably what got me hooked. Go back to 2009's Assassin’s Creed II, when Ubisoft’s rewards programme was the exclusive way to unlock an elaborate parkour-filled, lore-filled Auditore family crypt. Since then, I’ve always worried that something as involved and essential might be locked behind a Club reward.
My worry is unfounded, these days. Some pre-order or retailer-exclusive quests might show up later as a Club bonus, but even that has been rare and has compensated for the more odious holding back of that content for pre-orders and specific retailers.
The whole thing is free, so I try not to feel too bad about it. And now, I’m somewhat relieved to confess that, of all things, Ubisoft Club rewards are my gaming vice.
Kotaku Game Diary
Daily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.