Over the last few weeks and months, the conversation about games with loot boxes has been growing. Games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Forza Motorsport 7 have seen a significant backlash over their crates of in-game prizes, with fans concerned about gambling business models, and it’s why many fans were disappointed to learn that Assassin’s Creed Origins will also feature loot boxes.
The upcoming Ubisoft adventure will allow players to visit a vendor named Reda, spending the in-game currency called Drachma to purchase Heka Chests. The description for these chests explains that they contain “one random weapon or shield” for Assassin’s Creed Origins and they “open automatically on a purchase.”
Assassin’s Creed Origins may not be a competitive multiplayer game and therefore ‘pay to win’ isn’t a problem, but fans are concerned that this means that the game will be engineered to grind. However, game director Ashraf Ismail insists that the Heka Chests are only included for players who “hoard lots of money, if you min-max the economy system, to gamble the money and get really unique stuff.”
Ismail says that the feature is a response to “people playing the game in different ways.” The game director explains that while some players like to loot and find the items for themselves, others “focus almost entirely on the economy.” That is a “valid way to play the game,” says Ismail, and so the players can still get their hands on these unique and hard to get items by buying them instead.
But that’s not to say that Assassin’s Creed Origins doesn’t include microtransactions. There seems to be some unlockable content – including a Mummy skin for protagonist Bayek – that can be purchased in Ubisoft’s e-store for real money. Though, Ismail says that “everything that’s in the e-store you can get from playing the game. It’s just an accelerated way of playing the game.”
While some are glad that they aren’t being held back from accessing any content, some fans are still frustrated that it includes microtransactions at all. As many fans pointed out with Destiny 2 and NBA 2K18, no one wants to feel as though they are being pressured into spending extra cash on the game. Again, there’s also a fear that the ‘grind’ is set up to push players to purchase microtransactions.
Assassin’s Creed Origins marks the series’ return after a brief hiatus and promises the series’ biggest open world yet as well as tombs to explore and new enemies to defeat. The game has been making the right noises and fans are excited, but even with Ismail’s explanation, the loot boxes are being seen as a fly in the ointment. It will be interesting to see whether the new game’s success will be stymied by the controversy or whether it the series will overcome it to make a triumphant return.