Ubisoft wants plot and character to be a bigger part of its multiplayer FPS in 2020. Over the course of the game's standard quarterly updates, Rainbow Six Siege presentation director Alexander Karpazis told IGN in a recent interview, Ubi aspires to tell a continuous story.
“What I can say for Year 5 is the story elements are going to be huge for us,” he said. The story will kick off in Year 5 Season 1 and involve Nighthaven, the fictional private military corporation founded by Operation Shifting Tides’ new attacker, Kali. Karpazis said that story will be told in the Battle Pass and through new operators themselves, but also mentioned that story is “wrapped up” in everything.
It’s hard to know what form this will take in game. Will Ubisoft simply roll out more cinematics, or integrate story more directly into the client? In February, Ubi unveiled Rainbow Six Universe, a team dedicated to telling more stories in Siege’s world. So far, the only Universe content we’ve seen is the “Hammer and the Scalpel” animated video from the same announcement. If this is a new pattern, we might get a new cinematic at the Six Invitational 2020 that will kick off Year 5’s story in earnest.
Siege’s first big story moment came with the co-op Outbreak event in 2018. For the first time, operators talked to each other and built personality. Although the event was only a few short missions, a little went a long way to sell a larger Siegeverse. Outbreak is now being spun into its own game made by a separate team, Rainbow Six Quarantine. With Year 5, Ubi could unite the two games under one continuity. With Overwatch and Path of Exile challenging the meaning of sequels, the two might even become a singular product someday.
Promise of more Siege fiction is appealing as the game enters its fifth year, but I’m still setting my expectations low. After the 2019 Siege cinematic released, I anticipated that lore would become a regular part of new Siege content, but the team has been quiet since. But it's important to remember that telling stories in multiplayer-focused games has unique challenges. It's hard to weave a narrative directly into 3-minute rounds, and most studios have opted to tell their tales in external media.
Of course, Team Fortress 2 did this exceptionally well over the last decade. Besides its legendary animated shorts that built memorable relationships between generically-named characters, TF2 enticed players with comics, narratively-tied events, and flavor text that suggested a bigger world. Similarly, Riot has poured budget at building a universe around League of Legends, launching a dedicated lore site with comics, cinematics, maps, and biography pages for every champion.
In the meantime, kick up your feet, because it's been too long since you last watched "Meet the Spy."