Earlier this year, I started a fresh run through Assassin's Creed Odyssey on PC. I would have preferred to carry over my considerably progress from the PlayStation 4 Pro, but alas, it was impossible. I had to start anew.
That is depressingly common for me. I'm not particularly aligned with any one platform from my gaming needs. I love my desktop PC in many cases, but sometimes I want to play a game on my 4K television, or enjoy an experience on my Switch in portable mode. Unfortunately, multi-platform games are frequently siloed. The princess is over in the other castle. You bought it on one system, the entire experience lives on that system.
It looks like we're starting to building bridges between the castles, though. With the full release of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft's new Ubisoft Connect service is now in full swing. Ubisoft Connect replaces the old Uplay and Ubisoft Club services, bringing everything under a single, unified service. The PC launcher, PC storefront, and publisher-specific trophies and rewards are all under a single banner.
Not much has actually changed with the move to Ubisoft Connect. The PC launcher is the same outside of the branding, and the Ubisoft Club rewards occupy a similar spot. Squint and you'd certainly be hard-pressed to differentiate between old and new. What's changed is a more consistent set of services from platform to platform, including the aforementioned cross-progression and cross-play.
I've long used Uplay because Ubisoft tends to send over PC review code on their own platform; that's the life of a reviewer, for better or worse. I also have my Ubisoft account connected to my PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo accounts. I'm that guy with a good amount of those weird Ubisoft coins that you get for playing their games. Sometimes I even use them!
Today, I found myself playing the PlayStation 4 version of Assassin's Creed Valhalla on my PlayStation 5, using the save from my time on PC. Given that I already had my platform accounts connected, it was actually a seamless process. I downloaded the game on PS5, loaded it up, and there was the bright, shining "Continue" waiting for me. I launched right into the game and started swinging my massive two-handed broadsword around medieval England. I didn't cry real tears, but I think the burden on my soul lifted in that moment.
Why wasn't it already like this? Every publisher has their own account system these days. I need a Square Enix account to load up Marvel's Avengers, and an EA account to enjoy FIFA 21. I have dutifully installed Battle.net on my PC, and I'm reasonably sure I have a WB Games account. Why aren't all these accounts being used to benefit me, the consumer? These accounts should be used to carry our saves from platform to platform.
Ubisoft Connect isn't perfect, mind you. If you're particularly focused on achievements, those don't seem to carry over. None of the PlayStation trophies were unlocked, despite being 15 hours in. And it only works for Ubisoft games moving forward. Even the recent Watch Dogs: Legion doesn't seem to have cross-progression support, and I doubt Ubisoft is going to add the feature to Assassin's Creed Odyssey or The Crew 2. But that doesn't make it any less essential. It means I'm more willing to buy a game twice. That's potentially more money in your pocket, publishers!
For now, we're taking baby steps. Larian Studios recently announced its own account system with the direct aim of offering cross save and cross play. And as part of the increasingly cross-gen nature of the new consoles, publishers are offering free upgrades and cross-save if you jump from PS4 to PS5, or Xbox One to Xbox Series X|S. We have no clue how long this will last, though, and there are still plenty of shenanigans involved. To wit, Yakuza: Like a Dragon will not support save transfers from PS4 to PS5, and Spider-Man: Remastered will not allow the same at launch, instead offering the feature in a future patch.
I just want to be able to play my games wherever I am. I might play Immortals: Fenyx Rising on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Switch, or even Stadia. Maybe I want to enjoy the game in HDR on my TV, drop a few hours on PC, and even get in some bedroom play on Switch. If I'm willing to pay for each version, the game should move with me instead of throwing walls in my path.
The last generation saw features like cloud saves or ubiquitous streaming and sharing becoming normal in our gaming experience. This generation, I'm hoping that easy cross-progression and cross-save join enhanced backward compatibility, ray tracing, variable refresh rate, and high-speed storage as concepts that simply blend into our day-to-day play. I'm tired of looking longingly at my progress on Assassin's Creed Odyssey trapped on the PS4, or lamenting not being able to carry my Hitman 2 PC playtime over to Xbox One. Free our game saves, damn you! It's the very least I can ask for if you're going to make me sign up for your account system.