We had thought Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed III six separate releases was confusing. The plans for the game everyone at RPS is most excited to play this year, Dishonored, now makes that move look positively bland. In a display of eye-rolling pre-order bonus alchemy, Bethesda have announced a divisive and flat-out bizarre set of retailer-dependent exclusives. It takes the form of a handy guide for publishers to see exactly how they shouldn't promote a game, as you can see below.
This has been a superbly promoted and hyped game - and given the design team behind it, it's a game we're all ridiculously eager to play - but what we learned this morning revealed some of the most ludicrous shop-pandering nonsense we've ever seen. Seemingly designed to make the purchasing decision for customers as pointlessly confusing as possible, Bethesda have done deals with Game & Gamestation, Tesco, Shop.to.net, and Amazon.co.uk (and presumably similar in other countries), that make us not want to buy it from anywhere.
Let examine the mess.
Game/Gamestation have the Special Edition, containing a fucking tarot deck, along with the Arcane Assassin Downloadable Upgrade Pack. In that you get the Void Channel power, the ability to consume white rats for mana, a statue of whale in the game that means you get an additional slot for bone charm bonuses, an "unhidden book" called Filed Notes: The Journal of Granny Rags, 500 bonus coins, and, er, white rats in the game won't be hostile to you.
But if you pick Tesco's Shadow Rat Downloadable Upgrade Pack, you'll get an ability called Delicate Touch, making breaking glass a quieter affair, another ability called Voyeur that lets you see better through keyholes, and a third ability called Deep Breather, that lets you breathe for longer under water. There's also a Golden Rat statue, that also unlocks a bone charm, the 500 bonus coins, and an unhidden book called Field Notes: The Royal Spy.
Then there's Shop.To.Net, with the Backstreet Butcher Downloadable Upgrade Pack. That has Fencer, improving your sword on sword advantage, Fire Water, letting you have bigger explosions from whiskey bottles, and Blast Resistant, reducing the explosion damage you take. There's a Wolfhound statue, doing the same as above, and a book called Early Life And Times: Slackjaw, along with the 500 magical bonus coins.
And finally there's Amazon.co.uk, with the sodding hell I'm so pissed off Acrobatic Killer Downloadable Upgrade Pack. This one has Raven, a health bonus for drop-down assassinations, Quick Dodge to help you move out of an arrow's way, and River Affinity, speeding up your swimming. There's a sodding Hagfish statue, an unhidden book called Rumours And Sightings: Daud, and more bloody coins, whatever the hell they're for.
I'm absolutely buggered if I'm going to include the four videos that accompany each of these boxes, but the claim made is that you buy the box that's "tailored to your play style." OF A GAME YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED YET, BECAUSE YOU'RE BUYING IT.
Oh good GRIEF.
Game/Gamestation, Amazon and Tesco appear to be taking pre-orders at £30 for these packs, so at least they don't cost extra. StopTo is charging £25 for the PC version, and an extra penny for the extra stuff, but saying it's unavailable.
What is a customer supposed to do here? How is this helping anyone? I don't shop in Tesco, but maybe I want to be able to break glass quietly? And why does only one retailer get immunity from white rats? And, if I buy the game online - because IT'S NOT 1998 ANY MORE - what am I missing out on? And will I suffer from having one less bone thing slot something?
WHO IS THIS HELPING?
The shops. That's who. But the problem is, it's all sold as if it's of benefit to all of us. And it isn't. It's a pain in our lives, when we just want to buy the complete, finished version of the game, so we can play it as the developers intended. Bloody well let us.