Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s Emil Daubon on setting the game in a fictional location and its darker storytelling
Ghost Recon is a franchise that has long established its roots in the real-world. Every game in the franchise other than Breakpoint has been set in a real-world location. The most recent entry, Wildlands, was set in Bolivia and told a story of a country overrun by gangs, drugs and violence. The government of Bolivia was none too thrilled with the depiction of its country as a Narcostate and filed a formal complaint to the French Embassy.
With that kind of heat coming down on Wildlands, I assumed the move to the fictional island of Auroa in Breakpoint was about preventing controversy. However, according to writer and military advisor Emil Daubon, the shift to a fictional location was about the narrative and the content.
By setting Breakpoint in a fictional location, Daubon said that Ubisoft has “tremendous licence to expand both on the physical landscapes and the narrative really as [they] see fit.”
Ghost Recon Breakpoint – Auroa
According to Daubon, the decision to use a fictional location was made very early on in development. “Ghost Recon has always adhered very strictly to the Tom Clancy parameters,” he explained. “Stories based in very real and possible technological scenarios but with sort of fantastical contingencies.”
Although Auroa is fictional, it still fits within those parameters. It’s a place that could easily exist in our world. And it’s one that looks familiar and recognisable.
Daubon also told me that “knowing that we wanted to sort of grow a natural narrative that allowed us to expand on it really required the setting to be fictional.
“In theory, we can apply any physical topography that we want, any sort of social or political landscapes that we need, all to support the overarching narrative.”
While Wildlands told a serious story, it had a light tone and seemed to have fun with the idea of a Narcostate, frequently introducing levity to proceedings and including genuine moments of comedy. Breakpoint is a far cry from its predecessor and Daubon told me that it was the core team’s vision to explore a darker narrative.
He insists that Breakpoint still has moments of lightness; “real life isn’t always dark and serious and we had to be able to rely on sort of a more human element,” he says. However, it’s definitely a far darker game and includes murky themes.
The two pillars of the narrative are autonomous tech and the potential for it to grow beyond our control and to be used for evil and the “notion of the most dangerous adversary for a ghost being another ghost.” Daubon says that Breakpoint explores these themes and to do so, it requires the narrative to be gritty and morally complex.
Despite the team wanting to go down this narrative path, Daubon also told me that by virtue of the story Ubisoft was telling the darker mood grew “organically as the subject matter was explored more deeply and the characters began to evolve.”
Daubon stops short of calling Breakpoint a commentary and in fact is adamant that the game is “in no way a commentary.”
The fact is that a lot of this technology, you know drone technology and AI is advancing at an exponential rate and it can go in any number of directions.
And there’s a reality that this explores one possible ‘what if’ contingency. So really the idea was never to take a stance on anything. It was to create an immersive fantasy with scenarios and situations and parameters that were believable, based on sort of current situations that takes it to an entirely extreme direction.
Having played Ghost Recon Breakpoint I’m not sure I agree with Daubon’s take on there being no commentary, though it may be that I’m drawing my own conclusions based on my perception of the narrative.
Breakpoint definitely has an interesting setting and plot and is well worth exploring thanks to the writing and effort of people like Emil Daubon.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint is available now.