Rainbow Six Siege Year 7 Is A Definitive Narrative Shift That's Building To Something Big
Like its initial counter-terrorism narrative, Siege is leaving behind its competitive sports fantasy story with the start of Demon Veil.
Rainbow Six Siege Year 7, Season 1, called Demon Veil, kicks off March 15. The new year marks another narrative shift for Ubisoft Montreal's team-based shooter, which last changed gears at the start of Year 4--that saw Siege move away from its counter-terrorism narrative and transform into a competitive sports fantasy.
"Year 7 is a definite shift, but I think it's way more organic than the last time we pivoted as a brand," Rainbow Six Siege realization director Alex Lima told GameSpot. "The move towards a sport-like narrative was understandable as it gave us some much-needed levity during that time. The problem was that it happened overnight in Year 4, and our players didn't quite understand it."
According to Lima, Year 7 will see Siege refocus on the fact that Siege's Operators are specialist soldiers, not athletes. Building upon the function and personalities of Siege's massive roster of Operators, the new narrative will focus on Rainbow's rivalry with Nighthaven, a private military company with involvement in criminal activity across the globe, as Rainbow begins to once again respond to international threats.
"We are leaving behind the sports competition narrative, but we're not forgetting it," Lima said. "Our story 'The Program' was key in preparing our Operators for what comes next. Now that we take the story 'Back on the Road' and make Operators operational again, three years of training and simulation will be invaluable."
This is the first time that Siege has built up to such a major storyline over a long period of time. Ubisoft Montreal has been dropping hints about this major story development for years via trailers, blog posts, and in-game text logs, slowly transforming Siege into a more narrative-driven service game piece-by-piece--much in the same way that Destiny 2 worked its way up to The Witch Queen or Apex Legends set-up The Broken Ghost.
"It certainly did not get written overnight," Lima said. "We wanted Nighthaven's inception to be more substantial and conflictual back when we launched [Year 4, Season 4] Shifting Tides, but the team felt it was too soon to delve into a rival organization, so we've been planting seeds for years."
The introduction of Nighthaven represents the first external organization that can interfere with Rainbow since the game's launch, which saw the team of soldiers going up against an international terrorist group called The White Masks. That group was faceless and not very interesting, however. They weren't so much a foe to fight in so much an antagonistic force that was just kind of there.
Nighthaven addresses that shortcoming right out the gate--the group is led and composed of many of the Operators added to Siege since the start of Year 4. Plus, five of the Operators that have been a part of Rainbow for a while--Ela, Smoke, Finka, Pulse, and IQ--defected from the team at the end of Year 6 in order to join Nighthaven. So, this isn't just some purely evil group that Rainbow is fighting. It's a group composed of Rainbow's former friends and allies.
This narrative has a large emotional investment as well, as it sees families split on their ideologies. As seen in the cinematic trailer Sisters In Arms, Ela's decision to join Nighthaven creates a schism between her and her sister, fellow Operator Zofia. Similarly, Pulse is the husband of Hibana, and she's choosing to stay with Rainbow. There are stakes in this rivalry that are worth caring about.
You may notice that none of those names are big players in Siege's world--that's by design. Going forward, Siege will highlight more of the Operators that traditionally stick to the sidelines when it comes to major story beats. So players can expect more storylines like what we saw in Sisters In Arms--it's not always going to be about Ash from now on.
"We have a few standout personalities who have become star protagonists," Lima said. "Ash, Mira, and Thermite take up a lot of screen time as mission givers or sources of exposition. We've seen them in a lot of Siege assets including peripheral Rainbow Six titles. What I always love to do is take a character people don't know much about and bring them front and center, let them take the mic and lead the story."
Lima added: "It's why telling the story of Ela and Zofia was so appealing. If you need to make a big narrative shift, instinctively you think to use more spotlighted characters to do it. But you'll notice none of the big Operators are featured in Sisters in Arms. It's a very intimate story about relatively unknown characters meant to signify something bigger that will affect all of Rainbow. We even end on Smoke, which we've never really 'seen' in a big CGI before. That's what I love about telling Siege stories, there are so many protagonists to choose from with an intense fanbase rooting for each."
Ubisoft Montreal is planning on having this narrative impact more than just the context surrounding Siege--elements of playing the game will change too. Going forward, the game's story and gameplay won't be treated as completely separate things. Instead, one can impact the other. Lima told me about how that might play out, teasing that reactionary in-match voice lines that evolve over time to better reflect the changing relationships between certain Operators may be in Siege's future.
"There is no better way to have relationship dynamics realized than through in-game voice lines," Lima said. "The team has been interested in implementing this for years. It stands as an objective for Year 8 with tons of interest from our audio and business teams. We'll have more info on this when discussing our future roadmap with our community."
Until then, fans can expect to see the dynamic between Rainbow and Nighthaven continue to evolve in traditional trailers. However, unlike the mostly disjointed trailers of past years, Year 7 will begin a trend of Ubisoft Montreal tackling Siege as an episodic story that's more akin to a TV show.
"We are, for the first time with Year 7, treating each entry of our animated shorts like an episode of a series that culminates in the annual CGI," Lima said. "Our narrative pages on the game's website also serve as added exposition for this episodic narrative. It's very hard to detail a year's worth of narrative, as we need to leverage new Operators in our assets--where they're from, what they can do or what they look like. What we can do is paint with a broad brush and plan for high-level events in which legacy Operators can be implicated, using new Operators instead as supporting characters. With that said, we have Year 7 almost entirely mapped out including our next big CGI which is going to be insane."
Rainbow Six Siege Year 7, Season 1 is called Demon Veil. It adds a new defender, Azami. The Japanese Operator can create makeshift barriers with her kunai-shaped Kiba Barrier gadgets. As seen in The Story of Azami trailer, she joins Rainbow under the condition that Hibana helps her track down and get revenge on Quantum Concepts and Robotics--this is the R&D unit for Nighthaven, created and run by Osa, an Operator added to Siege in Year 6, Season 3: Crystal Guard.
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