Summary: Gameplay will be amazing and as far as RPG’s go it will probably be awesome. In terms of the storyline and the franchise as a whole, it will be a failure, alienating any remaining fans who will ultimately feel that Ubisoft has finally given up on them!
With the release of Assassin’s Creed: Origins still fresh in our minds (along with the many failed yearly-releases prior to it), 2018 marks the release year for the next game in the franchise: Odyssey. It’s worth noting that when I started writing this post, I was incredibly excited by the prospects of this game. I’d seen only bits of the trailer and heard rumours but perhaps still feeling the after-glow from Origins, I was in a positive mind-set. Unfortunately, after only a miniscule amount of research, my opinion has shifted rather drastically! So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the next game and why all my contempt for Ubisoft has come flooding back!
I’ll keep this short as I’ve already delved deep into my views on Origins but let’s briefly cover some of the points that will be relevant to the rest of this post. For starters, let’s explore the gameplay. Origins changed and improved the combat system of AC quite drastically. After all, Assassin’s Creed used to be more heavily focussed on…well…assassinating. But I’m happy to say that the gameplay in general is without a doubt number 1 as far as the franchise goes. However, there were some issues with the story.
For starters, there’s now this switch from Desmond being “the chosen one” to Layla which from a logical standpoint alone just doesn’t make a great deal of sense. I understand why they need a new main character but I actually quite enjoyed the idea that you were the person joining Abstergo or helping the assassins. We’ve had previous-civilisation being communicate with Desmond using their technology and now they’ve simply scrapped that and now have different being (from after the cataclysm) doing the same thing with Layla. Why couldn’t the previous beings see Layla as being of value? We’ll stop there because if we start picking apart the story elements then there will be nothing left!
Why Origins and Odyssey Aren’t Compatible!
Before I explore Odyssey in depth, I’m going to touch upon why Ubisoft has fucked up (for lack of a better phrase). You see, Origins touched upon what I, and I’m sure others, wanted from the franchise: The Origins of the Assassins. The game ended in such a way that the path was set for future games to explore the early days of the Brotherhood. The story of Bayek and Aya may be over (although I’m still unsure how they both ended up in the same tomb given that they parted ways) but the ground was set for advancing the Brotherhood.
This idea was undermined in two ways: 1) Upon completing the main storyline, the brotherhood just magically seems to form. There are suddenly Assassin Bureaus within Egypt which are marked with the same symbol we see in Assassins Creed 1 and have the familiar dude standing behind a desk. These come out of nowhere! And 2) There is a DLC which appears to allow the player to explore the training of recruits and the formation of the new Brotherhood. I think this was a horrible idea. This isn’t something that should have just been glossed over but rather the focus of the next game!
This is where Odyssey also fucks up! Origins takes place around 50BCE and essentially introduces us to all the main game ideas: the hidden blade, the leap of faith, the formation of the Brotherhood, ETC. Yet Odyssey takes place nearly 400 years earlier in 431BCE! I’m going to touch on this in more detail momentarily but I’m sure you can understand where the problems are going to arise.
Exploring the Potential Issues of Odyssey!
Odyssey does have a number of potential problems, many of which are likely going to rip the heart and soul out of the series (or at least what little heart and soul is left from all the games post AC: Revelations). That’s not to say that I can’t see the benefits of these changes but it seems that Ubisoft needs to make decision on whether they want to keep current fans happy or reel in new ones.
The Power of Choice
Choice isn’t a major aspect of the previous AC games as the entire premise is that you’re reliving memories. You can’t change the past, only experience it. This idea becomes a little fuzzy from AC: Black Flag onwards as the games are sort of games within games i.e. Abstergo has turned memories accessed through the Animus into games accessed through the Helix system. Only the later versions (designed for gameplay by Abstergo industries) allow for this. Even then, your choices are limited to whether or not you wish to explore an area or hunt animals, etc. These choice don’t impact the storyline in any way and nor should they.
Odyssey hopes to change this entirely! Not only can you choose your sex but also who you enter into dialogue (or even romantic relationships) with. This goes a step further as you can change history through fighting for different factions/sides and ultimately the outcome of the game is set to vary depending on your decisions. How? How is this possible?
As far as I’ve read, Ubisoft have explained that Layla’s Animus allows for access to corrupted files and therefore more information…or some bullshit like that. So the choices only appear as choices to the player but are in fact just the deciphering of previously unknown data. It seems that if this turns out to be the case then Ubisoft missed a trick. All the precursor temples seemed to hint at the idea that Layla could potentially travel through time via the Animus and actually alter events. Many speculated that this would allow for the return of Desmond while others figured it was just a way to introduce choice to the games in a similar manner as Bioshock or Mass Effect.
While the whole time travel idea would have been completely ridiculous, I wouldn’t object to it entirely…IF it was used properly. So the game would have to explain how it becomes possible, why the precursor civilisations never used it, the limitations of such technology, etc. They can’t just snap their fingers and wave the “Layla’s Animus is special” wand across the storyline.
Assassin’s Creed or Soldier’s Creed?
This next aspect has me more worried than any other aspect of the game. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was a great game. It was refreshing, it had interesting characters, it introduced entirely new gameplay…but it wasn’t an Assassin’s Creed game, it was a pirate game. Odyssey looks to essentially do the same. Since Origins set up everything and marks the start of the Brotherhood, the only logical step was forwards (or so far back that we explore precursor memories).
So far there hasn’t been a hidden blade mentioned or shown within the trailers or walkthroughs, something that the game would be lost without. Sure, Origins sprung a hidden blade out of nowhere but we don’t need a game solely to explore the origins of the hidden blade. Similarly, all other tricks that Bayek learned through being a Medjay don’t need explained. There’s a worrying shot where an inventory items reads the phrase “Everything is permitted” which I imagine will serve absolutely no story element whatsoever and is simply there as a reminder to players that they are in fact playing as Assassin’s Creed game. Pointless additions such as this are what infuriate me! Who thought that was a good idea? I’d imagine someone who has NEVER played an Assassin’s Creed game!
Odyssey looks set up to become a war game and nothing more. Sure, Ubisoft will throw in some nonsensical and ultimately undermining objects or characters but I get the feeling that this is the end of the franchise for me. Ubisoft are simply trying to create a game that appeals to more people while not starting a fresh franchise. Essentially they want to keep the Assassin’s Creed fans while bringing in more by removing many of the base Assassin’s Creed elements.
Piece of Eden
One of my biggest issues with Unity and Syndicate (and Rogue and Black Flag to a lesser extent) was that the pieces of Eden weren’t used to serve any real function. They were added simply to give the game something to revolve around. In Assassin’s Creed 1, the POE idea was a twist which introduced itself gradually into both the present and past storylines. In AC II, they were further explored and in Brotherhood and Revelations they acted as vital story components. The same could be said for 3, Black Flag and Rogue but by Unity and Syndicate they were nothing more than objectives.
Odyssey seems to be throwing the same tactics into play by giving us the Spear of Leonidis, which was mentioned briefly in Origins. What function will this serve? I’m willing to wager absolutely none whatsoever. It will be a fancy toy for the character to play with and by the looks of things, it will simply introduce the familiar game elements that shouldn’t exist in that time such as the leap of faith or perhaps it replaces the hidden blade for assassinations. It’s not going to play a role in the modern day storyline, it’s not going to create a larger, overarching storyline, and it’s not going to be of any historical significance beyond this game.
Potential Positive Aspects of Odyssey
It wouldn’t be fair of me to say that Odyssey is without flare. I think there are some incredibly interesting aspects to the game and if it wasn’t part of a franchise that I love and wish to see explored further then it would be getting two thumbs up from me. Let’s take a look at what stands out:
The RPG Element
Since about Assassin’s Creed III or Black Flag I’ve been saying that the series needs to do two things: 1) It needs to explore the Origins of the Assassin’s and 2) it needs to introduce a skill system. Now that Origins has successfully implemented both of these, only the latter needs to continue. Odyssey certainly seems to take the RPG element further with much deeper customization options which allow players to make the character appear however they like. They can develop relationships with NPCs and even turn these into romantic relationships. These sorts of aspects will allow for different story elements and for different directions to be taken.
It does look like they’ve somewhat simplified the skill tree though and this does have me a little worried. When they tested the idea out in Unity and Syndicate, they added stupid abilities and often there were only a few to choose from. They should exist simply for the sake of it, they should give player a tactical advantage based on their style of play.
Odyssey also appears to be introducing drastically larger warfare to that of previous games. Once again, I highlight that this is exactly how Ubisoft does things: they introduce an idea briefly in one game (in Origins we had the war part which was mostly glossed over but allowed for momentary participation) and then use that as a focus for the next game. I’d be lying if I said that the game doesn’t just look like a human version of Shadow of Mordor.
That being said, it still looks highly entertaining. I mean even in Skyrim and the like, we only get very minimal wars and even invasions of settlements ultimately only involve like 20 soldiers. If Odyssey manages to keep the warfare interesting then they could have a great fighting game on their hands.
The ISU and Juno
One issue that the franchise keeps running into over and over again is consistency. In Assassin’s Creed we are introduced to the Pieces of Eden and the notion that these objects were from an intelligence civilisation. It isn’t until AC 2 that we are introduced to “those who came before”. This idea is developed further in Brotherhood, Revelations, 3 and even to Black Flag, which seems to mark the end of this chapter. Juno, a being that has just escaped into the world is literally never heard from again in the games.
All the precursor stuff is essentially ignored and rebooted with Origins where we now have new messages directly to Layla. I’m going to discuss this idea in a moment but I think we can agree that the story needs to develop one way or another. Ubisoft can’t just start using the ISU in the same manner they use the Pieces of Eden: Only bringing them into the story as a way of adding excitement or creating mystery. It appears that Juno’s storyline has been moved to comics and so it seems like Layla and her interactions with new ISU members will be the focus. There needs to be some genuine traction. They can’t just keep sending messages! Ubisoft have been teasing us with Precursor DNA use since Black Flag (although Shaun mentions a similar premise in AC III) and yet we’ve still had nothing.
I think that if Odyssey doesn’t involve almost entirely around the ISU then that aspect of the games needs to just be forgotten about. Was it fun finding the temples in Origins? Hell yeah! I thought it was fucking amazing! But ONLY if it actually serves some sort of purpose. Finding these cool but otherwise insignificant items isn’t fun if they are only there to give us something cool to look at. Adding aspect like that to a game simply for the sake of it is moroic!
Ubisoft Hates Fans!
A bold statement, I know. Why would a company hate its fans? Well, it’s because once they have fans they still crave more. By the time Assassin’s Creed 3 came out, many fans had lost interest and new fans couldn’t be bothered playing through all the games to catch up. So we get Black Flag, Rogue, Unity, Syndicate and even Origins which are all entirely self-contained storylines. You don’t need to have played a single game for most of the storylines to make sense and as such, each game doesn’t feel connected to the next beyond its name. I mean sure, they throw in a reference or two: a piece of armour, a sword, random trinkets or actual messages, but in terms of content with substance? No!
Ubisoft needs to decide what they want to do: do they want to create a fan base or do they want each game to be playable by anyone, despite them never having played an AC game before? I get the feeling that it’s the latter. I had such high hopes with Origins and I hoped so badly that it would continue and would allow for the development of genuinely interesting storylines. I mean they had everything from 50BCE onwards to explore! We could have had an Aya based game that starts off with the assassination of Cleopatra! The possibilities were endless! Sadly it seems that Ubisoft cares very little about the lore and even less about the dedicated fans.
All Ubisoft does is take the base points of a game and copy it to the next. What did people like in Origins? They liked using Senu to spot targets, they liked the RPG element, they like the more basic navy battles…OK, let’s throw all that into our next game. I said it in my Origins review and I’ll say it again: using a bird doesn’t make sense in every context and sure as shit doesn’t in Odyssey.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on Odyssey? Do you think it will destroy what’s left of the franchise? Let me know down below!
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