So, despite my shouts of protest over the latest Assassin’s Creed game, my pride was crumpled by a 50% off sale on the X-box store. So, over the holidays, I managed to squeeze in about 60 hours of playing and as such, I’m here to share whether my original hatred for the game was justified or whether I need to take back my statement and announce my new-found love for all things Ubisoft!
I’m going to try my best to keep this post at least somewhat concise. I feel like I say that nearly every time I write a new one, but then 3,000 words later I’m staring back at a novel! In order to keep this short, I’m only going to look at two aspects of the game before drawing a conclusion: gameplay and storyline. To me, these are the two major elements of any Assassin’s Creed game.
So, I’m going to start off with the gameplay element. Even when I was ranting about my disapproval of this game many months ago, I always said that the gameplay would probably be great. Why wouldn’t it be? The gameplay in Origins was awesome and I completely loved it!
Origins offered a fluid, more interactive, and ultimately more enjoyable fighting ability and system. Especially when you compare it to the rigid fighting style in the previous games. Odyssey matches Origins in that regard, taking many elements a step further and allowing for your fighting, hunting, and assassinating styles to be upgraded via the skill trees. This useful feature allows players to choose elements that match the way they play the game.
I loved fighting in Odyssey and I’ve always, always said that Assassin’s Creed needed RPG elements, even way back when I was writing about Rogue. Fighting higher level enemies is rarely impossible but always a challenge which makes you feel more involved in the game itself.
I also loved the mission aspect of Odyssey. The idea that the game never truly ends, due to there being at least 3 separate endings, allows players to feel like there is justification for staying in the Animus. This is something that always felt forced in previous games. Being able to jump between massive quest lines allows players to move from one story to the next whenever one grows a but tiresome or becomes too challenging due to the level difference of enemies.
The choice aspect of the game was a concern for me. Again, it’s something that the games certainly needed, and in many ways I feel Odyssey did a great job of hitting the nail on the head. It had been suggested in Origins that Leia (or whatever the modern day character’s name is) would find a way to use the Animus as a sort of time machine, whereby she isn’t just reliving memories but actually altering the true event OR running a simulation of how things could have turned out IF those decisions had been made (as is suggested by the Isu in Odyssey).
However, while I did enjoy making certain choices and having that level of freedom, there was a major downside. It rarely felt like there was a right choice. Instead, it felt like every choice was either wrong or had no real bearing on the events of the game. I think Ubisoft tried too hard to force the players to make “difficult” decisions instead of focusing on how these decisions would change game events.
The same goes for choosing which side to fight for: Athens or Sparta. Ultimately, you must choose different sides in different situations in order to follow quests or to hunt certain cult members. This made the battles seem hollow in the grand scheme of things.
The Cult of Kosmos
The cult idea stems from a similar notion used in Origins whereby players “track” targets and essentially count down members until all are dead. Odyssey certainly stepped the game up here and hunting down cult members was fun and challenging. I enjoyed having to find clues or hunt other members before I could kill leaders. It actually felt like you were working your way through a hierarchy.
I do have an issue with the cult aspect though, but this relates more to the storyline than to the gameplay itself.
The mercenary aspect of the game seemed quite exciting at first but as I got more into it, I found it rather redundant. By the time I’d ranked up a couple of tiers, I stopped feeling the need to hunt down mercenaries and instead I just killed them whenever they crossed my path (when in an aggressive manner). I still think this was a great part of the game, particularly when your bounty shot up and you suddenly had 4 bounty hunters chasing you down. It worked well within storylines but also during free roam. Speaking of storylines…
While my opinion on the gameplay is almost entirely positive, the opposite is true when it comes to the storyline. I’d read many great reviews about Odyssey, with many stating that the emotional journey topped any of the previous games. Honestly, I found it all a bit much. Aspects of it were great and really made me feel like Ubisoft were back in the game, but other areas just couldn’t be ignored.
Good vs Bad
To keep this balanced, I’m going to start with the story elements that were great. Firstly, I loved the way Odyssey blurred the lines between good and evil. In previous games, it’s been one group of people against another. In Assassin’s Creed III, for example, all of the Brits were the bad guys while all of the soon-to-be Americans were the good guys. Previous games typically take the approach that those in power are evil while those under the boot are the good guys.
Odyssey throws that to the wind by having cult members literally everywhere. There’s no reason to trust anyone (and as the game progressed I found myself trusting nobody). Sparta has cult members, Athens has cult members, your own family has cult members, and even the mercenaries have cult members. You don’t feel like the idea of good vs evil is being divided into two clear-cut groups.
I have mixed feelings about the family storyline. On the one hand, I loved the connection to the ISU and the idea of a sacred bloodline. It explains WHY this family are so special, rather than it simply being a case of them being at the right place at the right time. It also explains all the different pieces of Eden floating around in Ancient Greece (more on that in a moment). However, I felt that some of the story arcs were just a little bit too far.
I’m sure we all knew from the start that Kassandra survived the fall because it just made sense…but then to learn that she was kidnapped by an evil organisation after surviving the fall, after her mother taken her to doctors, after her family had allowed her to be dropped from a ledge in the first place….after, after, after…then to learn that you mother was a pirate and your adopted father is the leader of the Spartan army while your biological father is a 120 year old man living at the gates of the lost city of Atlantis while he tries to decode an ancient language…and you’re descended from Leonidas!
Again, it sort of makes sense when you consider the bloodline element and so it’s hard for me to hate it completely but at times I felt like I was watching some awful tale of a broken home. I think the Pythagoras element was just one step more than I could handle.
The Pieces of Eden
For me, the pieces of Eden were the major downfall of this game. Although, in saying that, they are the downfall of most of the Assassin’s Creed games. I get why they need to be in the story. Without them, it wouldn’t really feel like as Assassin’s Creed game…but then Odyssey really wasn’t an Assassin’s Creed game. You CAN assassinate people but you’re not part of the order.
Here is why the pieces of Eden annoyed me: there were at least 7 in this game! There are 4 apples of Eden, although it seems like none of these are apples that we’ve seen in previous games which means that there are at least 6, if not more in the world. The staff seemed a bit pointless and I don’t really understand its purpose. Why would a piece of Eden have been created to extend human life?
Then you have the spear which on its own I didn’t have a problem with. The same goes for the weird pyramid which requires all the various triangle segments. Now the pyramid may not have been a piece of Eden but rather just Isu technology (although I’m inclined to believe that it is indeed a POE) but it’s how the two interacted that I don’t understand.
Why would you need to use part of one piece of Eden in order to randomly upgrade another piece of Eden at a forge which apparently serves no other purpose beyond upgrading said POE? Why would the Isu NEED to upgrade the spear at all? When a civilisation has literal mind-control devices, what need to they have of a crazy-ass spear that can only be upgraded by cannablising another POE?
So, when I first encountered the Sphinx in Odyssey, I was both intrigued and disappointed. On the one hand, I had always said that Ubisoft should just stop labelling these games “Assassin’s Creed” and instead make similar style games about mythical aspects of ancient time periods. On the other hand, I enjoyed this somewhat twisted idea that these mythical creatures were people who had been used by the Isu or by the pieces of Eden themselves, in order to create these abominations that now guard the POE.
So that element on its own was fine because I could see why it would make sense within the Assassin’s Creed world. However, you then discover a cyclops on Andros who isn’t connected to a POE and is serving no real function whatsoever. It’s just there to fight you and nothing else. Why bother giving the other creatures explanations when you’re then going to create the same creature but have it just there…doing fucking nothing!
I’ve also been led to believe that there is a Kraken somewhere in the game which I can only assume follows the same illogical premise as the random-ass cyclops. There’s also the random-ass island called Angry Caldera of Arges which contains what looks like an Isu temple symbol labelled “Cyclops Arges” but is actually just empty space. One can only assume that Ubisoft are going to throw creatures there (presumably a cyclops) once they decide to finish the game.
Atlantis was without a doubt my BIGGEST disappointment in this game. When I first headed into the temple and met Pythagoras, I was so excited. I personally love the story of Atlantis (although it’s more likely that the site of Atlantis is on the North-West side of Africa which would have once been mostly underwater but I can see why they wanted to include it here) and so being able to connect it to the Isu riled me up.
To then learn that you’re not going to get to explore Atlantis at all, was a let-down. This would have been the perfect opportunity to give players more information on the Isu, maybe even a vision or insight into the goings on of Isu history and life. Instead, we get the same old messages to the Animus user and cryptic symbols and subtext. I’m getting pretty bored of utterly meaningless Isu messages and their mindless squabbling between one another. You’ll notice that Juno still hasn’t conquered the world!
I don’t see any point in waving Atlantis in front of the player’s face, only to tell them that it needs to be blocked to outside interferences. Something that didn’t even happen because Alexios keeps the staff for himself until Leia (might not be her name) takes it from him. I think Ubisoft are not only running out of ideas, but they also have no real direction for these games. I’m not sure they ever had any real direction for the series as a whole. Up until Assassin’s Creed III, the story made some sense. Then it got ridiculous and nonsensical and ultimately pointless until Origins which almost opened the door for Odyssey but then Ubisoft went through a different door entirely.
So…do I need to retract my original statement about Odyssey being the final nail in Ubisoft’s coffin? Yes and no. The truth is, Odyssey was a great game to play. I certainly can’t deny that after spending 60 hours playing it. However, for me at least, gameplay only makes up a part of any game. I much prefer a game with a GREAT storyline but poor gameplay rather than the opposite.
That’s not to say that the story for Odyssey was awful. I think Ubisoft made some tremendous progress and it was undoubtedly better than I expected it to be. In fact, I can break down my opinion on the story a little further. I found the storyline for Ancient Greece and the story of Alexios to be a little ridiculous but still entertaining and interesting (for the most part).
My problem lies mostly with the Isu elements of the game and the modern-day storyline as we follow Lelu or Leigh or whoever. Neither of these made a great deal of sense and I feel like Ubisoft needs to have a meeting where they sit down and decide where to go. They need to STOP churning out games and instead have a discussion where someone says “what the fuck are we doing in the modern day? What is the end goal? Will the story ever come to a conclusion? Will we ever see a proper Isu storyline? Will players ever get to use the Animus to access Isu memories?
What does annoy me (but is also something that at this stage doesn’t shock me) is Ubisoft including content in DLCs that seems vital to the overall storyline. DLC content should be additional. Why are we seeing the creation of the Brotherhood or the origins of the hidden blade in DLCs? That is shit that should be happening in the main game!
Thanks for reading! What did you think of Odyssey? What do you hope Ubisoft’s next step will be? Let me know down below!
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