An Origin Story…To The Origin Story?
Oh Assassin’s Creed, it’s hard to believe that its been 11 years since the series began. I have fond memories playing as the badass Altiar, an assassin warrior during the Third Crusades. You traveled through the holy land to hunt down your enemies, the Templar’s. It was one of the many games that came out in 2007 that would become popular franchises. Though it had problems, it was a title that showed lots of potential.
Since then we’ve had a number of sequels, spin-offs, books, comics, and a movie. Each game you would play as a different assassin from a different period in history; Renaissance Italy, The American Revolution, The Golden Age of Piracy, The French Revolution, Victorian Era London, and Ptolemaic Egypt. As time went on though, the series started to grow stale. It didn’t help that a new game came out every year, thereby making it hard to make big improvements.
After taking 2016 off we were treated to Assassin’s Creed Origins. Along with exploring how the Assassin Brotherhood was created, the game also added an open world with role playing elements. Origins was the first entry I played since Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag released in 2013. If I had rated Origins at the time of its release, I’d have given it a good 7/10. It still had a lot things that turned me off of the series but I liked the new direction towards RPG’s.
Now we have Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Set 400 hundred years before Origins, you play as a mercenary from Classical Greece during the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens. For the first time you get to choose to play as male (Alexios) or female (Kassandra), though they’re practically the same character with only minor differences. Orphaned at a young age you quickly made a name for yourself as a tough warrior that can handle any job given. After a run in with a shady character you set off to try to find and restore your lost family. Along the way you’ll have the chance to participate in the war while also discovering a secret cult pulling the strings.
Protagonist – I don’t think we’ll ever get a protagonist that’ll surpass Ezio from AC 2. That being said, Kassandra was fun to play as. She’s charming, sarcastic, and witty while also showing a deadly side. I didn’t play as Alexios, though I did watch clips with him. Personally When the option is available I find the female voice actor tends to be better then the male one, which is the case here.
Visuals – This game is beautiful. No matter where I was it felt like just as much love and attention to detail went into every corner of the environments. There’s a full day night cycle with different weather effects. Also there’s a cool photo mode that lets you take pics of your favorite spots.
Role-Playing – There’s a lot more RPG elements in Odyssey then there was in Origins. You now have branching dialogue choices, giving you the ability to shape your character they way you want. These choices will lead to one of the multiple endings, some good and some bad. Romance options are here as well, but they’re shallow and at times very awkward. You’ll earn points from completing missions that you can then use to upgrade your abilities in three different skill trees; hunter, warrior, and assassin.
Story – Oh god, where to begin with this. So the plot of the series is as follows; the assassins and Templar’s have been fighting a secret war for centuries. There goals are the same, peace and unity, but they have different methods to achieving them. The assassins value free will while the Templar’s believe that peace is only possible through control and dominance. While you play as different characters in history, there’s a second plot line that happens in the present. Turns out that the modern day assassins and Templar’s have created devices that let you relieve the memories of the past. On top of that, there are strange artifacts that belonged to a lost civilization that existed before humanity.
This is by far the weakest and dumbest aspect of the story. Ever since the developers decided to continue the series beyond the planned trilogy it seems that they have no idea what to do with it. While I never liked the modern day stuff at least the earlier games had one character that was consistent and tied everything together. The later games don’t seem to be progressing towards anything. In fact, last years Origins was sort of soft reboot. You assume the role of Layla, a new assassin recruit. Thankfully these segments are few and far between because she is very bland.
While I’ve already praised Kassandra as a character, the same can’t be said for her story. The biggest problem is how drawn out it is. There are some moments that were engaging but I found myself getting really bored half the time. Oddly enough, when I finally got to the ending it felt really rushed. Neither the conclusions to reuniting your family, taking down the cult, or even the precursor race felt satisfying to me.
Size – This game is enormous. Its as if Ubisoft looked at other successful open world RPG’s and thought that the size of the worlds and amount of stuff in them is what made them great. What they failed to realize is that we liked those games because the things you could do in them were fun. Most of the quests here feel like chores and they all follow the same pattern; kill these three guys, raid those chests, and clear out that fortress. At 60 dollars I appreciate a game that gives me my moneys worth, but quality must always come before quantity. I’d rather they’d shorten the map by half and work on making the quests more varied and fun.
Grinding – Every mission has a difficulty level to it. If you’re not strong enough to progress through the main narrative then you’ll have to build up your character by doing side quests. For hours I spent doing dull objectives like carrying a package on foot, killing snakes in some guys house, and rescuing a prisoner for the hundredth time to name a few. Other games have done this but I didn’t feel like I was being forced into it. Side quests are suppose to be mostly optional. But in order to finish this game you have to invest so much to doing endless grinding just to level up.
Microtransactions – The enemy of the gaming community. Don’t have time to spend hours to grind? Do you have extra money lying around the house? Well if you cough up more cash then you can get all the experience points and resources you need, thereby removing any sort of challenge or skill. This disgusting trend has been going for a number of years now. Beloved franchisees and other big budget games have been ruined by business practices like this. I highly recommend checking out a YouTuber called Angry Joe. He does some great video game reviews and covers issues like these. One of his best videos on the issue was his review on Star Wars Battlefront 2. It’s not made by Ubisoft but it’s a perfect example of how microtransactions are getting out of hand.
I really wanted to like this game. After playing Origins last year I had hope that the series was finally getting back on track. Greece is a great sandbox with some eye popping sights. Kassandra is a likable lead and the new RPG elements worked well, for the most part. But the endless grinding, boring quests, disappointing story, and being far too bloated brings my score way down. If you’re a die hard fan then you’ve probably already bought the game. For everyone else though, I say wait for it to go on sale if you want to try it out. At this point I think I’m done with Assassin’s Creed. I just don’t have the same attachment to it that I once did. In my opinion I’d say they should just reboot the whole thing, but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.