It’s time to take a journey. A journey through the rebirth of a beloved series. A series that has taken the player from a linear story-based experience to more of a fluid, choice-based one. It’s time to take a look at the legacy of Assassin’s Creed.
A Rich Legacy
In 2012, the release of Assassin’s Creed III signaled the end of an era with the end of Desmond Miles’ story. With this ending, the opportunity for the franchise to blossom was ripe for the taking, but with the release of the much-anticipated Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag the following year, it became clear “the best” of the series was behind us. It was untouchable and a worthy successor didn’t seem possible.
Then came Assassin’s Creed Unity. While negativity surrounded its launch and still haunts the title to this day, Unity built the foundation necessary to build up the series in the direction we see today. For the first time, you, as the player, could choose which abilities to upgrade first. You could choose which armor and weapons you wanted depending on your play style. Stealth was still encouraged but nothing stopped you from donning full heavy armor and weapons to decimate your enemies. It was the player’s choice.
The addition of player choice regarding armor, skills, and weapons became commonplace in the titles that followed Unity, but the fact remained that player choice and how the story developed was still very much up to the developers.
Welcome To Greece. Where Will Your Journey Take you?
Enter Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, where the player’s choice and decisions have come to mean something. On top of personalizing skill trees and combat styles, the most significant choice is that of deciding to play as Alexios or Kassandra for the entirety of the game. We got a taste of different playable characters in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, but playing as either Evie or Jacob Frye was limited and ultimately up to the developer, as assuming the role of Jacob was necessary to progress in the game’s story.
In Odyssey, not all Alexios and Kassandras will be the same. Yes, the developers have established an overall mood but it’s the player who will define who they are through their in-game decisions. This feature, for me, is a turning point for the Assassin’s Creed series. I find myself, depending on my mood, playing as a merciful Kassandra. Doing errands for free and using passive tactics to subdue heated situations. Other days I find myself throwing a punch at everyone who crosses my path.
Players are given a shell of a character then fill with the choices made throughout their playthrough. Personally, I’ve made some in-game decisions that I am coming to regret. For example: I spared the blood fever family on Kefalonia and now the entire island is dying because I couldn’t bring myself to kill children. Later in the game, I came across a similar situation: save a village, save a wealthy woman’s children or save the dying child in front of me. This time, I took the path of the greater good and saved the village. Will this come back to haunt me? I’ll have to wait and see.
Aspects of gameplay in Odyssey, the branching dialogue and choices with long-term effects, require a staggering number of hours spent on various parts of development. It’s not a whim or an afterthought. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was released in late 2015 so Ubisoft has had roughly three years of development to work on expanding and adapting this multi-character approach to the series. Meanwhile, the groundwork for the combat and combat customization has been complete since Assassin’s Creed Origins.
This time around, Ubisoft’s focus was nailing the animation and camera systems for the branching dialogue for both Alexios and Kassandra. There is no simple swapping between the two. Is it the best we’ve seen in the industry? No, but for the series’ first shot, I’m impressed with what Ubisoft has achieved. The scope along with the intention is so well done that I can forgive the hiccups in body and facial animations. Which, by the way, didn’t happen all that often.
A Rich and Beautiful World
I have to take a moment to praise the overall look of the game. The Assassin’s Creed series has always had strong art direction and I find myself jumping into Photo Mode any time I arrive in a new area or find myself with a clear, blue sky on a sunny day. The environments are rich and full of life. The characters you interact with have more value and are more memorable. Come on, give a hand to the NPCs that fight with brooms. Bless them. Bunde these aspects together with such an epic moment in history, we have an extremely memorable player experience.
Reflecting on the hours I’ve played so far in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and the hundreds more in the rest of the series, I would say that this is a new era. Not an era based around a sole character but an era in a new game genre. It’s still very much an Assassin’s Creed game with assassinations, stealth, and overarching storyline. But now we can make choices that are meaningful and connect us deeper into the gaming experience. For me, that’s the best thing they could have given us as the 11th installment in a very beloved series.
DISCLAIMER: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey review code was provided by Ubisoft Canada. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.