There are a number of games that come out these days that are part of a series. Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock, Watch Dogs, Thief… the list of games with sequels is long, but few have quite made it as long as Assassin’s Creed. There are 11 games in the Assassin’s Creed pantheon. The first one, released on 2007, was an action packed third-person game wherein you play an assassin getting rid of bad people. It took place in the Middle East during the medieval period. The second followed 2 years later, taking place in Italy around the time of Leonardo Da Vinci. By the third installment, it fell off my radar, so I missed Brotherhood (2010) and Revelations (2011) but came back for the weirdly titled Assassin’s Creed III in 2012. Weird only because it was now the 5th game bearing the title. This took place during the start of our nation and was plagued by long talk-y bits and following people back and forth. It seemed the developers lost the plot. So when Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag came out in 2013, I was ready to ignore it again but was convinced by our good and dear friend Paul Roeber, to give it a shot. It was great. Still, in 2014, when Rogue and Unity came out, I ignored them. Rogue offered a multiplayer functionality which I didn’t want to deal with in an Assassin’s Creed game and Unity did something else: set the game in France! No thanks. But then 2015 saw Syndicate, which takes place in 1880’s England; a place my soul feels very at home. So when Origins was announced in 2017, I picked it up. Another great game. And then this last Thanksgiving, I snagged the latest installment, Odyssey to continue the story.
Odyssey takes place in ancient Greece. You get to meet Hippocrates, Sokrates, and a veritable cornucopia of ancient philosophers. Through the adventure, you encounter so many bad people, you’d be amazed we ever made it out of the dark ages. Thank goodness for Sophacles. Or Aristotle. Or whoever helped us through it. But one thing that bothered me was the pronunciation of those names by the voice actors. Don’t misunderstand: they may be saying the names correctly! But that’s not how I grew up hearing them, so it was jarring. As a small example, Kephallonia would be pronounced Kef-a-lone-EE-ah, instead of kef-alone-eya. Alright, I’m no linguist, but I suspect you get the point. And you don’t just meet Greek scholars. There are a number of monsters and legends too. My favorite monster was one that poses riddles to you; you need not fight the creature. Medusa and our bull headed friend are not so kind. And there’s one particularly nasty Cyclops that you won’t see eye to eye with.
The thing is, Assassin’s Creed has a format that works. It’s quest driven but open-world to a vast degree. Go wherever you want and see the sights, complete missions in any order, and just enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Like Ubisoft’s other multi-part game, Far Cry, they seem to know how to keep the player interested. But as much as I liked Odyssey, I have many negative feelings about it at the same time.
Of the good things, I love the visuals. Seeing some of the settings especially from on-high…. They are breathtaking. For those unfamiliar, the Assassin gets the lay of the land by climbing to a high point and “synchronizing” giving him or her a chance to identify quests in the area. Unlike the games predecessor, there is no “tour” available which I felt was a nice element of the previous game, Origin, which allowed players to take a virtual tour of ancient Egypt. Also, unlike every game until this one, there is no sense of how many locations there are. I’m a completionist; when I know there are 100 sites, marked by question marks, I make sure to get to all of them. If there are 100 quests, I do 100 quests. Some of these quests are outstanding. Some are painful, having you march to 3 totally different areas to get things, like fangs. In fact, that particular mission glitched on me and after collecting all 3 separate fangs, the guy who I was giving them to didn’t seem to acknowledge it and I had to do that quest again. Knowing how many locations, quests, forts, or any other elements there are… these are things I want to know. In the past, it would say something like 5/21 fortresses found. Ok, that tells me all I need to know. I will find the rest!
The map is enormous too. Swimming is slow so if you can’t find a boat, or you don’t want to wait to summon yours, getting around can take a while. The missions on the water are fun though. Like Black Flag, naval battles are magnificent. You can upgrade your ship by just making money (easy: sell every weapon you find – and you find a’plenty!) and looking for natural resources. But like all the good things, bad things mirror it. There are battles that allow you to destabilizing a nation. Once destabilized, you can go in and fight for Sparta or Athens. But I rapidly forgot who I was supposed to be siding with and just went with whatever side gave the better loot, which is indicated before the battle. By the end, I didn’t see any difference to helping one side or the other. And there’s an entire Mercenary chain that allows you to be the best of all of them as you fight them, but there’s no clear indication of how to get to the top of that list. The game just throws more and more mercenaries after you when you commit a crime. It is highly frustrating when you’re dealing with 5 of them at once. One of my favorite abilities is to kick bad guys off immense cliffs, but mercenaries can’t be kicked. You know, because they have bolts in their feet, as they did back in ancient Greece!
The one element I really loved was looking for Cultists. (No, fellow Cthulhuites, not those cultists!) This game introduces you to a subplot and it does tell you how many you need to find. Getting to the center of the web is outstanding. Again, the flip side…. You have some degree of freedom for how you dispatch some of the Cultists. Ultimately I’m a fan of Doctor Who and believe in hope, so I do try, whenever possible, to offer the bad guy a chance for the easy way out. While I feel good when the take the easy path, there doesn’t seem to be any merit to it. When looking at the cultist chart, they still show as “dead” even when they are not.
There’s also a quest for locating Atlantis which is fun but by the time the game “ended” I wasn’t sure what the main object of the game was. Was it to find and seal Atlantis? Or to kill the Cultists? For all I know, it’s possible that I have an entire story line waiting to be discovered. There were plenty of yellow exclamation marks indicating quests, but I stopped going for them when one Spartan warrior asked me to go find 3 seals from Athenian commanders, while an Athenean warrior asked me to do the same from Spartan commanders. It was one of those “go waste time” quests.
The one thing I’ve gotten totally tired of is the secondary story. See, Assassin’s Creed always starts in the now. Through the use of a device called The Animus, you plug into race memories to see what happened back in time. But at some point in the game you always come out of the Animus to have more backstory filled in… a backstory that I can’t imagine anyone cares about any more. During this time, you wonder a lab or hidden location, read emails to paint a bigger picture, and do a bit of research before going back for the fun. Frankly, I’d rather just be playing as the character you selected, not have to come out to be part of a story that ultimately means nothing. (This game gives you the option to play as a male or female. I went totally off my normal script by playing as the female, Kassandra. I have no explanation as to why. Must be the Whittaker effect…)
That all said, you do get bang for buck. I picked the game up during a Steam sale for $40; it retails for $60. At 121 hours into the game and just about 3 months, I completed all the “main quests” and left the two warriors waiting for their seals. A number of undiscovered side quests still showed up on the map, but alas, they may go unresolved for the rest of time. Assassin’s Creed has a pattern that works but this one needed a bit of tweaking. I will stick with a game until completion but that entails knowing what the completion point is. If you just want a game that will last you for a long time with some marvelous action, this game is a good one. If you want something a little more “driven” with a plot that you can follow until the end, maybe grab one of the earlier games. Origins did give you a sense of completion when you were done. ML