Assassin’s Creed has been one of my favourite franchises since its inception back in 2007. Over the years, Ubisoft has taken a lot of stick for a repetitive formula, buggy games, and their annual release schedule for the games of this franchise. With 2017’s Origins, Ubisoft decided to take a fresh approach changing the linear narrative-driven game into an open-world RPG and it proved a success. Earning 81% Metacritic score and a 9/10 from IGN.com. Ironically, a year later, Odyssey was released, expanding the same formula that brought Origins its success. Adding choice-driven dialogue, a larger map, and a gender choice. However, now I am struggling to get through Odyssey, and here’s why.

We’ve got a bigger map than you

Here is my major problem with Origins and Odyssey, the maps are far too large and often left with empty spaces. How many times in the past couple of years have you heard the phrases, “it’s largest map yet” or “this games map is 10 times the size of”. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Don’t get me wrong the previous titles’ maps were big but these are next level. Origins, for example, takes place in Egypt during Cleopatra’s reign, which is mainly covered in desert, which means much of the gameplay takes place in the few cities that were present during that time. You can scout the desert but there is very little available with a few dungeons, side quests, and landmarks in between but there is just such little content placed into the map. RPGs such as The Witcher fill the ‘wild areas’ with interactable characters with extensive backstories, side quests which give unique rewards, a variety of creatures to face, the last two entries of AC failed to do that. It seems as if they were designed to fulfill historical accuracy and look visually entertaining rather than provide the gamer with great content.

Far too many stories creating an illusion of choice

Origins and Odyssey add side missions which often build their own storylines, sometimes aiming to aid the main narrative, like many RPGs before. There are also two main storylines to follow which include the main narrative and the more assassination focused missions, which in Odyssey becomes its storyline separate from the main one. These stories are often bland and forgettable and become absorbed in the oversaturated nature of the world Ubisoft has tried to create in these worlds. These side missions were also said to allow the player to create their own path for the protagonist within the constraints of the main narrative of course. However, these fail to do so, creating an illusion of choice.

Odyssey introduces dialogue trees that suggest choice, you can often pick a chosen interaction with a character or several different paths in quests. I believe that with choice should come consequences and it is often the case in these games that you do not feel the consequences. Nothing that affects you as the player changes. Mass Effect for me was the ultimate franchise in making you feel the consequences of your choices, losing an ally who you can interact with or punishing you for dealing with a situation badly. Odyssey fails to illuminate this and it is often the case that the characters you deal with a fade into the background becoming non-interactable pawns on your ship, who offer you one line or just never to be seen again.

Tedious levelling up system

Another mechanic that supports this illusion of choice, is the levelling up system. Each area has a different level set to it, meaning your enemies are typically stronger. To defeat these enemies, you must be at least three levels below their own, depending on the difficulty setting. It seems that this tries to support some sort of linear structure in the game, allowing you to only access certain quests at certain points. However, you can gain XP through fighting, side missions, and a few different ways but one thing is evident, you do not earn enough from the main story to progress. It is even the case that one point in Origins there is a ten-level jump from one area to the next. This forces the player to play through side missions and to explore the map, which soon becomes a tedious, grinding experience. Ubisoft sold Origins and Odyssey as games that can allow the player to create their own story, however, this is not the case. It is clear that the gameplay time was meant to last for a while but forcing the player to either spend real money or churn hours into the game to progress, isn’t how a game should work. Players should be able to do these things of their own free will and if you create good enough content, players will.

Where’re the good characters going?

AC is known for great characters, but ever since Ezio, most protagonists and supporting characters have one game each of development before disappearing into the background. They do sometimes appear in other games and medias adding to their development, but it is often minimal. There is a range of characters that stick in mind Leonardo Da Vinci (ACII – Revelations), Elise (Unity), and Aya (Origins), who have great backstories explored and often create memorable moments. The new RPG style of the game seems to often to make these characters fall into the background more and more, often becoming a motionless avatar on your ship. Reminding you that there but not exploring them.

The dialogue tree doesn’t help with this, although you can create your version of Alexios or Kassandra, for me they were bland and most of their personality is shown through their fighting. I feel with a linear narrative these could have been made more interesting rather than creating multiple varieties of the same character. Although not all linear stories helped character development, the Frye Twins in Syndicate being the perfect example. Jacob Frye an interesting and deep character in the expanded lore, is failed to be explored in the game, creating an image of a brute with little to no personality instead. It is often the case in AC that the characters seem to be meant for much more but often become forgettable faces.

Conclusion

A franchise that spans 10+ games, comics, novels, and animation is going to have flaws and things that people don’t like. AC games were something I never had an issue putting of putting hours into but after 90 hours of gameplay of Odyssey and still not completing the base game, I just cannot seem to find the motivation to carry on. I have little issue with the new style of gameplay if it’s filled with engaging stories and characters. Despite its flaw, Origins¸ is one of my favourite titles and has a great main story that links well to the rest of the AC universe. However, Odyssey seems more focused on keeping you playing for longer by constantly chucking stuff at you to do, weekly side missions, a new DLC every month. Which is furthered by a horrendous levelling up system that may mean you are not ready to face the challenges ahead. The AC franchise has certainly had its ups and down but if Ubisoft carries on with this focus of style over substance and quantity over quality, it is going to continue to struggle.

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