With more entries than a Love Island contestant’s little black book, Ubisoft’s flagship franchise is returning sooner than expected, hitting Xbox One, PS4, and PC on October 25, 2018. The reason it’s such a surprise is because 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins came after a year-long break, and that’s something video game companies just don’t do. These companies are here to make money, and taking a year off when a series is selling well, reviewing decently, and even spawning (shit) Hollywood movies films is, well, it’s rather unprecedented and brilliantly consumer friendly.
Origins came along and wowed most of us, actually making significant changes to the combat while also embracing high-end tech and giving us 4K upscaled visuals and, frankly, gorgeous HDR lighting throughout Egypt. Odyssey will be the 21st Assassin’s Creed game in just over 10 years, and simply releasing “Origins 2” under a new name won’t be enough – not when you’ve curried favour with series fans, especially the long-term ones who you finally won back. Put simply, there are issues that need addressing.
The NPCs need work, and so do the side-quests
Embracing Modern Video Game Design, Origins ditched the narrative-inspired skill progression and instead gave us an XP bar to fill, and skills to unlock. In other AC games you generally flitted around the world doing side-quests that took your fancy until you’d had your fill and wanted to push the story on, whereas in Origins you could power level Bayek accidentally just by enjoying the combat and world itself.
This means you see a lot more of the NPCs up close than you otherwise would, and are subjected to poor scripting, rough dialogue, and awkward visuals. Playing through Origins recently I came across this very issue, and it came to a head whereby upon hitting “Y” (I’m playing on Xbox, don’t hate me for that, I’m just a huge Big Phil Spencer fan) to start a side-quest, a grieving mother lamented the loss of her son, killed by the big meanies, who had actually kidnapped her only remaining child that you need to go and rescue. Of course. The entire scene was poor, not least because of the unconvincing script for the bereft mother, but the whole incident was exacerbated because, for some reason, Bayek was literally stood on her dead son’s body. Right. In. Front. Of. Her.
Games like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt showed us that side-quests don’t have to be filler designed to fill a bar and check a box. An arbitrary quest that is repeated ad nauseum only with a different reason is still an arbitrary quest, and adding variety to what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how the missions are revealed to you would make a geographically believable world also end up as a narratively true one. Bayek and Aya are great characters in Origins, but almost everyone else is onenote, or, possibly worse yet, designed to go from friend to foe over something as simple as you dropping your guts in a bar and never owning up to it.
You don’t have to make your game 500 hours long
People who play games have a finite amount of time these days. Many of those who were present in the halcyon days of the ZX Spectrum are now fully grown adults with children of their own who monopolise their TV and Consoles with Overwatch and Fortnite so fucking much they have to get a second Xbox and PS4 just to actually be able to play themselves.
Point being, if you finish your 9-5, have a wash (don’t be smelly), maybe eat something and, hey, do other adult-things, you might get a couple of hours in the evening if you’re lucky. Knowing a game is hundreds of hours long with a map the size of Harry Kane’s chin isn’t just going to put a huge part of the audience off, it also means they’re never going to get to that DLC you plan on putting out, or maybe finishing that story that someone actually cared enough to write well. God of War is a great example of a game that is longer than we expected it to be, yet also feels intense and rewarding throughout. There are side-quests, but there aren’t a million of them. I’m not saying go back to the the feather collection from the first game but… no, actually, I guess I am, because that’s an optional thing that people like me can completely ignore without feeling like we’re missing out.
Go full Mass Effect, and embrace it
One of Odyssey’s main new points is the addition of dialogue choices, and even the option to select a male or female lead (though quite why you’d select the cookie-cutter, stoic-looking Alexios over the far-more-interesting-entirely Kassandra is beyond me). I’m sincerely hoping these chats aren’t filler and do actually have some kind of effect on the story. It’s a big ask of Ubisoft to expect impactful choices if the map and game size follows the formula, but really, if you’re going to put this kind of thing in the game, it needs to matter. I’m hesitant to praise Detroit: Become Human, but the thing it did incredibly well was make the illusion of choice feel like it wasn’t an illusion at all. We know the game will have a notoriety system that changes based on if you commit dickhead actions, but it’s the dialogue that really needs to matter, and not just when it comes down to who we decide to thrust our genitals at, or on. Oh, and if Odyssey does that thing of misrepresenting the player by offering a dialogue choice that you pick and then your character (again, Kassandra) actually says something completely different, I’m out.
For the love of God, please stop the out-of-the-Animus stuff
It’s boring. Nobody cares. If you’re not going to somehow retcon the story and fix the dreadful way Desmond’s story played out, just stop. Thanks.
That’s it. Seriously. No more cheesy modern day dialogue. No more subterfuge via, or against Abstergo. No more concerned friends talking to you via bluetooth headset despite the fact you are in a tomb – seriously, don’t expect me to believe that phone signal is that much better for Americans. Come on lads, sort out your game. Realistic phone signal isn’t so much to a-h great, I’ve just read that Layla is back from Origins. Great.
Maybe add co-op or some kind of multiplayer again?
In all likelihood, my hopes for a smaller world and shorter game are going to fall on deaf ears. But what if I could play in that world with a co-op partner? Unity wasn’t as bad a game as everyone said, and the co-op actually added something. You don’t have to play that way, and I’d rather it wasn’t just a palette swap character, and instead we got a lore-based reason why there was a friend to hang out with.
I’m not asking for that herculean task of four-player co-op again, but maybe just a chance to hang out and do some super cool murders with a friend would be nice. Hitman is doing it, after all, and while I don’t expect to be able to throw a cake of Coke at a Grecian pimp or anything (though in fairness, I’d be all for Ubi succumbing to The Crazy in the Assassin’s Creed series), it’d sure be nice to kick Junius Brutus* in the penis with a buddy.
*VideoGamer can neither confirm or deny Caesar or Brutus being in Odyssey, and although it’s unlikely due to the time periods not lining up at all (not even close), I wouldn’t put it past Ubisoft to squeeze them in here somehow, perhaps in a Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure sort of way. Actually, what if they tied it into the new Bill & Ted film, somehow. When’s that out, anyway? Oh shit, what if Assassin’s Creed actually is the Bill & Ted films. Time traveling replaced with the Animus, which is time traveling, now I think about it. I need to research this.