This week, Yahtzee reviews Assassin's Creed Odyssey.
Don't be fooled by the two "asses" in the name, viewers; Assassin's Creed is half-assed, at best. Oh boy, they stamped out a whole new one that's set in ancient Greece; so, who gets to be Leonardo da Vinci this time? As in, the historical celebrity who inexplicably becomes BFFs with the main character within seconds of meeting them and becomes the major support character to lend a sense of desperate authenticity reminiscent of celebrity cameos on more recent episodes of The Simpsons? "Oh, we don't do that in every AssCreed game, Yahtz! ...It's Herodotus." Thank you! And in keeping with every AssCreed game using the previous AssCreed game as a prototype like a slinky descending a filthy staircase acquiring more and more dust and mouse turds as it goes, Odyssey is basically Origins with a couple more bits added, which means the fucking leveling system is back again, and the sense of an open world is lost as quests and areas of recommended levels ensure that only one portion of the game is worth being in at any one time.
It also continues the de-emphasization of stealth; call me a boring, old stick-in-the-mud for expecting a game with the word "assassin" in the title to be about sneaking and precision rather than hammering away at an overlong health bar like I'm driving a stake into a concrete floor. A stealth attack isn't a guaranteed kill on a higher-level enemy, and it feels like enemies take forever to come out of "Alert" mode if you run and hide, so any attempt at subtlety or cleverness on your part will very frequently give way to prolonged punch-ups with mobs of football hooligans. And I know precisely why this had to be the case: because if you weren’t constantly forced into open combat, then you'd have no reason to keep upgrading and replacing your weapons and armor, and Ubisoft wouldn't be able to entice you with higher-level gear with bigger numbers winking brazenly at you from behind paywalls, grind-a-thons, and the sequin-covered chastity belts of "Special Editions".
But hey, why bring the hate just because Assassin's Creed is different to how it used to be? Ubisoft wanted it to be more of an open-world RPG than a sandbox; there's nothing wrong with that. After all, if you want a sandbox, just play literally anything else Ubisoft puts out. Now we're an RPG, we can enjoy the usual benefits of an RPG; that is, a stronger emphasis on story and character development, can't we, Ubisoft? Look me in the eye, Ubisoft. I said, "Can't we?"
Not really. If anything, characters have only become less developed, in stark contrast to Ezio and whatever that dude from AssCreed III eventually decided his name was, when we follow the main character basically from birth and learn exactly who they were, why they hate Templars, and how their grip strength became stronger than an obsessive Alan Titchmarsh fan holding onto the very last copy of BBC Gardeners' World magazine. Now, it's just, they're here, they've already got the skills, and they oppose the Templars because Templars are baddies and baddies are bad; mustn't let any prolonged character-building moments get in the way of the fucking grind. Even the apparently-inescapable "Future" bridging narrative, I've officially given up attempting to follow, as it seems to be populated exclusively by characters who have no introduction whatsoever, and yet, we're just supposed to know what they're about.
But let's talk innovations. You play as one of two siblings of opposing genders in ancient Sparta which, as I've previously stated, isn't even innovative for Assassin's Creed games. So what innovation does Assassin's Creed Odyssey bring to the series? "Well, there's dialogue trees, now!" That's the new hotness, is it? Dialogue trees? That's like bursting into the avant-garde fashion show and loudly announcing that you've just discovered that oversized t-shirts are good for sleeping in. Oh yes, and I guess it finally sank in that Ubisoft's sandboxes are all just "go to icon on map", because now, there's an optional "Explorative Mode" where, instead of going to icon on map, you wander vaguely around the relevant area until the screen lights up, going, "You are near the thing," call your eagle, look around until an icon appears, then go to icon on map. Not so much removing "go to icon on map" as adding an extra step to it; I'd try to get more exercise by keeping the TV remote on the other end of the couch.
Anyway, your character is a mercenary caught up in a war between Athens and Sparta, and a big thing is made of how you can intervene in the war by weakening a territory's leadership until you can participate in a big ground battle to switch the area from blue to red, or vice-versa. Except, at various times, you fight for and against both sides, and gameplay-wise, there's no difference except the colors of their t-shirts; they all get equal amounts of narc on when you're trying to complete objectives in their soldier camps, and their spears are equally pointy, so I'm a little unclear on why we should care about influencing the war. "Why do you need a reason, Yahtz? Overthrowing a nation always looks good on the old résumé!"
Oh yes, and the ship is back. In Origins, the ship combat was a carnival sideshow, but now, it's your main mode of transportation between islands, like it was in Black Flag. Thing is, in Black Flag, the ship was the center of your pirate universe and everything revolved around it, and now, it's just sort of there; someone conveniently hands you it the instant you need one, and between prolonged grinding on big islands and fast-traveling, huge swathes of the game can go by without you needing the ship at all. It's another thing that's there, like the stuff with the war; Assassin's Creed Plod-yssey is a game full of things that are there. Quote that for the fucking blurb. There, but not really connecting, like my LinkedIn account.
Some of the things that are there are there, one suspects, because they are things that other popular games have done, usually with a hell of a lot more depth and mileage. You can recruit knocked-out enemy soldiers, MGS V-style, and add them to your ship crew, but your ship seems to be capable of getting along perfectly well without enslaved conscripts that hate you. There's a network of named mercenaries that bears a suspicious resemblance to the Nemesis System from the Middle-earth: Shadow of Such-and-Such games, except with none of the personality, and their main role appears to be to materialize while you're in the middle of grindy combat sessions in order to extend the length of the grindy combat session.
Do you know how many Assassin's Creed games I've reviewed? One, two, two-and-a-bit, two-and-a-bit-more, three, Slack Flag, Un-shitty, Syndi-cunt, Ori-minge, and Sod-yssey makes ten. And while I've given each game varying degrees of shit, I've never once failed to play through the entire story campaign... until now. In modern gaming, Assassin's Creed is a fat and awkward member of the gang who occasionally made interesting wheezing noises when we punched him in the gut, but it has finally ceased to amuse. I'd been playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey for nearly 40 SODDING HOURS! 40 SODDING, PLODDING HOURS of copy-pasted soldier camps and temples, of hammering away at one overlong health bar after another, like a drinking bird toy trying to eat a king-sized Mars bar! And I swear, half of the characters look the same! I swear, King Leonidas and Barnabas the Ship Captain are the same fucking guy with his beard in different stages of development!
All I could see ahead of me was 40 more hours of the same shit, stretching unbrokenly on from anus to toilet water. You did it, Ubisoft! You beat me! The first Assassin's Creed game I couldn't finish! It can finally take its place alongside everything else I can't finish, like JRPGs, the main courses at American family restaurants, and masturbating to the one nude scene in The Shining.
- Philosopher king: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Still it was nice to see a return of the AC2-style absurdly overdone comedy accents
- But was there a historically accurate amount of buggery
Extra: EGLX Edit
"Everyone's Got to Look eXcited", because I'm going to be appearing at the EGLX convention in Toronto, Canada, from October 26-28, so book your tickets now! Hope to see you there for "Entertainment, Gaiety, Laughter, and, uh... Xenophobia".