A welcomed surprise?
At this year’s Ubisoft E3 press conference, Assassins Creed: Odyssey, the previously leaked new Assassins Creed game set in ancient Rome, was set to release on the 14th of October 2018. My affinity for Assassins Creed Origins is well known to this site, it rejuvenated my love for the franchise, and enticed me with a setting I didn’t think I could enjoy. In my article, I pleaded with Ubisoft:
“Ubisoft, please stick to a two-year release cycle, it has worked pretty well here.”
But they haven’t, and I’m of two minds. On one hand, I’m excited to play another iteration of the Origins engine, but on the other, I’m terrified Ubisoft will return to their old ways. Check out the gameplay trailer below:
Let’s start with the positive, something I rarely do. In my Origins article I also said that it “didn’t get everything right”:
“The loot system works, but it needs to have more impact; the combat works and presents moments of utter satisfaction, but it needs expansion; the story was serviceable, but the revenge tale is tired and forcing players to play a character they don’t equip themselves (Aya), for important final acts of the game is frustrating.”
Seeing as we won’t be able to judge the success of the loot system until release, let’s begin by tackling the combat. It was revealed that as a child, players will be gifted with the Spear of Leonidas, a mythical weapon that is imbued with supernatural powers which will augment the game’s combat system.
Firstly, it’s awesome that Ubisoft are going all-in with the supernatural. Secondly, some of these abilities associated with the spear are fucking rad; in one part the player disarms an enemy’s shield with the spear then bashes them. A more intuitive-looking user interface was also displayed, which highlighted hotkeyed special abilities. Honestly, this is the best decision in terms of combat I think Ubisoft could have made. By incorporating a special weapon and adding hotkey abilities, the gameplay loop should (theoretically) offer a lot more customisation options.
The story design is another point of divergence from Origins which establishes a unique foothold in the series. In Odyssey, players can opt from the start of the game to be either a male or female protagonist. A resoundingly awesome choice which is confounded by the inclusion of dialogue choices and APPARENT “agency” in the game world. The developer also made a point to specify that you will ONLY play the character that you choose, which addresses my frustration with Origin’s character switching.
Ultimately, having witnessed what Odyssey actually is, I think there is enough new here to justify the a one year gap in releases. The Origins engine still had a lot of room to improve, and it provided a good stepping stone for the new game to build off of. I think oftentimes people get confused between whether it was the one-year cycle specifically that caused them to get sick of the game, or whether it was just the lack of change. The problem was that due to the static use of the original Assassins Creed engine, Ubisoft were unable to correct the problems associated with it, but they were still selling boatloads. They rode this predicament all the way until it sent them into a brick wall, and forced an extra year to develop a new take on the franchise.
Given the fact that there is no Watch_Dogs 3 or Splinter Cell to speak of (*fingers cross* Sony), Ubisoft definitely needed an Assassins Creed release this year. I think that as long as the new features are implemented effectively, and the story/characters are compelling, they can’t really go wrong. Although, the hope is that from their experience with Origins, Ubisoft isn’t afraid to pull the breaks on the series for an extra year, before it gets swallowed up by an unchanging formula.