I gotta admit, I wasn’t excited when ASSASSIN’S CREED: ODYSSEY leaked.

Don’t get me wrong, I love ASSASSIN’S CREED. ORIGINS was one of my favorite games of the year and I’ve praised it extensively. But at this point, I know what to expect from the series and there wasn’t much to get excited over.

So imagine my surprise at E3 this year, when I caught my first glimpse of ODYSSEY and witnessed dialogue choices, branching paths, and a non-linear story.

That’s right. No more skirting the line. No more dipping their toes in the water. ASSASSIN’S CREED is an RPG.

Now, not everyone is on board with this change. When the series debuted, it was described as a fusion between an action-platformer and a stealth game. That’s a far cry from where we are today. So it’s no surprise that, for some, this sudden genre shift came out of nowhere.

Well, I’d argue that not only was this inevitable but if Ubisoft plays their cards right, it could be the best decision they’ve made in years.

So why did ASSASSIN’S CREED become an RPG? What do they have to gain from this genre-shift? Just how far are they taking it? Well, let’s take a look!

Why an RPG?

What exactly does ASSASSIN’S CREED gain from being an RPG?

Well, the most obvious benefit is the gameplay. Until recently, the series was infamous for its repetitive, lackluster fights, with little in the way of tactical decision-making. ODYSSEY improves the combat with special abilities, talent trees, and a large selection of loot to play around with.

The end goal is to deliver a more satisfying moment-to-moment experience. Now I have a reason to engage with the game’s various systems. I want to try out new weapons, I want to test out my build. RPG mechanics encourage experimentation; they allow you to play the same game in radically different ways. In a game as large and dense as a Ubisoft title, this goes a long way toward keeping things fresh.

How ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS Made Way For Future Games

But ORIGINS had a lot of these features. For that matter, plenty of games experiment with loot drops and talent trees. For me, the defining aspect of an RPG is player expression, be it through combat, narrative choices, or traditional role-play. This is where ODYSSEY truly breaks from its predecessors.

While watching a brief conversation with Socrates (because of course he’s in the game), I realized the game features dialogue options. You can lie, take sides, and double-cross your way through conversations, all at your own discretion.

It’s heavily reminiscent of MASS EFFECT. Your character has a pre-defined background, but you determine their personality, who they side with, and how they complete objectives. At the end of the day, all of this serves to immerse you into the world, to allow yourself to live in the environment and express yourself within it.

Will ODYSSEY live up to the hype?

But the question remains: just how deep does this all go?

You’d be forgiven for being a bit skeptical. Will ODYSSEY be like SKYRIM and FALLOUT 4, where the dialogue options are just window dressing for linear questlines? Or will this be closer to THE WITCHER 3, where there are multiple ways to approach quests and your actions have lasting consequences?

Based on what I’ve seen, and conversations with developers, ODYSSEY is shooting for the latter. Ubisoft promises optional romances, branching paths, and even multiple endings to the main story.

assassins-creed-odyssey
Let’s just hope the “romances” are well written (courtesy of Ubisoft)

This is big, if true. How often do we hear buzzwords like “freedom” and “choice?” How often is the final product shallow and linear?  It’s rare to see an AAA RPG that embraces what it is, putting the focus on role-playing, consequence, and player expression.

If Ubisoft is truly willing to embrace this genre shift, then I think it’ll be a net good for the series.

But plenty of games could benefit from these features. So, why Ubisoft? Why ASSASSIN’S CREED? Why the sudden transformation of a decade-old franchise?

ASSASSIN’S CREED was made to be an RPG

Let me ask you something. If I told you I was playing an open-world sandbox game, where you explore ancient cities, interact with historical figures, and take part in a secret war that spans generations, what sort of game would you imagine?

Probably a role-playing game.

ASSASSIN’S CREED was destined to be an RPG. Ever since Desmond’s story ended, the series has been about historical tourism. It’s a tool to immerse you in another place, at another time, as another person. Isn’t that what an RPG is about?

Moving Forward

It’s no secret that I tend to hate on Ubisoft. While I love their open-world games, they often end up blurring together. Too often they devolve into repetitive, artificial checklists, bereft of personality and flavor.

assassins-creed-odyssey
This isn’t a game. It’s a to-do list. (courtesy of Ubisoft)

Games like WATCH DOGS 2 and ORIGINS were steps in the right direction, but ASSASSIN’S CREED: ODYSSEY is a shock to the system.

Finally, Ubisoft is breaking out of its shell, moving the series in an unexpected, but welcome direction. Sure, it’s still an open-world game focused on action and exploration, but these elements are enhanced by the RPG mechanics.

Every classic staple of a Ubisoft game, whether it’s crafting, side activities, or interacting with bizarre characters, is made more engaging when you’re playing a character that feels like your own. By fostering a deeper connection to the character, players can more easily sink into the open world. The narrative is more engaging when you’re a part of it. All those side activities can come with tangible rewards in the form of gear and outfits to personalize your character.

ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING Vol. 1 Review: Out of the Animus

My issue with the “Ubisoft formula” is that there is never a reason to care about what I’m doing. If I feel like I’m shaping the story, shaping the character, shaping the world, then everything else falls into place.

At the end of the day, Ubisoft is finally doing something different. Most importantly, they finally have a true RPG in their line-up, something to compete with the likes of Bioware, Bethesda, and CD Projekt Red. This sort of diversity can only be good for the consumer.

The Point

At the end of the day, we don’t know if ASSASSIN’S CREED: ODYSSEY will be any good. Ubisoft has a pretty good track record lately, but I still haven’t forgotten their numerous slip-ups with the franchise.

Regardless, if they can deliver on their promises, if they can truly provide us with an immersive, expressive RPG, then ODYSSEY could be the best ASSASSIN’S CREED game yet.

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One Comment

  1. Aaron

    July 26, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Still not feeling it… Every new game, AC is less and less attractive to me. They really have gone off into craziness with it. I always used to care about what I was doing because the story was well-written. I always liked playing it because its sense of freedom and excitement came from pure quality, not me having to pick my own dialogue or romances. And there just is not as awesome a soundtrack, or graphics, or scenarios… AC is all screwed up. I don’t know if I ever see them really fixing it.

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