Assassin's Creed Odyssey is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing entries in Ubisoft's franchise, if our preview of the game was anything to go by. However, it also left us with a host of questions about what to expect in terms of gameplay, where it fits in the rather convoluted Assassin's Creed timeline, and how Greek mythology fits in with its historical setting. Gadgets 360 spoke to Marc Alexis-Cote, Senior Producer for Assassin's Creed Odyssey to find out more.
In Assassin's Creed Odyssey, players choose between Alexios or Kassandra, both mercenaries affiliated with the two major factions in the Assassin's Creed series — the Assassin Order and the Templar, respectively. Last year's Assassin's Creed Origins, as the name suggests, dealt with the creation of the Assassin Order. Would Assassin's Creed Odyssey result in the birth of the opposing Templar?
"Assassin’s Creed Origins was the birth of the Brotherhood [of assassins]. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is not the birth of the Templars," Alexis-Cote confirms.
Instead, the focus will be on the First Civilisation, an ancient, highly advanced civilisation whose technology is highly sought after by both the Order and the Templar in the franchise's overall lore.
"It has to do with the First Civilisation artefacts as a part of the story," he says before breaking down the game's core story arcs.
There’s the Cult of Kosmos, players need to find and destroy later in the game. Then you have personal story of Alexios or Kassandra finding their family which Alexis-Cote claims that "most people will consider this the main story, that has multiple endings." And then there's the First Civilisation arc that should keep those invested in franchise lore satiated.
"The First Civilisation path is the hunt for First Civilisation artefacts that set you on the track of Medusa for example," he says. "The overarching link to the franchise is this hunt for the First Civilisation artefacts, how they have influenced and ended up creating this kind of conflict of order and chaos between the Templars and Assassins further down the road."
On the topic of Medusa, Ubisoft has made no qualms about Assassin's Creed Odyssey merging Greek mythology with history. Its E3 2018 reveal teased a Minotaur battle while a couple of months later it showed off a high-level quest that ends with a fight against Medusa. While Alexis-Cote did not confirm what else we could expect in terms of cameos from the Greek pantheon, he did say that they do exist within the game's universe. Much like how the series tends to re-explain the world with a different take.
"For example, we all know what the Apple of Eden is, but in Assassin’s Creed it is a technological object that was passed down to Adam and Eve," he says. "If you look at this and re-read the biblical story about it, it gives you a completely different take on it. I think players will feel the same thing with our take on those mythological creatures. They are explained within the boundaries, and realities, of the Assassin’s Creed universe. They’re not fantastical. They are not dreams in this game."
Moving on to Assassin's Creed Odyssey's gameplay, we noticed how its emphasis on encouraging the use of combining multiple combat styles could result in an experience that's exceptionally overpowering and could result in there being less of a challenge compared to past entries. Alexis-Cote points to Ubisoft's play testing process in which the game is tested weekly by a battery of players to ensure no exploits. In addition to this, he states that abilities are designed keeping a downside in mind such as Rush Assassinate which lets you warp to an enemy for a quick kill.
"The Rush Assassinate ability is very powerful, however it is not more powerful than a typical assassination, and yes, you can use it to jump into combat," he says. "But then it could leave you vulnerable to attacks by multiple enemies. It is very powerful, since you can chain it [to other moves], but this depletes the ability gauge very fast and then you’re stuck in the middle of a bunch of guys that can really destroy you."
With each Assassin's Creed game filled to the brim with things to do and vistas to explore. It made us wonder what are the challenges involved in ensuring players aren't overwhelmed with an abundance of markers, icons, side-quests, and other information that doesn't really matter to the main story? It turns out Assassin's Creed Odyssey will try to prevent that by ensuring each activity exists to take the story forward instead of existing solely as busywork. It's something Assassin's Creed Syndicate which he directed suffered from.
"In Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, for example, we had the chariot races. There was a trend in open-world games at that point to just have ‘stuff’, always have an icon for something to do near you," he admits. "We’re moving away from that trend in Assassin's Creed Odyssey. We try to make everything that we put in there have the story advance and grow, that different wheels in the game turn. Nothing spins alone, in a way. Everything that you do should feel valuable, make you grow."
While it's just a matter of time until we can see this for ourselves, we had to ask if Alexis-Cote his work at Ubisoft was influenced by Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands for the Nintendo Wii. Reason being, not only was it the last new game in the Prince of Persia series, but the original Assassin's Creed was borne out of a discarded Prince of Persia concept. Incidentally, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands for the Nintendo Wii was also one of the first games he worked on.
"We created an exclusive game for the Wii, which was centred around the abilities of the Wiimote," he recalls. "All the abilities that we brought in augmented the gameplay, so I think I realised the importance of augmenting player abilities at that point."
To him, this realisation helped shape the skill tree and abilities found in Assassin's Creed Odyssey.
"I saw the importance of having something like that in a game such as Odyssey," he says. "I’m super happy with the breadth of the skill tree that we’ve been able to build, and how supportive it is of different play styles."
Although Ubisoft hasn't announced any new Prince of Persia projects, it's heartening to know that its impact still lives on in the Assassin's Creed series.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is out October 5. Stay tuned for our full review closer to launch.
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