Assassin’s Creed has always had an unusual relationship with history. It’s integral to the series and every game has been rich in historical detail, whether it’s the little facts about landmarks or characters, or the famous faces that you’ll meet as an assassin. It's never been accurate, but it usually feels authentic. But the more the series has progressed, the more it’s started to feel like the Disneyland of history, throwing in celebrities with wild abandon, turning its cities into places where every historical figure of the age seems to reside.
With Odyssey, Ubisoft is taking a different approach.
“I remember working on Syndicate and you almost have a day-by-day account of what everybody did,” Marc-Alexis Côté, senior producer on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey told VG24/7. “And obviously you don’t have that in 400BC.”
While the some of history of Ancient Greece is well documented, Ubisoft is going far back, covering a time where we have to rely on people like occasional liar and father of history, Herodotus. In many cases, he’s the only primary source that we have, and he wasn’t beyond spinning yarns and injecting mythology into his entertaining Histories. It sounds like Ubisoft is taking his lead.
“If [mythological creatures] weren’t there it’d be very very sad, so rest assured that they are,” Côté said. “They’re really an intricate part of this world that we have created and have perfect explanations that will carry on in the history of the franchise as well.”
And while plenty of historical figures will be making an appearance, the dearth of information we have that details what they were like as people has given Ubisoft free rein to create original characters. Let it be known, however, that there’s only one version of Socrates that I’ll accept.
This isn’t really out of the blue, of course. The pieces of Eden and the First Civilisation have always crammed fantasy into Ubisoft’s historical epics, while Origins similarly dabbled in mythology and relied less on caricatures of historical figures. In Odyssey, however, it's taken further and, according to Côté, allows Ubisoft to give more agency to players.
“We’ve always used the excuse, ‘History is written that way, so that’s the way it should happen’,” Côté said. “While we have found many other explanations for many other things through the power of the Animus, a game is not a movie—the minute you push up on a thumbstick you’ve made a decision to move left or right. We shouldn’t hide behind the excuse that that’s the way history happened—you’re making decisions every second you’re playing a game.”
Those decisions are more apparent this time because Odyssey really leans into its RPG elements. Players will build their version of Alexios or Kassandra not just by killing things, levelling up and unlocking new weapons, but through conversations and branching dialogue, defining themselves and building relationships with other characters.
It won’t be long until we’ll be able to see if this shift pays off. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is due out on October 5.