"I'll kill the bandits and get your fucking wood back." I was pretty surprised to hear this come out of Alexios in the opening hours of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, but this game is surprisingly potty-mouthed. We've come a long way from boring Altair. I'll get your fucking wood, lady, because I want the XP, which I need to level up and take on the next story mission. But I don't have to like it.
I'm around three hours into Assassin's Creed Odyssey after starting it last night, and for the bits that feel very similar to Origins—the quest structure and the level gating—the combat, Greek setting and dialogue options do a lot of the heavy lifting in differentiating them. Most dialogue trees will let you do something vaguely destructive: extort someone, be sarcastic, be cruel, or even claim your very presence is the result of divine intervention. The quests are largely familiar Origins-style fare of fetching stuff of killing people so far—indeed, to complete the quest pictured above, I went into a camp, killed loads of people then picked up some wood so I could return it—but the dialogue makes each one a little more memorable.
Even if I don't like how level-gating lightly controls how I choose to spend my time in Odyssey, the dialogue choices around side quests show a degree of personality I didn't think I'd ever see in Assassin's Creed. As Shaun explores in his impressions after 20 hours, the game definitely lets you behave like a dick. You can be rewarded for this, and then later, apparently, be punished for a choice you made when another NPC refuses to help you. A few of the early quests allude to consequences down the road, good and bad, for your actions.
I haven't got a sense of what will happen on that side of things so far, but it's fascinating to me that it's Assassin's Creed that picks up where BioWare and CD Projekt Red left off when it comes to blockbuster RPGs—even Anthem will have its singleplayer story content off to the side. Who'd have thought that would one day be the state of things five years ago?
I'm pretty hard to please when it comes to this series, but this immediately deepens your connection with your chosen hero. I never thought I'd care about the storytelling in Assassin's Creed in more than just a surface-level way, but last year I was proved wrong by how realistically Origins portrayed Bayek and Aya's relationship, and now it seems Odyssey has found a way to take that further. It mitigates the sense of repetition the player might otherwise have after playing another massive Assassin's Creed game within a year of the last one.
My encounter with the lumber lady made me laugh, because there is a self-awareness to the dialogue there—Alexios is acknowledging what a pain in the arse it is to perform this arbitrary task for a rude NPC. Admittedly, Ubisoft still adds the sidequest to your log anyway, but it's this sort of moment that people always remember and share from RPGs. Punching the reporter in Mass Effect is a famous example of this. I'm excited about the idea of uncovering similar situations in this massive game. It's not just about acting like a dick—it's about how you act like a dick.
I just wish there was an option to take the wood back to the quest giver, set it on fire, then demand she pays me anyway. But you can't have everything.
Look out for Steven's review of Assassin's Creed Odyssey later this week.