The Animus control panel for Assassin's Creed Origins arrived this month, and it lets players cheat their butts off. Turn on godmode, do more damage, enjoy unlimited adrenaline, level up to max, make yourself stealthier, bring back the days of one-hit assassinations no matter your enemy's level—all by moving a few sliders.
I have simpler dreams: I just want to create a loyal army of hippos and make them eat everybody. A console setting lets you lead up to five tamed animals at once, and I want all five of them to be hippos. A group of hippos, by the way, are called a crash (also a pod, a herd, or a bloat, but I like crash best). I want a crash of hippos and I'm gonna get one.
I have a few false starts in my quest to become king of the hippos. I feel like I'll have an easier time of things if wild animals don't attack me, so I use the console to make every animal in the game friendly, or at least neutral. The issue I run into is that if a creature is friendly, sleep darts have no effect on it, and you can only tame animals you've drugged with darts. No amount of darting these neutral hippos does anything except make them flinch and jiggle a bit. Luckily, I've got unlimited darts and I can change the control panel settings on the fly.
Once I've made it so animals hate me again, I start properly darting hippos, then taming them. It's still a little tricky, since the moment I tame one hippo it becomes fiercely loyal and attacks any angry hippo, even the ones I've darted and put to sleep. With a few loyal hippos, a few angry hippos, and a few sleeping hippos, it all gets a bit messy. This is definitely a crash.
Making things worse, at one point the three or four hippos I've tamed suddenly lose their loyalty and begin attacking me again. I have to hastily re-drug and tame them a second time, and by the time I've done it there are only three left alive. Running along the riverbank for a while, I can't find more to fill out my desired crash of five. I tame a couple of crocodiles, but somehow having three hippos and two crocs isn't quite as satisfying as an all-hippo entourage.
Still fun, though.
I head to another part of the world (fast-traveling means animal followers disappear), tame three more hippos, and while swimming around looking for more, I board a large river ship and get into a scrap with the guards on board. Two of my three hippos teleport onto the ship with me, though one is killed, set on fire, and weirdly floats away. The other gets stuck and becomes hostile to me. The third simply never arrives.
Note to self: don't bring my crash onto boats. Hippos may eat boats sometimes, but they don't ride them well.
Finally, I find five new hippos, dart them, tame them, and I've assembled my mighty crash. One of them, I notice, stands out from the rest. He walks around looking up at the sky. I don't know if it's some glitch, or if he's looking at a bird, or if maybe I've tamed a different kind of hippo, one with hopes and dreams, perhaps a natural curiosity about the universe that makes him gaze to the heavens instead of at the ground like his brethren.
I name him Astro.
I take Astro and Unnamed Hippos 1-4 and attack a nearby Roman outpost. Turns out, sadly, hippos don't really make the best army. I seem to recall them being pretty tough customers during my playthrough of AC:O, sinking my boats at inopportune times and mercilessly slaughtering villagers who strayed too close to the water.
As I lead my crash into battle against the Romans, however, they do pretty poorly. They do kill a few Romans, but it sure takes a while, and one hippo perishes before I decide to jump in and take care of business so I don't lose another. Once the Romans are dead, I find they have a captive lion, which I free and throw darts at until it loves me.
It sort of defeats the purpose of having a hippo army if they can't just eat all my enemies while I stand around watching. If I have to pitch in myself, what's the point? I want hippos fighting for me, not beside me. It's still fun, it just doesn't really make me feel like a hippo lord.
As I take my hippos and lion onto our next battle, I suddenly remember Astro. I lost one hippo against the Romans, but I'm happy to see it wasn't him. He's still with me, still gazing skyward. Even if I am a bit disappointed with my hippos, Astro still seems hopeful.