Even as open worlds become ever more common, Ubisoft remains the publisher most closely related to the genre. It's been churning out big playgrounds consistently for over a decade, and they won't stop growing. CEO Yves Guillemot says that won't be changing.
While Assassin's Creed used to be all about exploring and killing your way through a city, the latest offers up all of Greece and its islands, along with three smaller worlds in the second DLC series. Odyssey is gargantuan. I finished up the last of the DLC last week after 150 hours. Syndicate, the last single-city Assassin's Creed, clocked in at around 30, or half that if you just did the story.
Ubisoft's focus is now on those massive worlds, according to Guillemot. "Our goal is to make sure you can have a Unity within an Odyssey," he told GamesIndustry.biz. "If you want to have a story of 15 hours, you can have it, but you can also have other stories. You live in that world and you pursue what you want to pursue. You have an experience, many Unity-like experiences."
Technically, yes, there are story arcs in Odyssey that are roughly the size of other games, but they're not complete, standalone experiences. You can't just play Fate of Atlantis DLC or a discrete chunk of Kassandra or Alexios's adventures in Greece. If you want a complete story, you'll need to invest at least 40 hours into it, and that's skipping the side quests and exploration.
I love Odyssey and it's probably the most fun I've had with an Assassin's Creed, finally bumping Black Flag of the top spot, but that's despite the absurd scale, not because of it. By the end I was just looking forward to it being over.
While even Ghost Recon has made the leap to huge sandboxes, Watch Dogs Legion at least remains confined to a single city, even if it is one of the largest ones in the world. But it's not just the size of the maps that makes Ubisoft's more recent games such intimidating time sinks—it's their density. If you're planning a trip to London next year, I recommend setting aside a month at least.