In Assassin’s Creed, everything is binary. We play the good guys, Assassins, who are out to defeat the bad guys, Templars. It’s simple, a battle of preserving free will at all costs. This is no different than choosing Paragon/Renegade in Mass Effect or hero/villain in Infamous. Yet, there does exists one essential variation–in those games, these decisions are left to the player. Contrarily, Assassin’s Creed forces audiences to play on the predetermined good team.
The absence of choice in the series manifests in the gameplay itself. Kill a civilian and a reminder appears, alerting players that the assassin they are controlling never committed such an act. Kill more civilians and the game “desynchronizes;” the game world crumbles and players return to their previous checkpoint. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey intends to change the rules.
GameSpot’s interview with director Scott Phillips broaches the topic. Asked if choices in Odyssey will resemble The Witcher 3 by avoiding binary options and having them payoff in unexpected ways, Phillips responds,
“Making the game morally gray and not black-and-white was important to us. We didn’t want it to be like past games where you’re not forced to not kill civilians, as a simple example. The Creed doesn’t exist for your player character in terms of restricting you from doing that. That’s your choice. But we’re going to impact the player, we’re going to show you that it means something in the game world. And it’s going to give you feedback, you’re going to feel those choices you’ve made in small-scale and in these large-scale choices across the game.”
In The Witcher 3, this works in myriad ways. There are choices a player makes in hour two of the game, choices that feel the lesser of two evils. By hour thirty, however, these decisions prove difficult to defend. There exists no right or wrong; the tenets of good and evil mix uncomfortably. Such is the world of the Witcher. It’ll be interesting to see how faithfully Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will follow Phillips’ claim of exploring moral ambiguity.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey arrives on October 5 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.