A lot of people online have criticized Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Odyssey—myself included. It doesn’t feel, or even look like a traditional Assassin’s Creed title. Like, cool history lesson, but I’m an ASSASSIN, not a scholar. C’mon. Some people have even said that Ubisoft is only retaining the franchise name due to how marketable it is—again, myself included. I, too, was once a non-believer—until recently.
Odyssey is doing something innovative and important. Assassin’s Creed Origins highlighted the franchise’s ability to delve into the culture and history of Ancient Egypt, and therefore made the game’s story, or lore, far more meaningful. Do you know why it seemed more meaningful? Because it was based on things that actually happened. Historical things, from history. Fun fact: a lot of the most interesting things in storytelling actually happened at some point.
Odyssey takes us to Ancient Greece, perhaps the most culturally rich civilization to have ever existed. Although games like God of War have produced fantastic adaptations of Grecian mythology—and they are fantastic—I have yet to see a game rooted in the civilization itself. It’s one thing to play a trilogy of games during which you overthrow the Gods of Mount Olympus; it’s another thing entirely to play as an assassin in the thick of of Ancient Greece’s everyday life. However, Odyssey is set in 431 BCE, centuries before the Brotherhood Order formed in Origins in 5th century BCE. The very first assassination using the Hidden Blade took place in 456 BCE, almost 20 years before Odyssey. Therefore, it is likely that the player will play as one of the first ever Assassins.
Why is this important? Well, my favorite Assassin’s Creed titles are Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed 2. Since then, I haven’t been overly impressed with any of the series’ installments. Granted, I haven’t played half of them, because I was so overwhelmingly unimpressed with the parts I did play. However, I feel that the series’ decision to go back in time removes the need to maintain the Assassin Order as a constant touchstone for the plot. The first two games both worked as standalone titles, whereas most of the ones that followed were perhaps too invested in attempting to earn their spot as a worthy story within the overall saga. Paradoxically, the more a game tried to fit the series’ messy lore, the worse it was. No one in the world ever wants to play as Connor again. Take note, Ubisoft.
I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed Origins. Since Odyssey was announced, though, I’ve looked at a lot of footage from Origins, and I’ve done a lot of reading up on it. To me, it seems as if it’s a truly spectacular game—maybe I should actually play that one. However, regardless of whether or not I do, I’m definitely going to play Odyssey. You see, Ubisoft has confirmed that Odyssey will feature a similar narrative style to Origins, in that it will historically driven. This fact, coupled with the significance of the titular Odyssey, leads me to believe that this game will be heavily influenced by Homer’s The Odyssey, believed to have been written in the 8th Century. Yes, Homer Simpson wrote himself a nice big book. An epic poem, actually. Not really, though. Different Homer.
Etymologically, “odyssey” means “epic voyage” in English. However, Odysseus, the text’s eponymous hero, is named after the Greek word for “trouble.” That’s what I want in this game—trouble. If those translations are wrong, by the way, blame Wikipedia, not me. Anyway, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey sounds far more interesting than Assassin’s Creed Epic Voyage, so I completely understand why they opted to roll with the former for extra style points. The significance of this is reinforced by the fact that the game will use boats as a medium of transportation between the game’s forty-odd islands. Do you know what happens in The Odyssey? A pretty epic voyage, actually. The protagonist, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, spends a LOT of time on a boat after the Trojan War. Like, he spends seven years on one island alone, and loads more time just seafaring. It’s not JUST seafaring, though. It’s actually brilliant. There are Cyclopes, cannibalistic giants, a monstrous whirlpool—you get the gist. You’ve really got to give the scholarly bois of the 8th Century their due, because they knew how to write a story. Go and give Homer’s epic poem a read while you wait for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. You won’t regret it.
I don’t want another Connor, or even another Ezio. I want to play as somebody who blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus and tells him that he has been attacked by “Nbdy,” so that when people ask who has attacked him, he shouts “Nobody did it! Nobody attacked me!” I know that isn’t Assassins’ Creed‘s style, but so what? Their decision to move away from their roots has worked in their favor so far, so why not push further? Why not ditch the Assassin Order touchstone, in favor of pursuing a historically-driven and culturally-rich narrative? They can reinvent the franchise. In fact, they already did, with last year’s Origins. Origins was an experiment in hyperrealism that succeeded, so why not rework the formula even more? Just iron out the kinks and apply it to the batshit crazy machinations of Ancient Greece. That’s my kind of game, anyway: an epic voyage, filled with trouble, set in a historically-accurate ancient civilization.
The results of a 2018 poll conducted by the BBC concluded that The Odyssey was the most influential text on Western Civilization of all time. If that still hasn’t convinced you, I’d like to add that Odysseus’ dog, who was a puppy before he left for the Trojan War, literally dies of excitement when he returns twenty years later. Odysseus is disguised as a beggar, and nobody recognizes him except for the dog. Who dies.
Homer Simpson can fuckin’ write.