FBT takes a leap of faith with Odyssey's DLC
Finally, AC Odyssey’s DLC is slowly dropping below outrageous price levels. I was against paying anything to learn how the AC series gained the hidden blade, and to be honest, yet more Odyssey was not really on my to-do list. But I warmed to the Misthios on my game+ replay. If you accept it’s not AC, Odyssey is a storming RPG game, best I’ve played in years. I would rather die than deal with more of modern-day Layla’s nonsense so I guess it’s fitting that the first chapter of Fate of Atlantis is set in the afterlife.
An Isu called Aletheia imprinted her mind into that Staff we gained in Odyssey. She contacts both Kassandra and Layla through the Staff, telling them they need to learn how to wield the thing by sending Kass into her own memories, but to make them palatable, she creates the Isu era as Elysium, the Underworld, and Atlantis.
Can't we just go to Isu era? I mean, the whole concept of Assassin’s Creed has been circling the drain since Unity introduced the ability to shape-shift Arno, but now we’re in the afterlife? We have a chance here to literally be an Isu, to explore the Isu-Human war; and it sends us to Hell instead? Really, I don’t mind having a play about in those worlds – that’s what DLC is for, but I never shake that feeling that this is a missed opportunity, and the reason I keep coming back to that is because the chapters are essentially the same. Classic Ubisoft reskins.
Reaching Elysium, Kass discovers the Greek Gods were actually Isu. Persephone rules over Elysium with increasingly strict control, causing Adonis to begin a human rebellion and leaving Kass with a choice; Isu or the humans. In the Underworld, Hades charges Kass with finding him champions to protect the realm but is clearly up to something, and in Atlantis, Poseidon makes you a “Dikastes”, an Isu Judge Dredd who must bring order to the place.
They’re basically the same, each realm’s issues boil down to taking out camps - in Elysium it reduces Persephone’s hold, while in Atlantis it gains you ‘Isu Knowledge’ which lets you pass through forcefields – which are also in the Underworld but you need armour to pass (or an engraving). It’s a different set up, but same hoops to jump through. There are cool bronze statues that come alive in Elysium, called Kolossi, but they pop up again in the Underworld, and by Atlantis they're nothing special.
I wasn’t expecting a radical departure but reskinning the same chapter three times is pushing it and just makes the whole thing feel repetitive. There’s some nice missions, but they’re not enough. The only change is the look - Elysium is flowers and butterflies, the Underworld is ashen and lava filled – a lot of the time it’s like we’re sync’ing with Kass’ worst ever hangover.
FoA also takes verticality to new … heights. Each of the realms have this daft transporter system to navigate between areas on the top of impossibly high formations, but they limit your approach and playstyle. Or you can spend hours staring at Kass’s underwear.
Really, only Atlantis has any ‘depth’ to it; the humans are revolting and the Isu are divided on how to deal with them, and the threat of a solar flare; but instead of digging into that, we’re arsing about doing odd jobs and taking over camps again - why are those camps hostile to Poseidon’s Right Hand? Atlantis is at least an Isu world, but that makes it all the more frustrating that we’re not in Eden, helping Eve break out.
It really could have worked as a prequel, Kass is a near-direct Isu offspring, it would have been fun to explore that and Kass should be the one to witness it. The plot does follow a human leader looking to gain Isu power, and a half-arsed take-over attempt by Juno and her husband (what happened to them?), but that’s just a cameo that doesn’t go anywhere.
There are some great bits though – most of the mini-bosses you’ve fought with before and it’s great to kill them again, you get to say proper farewells to some people from the main game and it even tries to explain some of the supernatural creatures we tangled with.
Atlantis does have a solid, almost moving ending when Kass masters the Staff and makes her final judgement as Poseidon’s Dikastes; there’s an element of closure to Fate of Atlantis, but also this constant sense of nothingness to it all, especially since it ducks what happened to Kass in those intervening years which would have made for a much more interesting story. Worse, we know it’s just a simulation to help Layla harness the staff – give it up, no one gives a shit about Layla. And, this -
- is literally where Kass is deposited after returning from the simulation. It has to be taking the piss.
So, with that done, it’s on to Legacy of the First Blade. Forever remembered as the DLC that proved Ubisoft are idiots. Their misfires over female representation are nothing compared to the nuclear fallout caused by something as simple as leaving a legacy.
To play, Blade is a mini Odyssey. We gain another kill list, run about Greece and engage various mini-bosses. It all moves at a fair clip and there’s some great battles to wage and reflections on the life Kass has led. But whereas Atlantis was redundant, this is bollocks.
Once upon a time, there was a proto-assassin. No, not Bayek of AC Origins… Kass stumbles across Darius, a grumpy old man with a hidden blade. He, and his feeble son (or daughter if you’re Alexios), are in hiding from Origin’s Order of the Ancients after Darius had attempted to assassinate some king under the Order’s protection. The Order are also hunting those with Isu DNA. Kass and Darius form an uneasy alliance to drive the Order out of Greece. Along the way, Kass goes against everything I chose for her.
My Kass was, give or take, a bit of a tart. Hey, my game my choice. But here, it wasn’t my choice. Originally Kass would just fall in love with Darius’ son and have a kid but, quite rightly, those who had played their Misthios as gay were pissed, and so Ubisoft made it worse – they added in elements that allowed your character to ‘do it for the bloodline’ which was as ignorant as it was idiotic, and pissed everyone off even more. Ubisoft then acted all affronted, claiming they’d given players the choice they wanted. Why do I imagine the Ubisoft office to be made up of entirely white, middle-aged, married men?
Playing the ‘bloodline’ option is even more insidious, Kass’ dialogue implies she cares little for the kid, simply asking how her DNA is doing when she stops by like an absent parent. It’s horrible however you cut it; it undermines your choices, the character and the plotting. Kass was never that indifferent no matter her orientation. And the insults keep coming; if you play her as a dedicated parent, ignoring whatever choices she previously made choosing partners, she gives up the kid to ‘protect’ them (that’s not a spoiler, this is all about creating the Isu bloodline we’ve been playing) - that's just to ensure we can go back to free-roaming without worrying about bathtimes and homework. This whole insulting, embarrassing episode is redundant, filling in a plot hole we'd not worried about until the DLC opened it up.
I personally don’t have an issue with Kass falling for a male character since I wasn’t roleplaying her as gold-star gay; she did have a couple of f’boys on the go, but it is jolting to see her suddenly fall in love – because I intensely disliked the son and he wasn’t my Kass’ type. Plus, my Kass would never just retire and work a fricking farm. It’s all so cheesy and convenient.
And, over the generations it’s revealed our offspring is … Aya, Bayek’s wife – wait, so we weren’t even playing an Isu-human character in Origins?! What was the point of that game?! Do we need another Origins DLC to explain how Bayek was the lead not Aya, or how she recanted love in favour of being an Assassin but now we know must have had a kid at some point? Where's her legacy? Damnit Ubisoft, just leave things alone.
What gets me though, is all of this could have been avoided. The perfect parent was waiting in the wings – the other sibling. If Alexios had a kid – bloodline resolved, identity intact. And if the Order then murdered Alexios it would have chimed with his previous crimes and still given Kass the same rage and offspring. Everyone would have been happy. Except Alexios.
And, knowing the Order is after her, why in the hell didn’t Kass move back to Sparta? She’s got a highly trained killing machine for a brother (at least in my playthrough) and granddad The Wolf of Sparta, far better protection than the useless sperm donor and his geriatric dad. If you off'ed Alexios, even Mum could have gotten pregnant with whatshisname, that would still count. There’s no mention of them, and that’s likely because Ubisoft couldn’t be arsed to tie in all the possible choices we made throughout the main game; far easier to just play it straight?
Another thing that pissed me off was this is called First Blade - the box art shows a hidden blade. And not only do we never get to play with it, it’s barely even mentioned. Kass asks Darius about it and he just says “oh yeah I made it” and moves on. What?! Plus, Aya gets hers from Cleopatra, so it wasn’t even handed down through the bloodline?! Bollocks.
The gameplay is everything you’d expect, but whatever. I’m too pissed to care. Most of it is Kass goes somewhere, Darius pops up, criticises Kass, then disappears. There are some nice bits; a guy we keep accidentally helping assumes he has to reward us each time like we’re inadvertently doing his quests, and there’s some great throw-down fights with the Ancients (one of whom quotes Gandalf; he was a Templar?) but overall this is just Odyssey with some offensive plotting thrown in. Ubisoft must look back at the Unity-era sexism accusations with fondness after this. It used to be we wondered what time period the next AC game will explore, now we wait to see which minority Ubisoft will offend several times.
So really, is it worth getting those to extend your trip to Ancient Greece? From a purely gamer perspective, the Fate of Atlantis chapters are obscenely generous with the level ups, XP and brutal weaponry, and its fun fighting Cerberus, uncovering Juno’s plan, passing judgement on the Isu, but there’s nothing here that expands AC lore. First Blade is just an embarrassment. If I could I’d get it refunded as a protest.
With Valhalla announced as a full-bore RPG, I wonder what's in store for the viking lead? I think this time I'll give the DLCs a miss to be sure.