I get paid to play games – lots of games – and write about them. This is a great privilege, but that means I'm forced to budget my playing time. It's not effective for me to play a game for fun when I have a bunch of new titles drawn up for work, with deadlines threatening.
But here I am 75 days after I've posted my Assassin's Creed Odyssey review still plays the same game. I'm 120 hours in this huge world, with lots of places to visit and missions have not yet been completed. I'm pretty sure I want 100 percent all quests.
This is a surprise to me. I'm not a big fan of Assassin's Creed series, which has a bit of ridiculous sci-fi sensation, hasty releases and killed macho heroes. I often find Ubisoft's open worlds to be sterile and samey. But Assassin's Creed Odyssey is the game I've played more than anyone else this year. That's the game I put on top of my Polygon GOTY voice form in front Obra Dinn and god of war, both of which are amazing works of originality and design.
GOTY # 10: ASSASSIN'S CREED ODYSSEY
For ours 2018 guide to this year's best game, Will Polygon count on our top 10 every weekday. On December 21st we will reveal both our # 1 game and the full list of our favorite 50 from 2018. And during the month we'll look back on the year with special videos, essays and surprises!
This Odyssey My constancy is a good opportunity to think about why I still play a game that would have left months ago in the normal course. The best answer I can deal with is that OdysseyThe world's world is a resident of non-players who feel like real people who have personalities and stories that I enjoy. I would like to spend time with these people.
I go a bit longer saying that this game has the best cast of NPC's, I can definitely remember rich games with many characters.
The constant problem
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is located in ancient Greece. I play as Kassandra (or alternatively like his brother Alexios, but do not). Like a "misthios", my job is to move the country, fool evil politicians, horrible generals and terrible criminals. I'm also paid to lay down military bases, stealthing through the barracks, thinning the row of the fighting Spartan and Athenian armies.
It's an open-world playground where I explore the graves and underwater shipwrecks. I fight with wolves, bears and sharks. I compete in the arena.
It sounds like a lot of things to do, but there are lots of games that deliver mechanical variation. They are designed to keep you through to the end. In general, they fail.
Constancy is one of the biggest problems for game designers, especially those who make big, expensive singleplayer campaigns. Players often lose interest in campaigns well before the end of the story. It is estimated that only 10 percent of the players completed the final mission in the original Red Dead Redemption, one of the most popular open-world games ever made. Somewhere along the line, nine out of 10 players became bored.
These are vibrant, exciting playgrounds. They are expensively crafted worlds filled with mystery, challenge and beauty. Unfortunately, they often lack the narrative and emotional resonance that keeps the players connected long after the action has taken place.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey Keep my attention by providing a wealth of stories, fronted by quirky, memorable, credible people.
The best shapes
I have previously written about how much I admire Kassandra as a protagonist. But I am also deeply impressed with the care and attention that has gone into the NPCs surrounding her, and even questors who enter the story for a brief moment.
Here's a quick list of my favorites.
Barnabas is a ship's captain whose gameplay role is to help Kassandra handle her tribe while offering barking on long journeys. But the authors give him a charming feel for mythical tales and the handful of God. He is more than a standard superstitious sailor; He is a voice for all the old ones who believed that the gods existed and influenced their lives. His piety is fun and convincing. When I spend time with him, at the gods, I begin to think that Poseidon really is out there.
Phoibe is a child who admires Kassandra and dogs his steps. This is a well-known device in fiction, and especially in games, a proxy for the developer's desire to make their hero look amazing. Child signs can be annoying and cloying. But Phoibe has its own agency and wishes. She is a risk taker who may have learned a little too much, too young, from Kassandra. She is naughty and sympathetic, not just cutesy. The authors give us a person to worry about, much like we would be a real child.
Nikolaos is "Sparta's Wolf", a famous Secretary-General and Kassandra's father-in-law. Unlike many of the characters in this game, he has no humor. His lodges are the serious values of a militaristic patriarchal slave cat. He will make a sacrifice for his nation. In a subordinate story, these qualities would mark him as a villain just waiting for justice. IN OdysseyHe is a pain of pain, a man hollowed by the system itself, designed to favor him and his kind. Not only is he rounded, he is also a modern warning to our own society.
Daphnae is a great quest giver, and leader of Artemis daughters, a female cool. Her gameplay role is to send Kassandra to the four corners of Greece in search of legendary animals. Daphnae is as many characters in this game because she far exceeds the limits of her gameplay utility. She is a romantic woman, a flirting soul that plays with Kassandra's feelings (in dialogue trees, I always go full for romance). But she is a leading leader whose first commitment is for her goddess and for her followers. Like Nikolaos, this causes her pain. But unlike Nikolaos, she has chosen this life, a difference that realistically affects her choices and her prospects. Real thought has gone into writing its inner turmoil.
Then there is it Very sexy old woman who I want to name as a representative of smaller NPCs. Thousands of speaking parts are displayed in Odyssey, disposable shells designed to send Kassandra to simple missions. Quest donors are a standard tool for game designers, and they are usually forgettable. But here the authors take time to give them all the little quirks that speak for universal experience. Old women who kill their weary men for love are hardly unfamiliar in fiction, and especially in comedy. But they are rare in play. Auxesia is really fun, memorable and genuine. And she's not alone. Lots of NPCs in this game are strange characters that Kassandra looks with joy and patience. They are a tribute to the truism that "there is now as much fun as folk music."
Assassin's Creed game is famous for using historical figures from Cleopatra to Napoleon. OdysseyCollection is amazing. Socrates is a warm, caring man who laughs at himself and the world while trying to understand both. Aspasia is a political genius, hypercompetent and associated with all levels of the Athenian community. Alcibiades performs the fetal animal, but he always works with a scheme.
There are a few mistakes here and there. I find Kassandra's mentor Markos to be a little too familiar as the risky dealer, to always get into scrapes. Stentor, her brother at adoption, lacks sufficient depth, given its centrality to history. But these are small quibbles.
More seriously, the game's over-reliance is on a small number of facial models for its questors. I understand the devastating prize to create a new face for every last speaking character, and I appreciate the efforts that have gone into faces of big figures, especially Kassandra. But seeing the same face over and over, presented as separate individuals, undermines the author's work hard.
And it's their job that I admire most in this amazing game. Series like Assassin's Creed, Red Dead, Tomb Raider and Far Cry are very good at portraits and by delivering the excitement of power in our hands. But they still have a long way to bring us detailed rich figures that speak and behave in ways that feel authentic. Few games succeed in this regard as well as Assassin's Creed Odyssey.
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