Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is being hailed as a true return to form for the franchise. Personally I have not enjoyed an Assassin’s Creed (AC) game this much since last generation’s instant classic: Assassin’s Creed II. But while the combat is the best it has ever been, the open world bursting at the seams with life and adventure, and characters are as compelling as the days you were helping Leonardo da Vinci move into his new house, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey does stumble in one area. The game’s campaign ending is more akin to a fizzle than the bang that it’s narrative deserved to go out on. So today let’s look at where Assassin’s Creed Odyssey went wrong, and what could have been done to improve it. Spoilers ahead.
What went wrong? Since last year’s AC entry, Origins, Ubisoft has been shifting the franchise and its games to become more like platforms instead of individual entries. This is all to try and capture the same success that they have seen with their other AAA money makers: The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. So instead of the game having a definitive ending, instead you could feasibly go on forever exploring the lands of Greece and constantly getting new missions. While more Assassin’s Creed Odyssey fun is never bad, what effect this had on the campaign was that after 70 hours of play and completing all of the story missions, the end isn’t really punctuated with anything. Instead you complete the three main plots, are greeted by an underwhelming set of cutscenes and are spat back out into the world to continue your merry Spartan adventures.
And that is so disappointing because what ACO was building up to had the potential to be some of the most epic, intriguing and tragic story set pieces to ever be seen in an AC.
But what went wrong and what specifically should be changed? Well it all seemed to begin to fall apart after I finished the Odyssey storyline of the game. Playing as an Alexios I had fashioned into my own Greek Aquaman because I am the protector of Atlantis, I saved my cultist sister and brought her over to the light. The cult literally stabbed her in the back (with a bow and arrow, but still) and lied to her, meanwhile a loving family had their arms wide open to her, the choice wasn’t too hard. After that, we had a reunion family meal and I was ready to set off with my re-assembled family to kick some cultist ass. What I got instead though was a completion trophy and told to wander off into the world and pick off the cultists whenever I get around to it.
ACO’s main thrust is taking down the cult of Kosmos (aka the even older timey Templars), so why is the bulk of dismantling the organisation handled with little to no drama at all, but instead treated more like a set of collectable coins? This took all of the excitement out of the climatic arc in my play through and made the game feel like a grindy slog.
Instead what should have been done is the continuation of the Odyssey, and now with Kassandra’s help, or with the help of a scroll detailing the cultist locations you found on her dead body if you decided to kill her in Sparta, you go on an epic whole map spanning adventure to take down the remnants of the cultist menace. This is where (if you saved your evil sibling) the two of you would really bond and make Spartan kicking enemies off of high places the family business. Hell, maybe even add in the function to play as the other sibling, akin to the system used in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, in actual missions with cutscenes and eye watering set pieces instead of the kill and fetch quests we received in the actual game.
After another 10-20 hours of family therapy through cultist annihilation where Kassandra has really become a part of Alexios’ community of friends and has begun to make amends for the evil deeds she had done for the cult, you finally learn that the cultist leader is going back to where you and Kassandra first met to try and use the mysterious pyramid. And so you go, in your own time of course, to the ending of the cultist’s storyline.
Back in the actual game here you come face to face with the leader of the cult, Aspasia. This reveal lacked any real weight as, honestly, I had completely forgotten who she was. Not only that, but after going through all of this effort to reveal her identity, the cult’s leader wasn’t even their leader anymore, instead she’s this disillusioned former cultist who lost faith in their ways. After a clunky exposition dump by Aspasia you can decide to kiss her, leave, or kill her. All options are underwhelming and I was left feeling cheated out of a grand finale. Remember fighting the Pope in the Vatican in Assassin’s Creed II, now that is how you do a big boss beat down.
Instead of going for the shock and awe value of having the leader be someone you’ve already encountered, I would have been more than happy to be put face to face with a nefarious unknown who only has world domination and humanity subjugation on their mind. More clichéd, yes. However, would it be more satisfying to see Alexios and Kassandra team up to take down this fierce leader possibly armed with a piece of Eden instead of sitting through someone explain their needlessly confusing back story? I think it would.
After killing the cultist leader Alexios grabs the pyramid to take it away from the cult’s lair. At the moment of touching it his mind is flooded with the visions of the AC game’s history and a speech from his father. After Alexios can choose to destroy the future-telling device because no man should have this power, or keep it for his own gains. Either way Alexios leaves the cave with determination in his eye as the vision’s inclusion of his father tells him that there is still business to finish, the closing of the Atlantean gate.
Here, depending on if you already completed the seriously cool artefact finding missions or not, you either go and finish those or go straight to the gate with your loyal sibling in toe. On entering the Precursor temple, Pythagoras angrily makes your ex-cultist sibling leave for their past indiscretions and you spend some quality father and son/daughter time closing the gate to Atlantis.
On putting in all of the artefacts a port is revealed where Pythagoras’ staff is needed as a key to lock the gate and the knowledge stored within. On inserting his staff his mind is given access to the vast Precursor knowledge and Pythagoras toys with the idea of using the knowledge to steer humanity on to the correct course, his course. Seeing the similarities between his father’s new attitude and the cult of Kosmos’ mission you either attempt to talk him down or fight him for the staff. Through either taking the staff by force or being given the responsibility freely, you gain the staff and as your eyes flash golden a message for Layla (the modern day Animus user) plays in Alexios’ mind that talks about balance in the world and how she is the key being from both the Templar and Assassin worlds (like it does in the game). Overwhelmed by what just happened Alexios closes the gate and leaves the temple behind, keeping the staff in his safe hands.
Kassandra is waiting outside of the temple and you both decompress about your journeys, sitting on the ashy beach watching a sunset. Kassandra laments that her destiny is over, the cult has been stomped out and now she wants to go back to Sparta to get back the lost time with her mother, but she can see that Alexios’ destiny has only just begun and wishes him luck as she leaves.
I have not changed much from the game here, you still get the staff and your father still dies. What I have added is a better explanation to how the gate actually works, what is actually being kept there, and what Alexios’ responsibility is now, whilst also adding a nice closing scene to the sibling family love that has now become the focal point of the game.
From here you are invited to either Athens or Sparta, depending on how you acted through the game and to which side you leaned. The different encounters would play much like the Sokrates farewell, but with more of an impact on the game’s lore going forward. With your allies rightfully placed at the head of both nations you celebrate the victory with them and are offered a place at the governing councils. You accept and a brighter future for Greece seems assured. Roll credits.
But wait: there’s more. Layla in the present is ejected from the Animus and wakes to see the immortal Alexios standing over her. He states that now she should understand, whilst she is wowed and overcome with the need to ask a billion questions. Alexios explains that in the years to follow the cult returned from oceans far away and it was clear that the fight would never end, but to make sure the cult never took full control the fight had to be fought. And so Alexios and the Athens/Spartan council formed the first Assassins brotherhood. And since then Alexios has helped run the Assassins from the shadows, teaming up with another band of rebels from Egypt (Bayek and his allies from Assassin’s Creed Origins), and travelling the world to make sure the cult, now Templars, never claimed the control.
Alexios explains that he has lost many over the years as flashbacks to past AC games play. For example we could see Ezio’s family being hung and in the crowd is a sorrowful Alexios, exciting lore building stuff like that. He continues that the responsibility has been heavy, and that it has all lead to this as the balance the Precursor whispered of in his mind since the day of his father’s death could never be achieved by him, but it was the destiny of the next staff bearer to bring true peace to the world. With that Alexios hands Layla the staff and the gauntlet is passed once again with Alexios dying in her arms. Layla’s eyes turn golden and the modern day Assassins ask what the hell is going on through Layla’s earpiece. Eyes still golden she smiles, looks to the camera and with staff in hand stands stating: “Alexios showed me a path.”
This ending gives the series a sense of forward propulsion that the Atlantis storyline ending in ACO severely lacked whilst also adding an interesting wrinkle to the wider lore by having this protagonist be the Assassins leader. This grand reveal would be Odyssey’s Minerva moment and really land the final blow to cap off the incredible 80+ hour journey Ubisoft has just delighted you with. From here the future of the franchise is energised with the modern day story on a clear trajectory and the DLC for Odyssey can explore Alexios’ building of the Assassins brotherhood of Greece.
While this ending would have been a dream come true, what we got didn’t completely spoil Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the game is still an addictive and bloody method of historical tourism that keeps me coming back for more. Luckily there’s a season pass for that.