If I had one criticism of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – a game which, eight months on, I still play most evenings – it’s that Ubisoft’s incredible efforts to make it an RPG worth returning to can sometimes get in the way of providing a final, definitive ending. Odyssey had a set of three finales – one for each of its three intertwining storylines – but each refused to close the book fully.
But why would they? Here I am, still playing now, sometimes just for a daily mission, other times to chip away at the latest side-quest Kassandra has stumbled into. Odyssey is so vast, I’m still finding things to do from the base game alongside the wealth of stuff Ubisoft has been busy building in since launch: weekly quests to win and cosmetics to unlock, new bosses, entire questlines. And that’s before you get into the stuff you actually need to cough up for – Odyssey’s season pass content.
Legacy of the First Blade, Odyssey’s first season pass story arc, ended up a mostly-enjoyable diversion aimed at fans who didn’t mind it meandering away from what was stated on the tin (its promised storyline centring on the origins of the series’ iconic Hidden Blade weapon was left largely in the background in favour of a somewhat clumsily-handled link to the hero bloodline featured in other games).
Odyssey’s second and meatier season pass arc The Fate of Atlantis, on the other hand, is something far more special. It provides – finally – a fitting conclusion to Odyssey’s overall tale via a hugely ambitious narrative told over a grand series of settings. Its story fills in much of Kassandra’s fate as Atlantis’ Keeper, glimpsed very briefly in the main game if you complete all of its mythological questlines, and it lets you spend more time as modern day protagonist Layla Hassan, who barely featured in Odyssey’s 100-hour gameplay at all. For long-time fans, Atlantis also delves generously into the franchise’s sci-fi backstory for some surprising returns and revelations. It’s here, finally, we get a sense of closure the main game was clearly holding off on until now – and when all is said and done, there’s a feeling similar to that at the end of Assassin’s Creed 3: that a significant chapter of the whole franchise’s storyline has now passed.
Each episode of Atlantis takes place in its own unique region set apart from the main Odyssey map. The three-episode serial – whose last slice launches this week – begins in Elysium, a sort-of heaven for those chosen by the Greek gods. It’s a setting perfect for what Odyssey wants to achieve with this arc, which dives headfirst into the plans and machinations of the Isu, the series’ mysterious precursor race. Odyssey has gently retconned the Isu into a group which could, at times, co-exist peacefully with humanity. There were suggestions of this earlier in the series, but the lingering impression of Those Who Came Before has been coloured from the off by AC2’s early vision of a pre-Biblical Adam and Eve escaping the nefarious Isu’s clutches, and the long-running plot thread of Juno trying to break free into the present day.
Elysium, instead, showcases a glorious simulation of an afterlife where Greek heroes mingle with benevolent Isu rulers in as close to a version of its Isu past as Assassin’s Creed may ever provide. But is it all as benevolent as it seems? Harking back to that Adam and Eve idea, things are not well in this new Greek Eden – and Kassandra must team up with various human and Isu characters to ensure balance is restored. It’s an episode which sets the scene for the remainder of the story – placing Kassandra back into some of Odyssey’s more-familiar types of location with new sci-fi twists, and punishing enemies which will challenge even top-level players. This is Odyssey’s Taken King expansion, and the Isu enemies are its enjoyably souped up opponents.
Atlantis’ second episode takes place in Hades – a setting that needs little introduction. It’s a depressing and moody backdrop to a darker second chapter whose strengths lie in the return of several characters from Odyssey’s main “family” storyline, and which features some of the toughest boss fights of any Assassin’s Creed title. But it’s in the quieter moments with familiar faces (whose presence in Hades is a rather large clue to their fates in the main game) that the episode excels – in a little more time spent with both baddies and goodies taken before their time. One character in particular was someone I longed for more resolution with in Odyssey – entirely by design, I suspect, since their death took me completely by surprise. Here, at last, I felt like my Kassandra could let that character rest.
Finally, the storyline’s third episode arrives in Atlantis itself. This is not the underwater Atlantis you might expect, but a shining city of otherworldly stone yet to be cast beneath the waves. After triumphing in Elysium and surviving Hades, Kassandra arrives in Atlantis as a hero of renown, even to the Isu – and it’s here the game’s choice-based gameplay finds a natural home with you finally able to act as an overseer of the realm. You’re able to cast judgment on warring Isu and human rebels, decide the fate of new Isu engineering projects, and brush paths with several Isu items and characters which fans of the series will be very excited to see return.
Since AC2, fans have wanted a game set in Isu times, to walk amongst this race rather than wait a whole game to meet them in a cutscene. As one of those fans, it is an astonishing moment to see this laid out before me, and in such rich scope. Each of the three Atlantis episodes has around 10 hours of stuff to see, with a similar mix of activities to the main game. But the expansion flavours these far more generously with a new, super-powered set of abilities and doles out skilltree points in abundance to enable plenty of experimentation. There’s also several sets of new armour to customise your look and build further, and it is all laid out against a backdrop unlike anything else in the entire Assassin’s Creed series – more diverse and dramatic even than Origins’ similar afterlife-set Curse of the Pharaohs DLC.
I’m 200 hours into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey now. Back in proper Greece, not an Isu in sight, there are still whole islands I’ve yet to land on. But I like knowing there’s a final chapter to this saga, even if I still don’t quite want to reach it. Like Ubisoft, I’m keen Odyssey lasts just a little bit longer.