The moment fans realized that Assassin’s Creed was not a one-off project, but rather an expansive series spanning some of the most momentous eras of human history, our minds began to race with the possibilities. When sequels for other game series are announced, the first thing a fanbase generally wants to know about is new game mechanics. In the case of Assassin’s Creed, however, the first question has always been where—or, more appropriately, “when”—are we going next?
The series has taken us to some impressive and unexpected settings since debuting in 2007. Whether or not each game resonated with every single fan, settings like the early 18th century Caribbean and Victorian London demonstrated what was possible for the franchise. And yet, despite the impression left by many installments, there has always been a selection of history’s most iconic settings the community has held in higher esteem than the rest.
Feudal Japan is generally considered to be at the top of the community’s historical wishlist, and while teases suggest that it may be the setting of the very next Assassin’s Creed, we are all still waiting (im)patiently for confirmation. Egypt, which we got last year in Assassin’s Creed Origins, was another highly requested contender, as was the setting of Ancient Greece in this year’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The tragedy is that, while Origins generally did Egypt proud, the potential offered by an Ancient Greek setting was wasted on Odyssey.
In the years before we knew where Origins and Odyssey would take us, Assassin’s Creed reached a saturation point comparable to that of the Call of Duty series, churning out a new installment every single year. This frequency of releases forced publisher Ubisoft to alternate development teams, and every few installments, this lead to the series getting mixed up in a big way.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Origins stand as prime examples of this rare but welcome occurrence, and incidentally, both were at least partially developed by the same Ubisoft subsidiary. Origins, in particular, introduced some major thematic and gameplay shifts to the series, and while they may not have clicked with everyone, it was refreshing to see an Assassin’s Creed team try something new. Another distinction about Origins was that it was the first mainline installment to take an extra year off since Assassin’s Creed II, which was likely integral to the scope of Origins’ changes. But then, as soon as it seemed the series would start pacing itself once more, Odyssey dropped just one short year later, and to little surprise, the game is largely a palette swap of Origins.
Not every installment has to completely flip the script, but Greece deserved more novelty than playing second fiddle to Origins’ Egypt. While there are undoubtedly similarities between the two settings, both being Mediterranean countries in the earlier years of civilized society, there are distinct elements of Greece that separate it. Specifically, the politics and open conflict of Odyssey’s Peloponnesian Greece differ notably from the cultural environment of Origins’ Ptolemaic Egypt. These distinctions could have been used to great effect, but Odyssey’s identical structure forced it to follow similar narrative and gameplay beats as its predecessor, limiting its capacity to stand out.
It is from here that my disappointment surrounding Odyssey’s use of Ancient Greece arises. For its role in one of the most significant periods in history, Greece should have been saved for an Assassin’s Creed installment that mixed up the formula, not one that simply capitalizes on systems established by the previous game. This is not to say that all of the more “secondary” Assassin’s Creed titles were inherently worse than the others, nor is this meant to express that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey isn’t a decent game. Rather, the point is that there is so much potential to be found in the culture and history of Ancient Greece, but it isn’t possible to utilize that potential to its fullest when the setting is forced through the gameplay mold of Assassin’s Creed Origins.
A game can be of genuine quality without being memorable, and that is my fear for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. You may not have enjoyed the sailing in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, or the reworked combat in Assassin’s Creed Origins, but if you’ve played every installment in the series, you can’t deny those are the experiences that stand out. We are now at a point where Ancient Greece has been checked off the list of future Assassin’s Creed settings, all for an installment that many will likely remember as, “Wait, that was the one similar to Origins, right?”. As an Assassin’s Creed fan of Greek heritage, that’s just sad.