In ‘Assassin‘s Creed Odyssey,‘ choices really matter

Three hours into playing the first chapter of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, I was faced with a choice. I had been making small choices throughout my playtime — Do I agree to help this nasty old lady recover some stolen wood? Do I tell my friend Phoibe that my pet eagle is a gift from the gods? — but this one felt different. 

A group of priests were about to slaughter the last remaining residents of a plague-ridden village and only I was around to stop them. If I did, the family would survive. If I did not, the rest of the island would be at risk of contagion. The life-or-death dialogue options sat in the bottom right corner of my screen, but I’d be lying if I said it took me long to make the decision: kill them all. 

It may have just been a video game, but I still felt guilty until Jonathan Dumont, the creative director of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, ensured me that I had spared the island a worse fate. He also said he’d seen very few people choose to let the family die. 

Guess I’m just brutal like that. 

It was moments like the plague choice that made my playthrough feel weighty and important in a way that previous Assassin’s Creed games hadn’t. Previously, the sci-fi premise of the franchise disallowed player choice with regard to cutscenes and character interactions, and while there may not as to why Odyssey has them now, they add much more to the game than I anticipated. 

Odyssey’s choices inject a level of emotional investment into the player character’s actions in a way that should be familiar to anyone who has played an RPG before, but the fact that I was influencing an Assassin’s Creed protagonist invested me further. 

Being able to make decisions revolving around Pieces of Eden and choosing which information to uncover for Odyssey’s in-game modern day researcher Layla Hassan felt like finally having a place in one of my favorite game universes — the secret war between assassins and templars. 

Unlike some RPG characters, the game’s protagonists (either Alexios or Kassandra; I played Alexios in the demo) didn’t feel like blank slates upon which I enforced my player’s will. Alexios has a distinct personality and manner of speaking that somewhat changed the way I made choices. Even when I decided to make him kind, he has the cocky, impatient swagger that’s come to define most of the franchise‘s leading men, so I played him as best I could to suit the AC legacy of charming bastard characters. 

Anyone else could make other choices, but Alexios’ base personality is strong enough to come through regardless of if he’s vocalizing kindness or coldness. That‘s one of the main elements that makes Odyssey still feel like an Assassin‘s Creed game while breaking one of the fundamental rules of the franchise. Even if they‘re not really “assassins,” Alexios and Kassandra still feel like them.