With the release of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey taking the franchise in a new direction and opening out the scope for what might happen in the future of the series, when they opportunity came up to ask Jonathan Dumont (the creative director of the game), it couldn’t be passed up.
What made you pick the setting and time period of the new game?
As always in Assassin’s Creed, we wanted to pick a setting that is a pivotal moment in history, a period that deeply impacts the story of mankind, which will allow for plenty of gameplay opportunities. We also wanted a setting and period that are connected to the story we want to tell, that idea of a place and time torn between order and free-will, between the Old World and the New World. A setting where mankind is at the eve of some of its more astonishing progress and discoveries but at the same time risks losing it all to war and violence.
For all those reasons the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece was for us a perfect fit. It’s a place and time filled with tension and opposition between man and the gods, reason and myth, tyranny and democracy, Athens and Sparta…. It is the ideal setting to embark players on a true odyssey where all of their choices will matter, an adventure where they will determine their own path between these extreme notions.
But of course, we also picked this setting because of the amazing beauty and diversity of Ancient Greece. There is an incredible variety of biomes and landscapes, from the snowy peak of Mount Taygetos to the crystalline waters of the Aegean Sea. Forests, white beaches, volcanic islands, mountains… Ancient Greece has it all. It’s also without a doubt one of the richest settings ever when it comes to man-made monuments and objects, a time of massive temples and statues that really stimulated and challenged our artists. It was said at that time that Greece had been created by the gods, and we’re proud and excited that players will discover in our game one of the most credible recreation of those place and time.
Where did the idea for the main story come from / what was your inspiration?
Ancient Greece in the 5th century BCE was the place and time for the creation of many storytelling genres that are still popular today, such as tragedy and comedy. It was very important for us to feature them in our narrative and have a real variety in the tone of our stories. Our main story is very much a family tragedy in the Ancient Greek sense of the word, but there are also moments that are very light-hearted and fun. To build that we took inspiration from popular authors of the time, such as Sophocles or Aristophanes.
You can play the game as a man or women. Did this throw up any issues when making the game / story?
Not at all, everyone in the dev team was very excited to offer that choice to players. On Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, also developed by Ubisoft Québec, we were already giving the opportunity to play with Evie Frye in specific missions. Offering the choice between a male and a female hero for the entirety of the game was for us the next step and it makes total sense in our RPG experience that is all based around the notion of player’s choice.
How does it change the game, if at all?
Very early in the development process we decided that we wanted to allow players to choose between a male or a female hero without their choice affecting core gameplay abilities or story. We don’t want to restrict players to a specific playstyle or have them miss some parts of the experience because they chose to play with a female or a male hero. From a development perspective, having two main characters that have access to the exact same game content means that every time we had a scene that included audio recording and/or mocap with the hero, we had to do it twice.
What do you feel is the biggest change in the game from Origins?
There are many important changes in Odyssey compared to Origins, but if there is one to underline more is what we’ve done to complete the transformation of the Assassin’s Creed experience into a full-on open world RPG. For us that means creating a game where player agency and freedom of choice are at the core of every feature and system. So even if players live their adventures through the embodiment of a hero, Alexios or Kassandra, what really matters are the decisions they make, the role they want to play in the story, and the path they want to follow in a world that constantly reacts to their choices. Depending on these decisions, new opportunities and storylines will arise, leading to multiple endings to the main story.
And have you added any new features fans have be requesting, or that will greatly change the game in terms of how it plays over past titles?
We learnt a lot from the players’ reception to Origins, and that helped us define what we wanted to bring in Odyssey. For instance, one new feature is the ability to choose between Guided and Exploration Modes. With Exploration Mode, there is no clear marker popping on the world that will tell you exactly where to look for your next objective, you need to rely on clues given by NPCs to get where to search. While that might look as a minor change, it’s in fact a very different way to discover the world and creates a different experience, and from the feedback we got players like it very much.
With the combat changing so much in Origins, how is it handled in Odyssey?
Evolved from the combat systems seen in Assassin’s Creed Origins, the combat in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is centred on a more agile and aggressive main character than ever before. The player will be able to attack ferociously while dodging, rolling, and parrying enemy attacks, with the addition of devastating new Special Abilities. These Special Abilities will allow players to tailor the capacities of their hero to their own playstyle, Hunter, Warrior, or Assassin. The hero wields the Broken Spear of Leonidas, a legendary artefact, which gives players access to a wide range of passive and active melee, ranged, and stealth Abilities. Examples include the powerful Sparta Kick, the Rain of Arrows which unleashes a torrent of arrows on a chosen area, and the long distance Rush Assassinate. Players can select up to 12 Abilities from a total of 25 to quickly perform the moves they require in combat, resulting in a huge range of possible playstyles and builds. All in all that creates a faster-paced, more varied combat experience than in Origins.
How much of a part does the sailing side of things play in the game, and has it changed much since Black Flag at all?
As we want players to embark on a true Odyssey, from the very start of development we knew we would bring back open-world seamless naval. It’s an important component of the game, but not as central as it was in Black Flag. Of course it’s also pretty different in terms of gameplay since naval warfare was not the same in Ancient Greece as what it was at the times of piracy in the Caribbean. In our research we discovered that the ships of the time were quite manoeuvrable and that naval combat focused a lot on ramming, which we made a core pillar in our naval experience.
The tale hints at battling more mythological enemies, like Medusa, which is a bit more high fantasy than the series typical enemies. Is it a departure from the very rooted in history style of the series, and what made you take this path?
Our recreation of Ancient Greece is full of mysteries, myths and legends, true to how people of the time envisioned them. That said, it will be the player’s choice to interact and challenge the legendary animals and mythical creatures they will find in our world, as most of them are more side-content or end-game than main path. From a lore perspective we made sure that those moments fit into the franchise by connecting them to the First Civilisation and its mysterious artefacts.
Other than Medusa are there any other mythical monsters in the game that you’re able to share?
There are more than Medusa for sure, but we’d rather not spoil it for our players! Apart from what we call the mythical creatures, there are also legendary animals, inspired by the myths and legends of Herakles.
How big is the world compared to Origins, and how much of a challenge is it to fill it with actives for the player?
The map is roughly twice as big as Origins’ one, with 50% water. It’s a huge world for sure and we filled it with as many Points of Interest and activities as possible. We also use our systems, such as the Pelopponesian war or the Mercenaries/bounties, to make sure that players always have something that they can engage with while they’re exploring Ancient Greece.
With the series always having a strong DLC support post launch, are there plans to support Odyssey in the same way?
The post-launch roadmap for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the biggest and most ambitious ever in the franchise, focusing mostly on new narrative content that players will be able to enjoy the way they wish to. The cornerstone of that roadmap is our Season Pass that solely focuses on bringing more stories to players, in an episodic format. It includes two massive downloadable story arcs – Legacy of the First Blade and The Fate of Atlantis – of 3 episodes each. That’s a total of six episodes that will dive deeper into the lore of Assassin’s Creed and the most famous Greek myths. And as a special gift for our fans, our Season Pass will also include Assassin’s Creed III Remastered!
Another important change is that we will offer new and free story content on a regular basis through the Lost Tales of Greece, which are free quests diving deeper into the stories of old and new characters from the world of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Last but not least, there will be plenty of new and free challenges and rewards through our daily and weekly contracts, new epic ships, epic mercenaries and mythical creatures to defy as well as a new Game Plus Mode. For us the launch of the game is just the beginning of the Odyssey and we can’t wait for players to discover all the cool stuff they will enjoy after the game is out.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One for around £45, and this interview appears courtesy of the Scottish Sun.
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Great interview Stuart.