Now that the final episode of ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ DLC trilogy for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has released, both new and returning players have the opportunity to play some of the greatest content additions ever to hit the Assassin’s Creed franchise. While providing a capstone to the Odyssey content releases and story arc, ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ takes the title’s RPG gameplay and fully unchains itself from the series’ semi-historically accurate portrayal of ancient civilizations. For those hoping to experience a more mythological side of the Assassin’s Creed universe, ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ is Ubisoft’s answer.
Mild spoilers for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and its DLC below.
One can argue that the past few Assassin’s Creed titles have been slowly itching towards a more fictional approach to storytelling and world building when compared to the original pillars of the series, and with Odyssey this claim is more true than ever before. One of the greatest criticisms Odyssey received at launch was how it handled the previously established lore and world-building that the series is known for. Fans were immediately taken aback by the shoehorned in game mechanics that went against the established foundation set in Origins the year prior. Odyssey’s Kassandra/Alexios having the same playstyle and mannerisms of Origins’s Bayek, despite living 400 years earlier, can be written off as being done for ease of development, however it still left hardcore fans puzzled and frustrated by the lazy implementation.
Despite the aforementioned transgressions, Odyssey provided players with an excellent ancient civilization sandbox to run around and vicariously live in. The post-launch content gifted players more of Odyssey’s story to explore by introducing Darius, wielder of the first hidden blade, and Atlantis, one of the last cities of the Isu/First Civilization race. Continuing its trend of playing fast and loose with the Assassin’s Creed lore, Ubisoft thought to retcon almost everything that was already established about the first Assassins in its ‘Legacy of the First Blade’ trilogy of DLC. By completely disregarding the traditions and ideologies founded in Origins, Ubisoft proved to fans that the future trajectory of the franchise was heavily in favor of gameplay over all else. However, that is a topic for another day.
‘The Fate of Atlantis’ was Ubisoft’s final story-arc DLC for Odyssey, and after the underperforming ‘Legacy of the First Blade’ story, many fans worried that its closing content would suffer the same fate. In a surprising turn of events, however, ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ proves that the Assassin’s Creed franchise can actually succeed when it does not take itself seriously. The past few entries into the series has seen Ubisoft take further risks by edging away from its successful formula. Since Assassin’s Creed III, the franchise has incorporated more fantastical elements that are in contrast to its original ‘near accuracy’ approach. Odyssey’s ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ DLC trilogy unchains itself from that restriction and dives head first into mythology.
Hear me out before the enraged comments begin. I have been an Assassin’s Creed fan since the beginning and, in my opinion, the greatest draw of the franchise is how it incorporates historical accuracy with its fictional narrative. Anyone who believes that what is said in an Assassin’s Creed to be fact should really open up a history textbook, but seeing ‘what if?’ scenarios take place in the same historical events we have been told for centuries is a fresh take.
The opening episode sees the games protagonist head into Elysium to gain knowledge of their birthright’s potential and power. Elysium is a ‘would be’ paradise for souls who are granted safe passage through The Underworld, and it is where the protagonist reconnects with those who desire paradise after death. The world of Elysium is vast and beautiful, consisting of sprawling fields and open vistas. The story present within this episode tasks Kassandra/Alexios with gathering information from Persephone, Hades’s wife, by either aiding a rebellion against her or sabotaging its progress. Regardless of choice, players will find themselves at the same confrontation in the end, which is a theme that resurfaces in every subsequent episode.
As a stark contrast to Elysium, the second episode takes players into the depths of The Underworld with Hades holding the protagonist hostage until his demands are met. The Underworld is the complete opposite of Elysium in almost every way. The paradise fields of Elysium are swapped out for the dark and claustrophobic roads of despair.
Where Elysium struggled was with the balance for beauty and good level design where the map was often to vertical for simplistic traversal. To help alleviate this issue, the developers added a mechanic known as the Wings of Hermes, which acts like an elevator to each mountain area. The problem with this mechanic, however, is that they were spread so far between that most times the player ended up having to climb the mountain instead, which can become extremely tedious after the first few times. The Underworld, in contrast, does not suffer from this design; instead, it focuses more on placing obstacles in your path between destinations. Whether it involves poisonous ponds scattered across the land or an infinite sea of debris to maneuver and climb over, The Underworld is a cluster of despair which adds to the atmosphere even though it gets in the way.
The main appeal towards the second episode is that players can reconnect with familiar faces from the main story and see how their fate unfolded. The narrative of witnessing familiar NPCs’ fates plays into the significance of decision making in the episode. Instead of forming a rebellion against Hades, players’ decisions are weighed in on by Hades and Poseidon, as they constantly wager on your actions. Just as in Elysium, all decisions will lead towards the same ending, but personalizing the final interactions with those NPCs is a nice touch.
The final episode in ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ story arc seeks to be a culmination of everything that came before it. The futuristic city of Atlantis is, in my opinion, the most beautiful setting of the three, by incorporating the bright colors of Elysium with the obstacle filled paths of The Underworld. The fusion of forefather technology along with ancient Greek architecture fosters a setting that remains out of this world, yet somehow remarkably grounded. The narrative of the third episode sees Poseidon rewarding players’ triumphs by promoting them to Dikastes: essentially the judge, jury, and executioner of Atlantis. By doing so, all decisions made in Atlantis are catered to how the player would lead the city.
Up until the finale of the third episode, I was under the impression that ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ was Ubisoft’s way of taking the formula of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and turning it into a fantasy RPG. However, in the closing moments of the final episode, Ubisoft has surprised me by finding a way to tie in everything done in these three episodes to the overall lore of the franchise. What I first believed to be an experimentation of a potential spin-off franchise turned into a nice nod to previous Assassin’s Creed titles and the story they had set up with the Isu/First Civilization.
Overall, the story arc of ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ was a positive experience and a fitting way to end the content of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The DLC asked that players suspend their disbelief with its semi-accurate take on Ancient Greece and journey into the afterlife of Greek mythology. While not the first title to do so (with Origins’s ‘Curse of the Pharaohs’ DLC last year tackling Egyptian mythology), Odyssey proves that a fantasy take on its formula leaves more to explore.
Despite the praise, however, ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ possessed the same issues that are present within the main game and its previous titles. The DLC proves that Assassin’s Creed’s biggest flaw is still its modern-day storyline and main protagonist Layla Hassan. The writing and acting of Layla are beyond abysmal at this point, and Ubisoft needs to understand that this is an issue that is weighing down the series. For example, the death of a prominent character left a cliffhanger at the conclusion of the second episode, only to be written off as a ‘whoopsie’ in the opening minutes of the third. Layla’s naïve attitude and self-centered approach to the events around her are dragged out and annoying. No resolution is present for her actions, nor any character development or improvement in the slightest. Instead, her motivations remain the same despite reason, causing universal unrest every time the game pulls you out of the Animus to live in her shoes.