Rating: 8.5/10

 

I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I put well over 100 hours into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s main campaign and plethora of side activities. Somehow, I was still eager to jump back in when the first part of a trilogy of DLC episodes, included in the $40 season pass (entitled Legacy of the First Blade), launched a few months back. That having been said, by the time I finished the final chapter, I was just about as burnt out as I could be by a game I’d largely enjoyed. I’d killed every cultist, explored almost every island, and certainly hadn’t gotten over my gripes with the loot and inventory systems.

Moreover, I couldn’t shake the feeling that A) the short, three to four-hour episodes were hardly deserving of the Season Pass’ price tag, and B) the story and characters were bland at best, and lazy at worst. I didn’t really care about Darius (the Persian proto-Assassin my Kassandra teamed up with over the course of the three episodes), and I could not possibly have cared less about Natakas (the blank-faced dope who justifiably provoked the ire of the LGBTQ+ community for becoming a mandatory romantic partner regardless of the player’s intended sexual orientation). During its most interesting moments, Legacy of the First Blade connected to what could possibly come after Odyssey in that noncommital, nebulous way Assassin’s Creed fans have become accustomed to when a story has any bearing on the larger meta-narrative.

In short, I was pretty damn ready to expunge the game from my PS4 and free up that precious hard drive space I always seem to be on the brink of filling. And then The Fate of Atlantis sparked my interest. Soon after, it won me over.

Minor spoilers for AC Odyssey follow.

During the main campaign, it is revealed that Kassandra/Alexios’ father is not, in fact, the Spartan warrior Nikolaos, but rather Pythagoras the mathematician, rendered semi-immortal by a Piece of Eden. He tasks the player with retrieving four artifacts that will help him seal the gates to the lost city of Atlantis so that the Cult of Cosmos (pre-Templars) can never gain access to the First Civilization knowledge held within.

The first episode of The Fate of Atlantis wastes no time picking up from where this story thread left off pre-DLC, and quickly legitimizes the modern-day storyline in a way that hasn’t been attempted since, arguably, Assassin’s Creed II. I suppose that’s part of why this episode, entitled The Fields of Elysium, is some of the most fun I’ve had playing an AC game in years.

Discounting my outspoken love for the modern-day plot of Assassin’s Creed, The Fields of Elysium gives the mechanics and visuals of Odyssey a welcome update, and in some cases actually surpass the original game. The player is sent to Elysium, the “Heaven” of the Greek afterlife, and is quickly thrown into a tenuous and ever-evolving relationship with the region’s major players.

Adonis, the world’s most famous pretty boy, wants desperately to leave Elysium to be reunited with his love: Aphrodite. Persephone, the Queen of Elysium, refuses to let anybody leave (least of all Adonis). And Hekate, Persephone’s closest friend, seems to have her own secret motives for any action she takes. It’s up to the player to find the best path through this political turmoil and escape Elysium, whatever the cost.

This is the first example of The Fields of Elysium outshining the game to which it is appended; navigating the web of choices as you play double (and eventually triple) agent feels challenging, rewarding, and far more reactive than it did for much of Odyssey’s campaign. It still occasionally feels like the web of choices and consequences is made to seem more expansive with smoke and mirrors, but if that’s the case, it’s far more artfully disguised this time around.

Similarly, as gorgeous as the Greek Isles in the main game were, transferring the setting to a realm not constrained by realistic geography elevates the visuals to another level entirely. Sprawling fields dotted with colorful flowers; towering, sheer cliffs with cascading waterfalls; enormous, impossible structures. Elysium feels like a cross between Greek mythology, the natural settings of Far Cry: New Dawnand the angular First Civ architecture featured in previous games. Simply put, it’s stunning. Navigating the mountains and plains of Elysium was precisely the palate cleanser I needed after so many hours spent in the varied but eventually samey feeling ancient Greece.

Additionally, combat receives a few welcome toss-ups. Certain enemies can not only teleport short distances, but also use attacks that drain your adrenaline – the resource gained for landing successful attacks and eventually used to activate your more powerful abilities. During my playthrough, I found that this forced me to rely less on these attacks, and approach each combat encounter more carefully, as spamming my overpower strikes might quickly become impossible depending on which/how many enemies were on my tail. Similarly, there are a number of incentives for defeating enemies non-lethally (especially during the latter half of the story), which even further adjusted how I tackled challenges.

When I began playing The Fields of Elysium, I was expecting the episode to run for roughly as long as installments from Legacy of the First Blade did, namely three or four hours. Instead, Ubisoft treated me to a brand new area and a thoroughly engaging story that took me just north of ten hours to complete. That’s nearly the combined length of all Legacy episodes. If each chapter of this story is similar in scope, then the Season Pass will have given players somewhere in the neighborhood of an additional 45 – 50 hours of (mostly) quality content for $40. I may not be the world’s biggest fan of DLC, but that seems like a pretty good deal if Ubisoft can keep the next two episodes up to standard. And I don’t want to throw any shade here, but if we consider DLC released six months after the main title to be roughly akin to “endgame” content, then this single player game has substantially better endgame content than Anthem.

For both better and worse, The Fields of Elysium carries with it all of the strengths and weaknesses of Assassin’s Creed OdysseyIf you’re absolutely sick of the formula and you didn’t purchase the Season Pass, then perhaps this adventure is best left untouched. On the other hand, if you’re anything like me (burnt out by the overlong main campaign and turned off by the last batch of DLC), then maybe The Fate of Atlantis is just what the doctor ordered. For my own part, I’m excited to see what comes next.

 

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