There may have been a time, a week or two ago, when I was excited to score my first Precursor Reflex Bow in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Thirty-seven Precursor Reflex Bows later? Not so much.
While playing Odyssey’s Fate of Atlantis expansion, which takes the ancient Greek setting of this action-role-playing-game into an otherworldly realm crafted by the super-old sci-fi Isu people, I’ve earned a lot of Precursor Reflex Bows. I’ve earned them for defeating enemies. I’ve earned them from plundering enemy weapon racks.
I’ve earned them for opening treasure chests and for solving a block-pushing puzzle in a cave.
I once rapidly killed two of the expansion’s new Kolossi sentry enemies and received a Precursor Reflex Bow from each one.
I am now awash in Precursor Reflex Bows. I’ve got blue “rare” ones and purple “epic” ones. I’ve got ones that do +18% hunter damage, ones that do +18% assassin damage and ones that do +14% hunter damage and +17% assassin damage combined in one bow.
Once, the Fate of Atlantis expansion caught me by surprise when it rewarded me for completing a sidequest with something called a Rebellion bow. I went into my inventory to check it out. Guess which bow it looks like.
None of this matters. Of course, the abundance of certain type of bow in a video game is low on the list of society’s challenges, but I also mean that it doesn’t matter because blue and purple loot in most loot games ultimately doesn’t matter.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, like Assassin’s Creed Origins before it, has reformulated the Assassin’s Creed games as 100-hour loot-filled adventures in which every killed enemy or opened treasure chest exhales a new piece of gear or in-game coins or resources. Assassin’s is a loot series now, the better to drive player towards cool, character-customising rewards or, more cynically, to the in-game store where most of the coolest-looking gear can be most easily obtained. Blue- and purple-graded gear is just a means to the end of earning (or buying) some gold-class gear. In “Fate of Atlantis,” the dozens of Precursor Reflex Bows players can obtain improve in statistical quality as the player levels up and finds new ones, but they’re all clearly meant to be as relevant to use long-term as my toddlers’ socks. “Fate Of Atlantis” has a gold-grade bow called the Swift-Winged Bow, and that’s the real arrow-shooting prize of the expansion.
The hardest of hardcore Odyssey fans may dispute this. Purple gear in the game has proven unexpectedly relevant, as it can wind up being as powerful as gold gear, but ultimately the game is clearly driving players towards gold-grade legendary gear and doling out gear-set bonuses at least for the armour, if not the bows, that you collect.
I’m fine with there being so many Precursor Reflex Bows in the expansion and just this one impressive legendary. It’s all for the better. Video game bows and arrows take people to make them, and with ever greater awareness of how prone to overwork video game developers are, I would not argue that “Fate Of Atlantis” should include more blue and purple bows in the march towards obtaining the gold one.
Loot-driven video games are designed to cultivate endless appetites in their players. They instil an incessant expectation for greater rewards. Players risk succumbing to a psychological trap of expecting and eventually demanding more and more rewards. Anything that defies that, that deadens that hunger, that implicitly posits that the true reward for an action or a quest in a video game should be the pleasure of doing it rather than the loot that pops up as a result, is probably for the better.
At least, it is for me. I may be tired of getting that Precursor Reflex Bow. It may make me less interested in playing the game to obtain loot. I consider that a positive thing.