I’ve spent 20 minutes playing the new Judgment Of Atlantis add-on to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and already just as much time snapping pictures in photo mode. As a colleague said, Ubisoft’s art directors are just showing off now.
Everywhere I turn, I’m seeing something cool.
There’s this spot...
There’s this one...
And there’s this!
Everything you’re seeing is part of the game’s rendition of Atlantis, or at least a simulation of the city of Atlantis as rendered by a member of the Isu First Civilization in order for the modern-day researcher Layla Hassan to learn to use the Staff of Hermes to something or other Assassin’s Creed. Does that fully make sense even to me, a person who is the kind of Assassin’s Creed player who gets nostalgic about the Auditore crypt in Monteriggioni? Not really! But that’s okay for now.
I’m busy gawking at the sights — while diving through them.
I’m also currently agog over the potential of this final big episodic expansion to this ridiculously grand game. The Fate Of Atlantis, of which Judgment of Atlantis is the third episode, appears set to be the episode most tailored to fans who love the series’ deeper lore. The first two chapters, set in Elysium and Hades, were 'simulations' that our main character seemingly role-played through while dealing with Isu, who themselves appeared to function as Greek gods such as Persephone and Hades. It was fun but confusing in terms of how consequential it is supposed to be, or how 'real' we’re supposed to consider it.
In Judgment, we’re in Atlantis and we’re dealing with an Isu who doubles as Poseidon, but we’re also being told that this is an actual city for the Isu, not some Greek realm of the afterlife. We’re being told that there is Isu knowledge to gain and Isu technology to deal with. Hell, this Metroid Prime fan over here was delighted to discover that much of Judgment of Atlantis involves scanning Isu lore and, because this is a Ubisoft game, filling a meter in the process. Doubtless it’ll unlock some stuff.
The promise of this premise is that, as we play this episode, we’ll learn more about the Isu, the race that set off so much of the sci-fi-tinged questing and feuding of the assassins and templars in pretty much all the other Assassin’s Creed games. Odyssey has been criticized by some of the franchise’s most hardcore fans for ignoring much of the series’ trappings. After all, it doesn’t even star an Assassin, nor does it feature the Creed. In all of this Atlantis DLC, the developers have had a chance to indulge those players with more connections to the series lore, but had largely used the Isu in Elysium and Hades to simply tell stories about figures of Greek myth. Here, in Atlantis, the Isu and their origins and motivations may finally get featured more prominently.
Some fans likely already know how well this turned out. People who have Odyssey for Xbox One have been able to play since yesterday (supposedly just setting your system clock to New Zealand time did the trick). PlayStation patrons like me had the privilege of waiting much later, so I’m only scribbling about potential here while others have hit the ending and already figured out how into the lore this thing gets.
That said, even if it doesn’t tell me all I need to know about the Isu, even if it doesn’t make the Layla modern-day saga more interesting, Judgment still looks like it’ll at least be an interesting adventure in a gorgeous place.
The Elysium chapter hadn’t done much for me. It was pretty, but I wasn’t that interested in the overall structure of doing missions for Persephone and her rivals. What worked for me was that it introduced new special abilities and freshened up combat by adding statues that turned into powerful foes if you didn’t effectively use stealth to sneak and assassinate your way through enemy territory.
The Hades chapter was great, charging me with hunting down or helping characters who had died in the main game and were now reappearing in the underworld. It added its own combat wrinkle by adding ethereal enemies who you couldn’t hurt until you found portals that made them corporeal.
I don’t know what Atlantis’ twists will be, aside for the hunt for Isu knowledge (gotta fill that meter) and something I stumbled on about a special weapons forge.
I do know that as I play through, I’ll be pausing to use photo mode a lot, and having a good time with an October 2018 game that I’m 140 hours into and somehow still not tired of.
I’ll have more impressions of Judgment of Atlantis once I finish it.