Assassin's Creed Odyssey's third DLC chapter Bloodline wraps up its Legacy of the First Blade arc with barely a nod to the controversy surrounding January's episode, and a final conclusion that does nothing to correct the clanger Ubisoft dropped. It's perhaps unsurprising - this expansion was planned out and worked on before the main Odyssey released, long before the eruption of fan fury at the start of this year, and leaving promised tweaks to January's episode minor at best - and yet I continue to be amazed Ubisoft never sense-checked its script before signing it off.
If it's not clear already, Legacy of the First Blade is one for the fans. It's the story of Darius, the first to wield the legendary Hidden Blade, and the one to use it on the preening Persian ruler Xerxes. But it's also another saga for your Assassin's Creed Odyssey main character (AKA, Kassandra), who meets Darius as he arrives in the main game's Greek region.
Legacy of the First Blade is unusual in that it doesn't add any new playable space to the game. It is reminiscent of last year's Assassin's Creed Origins DLC The Hidden Ones - a side-story concerned with the founding of an established Assassin concept - and yet that added a new region to poke about in as well. But where the Hidden Ones ended up fairly light on story, Legacy of the First Blade seems to be putting this first - with several peeks at Darius' past in cutscene flashbacks, and a promise from Ubisoft of a new storyline to make Odyssey fans wonder, laugh and cry again.
This week brings the first episode of the DLC, Hunted, with episodes two and three to follow monthly next year. It's hard, then, to appraise Ubisoft's new story arc fully - especially as Odyssey's main campaign often paid off its branching narrative with different feeling quest outcomes when you finally got to their conclusion. As a first episode, Hunted has some nice moments, but nothing I felt like everyone else wouldn't see too regardless of their choices. Darius himself is kept mysterious - and while fans will know his name from references made many, many games ago, his story has been kept untold until now. The question of whether you trust the hooded figure who knows a little too much about his enemies comes up repeatedly for you to answer - and I'm curious to see whether my early suspicions of him make any difference in the long run.
Is there a word more sickeningly overused to describe video games than 'epic'? I honestly struggle to think of a worse offender - although perhaps 'immersive' could compete for this title? 'Epic' has permeated our collective consciousness to such an extent that it's even the name of a developer. As someone who regularly watches shows at E3, PAX, CES, and the rest, I am genuinely sick to death of the word 'epic'. I hereby beg for its removal from all future speeches by any person planning to set foot on a stage to discuss a game for the rest of time. Seriously, stop saying epic.
Oooft, those arms. Since Ubisoft unveiled her I'm certain there's been many men and women dreaming of those incredible, muscular arms. I am of course talking about Assassin's Creed Odyssey's female protagonist Kassandra. A mercenary in Ancient Greece, both she and her brother Alexios are in peak physical condition, each of them a lean, mean, killing machine. Yet it's Kassandra's body that fascinates me. And not just because I'd love to be wrapped in those big, strong...well. Ahem.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey on PC version is utterly gorgeous, with the ability to scale well beyond consoles in terms of visual quality, frame-rate and resolution - but to play this game at its best, some serious hardware is required. Yes, careful settings management helps - and we've got you covered here - but even getting to 60fps with a console-equivalent look requires some meaty kit. Mainstream GPUs like GTX 1060 and RX 580 have the horsepower to get the job done in terms of the graphics requirement but even the enthusiast's price vs performance champion - the Core i5 8400 - can't keep you locked to 60fps.
There's been a lot of talk lately about how long Assassin's Creed Odyssey is - more than 100 hours, its developers say - and it's been interesting to see the response. Time was, you'd ask how long your £40 was expected to last, hear a large amount of hours and think, great - the longer the better. But for me, anyway, having less time to play games these days is certainly a thing. And I think the games we all play are more demanding of the time we have to spend with them. Perhaps demanding is the wrong word, but more and more, I feel like each game I enjoy playing is trying to be the only game I enjoy playing, with little time to play anything else.
An enormous boss fight against Medusa is not something you would have expected from an Assassin's Creed game a few years ago. God of War? Of course. Castlevania, sure. But to face off against the mythological monster in a series so concerned with history as Assassin's Creed? You'd think the developers had spent a little too much time in the Animus for their own good.
The least interesting thing about Assassin's Creed Odyssey is its October 2018 release date, but the timing of another massive game in the series just 12 months after Assassin's Creed Origins will generate headlines regardless. Origins' success - its brilliant new characters and reworked RPG-lite focus - is something of a double-edged sword: these changes reinvigorated the series, but by taking an extra year of time to bed them in Ubisoft reinforced the feeling each installment could offer the same leaps forward, if only the publisher leant on its biggest franchise a little less. It's against this backdrop Odyssey has been detailed and its release date confirmed - but I'm confident, after more than three hours of gameplay, this year's installment answers those immediate questions.