Game Review | Assassin's Creed Odyssey: Legacy of the First Blade
Story summary: Fight alongside the legend who first wielded the Hidden Blade to change the course of history while learning why the Assassins chose to fight from the shadows. (Assassin's Creed Wiki)
Having thoroughly enjoyed the base game, I was looking forward to eventually getting around to the DLC content thanks to the Season Pass I'd bought, but the news from people playing this game when initially released was not encouraging. Unfortunately, despite Ubisoft apparently patching the DLC to make it better (where? how?), they were right to be so vociferous in their displeasure.
I don't want to be completely negative from the start, so I will say that this is still Assassin's Creed Odyssey, with great combat and traversal that only adds to the stunning visuals, excellent music and continued voice acting excellence from Melissanthi Mahut as Kassandra. So there's a certain baseline of quality to the game that still can't be completely eroded by the other issues here.
The worst stuff here is the reason this DLC exists: the new story and characters, along with new enemies, all of which are pretty poor at best - terrible at worst. Darius, the first Assassin and creator of the hidden blade which was the series' most iconic weapon until Odyssey, is a gruff, crotchety old man who... stays that way, barely developing at all over the course of the story.
Even worse is his son, Natakas, who is just a bland nothing of a character and responsible for probably the single biggest issue I have with this DLC: the removal of player choice. That was the single biggest thing that I liked about Odyssey, with the game feeling like it respected how the player wanted to play, for how long, and how they wanted their character to behave.
That last one is the most crucial, as Kassandra falls head over heels in love with Natakas for no apparent reason, even having a baby with him. I can see why LGBT players were rightfully pissed off with this character choice being forced on the player, because my own Kassandra was a horny lesbian who shagged pretty much every willing woman across the Greek world!
I assume something similar happens to those playing the male character, Alexios, as gay too. It's just baffling why you'd give the queer community a chance to play characters who can reflect them in a major blockbuster game and then rip away that representation in a DLC story. Was there really no other way to let this plot play out without forcing a particular sexual orientation on proceedings?
There's no good reason given for the relationship with Natakas at all, other than the series necessity in having to continue Kassandra's bloodline for her descendants we controlled in previous games - and no option for Kassandra to consent to having a child for that reason alone either. Instead, she is reduced to an overly-emotional girl who can't take her mind off her man and the player has no way to influence this in any way.
In the base game, Kassandra became one of my favourite gaming protagonists of recent years and this DLC does a lot to undo that good will - saved only by Mahut continuing to shine in the role. Hell, when events do take a turn for the worse, it's her reaction to what happens that will evoke emotion, not the story or anything that happens to anyone else - you feel sad for her alone.
The ending is obviously intended to be bittersweet, but it could really only end one way without irrevocably altering the entire experience. Plus, the story just doesn't earn the emotion - it's Mahut again that lifts everything up by a staggering degree, although the flash-forward sequence is still pretty cool with it's glimpse of Bayek and Aya from Assassin's Creed Origins.
Another huge flaw is the wholly unmemorable enemies, formed of yet another secret organisation to hunt down and eliminate one at a time. The difference between the Order and the Cult of Kosmos from the base game is that the Cult had a direct link to Kassandra and the events of her life. The Order don't share such a connection and are the worse for it.
If you have this DLC to play or are planning to in the future, I'd make sure to do it before finishing the base game. At least then you can take a break from the terrible events of this story-line and return to something much more enjoyable when needed. I'm now just hoping that Fate of Atlantis lives up to the positive reaction that enjoyed on release.
Legacy of the First Blade stops just short of being a disappointment thanks only to the underlying qualities that were already present in the base game, plus the continued excellence of Melissanthi Mahut as Kassandra. Everything new here is mediocre at best, and forcing a relationship on the players was a serious error in judgement.