I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on my Playstation 4. For those who don’t know, it’s an open world game set in Ancient Greece where one plays a mercenary who among other things runs around taking jobs and personal missions that usually involve killing your enemies, stealing things, or discovering treasure.
In the “Legacy of the First Blade” DLC I was playing yesterday, there’s a mission where, after rescuing this contact of one of your friends from some kind of outdoor prison, you get to a tree strung with corpses. The big bad of the chapter (he’s Persian, wears a metal mask, and is called “The Huntsman”) appears and is all “these are all people you killed, you are awful” and then family members of these people you killed walk up and are all mad at you for killing people. You’re given a few dialogue options like saying it was self defense or they got in your way, but as far as I can tell you always end up (after trying all the options) at basically “stay away or I’ll kill you” and then the family members attack you (which is insane, they have no armor and are regular people and you have magic armor and weapons and clearly know how to fight). You can’t run away from the people (I tried); you basically have to kill them all (they attack you otherwise and fight until death). Then you have two dialogue options where you either say “I am a monster” or “I am not a monster.” End of mission.
The whole thing pissed me off. The writer is clearly trying to get you to think about all the people you kill in the game in not only a ham-handed way (the guy pointing it out to you has poisoned villages, attacked you, killed lots of people, and apparently trains animals to attack peasants) but also in a super hypocritical way. Your characters is chastised for killing people and then… forced to kill people to finish the mission.
That they want to interrogate the way you have to kill tons of people in the game is well and good (and could potentially be interesting), but it’s a complete joke in the context of the whole way the game is designed. You can’t play the game without killing lots of people. Almost every special ability you get is about combat; you are constantly getting new armor and weapons, but have zero non-violent pieces of equipment (in other versions of the game you can at least get smoke bombs and knock-out poison). The way you get experience points to be more powerful (and thus able to advance in the game) is through defeating enemies (i.e. killing), discovery (ok one thing that is not about killing), and “completing” locations in the game. Most of the time that latter means finding/stealing treasure of different sorts and killing the leaders of the various locations (fort commanders, evil cultist leaders, etc.). Enemies also tend to attack on site and fight until death. You can run away from them (though they will chase you pretty far if you don’t hide), but you can’t surrender, and they never run away.
You can theoretically complete some of these tasks without killing any enemies, by sneaking around to get the treasure, but it’d be really hard to get very far that way (the game is not designed to make that possible most of the time I think) and even then you wouldn’t be able to “complete” the location to get the experience points without often killing some leader. After I started writing this post, I tried, in the next DLC, to “complete” some areas of the game non-violently, and it was a complete disaster.
So, the fact that someone decided to insert this commentary in the mission I just played is completely ridiculous and fails flat on its face. If you want me to think about all the killing my character does then you have to give me ways to not kill, make it possible to get through the game without (or minimal) killing, and reward me if I do it. Instead of assassinating someone from behind, let me knock them out (there is limited support for this in the game, but I found pretty quickly it didn’t always work and then I’d just have a mad soldier attacking me). Give me non-lethal weapons and equipment. Give bonus experience if you get all the treasure in a location without killing anyone. There is no in-game reward for doing that, so… why do it, when it will just make the game get increasingly more impossible (since you won’t get enough experience points to keep up with the story).
And that’s my rant about a video game.
In other news, I wrote a review of a D&D module I ran for my friends the other day, Out of Blackest Earth. I picked it up long ago based on a review from Bryce Lynch. I posted my review on the DriveThruRPG page, but here it is only slightly edited:
Ran this as a one-shot yesterday, and it was a lot of fun. Our game plans changed so I basically pulled this out in the morning, read it, printed the maps, annotated the maps, and I was ready to go. Players had a good time, I had a good time. Best of all, I was pleasantly surprised at how different elements of the adventure turned out (and every DM likes to be surprised, right?).
(Some spoilers below):
- Quick setup
- good rumors (though I forgot to use them)
- a simple but effective hook (investigate ghosts in graveyard for pay)
- a map that has a lot of possibilities. There are at least 4 or 5 ways from the graveyard into the dungeon. The dungeon in not totally linear.
- a nice mix of monsters, traps, and tricks, and definitely not all the encounters have to be fights.
- some fun magic items like a magic globe that animated all the corpses in a 300′ range. Of course my players ended up using it (not knowing what it would do) and caused complete chaos, having to flee the adventure (only on the way out realizing that the “ghosts” were just dressed up robbers, and that their (the PCs) actions has actually made the original hook come true).
The less good:
- Map could be a lot more effective for quick play:
- indications on it where the various entrances to the dungeon are and what numbered room they lead to (I had to add that myself).
- indications what doors are locked
- indications of traps, tricks and monster (they could all fit on the map quite easily and make this adventure almost runnable just via map)
- the random encounters need a little bit more, just some indication to say what the monster is doing when you encounter it.
- some things that kind of made no logical sense:
- a demon guarding the tomb of the saint, except no indication if said saint is actually buried down there and theres no treasure associated with him… so why the guardian?
- there’s a necromancer buried basically in the same complex who has the only treasure… which doesn’t jive with the demon and his mission. Probably would have made more sense if he were there to keep people from raising the necromancer (wish I’d thought of that before I ran this).
Overall though, cheap, easy-to-run, and fun.