This week marked the end of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s current DLC storyline, The Fate of Atlantis. Following “Fields of Elysium” and “Torment of Hades,” “Judgment of Atlantis” is the final of the three-episode saga and wraps up the storylines built in the previous chapters, which revolve around the protagonist (either Cassandra or Alexios) as they explore Elysium and the Underworld (essentially Heaven and Hell) and work out the dilemmas of those in the afterlife. In “Judgment of Atlantis,” our hero ventures into the legendary aquatic city, aiding denizens and making impossible decisions that could change the city forever.
Odyssey’s major post-launch content will likely end with “Judgment of Atlantis,” though Ubisoft did announce the game’s educational Discovery Tour Mode and the community-driven Story Creator Mode at E3, the latter of which allows players to share and design their own narratives, which should extend the game’s appeal into the foreseeable future for Assassin’s Creed die-hards and, presumably, Ancient Greece fanfic obsessives.
We spoke with Game Director Hugo Giard about his experience working on the Assassin’s Creed series over the years, bringing Atlantis to life, and more.
What were you and the team envisioning when you were in the early stages of planning the Fate of Atlantis episodes?
We wanted to make sure to give players a more fantastical experience. That’s the crux of why we built what we built.
I imagine the more fantastical setting meant more fun for you creatively as well.
Absolutely. For us, we’re often limited by historical realism. With The Fate of Atlantis, we were able to explore challenges and worlds that we couldn’t otherwise. That’s creatively very inspiring.
The story is set in a fictional world, but there still seems to be a sense of authenticity to how the world looks and behaves.
Everything we did for Fate of Atlantis had to be accurate according to the mythologies that we took from Ancient Greece. We weren’t making everything up, but we wanted [the game] to feel like it was part of ancient Greece and its stories.
When making this episodic content, were you working on improving Odyssey’s core gameplay?
There are portions of gameplay that are the same as in Odyssey. But we knew we needed to give players more, so we gave them new abilities, new enemies, new worlds…all in an effort to keep it based in Odyssey’s gameplay and bring something new at the same time.
Talk about the artistic vision behind creating Atlantis. It’s a place that’s captured the imagination of people across the world for years, and your entire DLC trilogy sort of culminates with the reveal of your team’s interpretation.
World direction and art direction did a lot of research into stories of Plato’s version of Atlantis to find, physically, how it was described. We combined that with what we knew of Isu and their architecture and made this sort of combination of both.
Atlantis is a stark contrast in several ways — even in color palette — to the last episode’s Underworld…
Absolutely, and that’s very important. We need each of the new worlds in each of the episodes to feel fresh, and that means a different palette, different architecture, a different ambiance. We want players to understand that they are in a completely different world, with completely different people and different challenges.
What were some of the challenges with designing Judgment of Atlantis? The verticality?
The verticality…not so much a challenge. It was lending credibility to a mythical world that is basically imaginary. Going back to the creation of [Atlantis] through the world direction and art direction, I think they did a really fantastic job.
Was there anything surprising or tricky about designing this episode?
A lot of the game was planned in advance, and we executed on the plan almost to the letter. We didn’t have any big 90-degree turns over the course of production. I think we were confident in what we had imagined. It’s like good camerawork — if you don’t notice it, you know you’re doing a good job. Even if there’s an aspect of one of these episodes that was ludicrously impossible for us to do, we wouldn’t mention it, you wouldn’t notice it, and it’s all part of the whole experience that we’re interested in delivering.
Was the overarching story for Fate of Atlantis plotted out far in advance, or did it develop as you produced the episodes?
At the very beginning when we started imagining Fate of Atlantis, I knew that I wanted to explore three basic themes for the three episodes. The first episode was control, the second was chaos, and the third is balance. Based on the themes that I wanted to explore, we kind of got that growth that gives you the [resulting story].
Episodic post-launch content is commonplace in the industry now. Have you found that it’s been an effective way to get your content to gamers?
Absolutely. Even back when we were making Odyssey, we knew that we needed the post-launch offering for players to be important and of value. We didn’t want it to be hollow. That’s exactly what we did with both DLCs and all of the Lost Tales of Greece, and now with the story mode — we wanted to make sure to spoil our players.
I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed from the beginning, and the core gameplay has remained pretty much the same in my eyes, though the games have obviously improved iteratively over the years. In all honesty, I think Odyssey is the best title in the series yet. What is Ubisoft’s approach to improving each game in the series with experimentation and playtesting?
I think of the [Assassin’s Creed] games as evolving. Like most humans, sometimes we make mistakes, and we learn from them and get better. The content needs to be rooted in what it means to be an Assassin’s Creed game, but it needs to evolve so that players get a fresh, fun experience. That’s the basics of what drives us forward. We have a great playtest infrastructure at Ubisoft, and it’s a wonderful tool for us. It helps guide us. Sometimes we have questions that need answers, and only players can answer them.
What else can players look forward to in terms of post-launch content?
There’s Discovery Tour and Story Mode, which is getting a lot of attention. I know the guy at work who is running the show [on Story Mode], and he’s so excited that people are getting involved and telling stories. The contests that we have on social media for who can create the best stories is fun, too.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey‘s Fate of Atlantis: “Judgment of Atlantis” is out now.
Bernard Boo is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.