Game Director Scott Phillips tells us everything he can about the next Assassin’s Creed.
Assassn’s Creed Odyssey is quickly becoming the most vivid and largest game the series has ever offered. Being able to take the role as either the male Alexios, or the female Kassandra — a first for the seires to choose a character, it’s up to you which path to take before the Brotherhood even begins. With a ton of new abilities, fighting styles and gameplay mechanics, everyone’s adventure can be different this time around. We had a chance to sit down with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Game Director Scott Phillips and asked him a few questions.
Origins was a pretty major departure from the Assassin’s Creed formula in a number of ways, most prominent of them being its completely revamped combat system. Is Odyssey going to make any additional changes to the combat?
Yes. We’ve made improvements across the core that Origins built, as well as bringing in special abilities. There are around 30 new abilities on your controller. So, each player is going to have their own style, and controls and really be able to use their own play-style out of those abilities. Then you’ve got multiple different weapons and gear categories as well. The combat on the players side is very improved. Then on the NPC side we’ve had to make them stronger and more interesting and more varied enemies in order to challenge the player across those 50 levels of progression.
Is there any part of the core Assassin’s Creed gameplay loop that Odyssey will look to revamp the way Origins did with the combat?
Our biggest change is the revolution of storytelling. The way that we tell stories is now more interactive and more dynamic for the player. You have dialogues [options]. So you’re choosing constantly whether you want to role-play as a good guy or bad guy or someone in the middle. Do you want to lie, cheat, steal or kill? All this will act as feedback to the world. So your choices impact on the character, on the world, and ultimately on the story that you experience in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
The setting of ancient Egypt in Origins was an absolutely stellar one, which explains why Discovery Mode was as well received as it was. Can we expect Discover Mode, or perhaps something similar, to make a return in Odyssey?
So we’re not talking yet about anything to do with discovery mode. The game that we have developed has points of interest that you can discover, with tidbits from history of that location. So that is something that baked into the game itself.
"It’s a bigger map overall. The biggest map we’ve ever built."
How much of a focus will there be on the modern-day Abstergo storyline in Odyssey? Post-AC3, the modern-day storyline has become significantly less important. Can we expect the series to resume telling that story in a more focused manner once again? Does Ubisoft have a clear plan laid out for where that story is headed?
It will be present but I don’t really want to going into details of how much or how. But there is a strong connection to the present day, to the overall arc of Assassin’s Creed.
Quest variety has often been one of the things in Assassin’s Creed that people complain about the most. Is Odyssey going to make conscious, concerted efforts to improve in that area?
I think we have made huge improvements on that by focusing on choice, by giving players choice, by giving players options, and how they complete quests, how they interact with quest givers, how they role-play with the characters. Because for the first time ever you’ll be choosing who you play as. It is a very different experience and it’s much more interactive and dynamic in both the world and the characters in the story. So, gameplay will reflect that as well.
Just how big can we expect Odyssey’s map to be? Origins was absolutely huge. Will Odyssey be similarly large? Larger? Smaller?
It’s a bigger map overall. The biggest map we’ve ever built. It’s got a lot of sea, of course because we’ve brought back seamless naval. So there’s a lot of area to explore on the land and on the water. It’s a huge map filled with tons of content, places to explore, people to discover, stories to experience, and quest as well.
"We have eight different biomes. From lava volcanoes, to mountain peaks with snow, to the undersea, to the island we have at E3."
What made you decide that ancient Greece would be the game’s setting? Was that always the plan, or were there any other settings that you considered as well? If yes, can you tell us what those potential settings were?
When we started looking at Greece, we started researching, ‘What’s interesting about Greece, what’s the best time to set it up?’ It’s a super varied, super beautiful location.
We have eight different biomes. From lava volcanoes, to mountain peaks with snow, to the undersea, to the island we have at E3. So, there’s variety in the visuals, and then it’s also a time of war. So, we have [representation of] war as well as the development of science, and art, and writing, storytelling. It was just full of things for us to dig into.
Can you tell us about the progression and RPG system?
We built our own based around the same lines as Origins. We’ve got 50 levels of progression. As you kill enemies, as you get certain types of – if you do a certain type of assassination you get more experience. As you discover locations, or complete locations, or complete quests you’re going to get more experience points. As you get more experience points you get more levels, and those levels give you access to more abilities. And those abilities change the way you play the game. So it’s constantly progressing.
And then the world itself is reacting to you. So we scaled the world behind you, so you can feel a sense of progression constantly. But you’re constantly challenged by new areas. So you feel peaks and valleys where you’re ahead, and then you’re behind, but the game is always interesting.
Is Odyssey a sequel to Origin or is this its own story? And does Ubisoft have an overall arc on where Assassin’s Creed is going?
We are not directly connected in terms of the story of Origins. We are 400 years before Assassin’s Creed Origins. So the brotherhood hasn’t been created, which allows us to focus the story on choice. You’re not driven by the Assassin’s Creed, it’s your own internal creed that you created. And the world feeds that back to you if you’re killing people, or lying, or stealing. The world is going to send mercenaries against you so you’ll feel that those choices have an impact. And then your choices within the story as well will have a big impact. Do we have a present day? Yes, we do have a present day, and we’re continuing that sort of philosophical “order versus chaos,” structure that’s always been there in Assassin’s Creed. And there’s a lot of other stuff for fans. I think people that dig into the game and love Assassin’s Creed, will love Odyssey.
The game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements. What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
I honestly don’t know the answer to that.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
I played it at home just three weeks ago and it’s super, super gorgeous. We’ve been getting feedback that this is the prettiest Assassin’s Creed ever. And I agree with them, the game is gorgeous
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
We’ll hit the target frame rate that’s comfortable on all platforms.
Do you have any plans to bring the game to Nintendo Switch? If not, why?
No, and I don’t know. I can’t really answer that as I am the game director. I don’t decide what platforms we go on.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from the next PlayStation and next Xbox?
More. More of everything. I think connected features will continue to be important as more gamers get online and want to be connected with their friends; the share button and those sorts of things will be more, and more important. That’s why things like photo mode are coming back for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. We want to engage with the community and we hope that the platforms continue to allow that.