After the fantastical greatness of Assassin's Creed Origins: Curse of the Pharaohs, we had high hopes for The Fate of Atlantis -- a chance for the developers of Assassin's Creed Odyssey to let their imagination run wild. While Odyssey already features a number of mythological elements, this DLC saga promises even more creativity. Unfortunately, The Fate of Atlantis' first episode struggles to live up to the expectations set by its Egyptian predecessor.
On paper, Episode 1 has everything nailed down. A stunning new map to explore and a choice-heavy narrative featuring the Greek gods themselves top the bill, but the DLC fails to fully capitalise on either aspect. The result is a meandering experience that rarely feels as grand or as significant as it should.
It doesn't help that things start off with the series' modern day guff. A prologue mission that has you play as modern day protagonist Layla Hassan acts as a gateway to the DLC, and while it does tie proceedings into the now ridiculously convoluted lore of Assassin's Creed, it's not what you want from a game where you've spent the last 100 hours playing as an entirely different (and much better developed) character.
Assassin's Creed's modern day escapades continue to be an annoyance. Weak writing and even weaker personalities wrench you from a historical adventure that you're likely heavily invested in, and it's here that The Fate of Atlantis first begins to stumble. The series' sci-fi elements are a mess at the best of times, but now we've got talking weaponry, a simulation of the ancient Greek afterlife, and giant people who talk in riddles. It's borderline parody.
The gist of it is that your hero, Alexios or Kassandra, has to enter the aforementioned simulation and find some kind of all-important power source. In order to do this, they need to assume the role of a double agent, offering loyalty to both the realm's leader and to a rebellious faction. This premise paves the way for a number of branching scenarios that twist and turn based on your actions and dialogue choices. Some of this stuff is surprisingly in-depth, but it's hard not to feel as though you're eventually led down a linear path -- especially near the end of the episode. There's definitely some disappointing railroading here.
We can certainly appreciate the emphasis on player choice and consequence, but the storytelling throughout Episode 1 is muddy. There are several key moments that feel forced or far too convenient, and at times, the DLC's main characters come across as little more than talking mannequins that exist purely to showcase the impact of your actions. Having said all that, we do find ourselves interested in seeing how things develop in Episode 2 -- there's just enough spice between the hero and their supposed enemies to keep us guessing.
Indeed, we're very much in this for the sake of Alexios or Kassandra. Like the previous DLC saga, Legacy of the First Blade, The Fate of Atlantis lets you further explore your hero's personality. It's not anything truly defining, but there are some well constructed moments here and there that really let you express yourself. The hope is that all of this character development carries over into Episode 2.
So with storytelling that's a little off the boil, does the gameplay hold up? Well, yes and no. For starters, Elysium is a truly stunning location -- seriously, it's one of the most beautiful virtual landscapes we've seen on PS4 -- but when compared to the game's normal open world, it's lacking in life. There are no random events, predatory animals, enemy camps, battles, or roaming mercenaries -- it's just a bunch of landmarks strewn across admittedly gorgeous fields.
Without any dynamic happenings, Elysium's a rather boring place to be once you've gotten over how lovely it looks. All too quickly, you find yourself dashing from one mission marker to the next because there's nothing to engage with in between. There are no treasures to find off the beaten path and no optional quests to undertake. Elysium makes you appreciate just how impressively busy Odyssey's usual open world is.
Fortunately, the inclusion of several huge enemy fortresses ensures that you're not totally starved of action. These citadels are a thrill to fight or silently stab your way through thanks to some brilliantly vertical level design, and the new, trickier foes do a good job of keeping you on your toes. In contrast, one quieter quest sees you traverse an abandoned ruin that sits above the clouds, and just navigating its puzzle-like structure is a joy. There's no denying that Episode 1 has its high points -- we just wish that they were part of a more polished package.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey: The Fate of Atlantis - Episode 1 has its moments, but as a whole, it feels like a missed opportunity. With better storytelling this could have been a truly intriguing player-driven tale, but inconsistent characters and unclear consequences keep things from clicking. Elsewhere, the modern day stuff just doesn't gel, and although the DLC's new location is absolutely stunning, it immediately lacks the life that makes Odyssey's open world so engrossing. All in all, this is an okay start to the Eagle-Bearer's endgame adventure, and we do want to see what Episode 2 brings, but we expected more from such a fantastical outing.