Legacy of the First Blade

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has a pretty fair track record when it comes to downloadable content, I feel. Over the years we’ve seen Ubisoft use additional paid content as a vehicle to produce some impressive releases, on par with expansions of the sort that old PC games used to enjoy. They haven’t all been amazing, granted, but I’ve played and reviewed rather a lot of them now and I think I know when they’re at their best: it’s either when they’re being used to offer some small but significant expansions to the wider lore of the franchise, or when they set up what basically amount to wild “what-if” scenarios. Origins, the precursor to Odyssey, was a great example of this because it did both, basically; it’s first DLC, The Hidden Ones, acted as an epilogue of the game’s plot, serving to set up the future of Bayek’s burgeoning cadre of assassins, while the second, The Curse of the Pharaohs, featured some crazy sequences as Bayek experienced a series of underworlds personalized to four of Egypt’s greatest rulers. Odyssey, it seems, has followed in that tradition with two major DLC packs; I’m guessing from the name that the latter release, The Fate of Atlantis, is the oddball, probably-a-bit-supernatural one of the pair so that leaves this one, Legacy of the First Blade as the more grounded entry. 

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Legacy of the First Blade (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Switch, Xbox One)

Base Game: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Released Dec 2018 | Developed / Published: Ubisoft

Genre: Action RPG | HLTB: 6.5 hours

Legacy of the First Blade opens with our hero, the Eagle Bearer (in my case I chose Kassandra, so if I default to her in this review then that’s why) travelling to the region of Makedonia where they find a brutal series of murders have taken place. These haven’t been committed by any old Greek though; instead a small group of Persian elites have taken up residence and they don’t take kindly to Kassandra’s intervention. In the midst of the hubbub arrives Darius, another Persian but this one a fugitive. He tells us about the Order of the Ancients, a sect of powerful members of Persian society who control and influence things behind the scenes, as secret societies in any given Assassin’s Creed title are wont to do. After Darius attempted to assassinate the ruler of Persia, Artaxerxes I, whom he saw as a tyrant-king, the Order made it their mission to hunt Darius down, wherever he might run to. By the time the Eagle Bearer crosses his path, Darius is an old man and has been on the run for a long time. Wth him is his child, either a daughter named Neema, or his son, Natakas (the decision depends on who you chose as your Eagler Bearer; whatever gender you’re playing as, Darius’ child will be the opposite), both of whom have been living a nomadic life in exile, constantly on the run from the searching gaze of the Order. 

Sharp-eyed players (that is, anyone who also played Origins) will be familiar with the Order of the Ancients as this isn’t their first foray into the story of an Assassin’s Creed game, but this one is a precursor to the Order which secretly shaped Ptolemaic Egypt in Origins. There’s not an awful lot to distinguish the Order from the base game’s Cult of Kosmos – they’re furtive, manipulate society from the shadows, and they all wear funny masks – and, in all honesty, they make for little more than background villains. Sure, they’re acutely involved with the events of each of Legacy’s 3 episodes, but they don’t do a whole lot. There’s an implication that they’ve been ingratiating themselves with Greek politics for a while as a means of explaining why so many members of the Order are spread across the gameworld but it rings a bit hollow. Each episode features a key leader of the Order as its central baddie, but they don’t necessarily get all that much time to shine since each episode is also trying to juggle the interactions between the Eagle Bearer, Darius, and his child and what comes from that and the Order often wind up playing second fiddle. 

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Really sharp-eyed players might also remember Darius, as this isn’t the first time he’s shown up in an Assassin’s Creed title either. In fact, he made his first appearance (albeit in statue form) as far back as Assassins Creed II as one of the 6 legendary assassins whose tombs were scattered across Italy, where he was memorialized as the first user of the brotherhood’s iconic hidden blade. Really, that might be the main purpose of this entire DLC: to throw out little call-backs and set-ups for the previous games. Between the Order palling around in Greece, Darius showing up to recount his bloody history, and the ending, which calls forward to Origins and gives the Order a reason to expand outwards to pastures new and sandy, you could be forgiven for thinking that the DLC could almost be relegated to a short film of cutscenes rather than a full multi-hour expansion. 

There is, however, at least one other goal the DLC has in mind to achieve, and that is to potentially alienate players and break the roleplaying immersion it set up. One of the things in Odyssey that drew respectable praise was its freeform approach to player roleplaying; regardless of whether you were playing Alexios or Kassandra, you had the freedom to react however you wanted in conversations and, across the course of rather a lot of romance options, decide on the sexuality of your avatar. All of this was without narrative consequence – it was all done for roleplaying’s sake and never locked you out of anything. It’s a difficult move then for Legacy of the First Blade to take the decision to force a heteronormative relationship on your character. For some players this will be a bitter pill to swallow; the narrative of Legacy is so focused on tying the Eagle Bearer to the future protagonists of the franchise that it mandates a relationship and a child involving the player and the child of Darius. While a post-release patch made some adjustments to give players more than just the option of spinning a doe-eyed romance out of nowhere, it leaves a lot to be desired since instead the alternative is having a child out of obligation to “continue the bloodline” or whatever. 

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It sounds cynical to reduce Legacy to that, and maybe it is, but it’s hard not to feel like it’s just a bit too understated. I’m not disappointed, but I guess I’m just… whelmed by it. Usually the Assassin’s Creed DLCs are quite expansive affairs, but there’s really not a lot new here on offer. The Order of the Ancients works identically to the Cult of Kosmos, even down to replacing them in the Cultist tab on the menu, and the mechanics of seeking them out remains the same. The 2nd episode adds in a small new set of mercenaries to find, if you can be bothered to, and there’s a couple of new abilities and weapons to play with, but the fundamental Odyssey gameplay is the same as ever. 

It might seem churlish but it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed that Legacy of the First Blade is basically just a series of mission packs with no added world content to explore. It’s most easily comparable to The Hidden Ones, the first expansion for Origins. Like Legacy, that one essentially boils down to giving us yet more of the same gameplay as the base game, but The Hidden Ones also gave us an entirely new region to explore in the Sinai. In contrast, each section of Legacy takes place in part of the already extant gameworld of Odyssey. Regions like Makedonia, Achaia and Messenia are already places we’ve been to in the base game, and that’s a base game which is already very, very long. My personal playthrough of Odyssey clocked in at well over 70 hours by the time I reached the ending, and it was over 90 by the time I hit the Platinum trophy, so spending another 7-12 hours in the same place felt a bit of a galling prospect. 

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I suppose in the end it’s not like Legacy of the First Blade had nothing to offer. The interactions between the principle characters is sweet, and I did genuinely enjoy the care given to continuity, tying Odyssey clearly and directly into the chronology of the series, and, yes, even though it’s just more of the same gameplay as the base game, I really do love the base game – I didn’t spend so long playing it for no reason! But, it is also not a homerun recommendation. Even if you’re as into Odyssey as I am, extending that game time into well over the 100 hour mark is a tough sell, especially as it brings nothing new to the table. I find myself appalled that it’s split into 3 separate episodes, which smacks of greed; there’s nothing here that needs to be broken up such that you have to pay 3 times for the whole thing. 

3/7 – MEDIOCRE. 

A game that makes you go, “Well, it’s alright…” but it’s a kind of drawn-out, unsure, and reluctant decision? These are those games. Might just be worth playing if you can get it on the cheap.

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