Major spoilers for the Cultist ending and some post-ending stuff in AC: Odyssey

Butch:

So……..

…….drum roll please……..

HOW’D IT END?

Please tell me you know.

Feminina:

Wellllllllll…

I’m sorry. I do not.

It’s all my fault! There was more than I thought! My bad!

I mean, I went to talk to Aspasia, and that was surprisingly straightforward. Although she wasn’t actually in Kephallonia: the quest description said “go back to where it all started” so I assumed, but actually it was back near the temple of Apollo where we met the Oracle of Delphi…in that big underground room where we dressed in a cultist mask and spied on their big meeting and saw Deimos for the first time? So I guess “where it all began” meant “where we first started investigating the cult,” not ACTUALLY where the whole adventure began. Misleading phrasing, game! But whatever.

I went back there, touched that glowing pyramid they had set up when we were there before, and had a vision. Pythagoras, looking somewhat younger than when I saw him in Atlantis, appeared to me and said “Kassandra, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

He told me the tale of how some well-meaning people wanted to bring balance to the forces of order and chaos in the world, but then they got all murdery and obsessed with control, and order took over. And now I’ve destroyed the too-orderly cult, which is great, but it could go too far in the opposite direction! I must be careful! Oh, and “I am speaking to you but also to the one who will need to know this in ages to come” or something, i.e., “listen up, Layla in the Animus and/or the player of this game!”

There were brief glimpses of scenes from chronologically later AC games, reminding us that the battle between orderly Templars and chaotic Assassins will continue through the ages.

Then Pythagoras faded and Aspasia strolled in. And despite the fact that I’d uncovered her identity on the cultists screen in the menu, Kassandra was shocked that it was her, so I guess Kassandra doesn’t know everything we know. Anyway, she asked Aspasia what the deal was, and Aspasia said she was the cult’s leader but only for a short time. She said she quickly grew disenchanted with their murdery ways, but felt that the best course of action was to let them play themselves out, and once she met me, she hoped I’d kill them all, which I did.

So…good plan there, Aspasia! You’re just lucky I’m such an effective backstabber.

She said she felt bad about Perikles’ death, but hadn’t told him about the cult because she thought if he knew he’d be in more danger. She said she (and the cult in general) had no real control over Deimos, whom they’d intended to be their weapon, but who got too powerful for all of them. Neither of us mentioned Phoibe.

She said her plan now is to work for the establishment of a philosopher king, and that once he’s in charge, everyone (even the freedom-loving Athenians) will realize that’s what they really wanted all along. Democracy? What a laugh!

This sounds a bit sketchy to me, but on the other hand, in the time period in which she’s working it’s not the absolute worst idea (wise philosopher king is better than rampaging warlord king?), so good luck with that I guess. It was an option to attack her, or to kiss her, or to let her go. It didn’t actually make much sense to kiss her in this context, since we never seemed to feel that way about each other before, but following my policy throughout this entire game of choosing every possible ‘heart’ option, I did it anyway. Then I let her leave to commence her philosopher-king project, and I destroyed the shiny pyramid (which she said had been an object of worship to the cult, and which they presumably will not be able to reform without), and sauntered off.

And then I hit level 63, which will do me a lot of good in the remaining (I hope) couple of hours of the game. But the reason I’m not done is that I went back to make sure there weren’t any further quests, and…there was one for the Atlantis thing.

I think it was always there, I guess I was just overlooking it in my haste to pursue the family and cultist quests. My bad.

But it said I received a mysterious message to go to thus-and-such island, so I did, and there was Alethia, the Isu voiceover from Atlantis, this time in a sort of scratchy projection of a human(like) form. And she said that since I took the staff of Hermes Trigestimus or whatever (‘Trismegistus,’ says the internet–I was close) from Pythagoras, she could now speak to me, and I needed to pledge to become the staff’s keeper until I could deliver it to the Heir of Memories.

How long will that be? I asked. A long-ass time, she said. Everyone I know and love will grow old and die and I will learn to love again and they too will die.

Sounds fun! But on the other hand, my habit of romancing and then promptly forgetting about every attractive person I see may serve me well. (Although I like to think I didn’t actually forget them. After all, most of them are still on my ship! I probably visit them all in turns. They probably have Lovers of Kassandra Club meetings every week.)

Then it was back to Layla in the modern world, still in Atlantis, and the staff (which she now has because Kassandra gave it to her in that previous bit) started talking to her, calling her the Heir, and telling her it’s her destiny to unseal Atlantis. She just needs to find three symbols (THREE! THINGS!) in Kassandra’s memories so she can do that.

Dude. I’m sorry, but I gotta follow up on that. It’s actual story!

There are three symbols in three tombs that Kassandra has to visit (even though I’ve already been to them) and then Layla has to also visit. Layla is in the first tomb right now. Progress is being made.

I’ll tell you all about it. You’re gonna love it.

You can totally start Detroit in the meantime. I swear I won’t be long.

Probably.

Butch:

OK, now I’m mad. Not at you. This is not your fault. At the game. VERY mad at the game.

I’m gonna say it: This shit here is worse than the epilogue of RDR2. As inexplicable, infuriating and unforgivable as that epilogue was, this is worse.

Why? Because RDR2 put its good stuff BEFORE IT “ENDED.” This did not.

Tombs? Reveals? Weird twists? What the fuck moments? Crazy lore about weird ancient orders and French Canadians? That game sounds fun! I’d like that game! I thought I was playing that game when I put in a disc with “Assassin’s Creed” written on it! I’d ESPECIALLY like that game if it had a cool ass protagonist, like, say, Kassandra!

But no. I got eighty hours of forts and captains and war supplies with the occasional good blue quest thrown in and that’s it because this game put its good stuff AFTER IT “ENDED.”

Game, lemme explain something here. I went to a liberal arts college, took English, whole nine yards, so I think I can say this and be pretty secure in my belief that I am correct: Game, in a narrative, the STORY goes BEFORE the ENDING.

Wasting my time after all the good stuff is bad. Wasting my time before all the good stuff, and never getting to the good stuff, is worse.

It’s almost like the game was all “Hey, Femmy, I’m gonna bore the fuck out of Butch, then make him think the game is over so he stops playing, THEN we can get into all that AC stuff you love and you can enjoy it without Butch bothering you with a bunch of stupid questions. Cool?”

Game, I wanted to play this stuff. I did not want to raid forts. I’m not GOING to play all this stuff, because I have lost ALL momentum in even thinking about this game, and, if I start trying to play it, I’ll never catch Femmy cuz half my cultists are alive. But game…..game…..You missed a lot of opportunities. You did. But the biggest missed one was the chance to tell what sounds like a pretty cool story before you ended.

Never thought I’d say that about anything.

Man….this game.

Feminina:

Yeah, I’m with you on this. There was too much stuff before the story.

And yeah, sure, maybe we could have done less of the filler stuff…but not that much less! I was running all over the place murdering captains for the sheer joy of question marks, but you weren’t. You were trying to stay focused and make progress, and you kept getting kicked back by minimum level requirements on minotaurs and stuff.

I think there was too much non-story stuff here. Not only that, there was too much non-story stuff that you HAD to do to be strong enough to do the story stuff.

Because…damn, I’m a lot more forgiving of this game than you are, but even I am kind of like “seriously? You’re telling me this interesting stuff NOW? NOW we’re finally finding out why we even remotely care about Layla? NOW we’re finally figuring out that there IS an connection between the animus stuff and the modern world bits that have been basically 95% meaningless to the overall game experience right up until this moment?”

I mean, I’m going to do it, but I would really rather have done it at some earlier point where it didn’t have this feeling of “oh and in the last 10 seconds of the movie you figure out the butler did it and why and it was pretty interesting but then the movie was over.”

There was just too much here, game. I love you, I love murdering captains and exploring forts, but there was too much.

Butch:

It wasn’t even a question of too much stuff before the story. It was the placement of the ending.

If there had been way too much filler, then a bunch of story, then an ending and credits and then I put the game down, that would be one thing. That would be MEA, for example. Flawed, but at least the story happened eventually and the ending was at the end of said story.

This wasn’t even in the last ten seconds of the movie you find out the butler did it. This is a boring movie, credits, then, when everyone’s out of the theater and they’re cleaning up the popcorn and crushed junior mints, a fifteen minute post credits scene that fleshes out the one confusing scene of the movie.

Because, again, this game ended. When you get the gold trophy and a notification you can start a new game +, that’s game speak for “over.”

Shit, at that prompt, had we started a new game, then we wouldn’t have even done any of this! The game TOLD us to go start a new game and miss this stuff!

Fuck it’s like a boring movie that ends, has credits, then has an post credit scene that says “No, really, it’s over, please step over the junior mints on your way out,” THEN has a fifteen minute post credits scene that’s good.

And what in the actual fuck is that?

Feminina:

That’s a very good point about the “new game +”. Because yeah, that pretty much says “done with all the important stuff.”

In games these days we’re used to it meaning “you can go back and roam around and kill more captains or whatever if you want, but the actual storyline is finished”…but that’s much different from “done but also there are a number of rather important things that aren’t done at all.”

Yeah…that’s weird narrative design. You’re absolutely right.

Butch:

Well, really what it is is “start over, but at level 63 with all your gear and harder enemies.” I have no idea why anyone would want to actually do this, but that’s what it is. So it’s more than just “Hey, you can keep playing, whatevs,” it’s GO BACK to the beginning, when all the cultists are still alive, you know, the ones you have to kill to get to the, you know, real end of the game. It’s saying “Please go back and do eighty MORE hours of this before you can even get to the good stuff,” and isn’t even hinting there IS good stuff. It’s worse than just not herding you toward story, it’s actively driving you away from it.

Which is just plain weird.

Feminina:

Maybe there is a secret war in Ubisoft between the people who fill the map with question marks and the people who come up with actual story.

It’s fairly clear who’s winning in this particular case.

Butch:

I’ll say.

All I can think of is that things changed after the game launched. We played it rather late. It had been out, what, several months. Maybe it was one of those deals where the game, at launch, really did end where I stopped, and then the rest was post launch content? Still wouldn’t have made much sense, as that would’ve still left the cultist line unfinished…..

I dunno. Just plain wacky.

Especially, as Buttons has told us, games usually scrimp on the endings! Only, what, 30% of everyone finishes games, devs know this, so they usually front weight resources to the beginnings, not the ends. It’s often why games have disappointing endings. Why on EARTH would you take what sounds like a lot of your best stuff, put it where 70% of people won’t get anyway, then try to hide it from some of the 30% that actually finish games?

I’m kinda glad that you forged on. I didn’t want to hunt cultists, but, from a “Let’s talk about game structure” perspective (which I love), this is very interesting.

Infuriating, but interesting.

Feminina:

Hm…

Well, according to the internet, it looks like this thing I’m doing right now is in fact DLC, automatically loaded like the Lost Tales of Ancient Greece or whatever the blue exclamations marks were called (though this wasn’t a blue exclamation mark, it was a reddish diamond. Man, they’re just trying to confuse people).

Which actually makes sense given how we repeatedly discussed the fact that the Lost Tales are much better stories than most of the main game. Maybe they just put all their good storytellers on DLC.

But without this…that means IF you even bother to finish the cultist story and the Atlantis story, the game ends with meeting Aspasia and basically “someday Kassandra will give the staff to Layla but who knows why”?

Siiiigh.

Butch:

But no! Cuz, OK, fine, Atlantis and Tales were DLC, which kinda explains our wondering if we had to do Dad and Mom to finish (cuz there was no dad in the base game). But, that aside, that means that the “end” of the base game is still where I was, not Aspasia. You’re left with a sense of “Whelp, cultists don’t matter cuz new game +.” That’s what I thought. “I did all this for the right to hunt down cultists for no reason?” I had no reason to think otherwise.

Weird. Just weird.

Finish tonight or something.

Feminina:

I will definitely aim to finish tonight. Or something.

Butch:

Jr. is playing ACO now. He did the Artemis boar quest I never did. I’m so proud.

I’ll tell him “Dude, when you think it’s done….just keep playing.”

Feminina:

I never did either. Yeah, definitely tell him that.

“Just keep playing. Don’t ever stop. If you think you’ve done all the interesting stuff, you haven’t. It will only happen after you’ve given up.”

Butch:

That’s not bad advice for life, really.