Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and the ‘Feel’ of a Side Quest
Assassasin’s Creed Odyssey came out on the fifth of this November to good critical reception across the board: It sits at 83 for Playstation 4, 87 for Xbox One and 90 for PC; but the user scores tells a different story as they are 5.8, 5.9 and 5.2, respectively. The reason for this discrepancy –apart from the fact that the ones that give a negative score to the game give mostly zeroes- differs wildly from user to user. To some, it is because the new game is not like the old Assassin’s Creeds and it is a “boring” action RPG (they actually say it is like Witcher 3 but that genre existed long before Witcher 3 and it is called an action RPG); while others think the game’s side quest content is consists of fetch quests and nothing else. While it is true that there are a lot of fetch quests, there are some interesting quests with interesting resolutions. A significant number of these quets involve freeing a captive from a fort, for example, and it may seem like you are doing the same quest over and over, but, in reality, this is a game mechanic of Assassin’s Creed games. For example, there are many quests in Witcher 3 that involves killing a creature that you’ve killed many times. In terms of ‘go there, kill this’ quests, the only thing that differs from quest to quest is the dialogue. Well, we have the same thing in the latest entry to the Assassin’s Creed series, but the writing does not seem that interesting or unique (it is passable, with some shining moments here and there). So, the real problem is not the mechanics or the quests being the same; but it is rather the writing, or, rather, the ‘feel’ of these quests. I feel like gamers are having difficulty in telling these apart. The quests in Witcher 3 are not unique apart from a few big ones (like the Red Baron quest); they ‘feel’ unique simply because the writing is better.
It is safe to say that the writing in Assassin’s Creed: Odyseey feels quite inconsistent, and I feel that this contributes to the divisiveness of the game. Some people feel like the writing is pretty bad because they stumbled upon the badly written quests and stopped playing before they could even see the rest (thinking it is not worth their time to trudge through; while others experienced the well written ones and thought that the writing was above average (the truth lies somewhere in the middle, of course). The fact that the quality of writing is much more consistent in Witcher 3 contributed to the general consensus shared by users and critics on the quality of the game: It was hard to stumble upon a badly written quest, and since the interesting dialogue and characters captured your attention, you couldn’t focus on the fact that, most of the time, you were only following footsteps, discovering an object in the environment and/or killing a monster to solve most of the side quests. In other words, good writing distracts the user from the reuse of similar mechanics, and this means that poor writing makes the player solely focus on the fact that they are doing similar stuff to solve every quest out there. So one can say that good writing makes the side quests ‘feel’ better by rendering them more interesting.
Writing’s importance is not always apparent in games and especially younger players may confuse good writing with good mechanics simply because the prospect of completing the quests in that particular game with better writing seemed more interesting at the time (also it is worth noting that most younger players don’t consciously pay attention to the writing itself, this whole process is unconscious); while players tend to focus solely on the mechanics if the writing failed to immerse them in the game world and/or piqued their interest and, in this case, they tend to base their opinion on the game through the filter of how many times they repeated specific actions while playing the game. If the writing was as consistent as Witcher 3 in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and the badly written, uninteresting quests didn’t push the impatient gamer (the ones who didn’t stick around and played long enough to experience the better written quests) away, I don’t think the game would be as divisive as it is today.