Why I Like Being Hunted by Mercenaries in the Latest Assassin's Creed

Postscript is Cameron Kunzelman's weekly column about endings, apocalypses, deaths, bosses, and all sorts of other finalities.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/yw9xmb/assassins-creed-odyssey-mercenaries

Great article Kunzelman! This is the best argument I have heard of for the mercenary system in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I wonder if this game has a bunch of seemingly not well fleshed out systems in it because the teams at Ubisoft will finish it later, in a games as a service kind of way. I haven’t played the game myself, but from hearing folks talk about it on podcasts, it sounds like there are a bunch of systems that don’t talk to each other well.

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Yeah, there are a ton of systems in Odyssey which don’t necessarily overlap, but they do overlay. They’re almost like mods. You load one system up, and if there’s a direct conflict with another, one takes priority, but if not, both systems just keep operating independently. Why would a mercenary who is hunting your character care if you’re trying to silently stalk some other target? That’s got nothing to do with them.

Kassandra was going after one of the region leaders last night. I had been taking down all the side stuff to weaken their hold, so of course my bounty was high. I’m in the compound where the leader is and discover that the guy who was paying my bounty (who’s just a normal level NPC) was also there. “Great!” I think, “two birds with one stone!”

I manage to get the leader severely weakened when the bounty sponsor shows up. With 2 or 3 mercs in tow, because of course they would be. There’s no way I can fight all these head on, but I also don’t want to lose my target because I don’t know if he’ll despawn or something. So I skirt around the edges of the compound, never breaking line of sight for more than a few seconds. I pick off individual guards if I can get them separated, otherwise I’m concentrating on hit-and-run tactics against the leader and bounty sponsor. I light buildings on fire. I let bears and wolves and cougars out of cages. I kick guards into the ocean.

Eventually I take out the leader. There are still 3 mercs after me, at least 2 of which could probably one-shot me, but I spot the sponsor. I manage to get an arrow off just before a massive club cracks me from behind.

Somehow, I’m still alive, but the arrow had hit its mark. I dive in the water, swimming under boats and docks until I can get to the edge of the compound, whistle for my horse, and book it. A few half-hearted arrows come my way, but in seconds I’m gone. The region leader is dead. All the mercs are alive, but they don’t work for free, and there’s nobody left to pay them. Mission accomplished.


This is something that actually kind of bothers me about AC games. The lack of interactivity/interplay between systems has meant that while AC has a LOT of systems to interact with, those systems rarely interact with each other meaningfully, apart from a merc randomly showing up at inopportune times.

That lack of dynamism makes the plethora of features AC offers feel pretty sterile. I wish they had cribbed more from the captain system of Shadow of MorWar, because just the personality of those characters made the system pop that much more to me. AC, in comparison, feels like a laundry list of systems that are being checked off.

I would agree with you about previous AC games. The various brotherhood/gang/faction control mechanics in those games were entirely inconsequential to the rest of the gameplay.

But I would argue that in Odyssey, they aren’t random or unconnected. The mercenaries don’t show up at random. (P.S., you want to talk about showing up at random, have I got a bone to pick with Shadow of War, where Nemeses would literally show up at random while stalking through a patch of grass.) The mercenaries are always in the world - you can see them on the map at all times if you’ve identified them. They tend to hang around important places - Leader Houses, Military Bases, etc. If I hadn’t decided to save a few drachmae by going after the sponsor instead of just paying off my bounty, that scenario would’ve played out entirely differently.

All the various systems in Odyssey aren’t random nor are they scripted. They’re independent, but they aren’t siloed off from each other. Your actions can affect multiple systems, and they can influence each other.

Full disclosure: I haven’t spent more than an evening with Odyssey so far, but what little I saw of the systems, and previous experience with the series, made me pessimistic.

I’m glad to hear that it’s different here, it makes me quite a bit more apt to keep trucking until I get a better feeling for all the systems! :grinning:

Don’t get me wrong, there are way too many systems (I just unlocked an entirely new one last night, after a solid week of playing). But they’re sandbox-y in a way that Assassin’s Creed has never really been.

AC Odyssey takes its sweet time to sink its teeth in, but I also found this particular facet of the game very enjoyable. Most other games, when you’re taking down a fort, you just need to keep killing, brute forcing your way through. You’ll eventually succeed. With a mercenary four levels higher than you showing up, you more often than not have to slow your roll, pick off the weaker ones, and hope that they go away, or leave the fort entirely, lick your wounds, and find the asshole who put a bounty on your head so you can continue with your objective.

The upside is that it gives your nefarious actions (murdering, stealing, etc.) real consequences that can ruin your day. The downside is this reaaaaally drags out some portions of the game. Meaning, if you rented it for a few days like I did, you find that you’ve barely scratched the surface of the overall experience. All in all, I’m having fun. Maybe it’s worth a buy…