TORONTO — The Ubisoft Quebec developers behind “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” wanted the game to be all about choice, allowing gamers to develop their character and chart their own course in Ancient Greece.
For actor Michael Antonakos, who plays the lead male character Alexios, that meant a multi-faceted performance.
Alexios can be both a hero and villain — and everywhere in between — depending on what you make him do.
“You always had to think about how you would react (as Alexios),” Antonakos said. “Because sometimes there’s a way you would see the character want to react …. And then it’s ‘OK he is going to be an asshole right now’ and so you’ve got to go (another) way.”
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has travelled through time and around the globe. Ancient Greece was chose for this edition precisely because of the options it offers, according to game director Scott Phillips.
“It was just a great world of contrasts that allows the player a lot of options to choose,” he said.
“And culturally it’s super-significant because a lot of the things we see in our western history today come from ancient Greece,” added narrative director Melissa MacCoubrey.
The game is set in fifth-century BC during the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens. Gamers play a mercenary of Spartan blood.
The franchise opened up with the 2017 release of “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” offering gamers “more opportunities, more options in the game play and story,” said Phillips.
“For us on Odyssey, we looked at what Origins was doing … We knew what they were doing, we knew where we wanted to go because we wanted to push it as far into RPG territory as we could,” said Phillips.
The idea was to move the franchise forward, to connect the gamers to the world they have been dropped into.
“Because you don’t want to just keep making the same thing necessarily. You want to bring in more people, you want to open up the audience, you want to create a new experience for players as well,” said Phillips.
The goal was to give the gamer as much freedom as possible “allowing them to really feel like they own the experience,” he added.
That meant building a huge sandbox to play in.
“I think this is definitely the biggest game Ubisoft has ever made in terms of the sheer amount of content,” Phillips said.
Gamers can choose whether to play the game as a male or female character. Melissanthi Mahut, like Antonakos a Greek-Canadian, plays the lead female role Kassandra.
“We had to mimic each other’s performance in a way,” said Antonakos. “One of us would go first and then the other one would follow and then we’d switch for each scene that we did.”
The 36-year-old Antonakos calls Mahut “an amazing partner who became an amazing friend.” While the two characters had their own unique male and female traits, the actors shared critiques and notes on how their character would act and react during their thousands of lines.
“We both always came together to build the character as one,” he said.
“We would both have each other’s back all the time,” he added. “That was an amazing experience that I’d never had before as an actor. It was fascinating to do and have it go so well.”
Antonakos also paid tribute to the game’s writers for helping them understand their character and journey, whether it be in the sound or motion-capture studios.
Developers travelled to Greece and used historians to ensure accuracy within the game.
While Ubisoft Quebec was lead developer, the game drew help from sister studios around the world including Montreal, Singapore, Bucharest, Chengdu (China), Montpellier (France), Kyiv (Ukraine), Shanghai and Pune (India).
“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” rated M for Mature, is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press