Microtransactions. The dreaded “M-word.” The word that you use at an online gathering of gamers to suddenly make everyone bring out their pitchforks and call for a public crusade. I exaggerate a bit, I know, but it is fairly telling how this business model has become so divisive over the years. From the usual “Mario versus Sonic” debate, today we’ve got everyone from YouTube personalities to random internet users all waging a war of words in a pseudo-partisan digital environment. And that brings us to today’s discussion: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and its microtransactions. I, for one, feel that they’re totally fine.
Before I go into detail, I’ll have to mention that I’m a small business owner. I also worked in the past for global corporations at a middle management/executive capacity. Naturally, I also play around with the stock market. Being a business-oriented adult pushing to my late-30s means my mindset tends to favor good business decisions. However, that does not mean I’d clamor for a terrible business proposition which can eventually cause issues down the road. I always tend to find a middle ground — one that benefits a company, its shareholders, and its consumers.
Also, as someone who lives in the Philippines, I am very much aware of microtransactions in various games that are made in Asia. Any gamer in the SEA region would be familiar with these things. This perspective allows me to see how far microtransactions can go in certain games dating back to the early-2000s. I can honestly say that some examples in “Western games” are a lot tamer than you think compared to their “Eastern” counterparts.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Microtransactions: What Are They?
First, let’s take a look at what types of microtransactions there are in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Well, you’ve got epic and legendary gear with unique designs and their own perks. You’ve also got cosmetic options for your ships and horse (Phobos). Finally, the game also has Time-Saver options such as crafting materials and resources, as well as a means to boost your experience points and drachmae (in-game currency) gains as you play.
The only way to obtain gear sets and cosmetics is via Helix Credits (which are bought with real-world cash) or Ubisoft Club points. You can find resources and crafting materials, meanwhile, by simply grinding and playing the game normally. This whole “playing the game normally” statement will be a recurring theme.
These are the ones you’d notice early on since they are featured microtransactions. You can acquire legendary pieces of armor and weapons that have a unique flavor to them. Since these aren’t obtainable in a regular playthrough, they’ve become must-have items with a look that screams: “Oh, so pretty! Must buy it ASAP!”
In some ways, this has earned the ire of some gamers. After all, why are some cool costumes with their own unique traits locked away behind a paywall? But that, in itself, presents another predicament — it’s your “needs” versus your “wants.”
After finishing the game as Kassandra (because of course everyone plays Kassie!) I never truly found the “need” to obtain any of these items. In fact, you can already obtain some of the best weapons and armor pieces just by playing the game.
If you checked out our Assassin’s Creed Odyssey combat guide, you’ll know that I’m in favor of using full armor sets coupled with a weapon that complements the set bonuses even more. The Agamemnon Set and Snake Set (from killing Cult of Kosmos members) both confer amazing bonuses. When you’ve obtained the Prometheus’ Sika and Arachne’s Stingers (from random mercenaries) you get exceptional boosts to your fire and poison damage — and synergy with those legendary armor sets — respectively.
Again, it’s as simple as playing the game and progressing, and you’ll have some godly items that will help you all the way to the end.
Cosmetics – Ship Designs and Phobos Horse Skins
This is another point of contention. The armor sets and weapons, as mentioned above, look gorgeous and cool, and they offer their own perks. Ship designs and Phobos’ skins, meanwhile, are purely cosmetic. They don’t necessarily impact the gameplay — well, aside from the Pegasus skin negating fall damage. That shouldn’t be a big deal since you don’t die from fall damage anyway. Your horse might, and it would become temporarily unavailable. Then again, galloping off a cliff to kill your own mount is on you.
Surprisingly, other legendary quality crewmates, hull/sail designs, and prows are actually obtainable in the game. Some would have you tracking down Cultist captains roaming the seas, others would ask you to finish questlines. One particular example is the Daughters of Artemis questline where you need to kill legendary creatures. Towards the end, you’ll be able to obtain these huntresses as your crewmates. They even have their own sea shanties that they sing along to.
An example that might be worth noting for players is the various legendary lieutenants that can be bought. One of these is Evie Frye, the female protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Some players might go: “Oh no, Evie is locked behind Ubisoft Club points, and other legendary lieutenants need to be bought with cash! That’s just greedy! Such an unfair advantage!” Well, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but Evie and the other purchasable lieutenants won’t even make a difference compared to the mercs you can recruit later in the game.
These items are also obtainable from the Oikos of the Olympians merchant. You can gather Orichalcum in the wild or from finishing daily/weekly quests to buy an Olympian Gift. This can award random epic or legendary items including the ones from the cash shop.
Time-Savers – EXP/Drachmae Boosts and Maps
Which brings us to the last point of contention: “How do you get to the later stages of the game without time-savers? Don’t you need them as boosts to get by?”
Well, the answer is “No.”
As mentioned in another feature, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey offers you a wondrous game world to explore and immerse yourself in. You can easily get lost in the scenic environs and locales of Ancient Greece. All the while, you can choose to do quests and find collectibles in nooks and crannies. The sandbox nature of the game leads to an epic adventure that slowly unfolds.
If you’ve checked the screenshots I’ve presented, I was already at level 46 towards the end of the game — and that was last week! I’ve amassed those resources (and used up some for crafting and upgrades). The sheer amount of content you can complete means that you’re often leveling up or grabbing the things you need as you explore.
What About The Grind?
Here’s something that you might’ve seen tossed around in various discussions around the web: some players are complaining about the grind. Also, apparently microtransactions (time-savers) were made in order to force the player into purchasing them. So the “grind” (a.k.a. “regular progression in a video game with RPG mechanics”) has suddenly become a detriment.
What some tend to forget is that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey reinvented itself to embrace RPG mechanics even further. And so as an RPG, you’re going to have to put a bit more time and effort to climb that mountain. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At no point in time will you be prevented from completing sections of the game (although you do need to do some quests to level up). This isn’t a “paywall” since a “lack of payment” isn’t your barrier to entry — it’s simply the lack of playing the game more. You’re never locked out of anything just because you didn’t buy something from the store.
Think of it less like Assassin’s Creed or a formulaic adventure game and more like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Divinity: Original Sin, or any RPG from the past four decades or so of gaming. Get stronger as you level up and play, sell stuff you don’t need, do quests and all that. It’s not the instant-gratification that others seem to find more relatable. And yes, you can even find guides and videos made by fellow players that let you know of certain important locations. Put in the time and effort to progress, farm, explore, and grind — like any other RPG — and you’ll enjoy Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for what it is.
But I Paid Full Price For This Game, Why Does It Have Microtransactions And Shortcuts?
As mentioned, players can obtain all of these items via exploration and maximizing your playtime in a video game that you bought. Complaining that it has microtransactions that other people can use as shortcuts shouldn’t be an issue for you. This is especially true if you’re more concerned about getting your money’s worth.
It’s like saying: “I paid $60, so I expect to get a lot of gaming time with this product. Oh no, there are shortcuts to make the game easier and progress faster! My life is ruined!”
The mere fact that you’d like to get your money’s worth means that your focus should be on the exploration and progression aspects. You want to get more out of the game via a normal, unassisted playthrough. This is also irrespective of the shortcuts and time-savers that other people — who might have less gaming time — would prefer.
Of course, there are those who might think that by acceding to this business model, players become part of the problem or that you’re anti-consumer. What about thinking that these ideas are akin to having a “Hail Corporate” mindset or requiring a “Wake up, sheeple!” response? Or maybe even some sort of: “Grr, this is why <insert company here> gets away with their evil greed!”
Those reactions above are possible especially if a gamer feels so strongly about something. Some might also surmise that it would lead to a point in time when microtransactions in Assassin’s Creed games would be shoved at our faces even more. But that’s less of a “slippery slope argument” and more of a “freefall off a cliff.”
Time and again, consumers have shown that they will buy products (and extra content) that they enjoy. People tend to ignore those that they dislike or don’t feel comfortable with. It’s called “voting with your wallet” before having a knee-jerk reaction to drummed up outrage on the internet. The market is there, and the option exists for those who have the disposable income to spend on certain features.
Final Thoughts On Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Microtransactions
Ultimately, all of the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey items offered in the Ubisoft store are optional. They’re barely any hindrance to your enjoyment of the game. In fact, you can achieve similar results – or even better – with the items you obtain while playing. Likewise, since this is a single-player affair, there’s no slanted advantage or unfair competition going on among players — unless you count people who have cool Photo Mode pictures just because they’re riding unicorns.
The purchases of another gamer shouldn’t affect you because it is their choice to spend their money, as it is your choice not to spend yours. Some people have the extra disposable income to spend but not enough playing time. They may end up going for microtransactions as is their right as a consumer. After all, isn’t a mantra of “protecting a consumer’s rights” one that lets the consumer purchase something of their own free will?
Lastly, businesses and corporations exist to make money. That’s a fact of life. That’s the reality of this world. Companies look for means to find sustainability and profits. There’s a reason why every “Boycott Ubisoft/EA/Activision” post in an online forum may get traction, but shareholders barely bat an eye. It’s the stock’s performance, revenues, and dividends that matter.
As long as these practices aren’t intrusive or detrimental to the overall flow or enjoyment of a game, then it is a good business model. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and its microtransactions, at this point in time, represent that. There’s a reason why many long-time Assassin’s Creed players heaped praises when it came to Odyssey. That’s because the microtransactions themselves weren’t enough to detract from a uniquely exceptional gaming experience. They are almost entirely irrelevant to regular play.
Kudos to Ubisoft for finding the right balance of providing engaging content while using a business model that won’t pose a serious issue for players. Let’s all hope that they keep it that way and avoid going overboard in the future.