Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has slowly expanded with new side missions and mercenaries battles, and while those might have been welcome diversions, they were a little light on story. The game’s first DLC, Legacy of the First Blade, launched its debut episode today. It’s a solid addition to the game, bringing tough challenges, introspective writing, and welcome connections to the rest of the series.
In Legacy of the First Blade, Kassandra (or Alexios) gets pulled into conflict with a murderous band of Persian warriors rampaging across the region of Makedonia. The warriors are hunting her down, as well as anyone else who bears “tainted” blood touched by the setting’s alien precursors, the Isu. During her altercation with the warriors, she runs into two allies: Natakas and his father Darius. Darius, as some fans of the series might know, is a sort of proto-Assassin. He strikes from the shadows and uses the iconic hidden blade. He and his son are also being hunted by the Persians in retaliation for Darius’ assassination of the legendary King Xerxes. The trio form a somewhat uneasy alliance to drive off the Persians, who are secretly being led by a mysterious society called the Order of the Ancients.
That set-up brings a surprising but welcome addition to the game, which is an entirely new branch of cultists to hunt down. The Order of the Ancients has operatives sprinkled around Makedonia, and while the DLC’s story will see you dispatch of most of them, a small smattering of conspirators are still left over after you finish. The cultist system was one of the main game’s most interesting features, forcing players to snoop and stab their way around Ancient Greece. Darius’ arrival brings a portentous foray into an entirely new world of secrets, bringing Kassandra one step towards the life of an assassin instead of a mere misthios. It’s fitting that new threats appear as a result, expanding the series’ history of shadowy conflict. It’s a while yet before Bayek and will establish the Assassin Order, but Legacy of the First Blade goes a long way to making Kassandra’s role in the wider mythos more clear.
That might be Legacy of the First Blade’s greatest strength. It helps connect Kassandra’s story to the rest of the series. The main game often felt self-contained, a tale of intrigue and family far removed from the familiar Templar versus Assassin conflict that defines the series. The game included some welcome connections to Assassin’s Creed’s sci-fi elements, but it provided less of a sense of how they all fit into the larger picture. Legacy of the First Blade fills in the gaps by showing how smaller conflicts might have ballooned into that greater, more abstract ideological struggle. Darius zealously executes kings and kicks off the series’ political intrigue, the Order seeks to dispose of anyone with “tainted” blood, and Kassandra gets caught in the middle. There’s a genuine feeling that these disparate elements and forces, like the main game’s Cult of Kosmos, will eventually coalesce into the conflicts we know will come further down in history.
Legacy of the First Blade’s structure is a familiar one. There’s only so many things you can really do in Odyssey, after all. You’ll sneak into enemy forts, sleuth around for clues to locate cultists, fight tricky bosses, and occasionally make some moral choices during your quests. What makes it work is the tissue connecting it all. The writing is surprisingly introspective compared to the rest of Odyssey. From quiet fireside chats about troubled pasts to ruminations about the consequences of taking a life, Legacy of the First Blade allows characters to be vulnerable. I was oddly affected by hearing Kassandra wonder what it might have been like to have a stall in the market and to teach her children to fish. It was also a welcome addition to have dialogue choices allowing her to reflect more on who she was. There’s a chance to define yourself as stalwart hero or someone with much more regret. These moments come hand in hand with villains that, while a little overly nefarious, have clear motivations and menace.
Legacy of the First Blade is a bite-sized Assassin’s Creed snack to enjoy after the exhaustive—and occasionally fractured—main story. It expands upon some of the game’s best features while also adding a degree of mystery and self-reflection that wasn’t always there in the main game. The first episode set the stage for a much larger conflict, and if the rest of the episodes show as much care and awareness, they could help round out Odyssey into one of the series’ finest entries.