by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 10th September, 2019
Rich in content, with more than a solid story, and three new maps The Fate of Atlantis isn't just another DLC. It is an old school expansion pack that comes with more content than most standalone games.
DLCs that expand upon the story or offer new adventures (not talking about DLC packs that offer new items or similar things) are usually subpar offerings well below the quality of base games they come for.
I've been disappointed with story DLCs for more than a decade now and discovering a quality story DLC campaign was always an exception, not a rule. A few recent examples include DLCs for excellent titles like the Spider-Man for the PS4, Far Cry 5, Wolfenstein The New Colossus, or Destiny 2.
Spider-Man was great and I bought the deluxe edition thinking that the City that Never Sleeps DLC campaign would expand upon the original story in a meaningful way and introduce cool new storyline.
It didn't; all it did was adding three groups of uninspiring story missions along with a plethora of tough enemies that were frustrating to fight against and it did all without allowing us to play side missions and open-world activities from the main game (this was particularly annoying for me personally).
Far Cry 5 came with exciting DLC promises and I simply had to play the Lost on Mars DLC. Huge ants, 60's sci-fi horror atmosphere and Far Cry action? What's not to like, right?
Well, not much since that episode was underwhelming, to say the least, and it felt like Ubisoft paid some washed-up developers who lost all motivation to create video games and told them to not even try when creating DLC for Far Cry 5. And Wolfenstein DLC was flat out bad and a sorry excuse to get more money from fans.
The first DLC story for last year's Assassin's Creed Odyssey also felt that way. Legacy of the First Blade took place on the same map of Ancient Greece where the original game took place in (but to be fair developers used portions of the map that weren't used much during the base campaign), it was short and filled with boring side quests, and the only thing that made it worth playing was the story about Darius, which every AC fan surely wanted to experience.
Sadly, that story wasn't really exciting and in case you aren't overly familiar with the lore of the series you had literally zero reasons to play it aside from killing some time.
But the second part of the Season Pass, the Fate of Atlantis DLC, is one of the few DLC packs that not only added to the story in a meaningful way, it also brought enough content that calling it a DLC would be a massive understatement.
The Fate of Atlantis is a proper expansion pack for the base game and the best DLC I played in recent years.
First of all, the DLC campaign arrived in three parts, each episode featuring its own open-world map and about ten hours' worth of content, which is insane. Brought together, the three Atlantis episodes bring more than 30 hours of playtime, which is more than like 80 percent of full-fledged video games out there.
You can easily call this a proper expansion pack and after I finished it I would call The Fate of Atlantis a full AC game, in the vein of AC: Brotherhood and Revelations, the two titles that expanded the story of Ezio and were both full games on their own.
You don't get that often, if not at all when it comes to downloadable content. To be frank I think that no other game has DLC story campaign that is this long and brimming with content, which is another huge plus for the DLC itself and the Seasons Pass.
Along with the Legacy of the First Blade and remastered versions of AC III and AC Liberation, AC: Odyssey Season Pass is definitely worth the money, which happens extremely rare with season passes and DLC content in general.
But content and playtime isn't everything and luckily The Fate of Atlantis delivers in other departments. For instance, each of the expansion's maps is an excellent example of amazing design and creativity.
Elysium, the first map, is a thriving paradise filled with stunning vistas located on clifftops that are so rare to find in the real world. But since the Elysium isn't really the real world designers had the creative freedom to come up with an incredible area that is beautiful everywhere you look.
This struck me the most about the expansion, just how each map is unique and different from what we saw in the base game. Without the real-world location confining them (although I have to say AC: Odyssey is filled with stunning locations) they let their imagination guide them and we got some of the prettiest locations in all Assassin's Creed games.
Even the Underworld, with its oppressive atmosphere, the general feeling of dread, and dark clouds combined with smoke covered sunlight is beautiful in its own way.
The foggy plains and dead mountains look stunning and are really the complete opposite of the world seen in the base game and two episodes taking place in Elysium and Atlantis. But the third episode takes the cake when it comes to the world design.
The city of Atlantis is simply stellar; it looks like all those fantastic stories we heard, with its classical circle design, huge bridges connecting different parts of the city, monolithic buildings dominating the scenery, and the incredible combination of antic and futuristic design philosophy seen throughout her.
Each map is a gem in its own right and each map keeps that fantastic sense of exploration and joy of constantly discovering beautiful places that pushed me through the game despite its relatively repetitive gameplay and simplistic combat.
When it comes to the world design and the sheer quality of maps offered in The Judgment of Atlantis no other DLC pack even comes close. What Ubisoft did is worthy of respect and I recommend getting the Season Pass just to be able to enjoy Elysium, The Underworld, and Atlantis.
But of course, being pretty isn't everything, especially in video games. When it comes to the story The Judgment of Atlantis doesn't really shine but it's well above the standard we have today in AAA video games market. The premise is pretty cool and works as a sort of assassinception.
You see, the story takes place both in Ancient Greece and modern age, with Kassandra (or Alexios) entering a sort of an ancient version of the Animus to learn to use and control the staff of Hermes.
But they also enter the simulation for Layla to learn how to control the staff. So, basically, Layla leads the character who's inside the simulation while she's also inside a simulation, creating an excellent homage to the cult film (and worldwide meme phenomena).
So, once you enter the simulation you find yourself in Elysium, ruled by Persephone. You soon find out she's a bit of a control freak and that humans there doesn't really like living inside the version of Paradise ruled by a despot.
So you start building a resistance, not only to help other humans but also to discover the key to the gate to the Underworld. The premise is solid and quests are generally interesting, especially those that include parkouring among breathtaking scenery. The plot loses its focus shortly after the start of the first episode with its illogical plot points and often abstruse storytelling but overall it isn't so bad.
But once you arrive at the Underworld the plot really begins to thicken and to become interesting. The Underworld offers the best part of the story (aside from the final part of the third episode) along with excellent characters and lots of emotional moments.
It's great to revisit characters you found endearing (or you learned to hate) in the main story and to finally have a chance to have a sort of an epilogue for their stories. Also, there's lots of emotion involved with few scenes really being gut-wrenching. Overall, The Underworld is the best part of the expansion when it comes to characters and their stories, but the final episode will be the best one for all fans of the series who love its First Civilization lore.
After you finish your business below you arrive at the Atlantis itself, filled with Isu and humans who live in a fragile peace. The Poseidon himself entrust you the role of the official judge of the city and this is where the Isu fan part begins. The city is filled with tiny bits of lore regarding Isu and their relationship with humans.
I simply had to read every single lore tablet (those are sprinkled around the city, offering bits and pieces of the lore everywhere you go, which is an excellent motivation to explore the whole of Atlantis) and while some are completely uninteresting a good chunk offer insightful look at the First Civilization, its accomplishes, its society, and its fragile relationship with the human race.
This is like a drug for Assassin's Creed veterans and all of you who like the series for its First Civilization story should definitely play this.
The story of Atlantis is better written than that of Elysium but its true potential isn't reached until the final part of the episode where some groundbreaking discoveries are made that will show players why Isu ultimately were wiped from the face of the Earth and why we might end up in a similar fashion (the Isu had the Sun throwing plasma at them while we have global warming).
The end is a bit over the top but is satisfying and well worth the time investment (about 25-30 hours) you've put to reach it.
When it comes to the gameplay and quests as it is with the story, they aren't great but also far from being bad. The gameplay is more of the same but different environments and subtle twists to the formula found in the second and third part of the expansion keep things fresh and interesting.
Enemies are tougher compared to the base game and those puzzle-like encampments and fortresses are back but this time making a mistake when going silent won't throw mercenaries and (in most cases) reinforcements your way allowing players to be more aggressive and blunt in their approach.
I liked this because as much as I like stealth, sometimes you just want to storm the front gate and battle against dozens of enemies at once.
Further, the expansion features plenty of ability points to earn since each map features side content (similar to tombs in the main game) that award additional points in troves which is another plus since leveling is slower than in the base game.
A cool way to get constant rewards in the form of ability points and to keep the feeling of constantly improving your character even though you're basically reached endgame.
Also, you get unique legendary armor sets (one per each episode) and each map comes with special hidden shrines that award special alternate versions of certain abilities (which are usually more powerful versions of base abilities) adding to the motivation to explore and discover secrets in each map.
Sure, The Fate of Atlantis has its share of quirks and downsides that can be annoying at times. AI is still dumb as hell and you can clear any fortress with low effort and without being spotted even once with a few simple exploits. Combat is still overly simplified but alternate abilities do add a bit to the mix.
Some quests are just awful with their choices that are as far from logic as Atlantis is from modern times and at times you will be baffled at how someone older than five could write some of the dialogues found in the expansion. I also found that every closed environment suffers from serious performance issues.
In Underworld caves, filled with fire and magma I would suffer from extreme performance drops even though the base game worked flawlessly so in case you play on the PC and you barely ran the base game think twice before getting this DLC.
Immersion breaking moments are especially frustrating. You can play the game for hours and just forget that this is a virtual world and then you will find stuff that is so illogical it hurts.
Like sneaking through military compounds even though you're a bloody judge of Atlantis who can go wherever they want. Finding plot holes between two episodes that would be really easy to fix by developers.
Or playing through the Underworld that is literally described as a literal Underworld from Ancient Greek mythology (it could've been stated that the creator of the simulation tweaked their memories so that the area feels familiar to Kassandra but they didn't mention that even once, really breaking the immersion factor and the whole simulation explanation).
The story can go south at times and become confusing and illogical without an apparent reason. It's just interesting and well written one moment only to become a dumpster fire the next, especially during portions that take place in modern times.
But those problems aren't enough to overshadow the incredible world design, solid overall story, mostly interesting quests, and subtle yet welcome gameplay tweaks.
If I would look at The Fate of Atlantis as a standalone game sure, it wouldn't be as good as the original or as most AC titles. But for a DLC expansion this is prime content and should be played by everyone who enjoyed the main game, those who look for quality DLC content, and those who love the First Civilization part of Assassin's Creed franchise.
And since you get to visit the bloody Atlantis, I would recommend this for all of you who are intrigued by the legendary city that was swallowed by the sea.