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Of Mercenaries And Friendship

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

We look at two diametrically-opposed titles - Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Animal Crossing New Horizons - and how they are both reflective of today's times.

As the coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads, throwing cities into total lock down, we found two game titles that sums up how societies have been reacting thus far.

Animal Crossing New Horizons puts you on a remote island, where you work with (or for?) Tom Nook, his sons Timmy and Tommy, and other island friends to build the island life that you want. Kind of like Stardew Valley, but with cute graphics and a dialogue full of puns that I approve of.

You spend your days (literally, since the game moves in real time) collecting materials, catching fish and insects, discovering fossils, and buying furniture. The only real threat on this island are the wasps, and even then, the swollen face that you get after being stung is also kind of cute. Combine the #slowlife vibes with the island-life soundtrack and friendships (with real friends in co-op and AI characters alike), you have a game that is so peaceful and relaxing, it couldn't be further from our reality now.

What we want is the remote island getaway, but what we must do is to stay at home, be socially responsible, and socially distance ourselves.

Yet, the game is still in touch with reality. Community is a big part of the experience as you and your friends help each other develop the island. You get presents that fall from the sky, or tips and recipes that come in message bottles from the sea. Even our most enterprising Tom Nook gives you an interest-free repayment system that has no deadline.

This is quite similar to the kind acts from individuals and businesses alike. Businesses have stepped up to donate products or cash to healthcare frontliners, or even convert entire manufacturing lines to produce healthcare goods that are of high demand now (i.e. LVMH, Razer, and more). Individuals have come together to provide communities for freelancers who are being heavily impacted by the economic fallout, or support for medical/healthcare staff.

But on the flip side, selfish, uncooperative behaviour has been abundant as well. This takes me to the other game that we've been playing - Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey features an expansive world, with beautiful graphics, and enjoyable mechanics (I personally love taking down the enemies through stealth, and the sea battles between ships). You play a mercenary in Ancient Greece, and the story takes you across the Greek archipelago, taking on bounties and missions for coin, while discovering more about your character's history and family tragedy.

The one aspect that falls short for me is the dialogue and its continuity - often times, the tone of the characters change too drastically between dialogue options. In addition to that, the game does not tweak responses on an ongoing basis. For example, even if I did not opt the romance responses from the start of my interactions with certain characters, I can still trigger the romance cut scenes later in the game.

Throughout the game, you get to choose which political factions you would help strengthen or weaken, and for certain story arcs, you could choose to align yourself with other characters or kill them.

Again, this is in parallel to some of the actions we have seen globally - hoarding of products without care for others, and then re-selling them to the highest bidder; drawing divisive lines around race and nationality, and so on.

Yet, one key aspect that makes the game fun is that, as a mercenary, you have the liberty to choose who you would like to align to, and your actions.

To draw this back to reality, how we react to this global pandemic is also a personal choice - do we choose to cooperate or be divisive? So as you ponder which of these two titles you should play during this time (or play both!), do consider how your choices in real-life impact the people around you too.



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