Time is on my side, yes it is, at least according to the Rolling Stones. Well, they would say that. It was 1964, and they hadn’t just seen a pop-up inform them that the fourth batch of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey DLC had arrived.
When I realised the third chapter of Legacy of the First Blade had launched (this in addition to The Fate of Atlantis, and The Lost Tales of Greece) I actually sighed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the reinvention of the Assassin’s titles; Origins was my game of the year, but in Odyssey, I’ve already exceeded my game time for Origins and I’m nowhere near done. Not even close. And I’m not talking from the perspective of someone who feels the need to 100% the game – I just want to have fun with the main story and the DLC and move on. Even by that measure, I’m way off the pace.
Your mileage may vary – I’m 44, with two little kids and a work schedule. It’s unlikely your life is precisely like mine, but I’m willing to bet you’ve got other things going on in your life that don’t involve Kassandra or Alexios. The 50 hours I’ve spent in Odyssey may not even seem a lot to you, particularly for a game that released some time ago. But for me it’s a huge investment, and one which I’d hope to have received a pay-off for. Instead, I’m grimacing at the knowledge that the third chapter of Legacy of the First Blade has been added to my burgeoning backlog and I haven’t even uncovered the fate of bloody Atlantis yet.
This, I should add, isn’t about value for money. For the £79.99 I paid, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is well on its way to averaging £1 an hour for entertainment vs cost. Video games provide more bang for your buck than any other medium (with the possible exception of novels, but we’re talking games here, kay?). It’s remarkable how much value can be squeezed from a video game, and Ubisoft have set a hell of a benchmark with the level of commitment they’ve shown post-launch, both to season pass holders and to those who ‘only’ bought the base game.
Rather, it’s about the other pressures on our time. Aside from gaming, we’re in a golden age of quality TV. Netflix and HBO are pumping out quality drama and comedy so often they make it seem easy (which, of course, it isn’t), there’s a deluge of live sport every.single.day (if that’s your thing), and that’s before I even consider the backlog in my comics and novels pile. And then there’s Microsoft, God bless ‘em.
Starting this generation on the back foot has brought out the best in Seattle’s finest. But from the massive slice of humble pie Sony served them in 2013, MS have chewed, considered and spat it back out as innovation. Hardware revisions, feature additions, frequent and competitively priced digital sales, a commitment to Games with Gold and, of course, Game Pass. Without any additional expense, my backlog gets bigger each and every month. We Happy Few? Just Cause 4? Vanquish? Syndicate? Haven’t even tried them. They’re there, winking at me, eagerly anticipating the addition of some new buddies to keep them company. And I swear they roll their perfectly animated eyes every time I direct the cursor over to Odyssey for another go.
Microsoft have doubled down on being consumer friendly this generation, and this from a position of already being a customer centric outfit. For all the internet chatter about lack of exclusives, I’ve never had a shortage of options on Xbox One; quite the opposite in fact. That’s in no small part due to the forward thinking vision of Phil Spencer et al. Starting with EA Access (still can’t believe Sony turned that down), they’ve completely changed the distribution model so that even someone like me, on a modest income, can instantly have a huge catalogue of games for minimal outlay. Yes, it’s Netflixesque, and of course those games are removed from active service when my subscription expires, but given the cost to benefit ratio, I don’t ever anticipate letting that happen.
And that’s not going to be good for the backlog, is it?
So here we have the perfect entertainment storm, and my tiny boat (the boat represents leisure time here – indulge me) is sinking, little by little. It’s a wonderful thing to have so many options, but against this backdrop, the 80-100 hours it’s going to take me to complete Odyssey is just too much. Would I still have bought it had I known (or even thought it through?) Maybe. But now that we know Xbox Game Pass is here to stay, I’ll be making slightly different decisions in future. There’s most definitely a place in the gaming landscape for the epic title, but there’s also a place for the kind of campaign we got in Titanfall 2. Bags of fun and done before the weekend is out type of campaigns.
Choice is good, but it can also be overwhelming. I spent my twenties playing every game, seeing every movie and more or less having my thumb on the zeitgeist. Maybe it’s an age thing; most would agree your time becomes more limited as you get older. But I think the wild array of options available now means that it’s just impossible to keep up, regardless of what stage of life you’re at.
I’ll complete my Odyssey one day. But I’ll never, ever clear my backlog, and maybe that’s OK. Thanks to sites like this one, we have an opportunity to keep abreast of what’s going on, and carefully select the games most likely to resonate with us. But in enjoying the smorgasbord of games on offer, we need to accept that we can’t win ‘em all, and maybe that’s OK too.
So there we have it. Almost a thousand words which could be summed up as ‘too many games, not enough time’. And every minute spent typing was a minute away from my Odyssey. In other news, while researching the Odyssey DLC, I discovered that my season pass includes copies of Assassin’s Creed 3 and its DLC, Liberation, remastered for Xbox One. Time, most definitely, is not on my side.
Take that Mick and Keith.