When Assassin's Creed: Odyssey was announced, we were highly skeptical at the franchise going back to a yearly release schedule after seeing how another year in the oven benefited Origins. Seeing it in action for the first time didn't dispell that skepticism as we felt that it looked too similar to Origins and some of us even pondered skipping this entry altogether. In the end, after playing it a good while, we can say that while it does share some similarities with Origins, it's a different beast altogether. A game that goes all in on what made Origins great and adds a ton more all the while removing the shackles of the established franchise tropes that limited its endless potential. How so? Let's break it down.
Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is available for purchase on Steam.
The story of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey takes place in 431 BC in Ancient Greece. Going back further than Origins, the assassin and templar orders are not yet established and all the nuances of their long-fought conflict are nonexistent here. While this might be a big deal for the franchise purists, it actually ends up being a decision that's to the games benefit. The first civilization – the Isu remain a factor and their influence over the events of the game is evident in one form or another. The modern-day element is also present, however minimal with the return of Layla Hassan that did the animus diving back in Origins.
The intro sequence has you playing as the king of Sparta, Leonidas, basically reenacting the battle of Thermopylae in a manner similar to the movie 300. After that, you are treated to a brief modern-day segment that has you selecting one of two playable characters, Kassandra or Alexios. A first time for the franchise, the choice is purely a cosmetic one, with only slight changes in how the characters react to you.
Whichever one you select, their story is also pretty much the same and once again, similar to previous entries. A combination of a deeply personal family story with an overarching story for the fate of the land. Taking place during the Polynesian war between Sparta and Athens, you'll, of course, in the true franchise fashion, participate in some major events and interact with some of the prominent personalities of the era.
Overall, the story is interesting to follow and while the quests do a good job of keeping you invested, there are, however some objectives that do get tiresome, dragging forever in order to pad out the length of the game.
Much has been said about Assassin's Creed Witcher influence pre-release with the inclusion of full-blown RPG dialogue choices with real consequences and a few different endings. While the dialogue choices truly have meaningful consequences that can manifest immediately or down the line and affect entire regions – it's not nearly as nuanced or intimidating as in the Witcher. There's not much room for morally gray decisions as they boil down to being a good guy or a jerk. This black and white system isn't helped by the fact that most of the decision making will ultimately lead to only a few activities you are all too familiar with and have been doing the entire game already. Nevertheless, the inclusion of player choice is a much-appreciated step in the right direction for the franchise, making you more invested and able to define your character as you wish. This makes the static storytelling of the previous entries seem entirely obsolete and uninteresting in comparison.
Complete freedom in a changing and reactive open world is how I would describe the gameplay segment of Odyssey. You'll still follow the main and side mission with a combination of on foot, horseback and ship exploration. Liberating outposts, bases and fighting a bunch of fodder enemies as well as strong semi and full-blown bosses. It's all stuff seen in previous franchise entries but the way it all blends here is amazing. There are also many important additions both big and small that make Odyssey another step in the right direction after Origins already took one.
When it comes to combat, Assassin's Creed Origins went away with "counter to win" system, instead implementing a free-form combat that relies on light and heavy melee, ranged and special attacks as well as blocks and counters. It also dipped its toe into RPG waters with its leveling, skill and gear systems that made it much more engaging. Well, besides using a shield, things are much the same here with an Odyssey spin put on it. These come in the form of some special abilities like the much advertised spartan kick and the abilities provided by the Isu artifact – the Spear of Leonidas.
Assassin's Creed 3, had an expansion that granted you some superhuman abilities with the use of Isu artifacts and when that mindset is applied to the way Odyssey works, it opens up many new and exciting options for gameplay experimentation. These include but are not limited to firing arrows through walls, marking and firing arrows at multiple opponents, imbuing weapons with fire, area of effect blasts, slowing down time and literal invisibility. There are limits to using them for the sake of balancing, mainly in the form of adrenaline bars which you build through extended combat and stealth kills. Stronger skills require more bars or drain the bars faster.
The system contradicts itself a little as, despite all these abilities and a combat system that's a geared more toward being skillful, enemy levels still rule the day and killing an opponent just two or three levels above you can be punishingly difficult. It can be done, but it requires cheap hit and run tactics that just look silly and are no fun at all. Besides regular combat, you can flex all these combat improvements by participating in large-scale battles between Sparta and Athens. While initially impressive, they do get old after a while as the weapon and armor rewards are often not worth the effort. The other part of the equation – stealth, received very little in terms of improvements. It still remains very forgiving in terms of the enemy line of sight and attention span meaning that stalking enemies and picking them off one by one is easy, but still as fun as ever.
The game does away with desynchronization mechanic if you behave in a manner not befitting of an honorable assassin and you can even kill civilians this time around. There is another penalty, however, in the form of the evolved Phylakes mercenary system from Origins. Should you not behave, this Shadow of War-esque nemesis system of sorts employs special mercenary units with special weapons, pets, strengths and weaknesses to cut you down wherever you are in the world. These enemies can be insanely difficult and can complicate your life when you least need them to. It's an excellent addition to the franchise that makes the world feel more alive and reactive to your actions. You can even deal with them in other ways besides just killing them by paying off your bounty or killing the person that issued the bounty on your head.
One prominent returning gameplay mechanic is the naval travel and combat. Your ship, the Adrestia is fully customizable and you can recruit almost any NPC in the game to be your crewmate. The ship controls and combat have been simplified when compared to Black Flag but are still fun, nonetheless. There's also an incentive for doing naval battles as much of your crafting resources will be acquired by destroying enemy ships.
The gear system is like in Origins, very diverse in terms of combat options and player customization. There are some seriously good looking weapons and armor to be acquired through missions and exploration, making it a good incentive to go check out any and all points of interest you come across on the map.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Assassin's Creed Origins left quite an impression on me. This is especially true when talking about the visuals and the how believable and well designed the Egypt setting was and I'm extremely glad this also holds true for Odyssey. It's like they took the best out of Black Flag and Origins, mixed it together, added more amazing locations and then dialed the saturation slider to 10.
Ancient Greece is roughly the same size as Egypt. Granted, much of the map is now covered in water. Luckily, that doesn't mean it's any less packed with detail. The world is completely designed to invite exploration with different biomes, interesting locations, and beautiful vistas. It's definitely one of the best looking open worlds out there that makes the game a joy to play through on looks alone.
Performance-wise, things are once again similar to Origins when it comes to system requirements. With that being said, it's still a fairly demanding game but with plenty of graphical options that will enable you to find a sweet spot between pretty and smooth across many different configurations. While there is some obvious pop in, late texture loading and animation problems in combat, it's never prominent enough to take away from what is otherwise an amazing visual package.
While the voice acting is generally good, it employs "adopt an accent to sound like a different language" technique that's a hit and miss sometimes with some characters dialing it to max while others use it minimally. Despite that, the game is quite immersive with the whole audio-visual package making it very easy to completely sink into the experience. The music is once again appropriate for the time period with suitably epic tracks playing during tense moments and more subtle ones setting the mood for pure exploration.
The gameplay formula established in Origins is pretty much the same here – with some important additions and returning gameplay elements that make Odyssey the most complete Assassin's package to date. Sure it's lighter on the assassin lore elements but never to its detriment. With plenty of post-launch content on its way, Odyssey is a massive stepping stone for the future and with the news that the franchise is taking a break in 2019, it's an exciting time to be its long-time fan or a perfect opportunity to become one.
|+ The combat, skill, and gear systems||– Padding for length|
|+ The story and dialogue choices||– Can get repetitive toward the end|
|+ The mercenary system||– Minor technical issues|
|+ An amazing audio-visual package|