Assassin's Creed Odyssey Review
Last year’s soft-reboot of the Assassin’s Creed franchise brought a dynamic shift in gameplay. Assassin’s Creed Origins took many modern-day RPG elements and injected it into the DNA of the franchise. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey continues that trend but kicks it up a notch or two.
Ubisoft Quebec developed this year’s title in the long-running franchise but added just enough new gameplay elements to further propel the series forward. Origins focused on giving players new combat mechanics and opening up the scope of the world. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey introduces weighted dialogue options and gives players the opportunity to craft their narrative.
Within the opening moments of the game, players are given the choice of playing as either Alexios or Kassandra. There is no right or wrong choice of the two, as the player’s choice will only impact which character you decide to embark on this journey with. **For reference, I chose Kassandra, as I thoroughly enjoyed actress, Melissanthi Mahut’s performance.**
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set in Greece during 431 BCE. As you are introduced to the setting, you learn that the Spartans and Athenians are at war. Whether you play as Alexios or Kassandra, your journey takes you through the lands of Greece. Acting as a mercenary for hire, you become entangled in the war. You are also driven to discover your place in the cutthroat world of ancient Greece. As your story unfolds, you begin to learn about a sinister cult looming over the land. The reach of this cult can influence political leaders and the war itself.
We are given some time with Layla as she continues her journey with the Brotherhood against Abstergo. After key moments throughout the story, you will check in on Layla in the modern day. The modern-day setting has loads of lore to dig through and provides a few neat easter eggs to discover.
Live And Die By Your Choices
As mentioned, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is all about choice and consequences. During the story, you will come across many colourful characters. In many instances, your dialogue choices will reflect on the outcome of the mission. No matter how big or small these choices may seem, one wrong slip of the tongue and you may end on the wrong side of the conversation.
These choices in dialogue and action should not be taken at face value either. Some decisions you make can have lasting consequences that ripple across the story. For instance, early on you engage with a couple thugs in a small city. After exchanging words, you have the decision to give them mercy or cut them down. Letting them go, will result in the thugs bringing reinforcements for their next attack.
That is a small drop in a rather large bucket of decisions you will make across this game. There were moments when I felt like being standoffish and ended up closing out a mission early by driving a wedge between myself and the NPC.
Due to having dialogue options available, you are able to create what kind of hero you set out to be. Perhaps you would like to play as a white knight of sorts. You can also play and ensure that your pocket is filled with coin and take a greedy approach. Otherwise, you can play the bloodthirsty role, seeking out any excuse to use your sword in battle.
Dialogue trees are not only for making friends and enemies. Odyssey also lets you engage in romance opportunities with a select number of NPCs. Romancing either man or woman will only lead to a short hookup. However, there are instances where a relationship can blossom and you have the opportunity to recruit that person down the line.
The missions themselves are incredibly satisfying. Even the seemingly mundane fetch-quest offers endearing or interesting dialogue to navigate you through. I was constantly strung along mission by mission eagerly anticipating to see the outcome.
The crux of the story is one of the most compelling in the entire franchises. The narrative team of Odyssey has done an exceptional job crafting a story that acts like a carrot on the end of a string. There have been very few flat moments throughout my time. Each time I am able to pull the curtain back a little bit more on the overarching story, my jaw drops at the revelation.
Getting A Lay Of The Land
The map of Odyssey is more substantial, more spread out, and denser. Assassins Creed Origins was large, but only because flatlands of yellow and gold desert would encompass a large portion of the map. Odyssey, on the other hand, is rich with large cities, settlement camps, and ocean waters separating many islands.
Playing the game on the Xbox One X was a sight to be seen. 4K and HRD went a long way with textures on the map. The level of detail that flows through the entire map is incredible. Each major landmark felt unique. The vistas never felt boring or repetitive. That being said, some character models (especially the unnamed NPCs) looked rather shiny.
There is also a stark difference in the colour pallet Odyssey takes. The entire game is more colourful with lush green forests, white marble, blue oceans. While moving from each area feels fluid on foot or by horse, where I felt the game struggles with movement is in the water. Swimming is sometimes a hard mechanic to get right. You can control relatively well underwater, but in comparison to the rest of the game, it just doesn't feel as buttery smooth.
There is a lot to see and do in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Assassin’s Creed has always done an excellent job of creating scope in the map size. In the early days, the map would be riddled with collectibles and other busy-work. Origins, on the other hand, offered variety in form of unmarked locations. Odyssey replicates this practice while adding in a few extra collectibles. In addition to collectibles, there are side missions galore to complete. During the beginning, you are given the option of playing in Guided Mode or Exploration Mode.
Guided Mode is the traditional navigation mechanic of Assassin’s Creed where the quest objective will be highlighted on both the world map and the mini-map.
Exploration Mode is stepping in a new direction. Players will have to ask questions to their quest-giver in order to narrow down the location of their objective. An example of this is the NPC will tell players to head north-east of said town until they hit a forest. Players can also use their eagle, Ikaros to scan areas for their objective as well. This new mode was a ton of fun to use as it adds a new level of engagement to the dialogue with the game.
Discovering locations on the map will reveal a number of small objectives to complete. These may result in killing a captain of a small troop, killing a high-level animal, or simply looting a number of chests. For completionists, these tasks may lose some of its magic as there is a lot to uncover. That being said, I believe Ubisoft Quebec did a rather good job of having variety throughout the map so that players would not be completing the exact same task one after another.
Bringing Back The Boats
Having blue oceans can only mean one thing. Ubisoft Quebec brought back the naval combat. While Assassin’s Creed Origins did include naval combat during Aya’s mission, it has been many years since naval combat has been available to players in the open world. Odyssey reintroduces the combat element but in addition, has simplified it to the essentials.
Since Assassin’s Creed 3, Ubisoft has toyed around with their naval combat mechanics. For the number of time players are likely to spend on the water, the naval combat felt just right. The controls were intuitive, plus naval ship weaponry never felt obtuse. You are able to shoot charged arrows by holding down the trigger. Otherwise, you may use regular or flaming javelins for further damage. The real fun comes in when gaining enough speed you can cleave a ship.
Your ship, Adrestia can also be upgraded as you continue the game. Upgrading the hull and weaponry will use resources you have found in the game to provide a greater chance of winning engagements on the open waters. You may also recruit NPCs onto your boat to provide additional stats to damage or otherwise. Almost any NPC can be knocked out and recruited into your crew.
Getting Up Close And Personal
Last year, Assassin’s Creed introduced the new combat mechanics. Odyssey has refined those mechanics and made them sparkle. Players can alternate between light and heavy attacks, and dodge incoming attacks all with relative ease. The parry system has been polished and feels more responsive.
Players will have to be quick on their toes and spot cues from their enemy and react accordingly. If enemies emit a white blip, players can parry their enemy which opens them up for attacks. If the enemy turns a red-ish hue, players will be forced to dodge.
Weapons and armor can all be upgraded. Each piece of equipment come in many varieties–– Common, rare, legendary and epic. The higher the rarity, the better the stats will be for the player. Do not get too attached though, as completing missions and looting will always offer new equipment to upgrade to.
Engravings have also been added to the game. Engraving a piece of equipment will give players additional stats to their combat or defense. Engravings can be earned by completing missions or leveling up.
The most significant change in combat is having unlockable abilities. Abilities are divided into three categories. Hunter, Assassin, and Warrior. Hunter will unlock skills pertaining to using your bow and arrow. Assassin will open up increased sneaking stats, higher damage in assassination attempts, and poison weapon damage. Finally, Warrior increases your weapon combat stats, defense and unique combat moves.
Specific abilities will require you to hotkey them to use. If you take anything away from this review, unlock the Spartan Kick ability as soon as you can. The Spartan Kick is not only helpful in stunning a powerful opponent, but there is rarely a moment as satisfying as kicking an opponent off a high cliff or off a boat. This move alone is a ton of fun to experiment with.
Although I have yet to complete the main storyline of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, I can without a doubt already say this will land in my top three of the franchise. Ubisoft Quebec has gone above and beyond in delivering a humongous experience for both fans of the franchise and newcomers to experience.
Each aspect of the game feels rewarding and does a wonderful job pulling you through the experience. Characters you encounter are endearing or comical, or otherwise memorable. For those looking for that time-sink game of the fall, look no further than Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Without even looking at Ubisoft's post-release calendar, Odyssey is the largest game to date from the studio. It is also a sight for sore eyes. You will also grow to appreciate the use of "Malaka".
Verdict: Strongly Recommended
Available October 3rd
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
A code for Assassin's Creed Odyssey was provided by Ubisoft for review purposes.