From action adventure to full blown RPG, Assassin’s Creed is taking twists and turns to bring the franchise back on its feet and this odyssey is turning out to be much more nuanced than Homer’s poem.
Building up on the foundations laid by Origins, this time Ubisoft is taking a step further and implementing deeper customizations and bragging about its 30 hour long active storytelling that could twist and turn depending upon your choices.
We’ve played an hour of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and here’s how it’s looking so far.
Choice is at the heart of everything
Straight from the get go, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is telling you that everything you do in the game is your choice, literally. You start from choosing one of two different Spartans, Alexios and Kassandra who are descendants of the spear-wield King Leonidas and unlike Syndicate, this time you stick around your character from the start and both of them have the same abilities.
Each character is separately voiced and have slightly different side stories mainly due to romances. Yes, that’s a thing now and is a first in the series. Though during our hands-on session we didn’t get to actually see the difference or the impact of it but romances have been confirmed.
Don’t go around thinking on Skyrim levels of romance, where you buy a house and adopt children, no sir, here your house is rather floating around on the seas looking for danger in Ancient Greece 431 BCE. It’s right on time for the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta and during the course of game you can choose between the two factions and provide your mercenary expertise to decide the outcome of the war.
Fight like a crow and not an eagle
One of the major overhaul to the Assassin’s Creed series has been the combat system and with Odyssey it felt more open and upfront rather than sneaky and Assassin-y? We got to try the game which was 15-20 hours into the story and there was still no sign of the hidden blade or a missing ring finger. You can still assassinate using the broken spear of Leonidas but hardcore fans like myself who look for those little Assassin-y details could not be satisfied by a mercenary’s body language. There’s no emphasis on the hood for God’s sake! Although, we’ll refrain from passing judgments just yet because it’s still a month from launch and an hour of gameplay doesn’t cut it.
Full disclosure, the game lets you put on a hood should you choose to and like Origin’s you can customise your loadout too. This time Ubisoft has gone a step ahead and added another layer of RPG element to the weapons by giving them a stat boosts based on completing several challenges. This actually solves the problem of letting a cool looking legendary gear become redundant because you got it at a lower level during the starting part of the game. The three tier skill tree branches to range attacks, the usual sword faff and actual Assassin perks.
Here’s where you feel that Assassin’s Creed is not the same as before, offering more RPG elements one after another and building solid on the foundations of Origins. What I am talking about is that now you can map the skills to the face buttons on the controller that can be activated by pressing down the left shoulder buttons.
For instance, holding down the LB button and pressing X on the Xbox controller will activate a health boost or LB + B will snatch the shield off those pesky guards making them more open for frontal attacks. Best up, LB + A will let you Spartan Kick enemies off cliff and ships. It’s very satisfying to do and is clearly very similar to Gerard Butler’s kick from 300. There are range weapon button mappings by holding down LT + face buttons too.
Naval battles make a return and allow you to roam freely from one island to another without any loading screens ruining your flow. You can recruit anyone from the open world game to join your crew and even customize and upgrade your ship too. This is one of the most awaited features and we didn’t actually get to test it out during our demo session, it’s good to know that it has been confirmed by Ubisoft.
The naval battles themselves are pretty much the same while you have bows and javelins at your disposal rather than broadside cannons that felt much more satisfying in Blackflag. You cannot see the the mast of the ship and the whole thing just moves because of your crew’s sweat and tears but don't take them for a cranky bunch. We’re happy to report that sea shanties are back and this time in Greek flavour.
Assassin’s Creed has taken one of the most daring steps with Origins and it has paid off. It was a fabulous game with Odyssey being a spit shine over the already good game mechanics.
This doesn’t mean Odyssey is old wine new bottle. The intricacy of RPG mechanics going a level deeper than before make for a more engaging experience while not over burdening players with hardcore RPG elements like Witcher 3. The choice-based conversations will have a deeper impact on the game as whole according to Ubisoft but that we’ll see in the full review.
For now the game looks very polished even as I walked away from a demo gameplay and with naval battle returning, Odyssey somehow feels like a package with best of Assassin’s Creed in a new RPG light.