From just an action adventure to a full-blown action adventure 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 upon the foundations laid by Origins, this time Ubisoft is taking a step further and implementing deeper customizations and bragging about its 30 hours of long active storytelling that could twist and turn depending upon your choices.
However, be warned, you’re not an Assassin in this game but just a sellsword and the story takes place roughly 400 years before the Creed came into existence. So, hardcore Assassin’s Creed fans might find the lack of hoodie stabbers a disappointment. That said, the new style of gameplay, storytelling and combat is entertaining and the addictive loot and progression system keeps you tied into its world for a long, long time.
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 the two Spartans, Alexios and Kassandra who are the descendants of the spear-wield King Leonidas but 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 depending on who you choose. We played as Kassandra because her accent appealed to us better than Alexios’. There are romances in the game too, but it’s a loose end. Unlike Skyrim where you could have your significant other as a companion to help out during battles or keep them at home to earn some cash, Odyssey’s romances start in the bedroom and end there. There was little impact on how the game world was affected. If you wish, they could join your crew on the ship and lend two passive abilities to your crew over the single passive ability you get from recruiting NPCs from the world, but that’s about it.
That said, some choices in the game do create a greater impact on the game world. I remember doing a mission where I could either save or ignore a family that was about to be executed. The reason being is that they had an incurable disease, but little did I know that my conscious to save a family in need would result in a plague across the entire island. Ya, didn’t see that coming!
On the flipside, your choice to side a faction during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta is a loose end too. Nation Power missions are spread throughout the massive map and during the course of the game you can choose between the two factions and provide your mercenary expertise to decide the outcome of the Conquest Battle. It’s a slaughter-fest with little impact on the course of the game but you get rewarded with great loot and Drachmae (money). The funny thing is that I killed a Spartan general and then later helped Spartans win a war in that same region.
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 feels more open and upfront rather than sneaky and Assassin-y. That’s acceptable since the game never ceremoniously initiates you into a brotherhood. If you find yourself looking for a hidden blade or a missing ring finger, don’t do it. You can 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.
Full disclosure, the game lets you put on a hood if you find one to replace your helmet and like Origins, you can keep changing gears across head, torso and legs. This time Ubisoft has gone a step ahead and added another layer of RPG element to the weapons by giving them a stat boost based on completing several challenges. This actually solves the problem of letting 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. Now you can map these 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. You can map these skills as you like and the game gives you interesting skills right from the get go so you get pulled into its progression system quite easily. Adding to that, the gear and loot come fast and furious, you’ll constantly be switching between different level items more often than you think. Cosmetically they look amazing as well.
Naval combat makes a return and allows you to roam freely from one island to another without any loading screens ruining your flow. You can recruit enemies from the open world game to join your crew and upgrade your ship too. Cosmetics for your ship don’t come as often but on PC, the Uplay store gives you a free Assassin’s skin. I had all my crew dressed up like the hooded Assassins of the future. Neat.
The naval battles themselves are pretty much the same except you have bows and javelins at your disposal rather than broadside cannons of Blackflag that felt much more satisfying. Nevertheless, the ship feels solid and its level is always the same as your character level. 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.
Story of drachmae and XP
The game makes it very clear that you’re a mercenary and in every other mission Kassandra is referred to as a misthios by all; from young to old and from rich to poor. You’re a MERCENARY and not an Assassin. And while your body count is more than your hooded descendants, much of it has to do with the repetitive missions and plenty of fetch quests.
The main story picks up at a snail’s pace, but eventually gains momentum. However, you can’t help but feel frustrated by the sheer amount of grinding the game puts you through before you could level up to confront the next main story mission. Finished a story mission at level 13? Good, the next one requires you to be at level 15. Go in confident with a lower level and you’ll be visiting the retry screen more often than not.
We’ve played the game for two whole weeks and there’s still much to do. There are daily challenges, Forts to clear, Nation Power missions to initiate in Conquest Battles, Pirates to plunder, Bandits to slaughter, Mythical creatures to slay and last but not the least: help common folks. All of these things are usually around killing and lack a sense of flavour when you do it for the course of 50 levels all for money, XP and better loot.
An Eagle and a Mercenary
The most striking feature about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the way it looks. It’s a very pretty game. From the busy streets of Athens to the wild forests and untamed waters of Greece, everything looks beautiful.
Apparently, there are no Assassin’s or Templars, but you can’t help but feel something brewing here. Enter Cult of Kosmos. Masked individuals that are pulling the strings in this war-torn Greece for personal goals and greed. While your missions are usually splitting heads and severing limbs of soldiers and other mercenaries, you can take time off to hunt some Cultists too *cough* Templars *cough*.
If they’re budding Templars then what are you? You’re a Mercenary alright and the game reminds you about it all the time. The bounty system keeps your action in check. Piss off enough people and they will put out a bounty on your head. It helps to keep you on your toes and also reminds you that there are other mercenaries out there who will smack you in the head for a quick buck like you do. Karma, eh?
We’ve mentioned how beautiful the game looks and if you have an Xbox One X or a beefy PC for 4K delivery, you’re in for a treat. On our 4K test bench with Nvidia GTX 1080 we got a steady framerate of 40 on high settings. The game is quite demanding, so we’ll be overhauling our test bench with RTX 2080 Ti soon. Keep an eye on this tab and our Instagram to stay updated.
We pushed down the settings to 2K and the game responded well with some steady 60fps love. Initially, the game had a few bugs, even on PS4, but at the time of writing this review, the update patch is out and it’s fixed. So, happy and smooth gaming ahead.
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 overburdening players with hardcore RPG elements like Witcher 3. The choice-based conversations have a great impact but in some places, it needs a bit polishing.
The most amazing thing about the game is the fact that there is so much content here that you’ll always feel your money’s worth. It’s hard to find games in 2018 that deliver more content than asked for and coming from Ubisoft, it feels even more surprising. That said, there are a few microtransactions that lurk in the game and when the grind gets going, you could be tempted to buy an XP boost. We think that something like this shouldn’t have been there and microtransactions in a single player game is a no-no.
Don’t worry though, you can complete the game without dropping a single dime and if you’re a completionist then this is a must-have game. Odyssey somehow feels like a package with best of Assassin’s Creed in a new RPG light and this time Ubisoft is not afraid to experiment and try new things to improve the game. We like that a lot.