Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review
Assassin’s Creed Origins redefined the core values of a best selling franchise, but can the development team at Ubisoft continue that trend with the release of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? Check out our review to find out.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review
Set amidst the epic and historic confrontation between the Spartans and Athenians, the hero of this story, en exiled Spartan turned ancient mercenary, sets out on an odyssey to restore honor to a broken family and in the process. This hero quickly discovers a conspiracy set forth by a nefarious cult pulling the political strings of the Greek world. Offering players the choice between a male or female protagonist (Alexios, or Kassandra), Assassin’s Creed Odyssey promises a varied and challenging path on the road to redemption.
While gameplay mechanics and fundamentals have changed much over the years, the core narrative of Assassin’s Creed remains much of the same. A twisting story of love, betrayal, redemption, and discovery, this time set in the world of Ancient Greece. Much like its predecessor, Odyssey doesn’t focus too heavily on the Abstergo Industries elements of the narrative, providing the perfect platform for both new players and veterans of the series.
Playing such an integral part in its desire to immerse players into a fantasy-inspired version of Ancient Greece, the story of Alexios and Kassandra is a memorable one. You will clench your fists in anger, your eyebrows will raise at the unexpected betrayals, and I challenge you to complete the game without shouting “This is Sparta!” at least one time. Honestly, try it, it’s nigh impossible. You will meet legendary and iconic figures from Greek history and myth (both good and bad), and the part they play in the story is as much up to you as it is the narrative, thanks to the introduction of a vast and morally-driven choice and consequence system.
While spoiling any of these would be a disservice, I do want to share with you an experience, a chain of events brought on by but a single choice – one of hundreds I would make as I played the rope in the tug of war between Sparta and Athens. Through this one willing choice, I would impact the lives of those I cherished most. On my home island of Kephallonia, I was informed of a nearby village that was afflicted by some unknown pathogen, one that was said to be caused by the gods themselves. People were sick, dozens had died, and there was no known cure.
Wait a minute…I am Spartan Kicking people off cliffs, felling foes with a single blow, solving the problems of the world one quest at a time. No cure? Bah, I’ll find it. The trail of thought that passed through my mind as I head toward the forsaken village. As I arrived, I discovered a priest and some armed soldiers threatening to “cleanse” the village of the remaining diseased citizens that clung to their home like a drowning man to a piece of floating debris. Armed soldiers bullying unarmed civilians? I won’t be having that in my own personal odyssey of playing the good guy.
I made short work of the priest and his would-be genocidal sidekicks. While the thought of an armed soldier harassing civilians and children lit a fire in my stomach, the thought of slitting throats and bathing in a pool of my enemies blood was little more than an afterthought as I stood above even the tallest of buildings around me, the hero to the people of the Village of Kausos.
Even my young female friend, a child by the name of Phiobe, was delighted by my actions. I had barely gotten my feet wet, and already I was the hero of these seas…or so I thought.
Several hours later, after I had long left Kephallonia, my first-mate had a simple but devastating message. The family I had saved, those afflicted with an incurable disease, lived in happiness and delight…for a few days at least. They had spread the disease across the entirety of my homeland, which was now little more than shambling zombie-like figures struggling to survive each and every day.
It was at this point I realized something, something I wish I realized much sooner. There is no clear cut right and wrong choices in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. While you’ll often find yourself questioning your own beliefs and moral fibers in response to an important choice, the outcome is never certain, never set in stone. This break from tradition helps forge the main character as just that, a unique character with experiences, mistakes and secrets, something rarely if ever seen in this genre before.
While many of the decisions are inconsequential, resulting in identical outcomes with either path you choose, there are just as many that have the potential to turn your entire world upside down. A word of caution: think carefully. Not that it matters; you’ll screw up somewhere.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a break between nearly wiping out an entire island and choosing to battle the Spartans or Athenians, there’s plenty of fun to be had in one of the biggest game worlds ever to grace the Assassin’s Creed genre. Remaining true to the recent additions to the series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey boasts an incredibly varied selection of side content. From the mundane simplicity of delivery missions, to large-scale conquest battles with dozens of warriors fighting for Athens and Sparta. Traversing through the many different islands, huge, war-torn deserts of corpses and flames, you’ll struggle to move a hundred meters without something catching your eye.
Outside the variety and intensity of Odyssey’s robust roster of side content sits a number of supporting systems that makes every action, every exploration, and every discovery worthwhile and rewarding. There are huge amounts of weapons to discover, legendary items from the gods of Greece themselves, cosmetic items to improve the visuals of your ship and crew, and powerful mercenaries that will attempt to kill you every step of the way. The content just…doesn’t…stop…coming.
Fans of the franchise will be happy to hear the return of naval combat as a focus of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. While not quite as in-depth and detailed as Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, it’s no mere afterthought either. The ship combat is a skill-driven battle of wits as you attempt to out-maneuver and out-gun your opponents. Simple trading vessels, ambushing pirates, a huge trireme…the battles at sea are as exciting and intense as those on foot. When you’re not attempting to sink everything made of wood in a hundred mile radius, you can swim to the depths of the ocean to discover new ship upgrades or take down a powerful foe and convince them to join your crew.
Combat has seen a number of changes since the last iteration of Assassin’s Creed, but unfortunately not all for the better. The dodging mechanic has been reworked, but it doesn’t feel as smooth or as intuitive as before, and the parrying that requires two button presses at the same time is cumbersome and unreliable at first. Neither are enough to ruin an otherwise stellar combat experience, but neither really needing changing either. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The meat of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s combat evolution comes with the introduction of new gear and specialization skills. Unlike past Assassin’s Creed games, you can unlock some of the games most devastating and versatile abilities right off the bat. Launching fire arrows into the sky to burn an area of enemies ahead, effortlessly chaining together assassinations one after the other, launching a flurry of blows to take down a powerful foe, or just using your Spartan Kick to launch a mercenary off a cliff…each is as satisfying and rewarding as the last – but not at first.
All of the gear you acquire can be enhanced and customized through the use of Engravings. Through the use of a blacksmith, you can apply Engravings to any piece of equipment you own, providing various bonuses to your skills and combat stats. These can greatly enhance a single ability or provide a damage boost to all abilities that fall under a certain skill tree: Hunter, Warrior, or Assassin. In the later stages of the game, this system really shines through, providing a level of customization way above the franchise norm. However, in the early stages of the game, you may feel a level of frustration begin to creep in as you can’t single-shot enemies with assassinations or headshots.
This frustration can be tantalized further with the games surprisingly cut-throat difficulty. As I approach the end of the story, one I intend to avoid finishing until I’ve mastered most of the side content, I’ve fought battles against single opponents that have ended in a single swipe. Others have sent me to the Ferryman on more occasions than I can count, but never did I feel my losses in combat were due to poor balancing or overpowered enemies. It was simply an oversight in my gear specifications or lack of a counter at a crucial moment. I’m not ashamed to admit I dropped the difficulty to easy on more than one occasion, but overall, the more challenging and skill-based combat is a much welcomed addition.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey absolutely nails the vast majority of its ideas with near perfect execution and delivery, but it surprisingly comes at the cost of some poorly designed base mechanics. A few minor tweaks to quality of life improvements would have gone a long way, but instead a number of frustrating and seemingly pointless problems present themselves throughout. Selling or dismantling equipment is piece done through one at a time, through a needless prompt that requires holding a button for a couple of seconds. Your inventory will fill with items you cannot sell or dismantle, and there are several seconds of loading between conversations and checking your map. Alone, none of these issues are insurmountable, but stacked together through 70+ hours of gameplay, it really begins to wear you down.
Thankfully, if these problems ever get too great, there’s a solution. Just stop. Wait a while and smell the roses. Take a few moments just to look, glance at the world around you. While the animations of combat during a daring ship-to-ship encounter are massively impressive, the aftermath is equally so. The once clear blue water turns a blood red as the bodies of your enemies begin sinking to the bottom of the ocean, only for a giant bloody shark to leap from the surface and gobble them whole. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is easily the most visually impressive work ever to come out of a Ubisoft studio, and that’s saying a lot when considering their past pedigree.
You’ll struggle to find a more immersive and rewarding setting in which to forge your own odyssey. A detailed environment combining both the realistic and mythical aspects of Ancient Greece, everything comes together to deliver a narrative-driven, open-world RPG that rivals the biggest names in the genre. Put simply, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the complete package.