Producer: Ubisoft Quebec
Genre: Action role playing, stealth
Series: Assassin’s Creed
Released: October 5 2018
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Ubisoft’s tenth main instalment into this iconic franchise is a continuation of the ‘new-look’ Assassin’s Creed games, whereby the focus is shifted from linear storylines with semi-open world mechanics, to an all-out massive exploration and character building experience. Odyssey adopts all of the RPG elements of its predecessor, Origins (2017), a much-needed breath of fresh air to a franchise that was beginning to become stale. The perpetuation of RPG mechanics in another AC title may receive a bleak reception from the series’ more traditional following. Odyssey strays even further from the path of what we expect from an Assassin’s Creed title, however, it is clear that the time had come for Ubisoft to try something new.
The moment that the game loads, you are faced with an audio bombardment of the game’s theme music, an achingly beautiful and thrilling piece of music that sets the tone (pardon the pun) for the entire experience. It places you in the location and era of Odyssey. It will give you goose bumps on your first listen, or your fiftieth, as still does for me. On many occasions, I found myself staying at the loading screen, just listening to the soundtrack in its entirety before loading one of my saves. Odyssey’s theme music is not only the best in the series; it is among the most impressive that I have ever heard, truly a masterpiece.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey takes the player to ancient Greece, to the year 431 BCE and drops you head first into the middle of the Peloponnesian war, a conflict between the Spartans and Athenians for control over the region. As with every other title in the series, Odyssey aims to immerse the player in a colourful world of vibrant landscapes, winding roads, photo-realisticlighting and lush environments, a graphical standard incomparable to any other in Ubisoft’s franchise. Odyssey truly provides some of the best visuals available on the current game platforms. After investing north of forty hours into the game, I cannot recall a moment of gameplay that does not include jaw-dropping visuals, whether travelling on horseback, by sea or on foot.
When you are not spending your time scourging naval vessels, invading forts and fending off mercenaries, a significant portion of your playing time on Odyssey is dedicated to completing quests, of which there are plenty. While the satisfaction of completing a quest and watching your levelling bar fill up with that sweet nectar of experience points, at times, the sheer number of objectives in any single location can be a little daunting. From running errands, rescuing prisoners and hunting down Greek mythical monsters, there is a lot of side content to behold here. Without spoiling too much of the main story, once more the strife between the Assassins and the Templars is pushed to one side for a more unique story to the game and characters. The characters are likeable and you feel a genuine to connection to them.
Furthermore, decision-making is a key theme to Odyssey, effectively helping to define the character of either Alexios or Kassandra. Mercilessly killing civilians and other heinous acts will attract the unwanted attention of other mercenaries, forcing you to either flee or engage in difficult combat situations, often at the most inconvenient times, either during a quest or while you are breaching one of the many forts in the game. The notoriety system entails that the higher your character’s wanted level, the greater number of bounties that are placed on your head. While these battles with mercenaries can prove to be very challenging at times, the rewards for defeating them reflect the difficulty you will face. I found that killing mercenaries was one of the more efficient methods for looting rare and legendary equipment early on in the game. The other key component in decision-making comes with dialogue options, where you can opt for positive, aggressive and sarcastic responses to in-game conversations with NPCs, changing the flow of conversation in the direction of the player’s choice. However, there is little evidence to support this having a significant impact on the game itself, at least from my own perspective.
Character builds, gear customization and unlockable abilities in Odyssey are reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed Origins, with this consistent feature seemingly a mainstay in the series, with good cause. They work impeccably well. Navigating the skill-tree and investing ability points feels balanced as each new skill felt useful but not game breaking in its effectiveness. Opting for an archer build? Perhaps you would consider the Sixth Sense ability, allowing you to slow time down and lock on to enemies. Alternatively, do you prefer to face your enemies head-on? The Bull Rush ability does just that, allowing you to charge through multiple enemies, knocking them to the ground and dealing a good amount of damage in the process. Whether you prefer attacking at distance from the shadows or charging in with a flurry of close-range attacks, the choice is entirely yours.
Additionally, the plethora of new weapons and armour to unlock will keep you invested for hours at a time, as the desire to keep all damage and armour tallies up-to-date is imperative for maintaining your character’s capability in combat. The weapon categories are daggers, swords, bows, axes, staves and maces. All with their own unique qualities and drawbacks, so experimenting with different weapons in different combat situations is essential. Odyssey does bring some new features never before seen in an Assassin’s Creed game, namely the ability to choose your character in the opening moments of the game. You can choose one of Alexios or Kassandra to be your high-flying, wall running mercenary. Although this ultimately has no effect on the gameplay or story itself, having the freedom of choice is a nice touch. Furthermore, Odyssey maintains the free flowing lock-on combat of Origins, mixing combinations of heavy and light attacks with dodges and parries. Comparable to the combat of the Dark Souls series, timing of attacks is imperative and knowing when to take a step back and take a more defensive approach is often the better tactic when surrounded by enemies or face-to-face with a single powerful damage sponge of a higher level than to your own character. Odyssey has followed in the footsteps of Origins to call upon your winged ally, Ikaros, to fly ahead and scope out any forts or locate quest NPCs and save you from lengthy searches and ambushes from multiple enemies.
Like most other Assassin’s Creed and open world games alike, Odyssey is not without its technical flaws. Textures can take time to load as you move through different environments; dialogue animations and audio can occasionally be uncoordinated. However, these are to be expected with a game and playable map of this calibre. After the time I have invested into this game, I have experienced very few game-breaking flaws, none of which a quick reboot could not solve, demonstrating its robust in-game auto saving. This should stand as a testament to the quality of this series instalment, given the ambition of its size and vast playable content.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey effectively adopts what made Origins such a delight to play, while also perfecting these elements and introducing its own, allowing it to stand out not feel like a lengthy DLC to its predecessor. As it strays, further away from what we have all come to know about Assassin’s Creed, it redefines itself as one of the best open-world franchises on the current market. The time had come for the series to try new things and experiment with new game mechanics. The occasional technical bug or trivial side quest hold the title back, but aside from this, the game will be remembered as the series’ revival. I would encourage that any Assassin’s Creed fan, or role-playing game enthusiast, should try Odyssey, the satisfaction of Spartan kicking enemies from clifftops alone is worth a try and is highly recommended.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding