Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
In one word, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is huge. This game is a massive presence is several respects. It’s has lots of systems, is massive in scope, and huge in hashtag content volume. This is the new face of Assassin’s Creed, a series that has evolved from the Grand Theft Auto school of open worlds to something that feels more substantial, even if it probably actually isn’t, when you boil it down. It’s also the first in the series to have player choice as a strong, narrative element, something we covered when I spoke to Odyssey’s narrative director . If it wasn’t for the occasional scene alluding to the “present day” gimmickry, Odyssey could almost be considered a reboot, for all it has in common with its predecessors (fancy hoods, climbing). But what else is this game, beyond its voluminous girth? It’s a love letter to Greek history, a dark comedy, a corny sci-fi drama, and a loot-based dungeon-crawler. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey has no clue what the hell is actually is, but it wants you to have a great time digging through it all, and that’s just fine.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey starts with the infamous King Leonidas and the rolling of my eyes. But from that point, at which you learn the controls by murdering men to death with a spear and many a bearded grimace, the true game reveals itself. You choose between two fully-designed characters who are effectively the same person, Pokemon style, and go on your quest to wreck your enemies with your impressively rendered biceps. Mark my words, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey has the best protagonist biceps in all of history. From there, as a young but already jaded mercenary residing in Kephallonia in Peloponnesian War-era Greece, you scrap your way to higher stat and gear numbers until the core plot begins to unfurl. This brings your character’s past, the conflicts in Greece, and the Assassin’s Creed sci-fi mumbo jumbo all together in the form of scrolling through menus and clearing “new” icons until your flesh rots from the bone.
In all seriousness, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey takes the ideas introduced in last year’s Origins and runs even further in that direction. This game looks at its past, rolls its eyes, then hops in a limo with Mass Effect and The Witcher, except it’s pouring Miller Light into its champagne flute instead of Moscato. This game wants you to play it as long as humanly possible, and it does so by leading you through a constantly updating inventory, large, overlapping skill trees, and several plot threads that are resolved in part through menus and other related accomplishments, many of which aren’t even mandatory. Combine that with plans for future DLC and the absolutely massive world map, and the moment you get started, you’ll realize you may as well get married to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey if you want to get all the achievements.
But this isn’t a total grindfest like Destiny or something like Dragon Quest. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey insists that you take your time with it, actively discouraging you from rushing with the new “Discovery Mode.” It’s one of the opening choices and is labeled as the intended way to play the game. In Discovery Mode, you seldom get traditional waypoints. Instead, you are given clues as to your objective’s location, and it’s up to you to learn your surroundings, explore, and even look at your map like it’s an actual map and not a malfunctioning Dragon Radar. Your reward for taking this path is being eaten by wolves on the way at least twice, and that’s pretty cool for a game that was all about showering players with icons only a few years ago. Of course, if you want, you can opt for the icons anyway.
When it comes to combat, we’re looking at another melting pot of ideas and inspirations. My time with Origins was unfortunately brief, but what I did play felt like a western, AAA take on the Dark Souls-like formula. Heavy, chunky swings, commitment to your button presses, and slight dodging were key. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, then, is a course correction back to something a bit more friendly, but without leaving that foundation. It’s faster and much more forgiving. You can cancel what you’re doing, in some cases, and have a nice dodge roll that will get you out of jail for free in most occasions. You also have a whole host of skills to choose from that allow you to interrupt, disarm, and abuse invincibility frames like you’re a bad Street Fighter player. You even have a parry move with an opening window that lasts for at least six years, which I often found myself grateful for.
See, with this extra degree of mobility and kit,Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey isn’t afraid to toss groups of enemies at you constantly, forcing you to pay attention to what you’re doing, even if it’s more button mashing-friendly. If you’re careless or too underleveled, you probably won’t survive a group encounter if you mess up your sneaking or you’re playing one of the new, large-scale battles that can happen as a result of your violent tampering with political encampments. There’s also a neat riff on the Shadow of Mordor Nemesis system that doubles as a Grand Theft Auto kind of deal. It sends super-powered, Ancient Greek cops at you with increasing aggression as you make yourself more and more known and wanted. One mercenary on your trail can be challenging enough, but when they start hunting you in groups, you either better be a master of group fights or prepare to empty your pockets to lower your bounty.
Also, boat combat is back! If you were really into the naval fights in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, they’re back in full force here, with much of the framework there still intact. The key difference is, you’re using spears and arrows instead of cannons, but you’ll feel right at home the moment you get your ship. It’s also more of a side thing, so it’s a bit more of a streamlined process to get upgrades.
If you think that sounds like a lot of game, thanks for paying attention the whole time. Let’s move onto the storytelling, because it’s kind of a big deal here despite also being a mess. The name of the game here is choice, and this is where Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey jumps in with the likes of Mass Effect or the departed Telltale Games. You pick your character and they are a defined and written character, but most dialogue scenes present you with choices. Sometimes those choices lead to new sidequests, sometimes those choices lead to casual boning, and sometimes those choices will significantly alter what happens in the story.
Many of the choices are on the binary side (do you, perhaps, murder these children or not murder these children?), because this is still a video game. They may have consequences you didn’t expect lasting, tangible permanence. Even if all players ultimately go in the same direction, the paths will be distinct and there is great value in that. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey also does boast multiple endings, so that opens a while other can of worms considering its length.
That said, the overall plot of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is kind of dull. It’s a bit disjointed in how it progresses, so it’s hard to care about the supporting cast. The villains aren’t especially compelling either, and they show up under the flimsiest of premises. However, the real meat of this thing is the journey you’re on with Alexios or Kassandra, the little things you do along the way, and the massive tonal shifts that the dialogue options and sidequests will rattle you around with. This game has a sense of humor and heart that few before it in the series have had. Since there is a definite need to participate in side content to keep your level up, it’s refreshing to know that while you’re still going to be fetching junk for people at times. There are just as many memorable little moments that you’ll totally stumble over and enjoy that much more.
Assassin’s Creed has long been a hit or miss series with people and certainly got wrapped up with a lot of the issues Ubisoft had growing out of the previous generation with most of its titles. But we’ve seen a new Ubisoft lately across the board, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is a new Assassin’s Creed. It feels like a fresh start, besides the small lengths of rope it tosses out to its dedicated, lore-hungry fanbase now and again. It’s a new kind of game, no doubt influenced by where games have gone since the series started to nosedive a bit. It’s huge in scale, but not exploitative of the player’s time like Unity so often was. It’s character based, but with more choice and personal player development than ever before in the series. Finally, Kassandra just kinda rules, and not playing as her over Alexios is just a poor choice. Look, I don’t make the rules, but if playing as basically a foul-mouthed Wonder Woman isn’t appealing to you, then I don’t know what else to offer you. If you have the time and patience, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is worth a look, if not for the meandering plot and lore, than for the history porn, the earnest humor, and the massive, mystery-filled world.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
It’s the usual here: incredible environments, impressive character models and textures, sometimes awkward animations with tons of clipping and the occasional glitch 4.0 Control
Streamlined more than ever, but still complicated and hard to keep track of everything 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Overall amazing across the board. The protagonists’ voice acting is especially great and adds more life to the sometimes uneven scripts 5.0 Play Value
There’s an overbearing amount of content, and it’s fun to go through most of it, and Discovery Mode even makes it fun to find it all 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best