The Assassin’s Creed series has seen many highs and almost as many lows since its initial release way back 2007. The launch of Odyssey now makes it eleven mainline games for the storied franchise. But releasing huge epic games like these yearly took it’s toll on not only the developers but the fans as well. Ubisoft took two years between Syndicate and last years Origins and it was one of the best things that could have happened for fans of the series. Origins came out to whopping accolades, being touted as the best in the franchise. It had redesigned game play that still held true to the core of the game, a stripped down version of the animus story lines, a vast open world that has become a staple of most Ubisoft games, a thoughtful and well acted story and integrated RPG elements. It was on my top three games of last year and one of only three games I’ve ever platinumed. With Odyssey releasing just over a year after Origins, does Ubisoft slide back into the pitfalls that once stalled the franchise out or does it soar like an eagle at a synchronization point?
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey serves as a prequel of sorts to Origins, taking place during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. You choose between playing as one of two Spartan mercenaries, or misthios if you wanna get be exact, at the start of the game; Kassandra or Alexios. I chose Kassandra as I’ve seen and heard that the voice acting for Alexios cannot hold up to the incredible performance Kassandras voice artist gave. Voice talent aside you won’t be missing out no matter who you choose, their stories are intertwined throughout. Another choice you need to make when starting a new game is whether or not to play in the classic “hand holding” mode or the brand new exploration mode. Exploration mode doesn’t give you as many markers on the map and in most cases on quests you are given vague directions where to proceed rather than have a marker placed for you to blindly follow. For my play through I went ahead and chose to play in this new way and I have to say it adds a whole new level to the immersion in this world. I love accepting a quest and going to my map to try and figure out the clues I have been given to find my way.
Your chosen character starts off on a small island in Greece where they, and for my purposes she, has been living a somewhat quiet life as a mercenary. Helping villagers, befriending a young girl, but for the most part getting yourself and your partner out of trouble. It isn’t long before you are tasked with leaving your home aboard your own ship for the grander Greek world and that is when the game finally starts to take off and feel like a true “Odyssey.” You are free to sail anywhere you wish but like Origins, territories are level gated so it is wise to stick to where the story wants to lead you at first. The story eventually unfolds to where you decide to track down members of a cult that have their hands in every known part of the Greek world and this is truly one of the highlights of the game. You work to find clues about the identity of the various cult members working from the bottom to the very inner circle of the cult to dismantle their plot. Think of it as an expanded version of what Origins did. You really are free to do what you want. The amount of content in this game can often times feel overwhelming. In addition to the main story, there are numerous side quests to stumble upon, job boards and timed bounties, mercenaries to track down, ship wrecks to explore, historical landmarks to gawk at, mythical beasts to slay and even take sides in the war helping decide who controls what territories by burning supplies, killing soldiers and identify key leaders of either Athens or Sparta. All of these options really lends itself to the theme of “Odyssey” and being a sell sword so much that you want to do as much as you can.
Game play goes more the RPG route, not only with its leveling system, seen previously in Origins, but now with specially mapped skills that can be purchased for skill points and upgraded the same way. A personal favorite of mine is the famous “Spartan Kick” that can send enemies hurling backwards and for extra damage off tall terrain or buildings. Unless you have kicked a bandit camp captain off of a cliff to his instant death you will never really know how amazing a feeling it is. Skills are on a very short cool down and also require a meter to be filled up as well. Truth be told a lot of the skills you may recognize from Origins but in Odyssey it seems like they are trying something new with them and while not all feel like they are worth the precious skill points its a good start to see how these develop. You get a steady stream of new gear to equip, upgrade and enhance. It seems like there is a reason to go into the menus every few minutes to see what gear you can get rid of. Gone are the various bow classes replaced with one style of bow to use with the different skills and arrow types. Another step towards a being a full fledged role playing game is the addiction of branching dialogue trees. Players can make choices on how to approach situations, romance NPCs and other sorts of options. It is a nice addiction on the surface but aside from the romance options, I found alot of the choices lead to the same conclusion and mainly serve for you to get more backstory or lore read to you if you so wish. One of the earlier moments this comes into play is when you are given a choice on how to proceed back on the starting island, later in the game the consequences where told to me in a almost out of nowhere conversation and when I went back to check to see the damage no difference was discernible, leaving the choice to feel hollow.
Overall I have enjoyed my time with Assassins Creed Odyssey. It’s scope is ambitious and even when it stumbles in execution the ground work is solid enough to regain traction relatively quickly. This is a game you can be with for the long haul and as long as you aren’t just trying to get through the epic story as fast as possible you will feel little effects of the grind the constant management and level gating can and may place on you. While I would have liked to see what this game could do with the extra year that Origins was given to fully flesh out some of the games newer ideas it doesn’t crumble under it’s ambition. I can fully see this becoming the next game in my platinum collection.
Disclaimer: The Dadcade received a copy for review from Ubisoft. Our thoughts and opinions on the game however are our own. For further discussion and opinions about Assassins Creed Odyssey be on the look out for our Deep Dive episode of it coming soon.