- Review Price: £49.99
- Release Date: October 5, 2018
- Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
- Genre: Action
Ancient Greece is so damn cool. I spent countless hours with siblings as a child pretending to battle imaginary creatures, whether it be a beastly minotaur or a manipulative medusa. Considering games at the time were a mess of jagged polygons and early 3D graphics, it would be a while until the adventures in my head could be trumped by the virtual realm.
Then came along God of War, a grotesque hack ‘n’ slasher where murdering deities was the order of the day, even if it meant casting aside historical accuracy in favour of rampant spectacle. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey tows an intriguing yet similar line, eager to showcase a gallery of fascinating locations and relics while providing players with enough tools to slaughter thousands, and it’s even leaning into its more fantastical elements this time around.
Building on the foundations of 2017’s excellent Origins, this new instalment has already impressed me, shining with its bright, energetic open world and staggering attention to detail. You also get to play as a gay, sarcastic warrior lady, which is definitely up my street.
This is a direct sequel to Assassin’s Creed Origins. You control the same daring rebel in the modern era as she continues to unfold a mystery concerning the Templars. However, it’s not a hindrance like previous games, merely acting as a framing device for the massive playground you’re to be unleashed in.
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Following a brief cutscene I’m immediately asked to choose between two characters: Kassandra or Alexios, descendants of the infamous Leonidas. I went with the former, eager to live out my warrior queen fantasies by sneaking about and slitting throats. Once my choice was made, I’m dropped into 431 BCE.
After a short and gorgeous introduction I’m thrust into the perspective of Kassandra. Our heroine is perched upon a balcony, peacefully passing time until a group of rogues decides to crash the party. Apparently we owe them some money, which is an obvious excuse to start a fight.
Here’s where my first taste of combat comes in. The core components are largely unchanged from Origins as you lock onto enemies and perform attacks using the shoulder buttons. Combat is accessible and fairly forgiving, although higher level enemies won’t be afraid to waste you in a couple of hits.
The majority of encounters can be surpassed with ease. That is, so long as you aren’t careless. One of the first moves you’re taught is the parry. Achieved by pressing RB+LB, when used at the right time it leaves enemies vulnerable to attack. I found this essential when dealing which foes whose guard wasn’t easily broken, meaning I’d have to think outside the box to get some slashes in.
Dodging is also paramount, and doing so seconds before an attack results in a few precious seconds of slow-motion, providing the perfect opportunity to strike. It all feels great, even if early equipment leaves a lot to be desired.
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Much like Origins, Odyssey places a very heavy emphasis on loot. The stuff is everywhere. Crammed in caves, slipped into cases and all over deceased guards, you’ll always be stumbling across new equipment or the ingredients required to craft such things.
It’s colour coded, too, adopting the formula of Bungie’s Destiny with massive success. It works here, providing a satisfying sense of customisation to a character that really feels your own. Kassandra only felt more and more capable as I spoiled with her new armour and weapons, and she looks particularly ferocious as an added bonus.
Fortunately, it never acts as a detriment to exploration of the impressive world you’re encouraged to discover. Sure, loot is rewarded through quests, but more often than not I was pushed onward by my own curiosity. Even on the opening island I explored, outposts and caves dotted across the map promised equal parts history and reward. I also got into a few messy scraps with the local wildlife, pulling off an escape after kicking a pack of wolves in the face with a hilarious 300-inspired move.
My qualms with the original Assassin’s Creed and its annual sequels came from their obsession with meaningless icons. You played janitor in a world that, while beautiful, felt lifeless. It was a virtual theme park focused on quantity over quality, hoovering up your time with needless side missions instead of something meaningful. Odyssey supersedes this by taking a page out of The Witcher’s book.
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Dialogue options are now a prevalent part of Assassin’s Creed, informing how you’ll approach quests and relationships throughout Ancient Greece. This also extends to relationships, with both Kassandra and Alexios able to purse romantic endeavours of any gender. I adore this representation in such a blockbuster title, providing players an opportunity to be represented in a medium that is yet to truly embrace inclusivity.
It isn’t intrusive either, surfacing as optional speech options throughout my several hours with Odyssey so far. It’s still unclear to what extend chosen dialogue will impact the overall plot or if it’ll only have a say in side quests, but even without this it’s still a far cry from the generic structure previous games adopted. Voice acting is sadly a mixed bag outside of the main cast, although this could definitely improve further down the line.
Don’t worry if you’re afraid of Odyssey abandoning the ways of stealth that helped define the franchise. While not strictly a sneaking experience, the majority of encounters can be tackled without anyone being aware of your presence. This comes into fruition during scenarios where you’re forced to steal objects without being seen or wipe out a specific target.
Sadly, it’s neutered somewhat by an oversimplified traversal system that lacks any form of strategy or challenge. All you need to do is hold a button and press the relevant thumbstick direction. It’s incredibly easy, perhaps too much so as I accidentally stumbled towards platforms I had no intention of mounting. However, simplification of movement could be seen as a consequence of a larger, more ambitious setting, part of the franchise’s slow move to cities. Thankfully, the satisfaction of reaching the top of giant structures is still alive and kicking.
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Ancient Greece is unreasonably huge. Made up of dozens of islands of varying sizes, you’ll explore the world of Assassin’s Creed by foot, horse and boat. The latter will be used to swap between islands, which was already the case after only a couple of hours as I chased after missions outside of my reach. It’s a joy to explore, with secrets hiding around every corner. Sadly, I was told to turn back when I tried to be cheeky and discover some high-level areas.
The upgrade system from Origins has been expanded, now split into three distinct skill trees: Warrior, Hunter and Assassin. Alexios and Kassandra have distinct abilities, so there’s presumably an incentive to replay Odyssey with both characters. That is, if you have the time, since Ubisoft is claiming this to be its biggest adventure yet. That being said, even with one character there’s plentiful enough customisation to keep you busy for dozens of hours.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is brimming with potential thanks to the foundations of its predecessors and a determination to push the series forward in an exciting new direction.
While its open world ingredients aren’t entirely original, having been pinched from the cream of the crop, they’re applied in such a way that is fittingly compelling.
From what little I’ve played, I’m very excited to explore the rendition of Ancient Greece that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has waiting for me. And to kick more wolves in the face, obviously.