It’s not often that we see a long running series continuously breaking new ground and boundaries. Assassin’s Creed, love or hate it for its recent overhaul, is one such example. I, like many other fans of the franchise, had my concerns when it came to the announcement of Origins. On one hand, I was looking forward to the changes that Ubisoft planned to bring to the tired formula, whereas on the other, I was skeptical that its RPG-heavy concept would fit well. Thankfully, the end result made for a vastly compelling adventure, an adventure that stands as one of the best in the series so far. Does Odyssey follow suit?
You would forgiven for believing that at first glance, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is too similar to that of Assassin’s Creed Origins. The truth of the matter, however, is that Odyssey is the superior title in regards to its design, its execution and its story. Origins was an exceptional game, there’s no disputing that, but for me, Odyssey takes the new concept and the series’ new systems to greater heights. Its theme and its setting is more subjective and will preferentially vary based on what playground you favor more, though with that to the side, and without wasting any time, Odyssey is one of the best games in the entire series so far.
Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, so I’ll take it from the top. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey follows in the footsteps of its immediate predecessor as far as it mechanical foundation is concerned, though as alluded to above, it does so with more refinement and fluidity. Odyssey takes players to ancient Greece, in which you’re free to select from one of two playable characters; Kassandra or Alexios. Keeping inline with most of the Assassin’s Creed games, shit hits the proverbial fan early on for your chosen protagonist, and thus your adventure across the game’s ridiculously gorgeous recreation of ancient Greece, begins.
Given the size and scope of the game, and how long it would take for you to even just hit the prologue, I’ll not dive into anything too story-specific. What I will say, and something I personally touched upon soon after the reveal of Odyssey, is that it’s a lot darker than you would expect. When we take the era that this game adopts into account, as well as the population’s belief systems, ways of life, habits, rituals and pretty much anything else of that time period and location, you know you’re in for a slightly sinister ride. Though, Odyssey does well at walking a fine line between audacious and surreal, that has to be said.
Still, with that in mind, it takes its historical setting seriously for the most part. There’s oppression, war, betrayal, newborn babies being tossed off the side of a cliff to appease the gods, and everything in between that this particularly brutal portion of history tells us. Seriously, I’ll reiterate, it’s a very dark entry to the series – when it want to be. In the modern day, Layla Hassan, first introduced in Origins, is once again our port to the past. Indeed, there’s an interesting narrative to follow there, but I’ll leave that for you to pursue. Safe to say that if you enjoyed her role in the predecessor, you’ll enjoy what’s present here.
The game’s campaign tens of hours to complete, and even then, there’s tens of hours worth of additional content to work through. I found the additional content to be more engaging and more involved than that of Origins, but that may be my preference of Odyssey’s setting shining through. Nevertheless, you can rest assured that this installation follows a similar design path, giving you a deep, twisting, vastly interesting story to follow, and no shortage of quests, tasks and strongholds to tackle from the get-go. With the core foundation and identity of play out of the way, how does the rest of the game hold up?
On the visual front, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is unsurprisingly stunning. Ubisoft has a history of creating strong, wide open, engaging worlds, and Odyssey’s ancient Greece is no different. The level of detail within is outstanding and offers an overall design that’s true to its era, from towering structures and sprawling towns, to countless markets and hundreds of sculptures, it’s all there. I’ll admit, it feels a bit alien to see colored marble statues over the white marble that we’re used to seeing in museums and at iconic landmarks, but again, this is a matter of state of origin, lending the game a good degree of authenticity as a result.
The only real downside is that there’s times in which the screen will slightly stutter when there’s a lot of action going on, but in fairness, this is oftentimes short-lived and doesn’t really get in the way of enjoyment. That, and there’s some environmental bugs that persist. The most notable of which is getting stuck in rocks or surfaces. Given how large the game’s world is, it’s somewhat easy to overlook, and much like the above issue, it doesn’t really interrupt the flow of the game all that much. With that to the side, fans of the series – particularly those that have an interest in its era – will love Odyssey’s ancient playground.
The world isn’t just believable, but constantly captivating. There’s laws that specific regions will adhere to, and if they’re not followed nor respected, you’ll have enforcement hunting your ass quicker than you can blink via a GTA-esque system. NPCs all go about their daily routine, much like wildlife. Those moving from Origins will be glad to learn that trade works in a much similar fashion. There’s merchants in most major cities and slums, all of which will sell goods, buy your wares, and upgrade and enhance your gear and weaponry. There’s also notice boards that can be used to take on additional quests and bounties, and much more.
In summary, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, there’s always an event of some sort happening within reach. I spoke highly of Origins’ world for feeling alive and dynamic, but Odyssey takes it that one step further thanks to its depth and variety. Some may argue that this steps too far away from the core concept that put this series on the map, but if you ask me, it’s a step in the right direction. By embracing last year’s RPG mechanics and then building upon them, Odyssey takes the series to new heights. This is all further heightened by the game’s added refinements in several other departments.
Take the dialogue system, for example. At first, I shrugged this off as a means to showcase little more than a layer of extra character, but after hours of play, I saw that this system goes a fair bit deeper than that. Several times was I afforded the choice as to who to build a romance with and who to battle with/against. Having control of how snarky or fluid a conversation goes, really does allow the player to feel more involved. I absolutely loved being rude and challenging NPCs that made me feed edgy, sometimes leading to a combat confrontation that could have been avoided if I went the other way. It’s a very fun system.
The voice acting, for the most part, is on point throughout. Special mention goes to Melissanthi Mahut’s portrayal of Kassandra, who gives a very powerful performance from beginning to end. Most cast members do a stellar job at breathing personality into their respective characters, which is another aspect that excels Odyssey over Origins. The progression system is relatively easy to digest, and it’s here in which the game’s RPG elements take the most focus – both on land and at sea. Despite its beautifully rich world, as alluded to earlier on, Odyssey spins a darker undertone than most games before it.
The war between Athena and Sparta rages on, but it’s not about who your enemy is, it’s about knowing who to make an enemy of and who not to – again, feeding into the choices. Regardless as to who you have gunning for your blood, you’ll need to stay ahead of the game at each and every beat. The level-up system and its tethered functions sits inline with the game’s immediate predecessor. You’ll earn XP for just about any in-game action or discovery. This levels you up, affording you the ability to wear stronger gear to raise your stats, and thus, allowing you to take on harder quests and enemies; rinse and repeat.
Taking on a quest or an enemy that’s even just a couple of levels above you is hard work, so it pays off to keep on top of your stats and ensure that you’re holding the best weaponry (or enhanced versions of older weaponry) to tackle each situation. There’s also a clean skill tree to lean on that you can work through by spending points earned through leveling up or by completing specific requirements. Here, you can unlock some powerful abilities such as the iconic Spartan kick, and much more. These skills are tied to three distinct trees; Hunter, Warrior, and Assassin, each of which can be mixed up to create a unique build.
Group this with the intuitive level/RPG system, and it makes for a very satisfied experience that allows you to grow your assassin how you see fit. The same system applies to the naval side of the game, being that you can recruit followers, upgrade your ship across a range of outputs and so on. It’s nice noting how each small upgrade – ship or character – makes the world of difference. This is your adventure, and although the plot foundation will always follow a set path, this is the first game in the series that I’ve felt both very much out of and in control from the onset to the curtain call. With that said, how does Odyssey handle?
As you would expect, Odyssey is a very fluid game. The combat is nicely paced and well laid out, dishing up some brutally delicious sequences for you to enjoy. The same can be said about general traversal, giving a very clean and concise feeling whether you’re scaling Zeus’ towering statue, dashing on horseback or browsing the markets. I want to specifically commend the ship controls. Much like Black Flag – only better – the naval side of the game is smooth and excellently developed. You’ll feel the differences that each upgrade brings, and like your assassin, it’s wonderful watching you go from zero-to-ocean owner, throughout.
Odyssey’s care and attention to detail isn’t rivaled by any other game in the series. New additions are present, such as conquest, which sees you liberating a region (when you’re not looting or burning the opposition’s supplies to overthrow their grip) in skirmish battles with and against the side of your choosing. That, of course, is just one example out of many and that’s where Odyssey won me over the most. There’s always something to get up to, to see, or to fulfill. This isn’t just one epic story, but a world that encompasses hundreds of stories and activities that all feed into the game’s identity. It’s a truly breathtaking experience.
The game rewards you for any time you put in, regardless as to what you do with that time. The generous variety of loot upholds this further, always giving you something to work towards or improve so that you can gain and utilize your reward and move onto the next port of call. I cant stress enough how alive this world feels, and it’s very much a world that reacts to your actions; from its people and their ways of life, right down to the powerful tiers of bounty hunters that will track you across Greece if you step out of line. Make no mistake about it, Odyssey offers one hell of an empowering and innovative adventure.
If anything, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey showcases Ubisoft’s commitment to strengthen the franchise and keep it relevant. Not only does Odyssey successfully expand and build on the systems and foundations that made last year’s entry so compelling, but it also relays more character, depth and world engagement throughout. Make no mistake about it, this is the finest entry in the series so far.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.