If you thought Assassins Creed: Origins was an epic game, Odyssey takes it to a whole new level. The combination of Assassins Creed and Greek mythology is simply a match made in gaming heaven, and Ubisoft has done it complete justice. Bizarrely, Odyssey felt like of an action/adventure game, but instead has now taken its place as an RPG title. Of course, all of the gameplay mechanics that have made the franchise stand out from the crowd are still in the game. However, there is now a much larger emphasis on building up your character and unlocking new skills. Whilst Origins also contained a lot of this, Odyssey goes a step further by introducing an incredibly immersive way of playing the game that is novel for the franchise.
Every previous Assassins Creed game has provided gamers with direction. Whilst there are hidden tombs and secrets, you were guided to your next mission. You were able to identify where you needed to go, and had the choice of when you wanted to go there. Whilst this guided-mode is still within Odyssey (and a lot of gamers who just want to focus on the excellent story will choose to play), you can now also play the entire game via a brand new Exploration mode. With this mode switched on, you have to explore the entire world of Odyssey to figure out where to go next and what to do. I played half of the game in this mode. For those who want to soak in every spot of land that Ubisoft has so intricately designed, this is the best way to play the game. Whilst you get through the campaign much slower, you end up carrying out more side quests (of which there are a huge amount) and learn more about the entire era that the game is depicted in. Ubisoft proved with Origins that they wanted to make a game that was educational as well as enjoyable, and Odyssey carries on with this tradition.
Odyssey starts off by throwing you right into the deep end, but does it in a way that lets you learn the controls quickly, whilst allowing you to witness the extent of the struggle between the Spartans and Athenians. This period allows for a perfect setting in Assassins Creed, as there were plenty of famous battles both on land and sea, many of which you get to experience within Odyssey. As someone who has visited parts of Greece (including Athens), there is no doubt that the attention to detail in Odyssey is second to none. Whilst much of the map is covered in sea, there is an incredible amount of land to traverse through. The small cities are often scattered with humungous bronze and marble statues of Gods and even politicians. The way the light reflects off these statues and tall buildings is testament to the power of current generation consoles, as well as the artistic abilities of the developers. There is no doubt that Odyssey is by far, the best looking Assassins Creed game to date. There are occasions where there is too much ‘fog’ that doesn’t allow you to see beyond 100m, however this is rare and most of the time, you won’t have a single complaint about the visuals of the game.
In addition to the brand new Exploration mode, Assassins Creed Odyssey also is a first for many other ways to play the game. Firstly, you have a choice to play as either a man or a woman. The characters do talk, and therefore you always get the impression that you’re playing a campaign that is exclusively made for the character you have chosen (this is not actually the case). I played the game as Kassandra as a) she’s pleasant on the eye and b) I haven’t yet played through an entire Assassins Creed game as a woman. The voice acting was superb and I particularly loved that the F-word easily rolled off her tongue. As with other main characters in the franchise, Kassandra also has a dark back story, and throughout the campaign, you’ll often witness flashbacks that allow you to relate to her present character. Whilst Kassandra’s character is very well voice-acted, some of the NPCs’ voices aren’t up to scratch. Sometimes I didn’t understand what they were saying. The visuals in the cutscenes however are superb, and the facial expressions in particular really help you understand what the character is feeling.
Odyssey is also a game of choices. For the first time, there are choices in the dialogues throughout the cutscenes. Different choices can also lead to different outcomes. Even the way you carry out missions can be different. As an example, very early on there is a mission where you need to obtain money from someone. You can either choose to destroy his shop, or even just kill him. Your actions have real consequences too. Whilst this concept is not new in games, this is just another layer to the game that makes it feel more like an RPG rather than an action/adventure title. What’s best about the game is that a lot of the choices you make will decide who lives, who dies and even how the game ends. You can be a total a**hole if you wanted to be, or you can be the noble warrior. Obviously, I went for the former approach, ensuring that I wouldn’t carry out any favours without something in return, even if it meant that a family gets ruined. There was something really refreshing seeing a female lead acting like a total #*@*. Acting like that however has consequences. In Odyssey, your bad behaviour results in more members of the community placing bounties on your head. The higher the bounty level, the more mercenaries you will need to randomly deal with. Of course, taking these mercenaries out will also be rewarding, but if you’re the type of gamer who wants to be left alone rather than randomly attacked, you also need to be on your best behaviour. Some of the mercenaries later on in the game are very difficult to kill, and sometimes it’s better to seek them out when they’re more vulnerable. Also they will often be higher levels than you, and taking on enemies even a couple of levels higher than you will have disastrous consequences.
In addition, there is an integrated struggle system that allows you to side with either the Spartans or Athenians by taking out the other region’s supplies and key leaders. These lead to huge battles and can even take place at sea. They are some of the toughest battles in the game, but the rewards are also handsome. If you manage to chip away at the region’s resources prior to triggering the battle, you can win it more easily.
The reason I kept coming back for more battles is because the combat system is pure perfection. I thought it couldn’t get any better than Origins, but Odyssey builds on those foundations. Each weapon type has a completely different move set. Heavy weapons like axes and spears will take longer to wind up but deal much more damage. Spears obviously have the advantage that you don’t need to get so close to the opponent, but end up leaving you exposed if you’re parried. I always found that the swords are the best weapons as they are the perfect balance of damage and speed. However, as you can eventually carry multiple weapons, sometimes you just want to bring out a mace and really hurt your opponents. It’s amazing how wonderfully violent Odyssey can be. Those who are fans of 300 will also be happy to know that you can literally Spartan-kick anything, even rhinos. Of course, they will retaliate, but it’s frickin’ hilarious watching them fly. In reality, I can’t imagine the kick being very good for the knees or one’s balance, but 300 made the kick so famous that it just had to be in the game. The kick is actually extremely helpful especially when taking over an enemy ship. A well-timed kick can have an opponent flying off the ship.
As this is now more of a traditional RPG title, you’ll find loot in almost every corner of the map. Similarly to Origins, you can even hunt animals for crafting gear. A lot of the equipment you get can be used to upgrade your weapons to your own level, or you can even sell the equipment. It’s a tricky choice to decide when to upgrade the weapons. Every 3-4 levels, I found that I needed to improve my weapons in order to keep up with the tough opponents. Sometimes you get drops from enemies that are better than the equipment you already own (especially if they have special buffs), but it’s always tricky to let go of a weapon that you’ve grown so fond of.
Odyssey also contains skill trees that allows you to decide how you want to improve your character. Again, there was something similar in Origins, but it worked so well that I am pleased it’s back. You can upgrade the Warrior, Hunter and Assassin trees. I found myself mostly upgrading the Warrior tree as this is where you get most of the perks during actual combat. However, the Assassin tree is great if you want to take enemies out stealthily, and the Hunter is brilliant for gamers who rely on the bow and arrow. I didn’t use much of the Hunter abilities, but I eventually realized how effective it could be having a good bow and arrow with some nice skills attached to the character.
Naval warfare has also been given a slight upgrade. Your ship, Adrestia, now has more upgrade options that allows you to inflict more damage with arrow or ramming attacks. Of course, all upgrades come at a price, but since there are so many naval battles in Odyssey, it’s important to keep track of your ship’s abilities too. The aforementioned mercenaries will often attack you at sea, and there’s nothing more satisfying than just ramming your ship right through them. The Aegean Sea is a lot more unforgiving and you’ll encounter more threats whilst sailing. Fortunately, you can recruit soldiers to your naval army. We’re not just talking regular NPCs either – you have the ability to even recruit Spartan leaders to join your ship. This all helps when upgrading your ship and sacking other ones.
The story mode is actually just a formality. A lot of it requires you to run meaningless tasks that don’t really help progress the story, but are probably designed to help you level up before the big missions start pouring in. I often found myself being asked to go from A to B to kill someone, or gather intel for a subsequent mission. You’ll often have to play through hours’ of missions just so you can finally start the quest that you expected to play through ages ago. However, when those main quests to come your way, they are totally worth the wait.
Without giving away any spoilers, there is a very large number of quests and challenges for you to take part in outside of the main campaign. In fact, I found these even more interesting than the main campaign. Included in these challenges are some of the most epic boss battles that Assassins Creed has ever provided, many of which are against famous mythological monsters. Those who have been following the game will already know about Medusa being one of those challenges, but that is just one of the many monsters that you can fight. If you thought that the God battles in Origins were epic, Odyssey takes it to a whole new level. What we have on Day 1 is not even the complete content, as Ubisoft has promised a large amount of DLC across the next two years that will ensure gamers keep coming back for more.
Assassins Creed Odyssey would have been a perfect ten had it not been for the fact that there is still no multiplayer mode. Every year, this is always my biggest gripe, and Odyssey doesn’t rectify the problem. For some reason, Ubisoft has shied away from re-introducing one of the most innovative multiplayer modes that I have ever played on any game. I still remember enjoying 4v4 Manhunt with a group of friends and remembering just how tactical the online component was. It was certainly tactical enough for it to be a genuine eSports candidate. I am hopeful that Ubisoft may surprise us with future DLC that introduces multiplayer, but as things stand, it seems that Odyssey is solo experience.
Despite the lack of multiplayer, Assassins Creed Odyssey is still my favourite Assassins Creed to date. I have personally always been fascinated with Greek mythology and Ubisoft has done this genre complete justice. With strong characters, a compelling-enough campaign and an insane amount of content that will last you at least 100 hours (and that is without any future DLC), Odyssey claims the throne as the best game in the franchise to date, and one of the best RPGs that current generation consoles have to offer.