After breaking from the yearly release schedule and reinventing the formula last year with Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft has returned to old ways and released Assassin’s Creed Odyssey only a year later. It boasts a bigger world than last year, plus other enhancements but is it too much too soon?
After an initial tutorial period you’re given a choice on who you wish to play through the game as, Alexios or Kassandra. I chose Kassandra but beyond the obvious difference in appearance and voice acting performance it doesn’t change too much. I’ve heard pros for both so make your choice as you see fit. Your character is a mercenary in Greece and not wanting to spoil too much I won’t go too far into the situation but rather quickly you go from some simple mercenary work to going on a greater quest as is your destiny. Being a mercenary for hire actually gives credibility to all the odd jobs you’re tasked with doing though, rather than the hero who’s destined to save the world stopping to deliver some bread or whatever other games make you do.
There are many, many jobs too, some coming with dialogue choices that can be both meaningful and meaningless. As with last year’s title this an open world game. More accurately it’s an Ubisoft open world game. This means you can’t move for things to do, some minor, others less so. Question marks flood your compass at the top of the screen which will lead to locations, some occupied by hostile soldiers or bandits, there are quest givers in towns, job boards that update with daily tasks, chests to loot and high points to synchronise with. You can spend hours and hours ignoring story quests as you bounce from one question mark to another across the different islands and complete the more simple missions that the game generates.
Everything rewards you with experience and loot so there’s always an incentive to complete tasks, with missions having a level recommendation attached to them. Though not impossible I would not recommend over stretching yourself as levels matter, with you barely scratching a higher level enemy and them being able to swat you down in one or two hits. Some comments have been made about the game requiring some level grinding in order to be able to attempt the story quests but I never found that to be the case and I definitely didn’t exhaust every mission available though I did move away from the main quests every now and then through choice. Equipment is also gated by level so you’ll constantly get better equipment of different rarity to give you higher stats and everything changes your character’s appearance which is always a plus. Levelling will also give you points to put into a skill tree, allowing you to build a character as you see fit, specialising in archery, fighting, stealth or a mixture of the three.
Missions will generally involve the same basic tasks. They may be dressed up as kill someone or a group of people, steal or burn some supplies or simply to deliver something to someone but they’ll all boil down to similar actions. As is the Assassin’s Creed way you can climb pretty much anything and running across the world, leaping over obstacles and scaling cliff faces and giant statues of Zeus is a lot of fun. Once you reach your destination you can use your trusty eagle/drone to scout the area, you can crouch to stealth around, hiding in bushes and sneaking to kill silently if the enemy isn’t too strong to withstand your insta-kill. You can pick enemies off from a distance with a bow or start an all out brawl.
Combat is quite simple without being overly so. You have normal attacks, a strong attack, a dodge and a forgiving parry move as your basics and you unlock more specialised attacks through your skill tree which require meter to perform, from removing your opponents shield to setting your weapon on fire. Even if your task isn’t to kill anyone you’ll probably end up doing it anyway, as they’re in your way or just for experience and loot and it’s fun to be the only person left standing after being surrounded. As you unlock more moves you feel incredibly powerful.
Going on a killing spree will make a bounty meter grow which introduces a new element to Odyssey. Other mercenaries will hunt you if your bounty is high enough, the higher your meter (think a police star rating in Grand Theft Auto) the more and stronger mercenaries will come after you. These are all named and have a little bio in the menu if you care to read it (similar to the nemesis system in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and its sequel), each dropping a decent bit of equipment too. Your character is also a mercenary so defeating others will improve your standing on the mercenary ladder. Your wanted meter will drain over time, you can pay the bounty or kill the person who put the bounty out in the first place. Generally it doesn’t get in the way but there were definitely times when what I was doing filled the meter to the point where I had to retreat or get overrun.
Greece is spread across many islands so naval combat makes a return from earlier games. You can upgrade your ship and staff it with people you recruit for bonuses. Whittling enemy ships down with arrows and javelins before boarding them can be fun but does get repetitive quite quickly, so I only did it when travelling between points or when a mission required it.
Then there is the Cult, which I won’t go into too much but you have to find clues to the members whereabouts and track them down, starting with the lower level members and leading to the higher tiers. Again, it’s just killing people as with most other activities in the game but it’s more content. Whatever you think of the rest of the game you can’t argue that there isn’t loads and loads of content. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey can keep you busy for over a hundred hours if you let it and Ubisoft have been pretty good about supporting their games after launch so I expect there’ll be reasons to come back in the future too.
A lot of that content boils down to the same actions, as I mentioned earlier, but in that sense it reminds me of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. You’d be running around the same locations, clearing the same camps of enemies and collecting the same resources but it was so fun to play that the poor story and boss battles didn’t matter so much. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is fun to run around in and you’ll lose plenty of hours just doing ‘one more mission’. The visuals are beautiful more often than not making exploring the map rewarding beyond simply ticking off a checklist.
There is so much content however that I feel this is a game you should play with another, more immediate game on the side. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a marathon, not a sprint and as such you can burn yourself out on it. That won’t be the case for everyone but I think it’s a fair warning. How offensive you find the amount of content will depend on how you approach it, in this case I don’t necessarily think that the amount of content is detrimental to the game, but could it have been a tighter experience? Certainly.
+ Looks beautiful
+ Running around is a lot of fun
- Not much variety