After taking a couple of years off after the release of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Ubisoft came back with a fresh and modern design for the Assassin’s Creed franchise last year with the release of Origins. Now Ubisoft Quebec have built upon the open world action RPG formula established in Origins and then evolved it, adding brand new systems to create Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. A new adventure set in Ancient Greece in the year 431 BCE and acts as Ubisoft’s alternate history retelling of the Peloponnesian War. Assassin’s Creed has never looked as good as it has here and has certainly never been this big.
The biggest change between Odyssey and all the previous Assassin’s Creed games is that we’re able to play through the game as one of two possible protagonists for the first time. Both Syndicate and Origins dabbled in having a second assassin playable for certain missions during the main storyline but this is the first time we’ve been able to play through the entire game as either a male or female.
Whether you decide to play as Alexios or Kassandra the core story beats are exactly the same, with some dialogue choices and romance options being the big difference between the two. As Alexios and Kassandra are siblings, the one you don’t choose will become a core side character in the story of Odyssey.
You will be spending a lot of time with the character you choose and you can’t change your mind after selecting who you’d like to play as. So I’d recommend if you’re not sure who you’d like to play as, to play through the first hour or so of the game as both characters so you can experience the subtle differences between the two and then make your final choice.
Due to the dialogue system and the role playing nature of the title you’re able to make either Alexios or Kassandra the character you want them to be based on your choices. Just remember that many of your choices often have consequences, with you having the ability at times to control what side-characters live or die. All your choices throughout the game will also influence which one of the almost 10 different endings you’ll receive too.
Both characters have their own pre-written personalities but you’re able to shape them along the way into being your character. And that’s great considering you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them. You’ll be hard pressed to beat Odyssey in less than 50 hours.
Besides the lead characters, the most important part of a large scale open world game is the world itself. Ubisoft’s recreation of Ancient Greece is absolutely lush, full of life and extremely detailed. It looks gorgeous most of the time. While this open world design was introduced in Origins I’d say it’s now hit it’s full potential here in Odyssey. Unlike Origins whose colour palette was primarily in the brown and yellow spectrum with scattered bits of plant life due to it’s Egyptian setting. Odyssey however has a much wider range of colours in it’s area’s which range from desert like battlefields to tropical islands allowing the world to appear more visually interesting and technically impressive.
The world of Ancient Greece is by far the largest setting we’ve ever seen in an Assassin’s Creed game by far. Thankfully you’re rewarded for exploring the lands, earning XP for every new location uncovered or side task completed. This provides added incentive to head off the beaten path in between missions.
With the Assassin’s Creed franchise having now transitioned to being action RPG’s this XP is tied directly into your characters’ overall level which controls what kind of armours you can equip, weapons you can wield and enemies you can successfully take on and defeat.
As with Origins, you can play through this game with your own preferred play style. Equipping the gear and items that best suit you and levelling up the skill tree in ways that will support the way you like to tackle the missions. Whether that be with a stealthy or battle focused approach.
I loved that the game included the ability to put resources back into your existing items to level them up and make them relevant again to your current level. Many loot based RPG’s force me to throw out gear that looks really great just because I found a new piece that deals more damage or has a higher rarity. I appreciated that I was able to keep progressing in strength while keeping the items that made my character look great and suited my playstyle.
Combat has also seen a slight upgrade to the overhaul received in Origins. Odyssey has done away with the shield mapped to L1 (on PS4) and now seems all about faster paced combat focused on dealing damage, often with dual weapons. Battling now relies on dodging out of the way when needed and dealing an onslaught of damage when the time is right to take down foes.
But conflict in Odyssey isn’t limited to only weapons based melee combat. Naval battles have returned allowing you to search and battle other ships in the Aegean Sea. Ever since it was introduced back in Black Flag I’ve found the naval combat scenario’s of Assassin’s Creed games to be one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of the games.
Much like levelling up and customising your character, you can do the same for your naval ship. Allowing you the ability to buff its defences against certain types of damage or increase its ramming or javelin damage among other things.
While there is so much to love about Odyssey and how enjoyable the ‘new style’ Assassin’s Creed games feel to play it’s not without some flaws. In a world as vast as this, filled with so many quests and side tasks it can often feel incredibly overwhelming. Although this amount of content provides you with a constant source of things to do and ways of earning XP, which is definitely needed in the final act of the story as mission requirements towards the end of the game require a really high level. This does affect the pacing of the final act as you will likely find yourself needing to grind for a few hours to level up enough just to progress the main quest line.
As with most large scale open world games I also ran into my fair share of bugs. Nothing game breaking but I did get caught in the environment or saw other npc’s in the same fate a number of times throughout and also ran into a few instances where the lip sync wasn’t matching up with the dialogue or hearing the cutscene dialogue playing when it shouldn’t be.
Ubisoft Quebec should be really proud of this one. They’ve taken the fun mechanics from previous Assassin’s Creed titles and evolved them and brought them all together in a world that is as beautiful as it is massive. If you were a fan of last years’ Origins you should definitely check this out. Even with it’s pacing issues and scattered bugs, when everything comes together it feels like this could easily be the best Assassin’s Creed title to date.
A PS4 review copy was provided by Ubisoft Australia for the purpose of this review.
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