Last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Origins” overhauled the long-running “Assassin’s Creed” franchise. With a revamped combat system, an updated player progression tree and a story that let players enter the series without having to know everything that happened in previous titles, it revitalized the brand.
With this year’s “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” developer Ubisoft is pushing the series even further, adding a new role-playing game-style dialogue system that allows you to choose how you respond to in-game events and characters, which directly impacts the outcome of the story. Think seminal RPGs like “Mass Effect” or “The Elder Scrolls” series.
The result is an “Assassin’s Creed” game that finally feels as large as the aspirations Ubisoft has had for the franchise since it launched 11 years ago.
Welcome to Ancient Greece
“Odyssey,” as its name implies, takes place in Ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian War. At the outset you have the choice of playing as either a male character, Alexios, or a female, Kassandra.
Choosing one over the other doesn’t impact the story or the abilities you can use. It’s more of a means of bringing some much-needed gender diversity to action games. That said, Ubisoft used Alexios in much of its marketing material, which seems like a wasted opportunity to show gamers the kind of options they’ll have right off the bat.
That aside, Ubisoft created a gorgeous version of Ancient Greece. Whales breach the water’s surface as you sail on your trireme, the Adrestia, rams graze along hillsides and cities are filled with citizens who go about their business and interact with each other.
“Odyssey’s” world is absolutely massive. The initial game map is incredibly misleading. It’s not until you take to the sea that you finally recognize how expansive the game really is. It’s actually kind of intimidating when you see the full breath of the game world.
True to form, Ubisoft also dove deep into the actual history of Ancient Greece. Historical figures pop up in various missions, and those smooth, white marble statues the time period is known for are accurately painted just as they originally were.
A messy familial story
“Odyssey” tells the story of Alexios’s/Kassandra’s quest to discover his/her own origins and dismantle a cult that is determined to take him/her down. Naturally there’s also a litany of side quests that you can explore for hours on end, after completing the central story.
Throughout your play through you’ll be met with a variety of decisions that will have a direct impact on everything from the way other characters treat you, to how quests, including the main storyline, progress and conclude. You can convince characters to join you on your quest, become their enemies or even their lover.
There are 9 different endings to Odyssey’s main story, though you’ll have to make specific decisions at certain points of the game to ensure you get the “good one.”
Fighting at sea and on land
After the success of the ship-based “Assassin’s Creed Black,” Ubisoft realized it needed to add more naval combat and exploration to the series. So in Odyssey, you take control of the Adrestia from which you sail to new locations and attack other vessels using either archers, javelins, flaming versions of either and, of course, the ship’s ram. There’s nothing better than smashing headlong into another ship and cleaving it in half.
Hit them hard enough, and you can disable enemy ships, at which point you can board and plunder them. As enemy ships sink to the deep, sharks swarm to feast on the unlucky crew members.
On foot, combat is similar to “Assassin’s Creed Origins.” You can freely swing at enemies, fire your bow, sneak up and assassinate them, parry their blows or use one of a multitude of special moves that consume a portion of your adrenaline gauge Each of those special moves can be purchased using an ability point gained by leveling up. You can further build up those skills by dumping more points into specific abilities or simply unlock new ones. It’s your choice.
As with “Origins,” your skills are broken down into three categories; Assassin, Warrior and Hunter. I tended to stick with Warrior and Assassin, since you’ll need Assassin skills to stealthily perform assassinations and take down foes. You’ll also need Warrior skills to fight off the hordes of enemies that will inevitably descend upon you when you botch your attempt to assassinate a target.
Items you purchase or pick up from enemies also include stat boosts for your Assassin, Warrior and Hunter skills, and build on the damage for each category, as well as your armor. You can further augment items by either upgrading them or adding engravings.
While progressing through the game, you’ll eventually need to pick a side in the Peloponnesian War. This opens up Conquest Battles that let you take control of regions for either side of the war between the Spartans and Athenians. If anything, this is the one part of the game that doesn’t quite fit. It sees you running around a battlefield taking down opposition soldiers in large-scale skirmishes. Defeat enough elite soldiers and mercenaries and you win the battle, and the region for your side.
The formula just doesn’t feel like it fits with the overall theme of a single powerful warrior assassin who can change the course of history. They’re a little overwhelming at first, but can feel tedious over time.
Should you get it?
Outside of that tedium, “Odyssey” hits all of the marks that make “Assassin’s Creed” such a successful franchise, while building on the formula with greater story depth and adding real consequences to your actions. If you loved “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” then you’ll love “Odyssey.” And if you left the series long ago, because you felt it was simply a hide-and-seek simulator, then you’ll need to jump back in with this one.
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