Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review
When Assassin’s Creed Origins launched last year it became quickly apparent that the major changes to the franchise propelled that release to my favourite Assassin’s Creed game to date, and it was a sentiment shared by many. One year later, and we have been promised another grand adventure, built on similar changes made to Origins. But with only a year between releases, does this release take a step back? Let’s dive in!
This is a review in progress. We have not completed the main story yet, but have finished and played through all areas of the world. Our score is considered tentative, although close to what will be final. This review was carried out with a code offered by the publisher. This review was carried out on an Xbox One X provided by Xbox Canada.
Egypt felt larger (although in reality it isn’t!), but at times roaming across seamlessly endless desserts could make the game feel empty at times. The Egyptian desserts have been swapped out for the seas around Greece, but it is much more enjoyable sailing in your ship, engaging with others, than running across miles upon miles of sand. The ‘open’ bare areas of Odyssey are much more engaging and interesting than Origins, which is the first major improvement over last years experience.
Thankfully, though, Ubisoft took a vastly different approach to this story, which pays dividends as you dig deeper and deeper into the game. With the deeper RPG elements, it was important to provide the main characters – either Alexios or Kadsandra, take your pick! – with some choice, allowing for branching paths and multiple outcomes. While Origins had you playing the ‘good guy’ role for the majority of the game (you were the town sheriff after all), Odyssey has you playing as a mercenary for hire. Do whatever you want to do, but prepare to live with the consequences.
This wouldn’t matter if you didn’t care about the characters; however, the story crafted here is outstanding, and gets deeper and deeper as you play more and more. To be honest, early on I wasn’t sure where the game was going – as I felt Origins got you to a ‘holy crap’ moment way sooner – but when Odyssey gave me a small nugget of knowledge that changed my perspective, I couldn’t stop playing as I wanted to know more.
And even when the story lags, the world is stocked full of things to do. From mercenary missions to naval missions to helping out the locals, I often got lost for hours on end completing tasks for those in the city I was in. And these quests never took a lot of time, which made them the perfect distraction from the main quests, as well as a great reason to jump into Odyssey for just a few minutes to earn a few drachmae and a bit of experience!
While I preferred the amount of choice in Origins over Odyssey when it came to weapons – especially the ability to have specific bows – the new combat system still works really well. Specific perks and special shots – such as the hunter shot which allows you to zoom in on enemies, although not as nicely as Origins – are slotted to LT and LB; 8 total can be loaded, and earned by spending abilities points on a new skill tree.
But otherwise, typical RPG weapons and armour characteristics are present. Everything has a level and rarity associated with it. The rarity level usually reflects better attributes certain weapons have, such as more bow damage, or more melee damage. Weapons can be upgraded and attributes can be added by visiting blacksmiths, which is why raw materials are so valuable. But raw materials serve a more important purpose, and probably the biggest change from Origins: on your own ship!
Not since Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Rogue have Assassin’s Creed fans been able to pilot their own ship. This time around, the sales and rudder and wheel have been swapped out for oars and voice commands. Unlike in Black Flag, ships in Odyssey are easily maneuverable in the water, which makes naval combat much more enjoyable than ever before. Instead of cannons, you’ll outfit your ship with archers and javelin throwers, who will pelt enemy ships with arrows – often on fire – to take them down. The ships themselves also make a good weapons, as using the hull to ram others will be a big factor in success or failure on the open seas.
While exploring Greece, players will be able to knock out enemies as opposed to assassinating them, which will allow you to recruit them to join your crew. Up to 4 special units can be added to make your crew that much stronger, each with their own attributes and abilities. These special units are also the ones would will board enemy ships with you, and can be called on as men-at-arms when on shore. Having a good amount of natural resources will be key to upgrading various aspects of your ship, whether ones that bring actual benefits or those that simply give your ship a unique look. Either way, the naval aspect of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a big reason Odyssey is a step above Origins.
Another major addition to Odyssey is the mercenary system, which reminds me of the ranking system found in the Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War games based on the Lord of the Rings universe. As you become a better mercenary, you will climb the ranks of Greece’s most feared fighters, which means greater reward for you, and more people tracking you down to end your existence. It’s a great additional system that, unlike the Phylakes in Origins, provides you a reason to engage them in open combat whenever they track you down, rather than hiding and waiting for them to pass. And these fights with mercenaries were some of the most enjoyable in the game, really maximizing the great combat style crafted for this experience.
There are even more changes than I have time to write about, most notably the ability to play the game in exploration mode, where locations and quests won’t be tagged on your map, but rather you will have to use various dialogue options with quest givers, and utilize the clues on your quest menu to find hte location you need. Imagine tracking down the various clues on tablets from Origins – and in fact this makes a return in Odyssey – but for everything in the game. While playing in this mode was much more enjoyable for myself, I can see others wanting an easier – albeit still relative and usable -path to getting the games many, MANY endings.
And that is ultimately what the developers wanted from this game. Create your own Odyssey was often a phrase used in the marketing for this game, and something various public relations representative said to me over the past few months. If that was the mandate for the game, than Ubisoft delivered in spades. Odyssey trumps Origins in almost every way, which is saying a lot because Origins was fantastic. Odyssey, however, is just a step above. With another 2 year window before the next Assassin’s Creed release, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!