When you first step foot into the world of Assassins Creed Odyssey you are almost floored by its beauty and by truly how much there is to do. It is a gargantuan game that truly immerses you in the Peloponnesian War and the Ancient Greek world in general. Odyssey is a game that presents the war progressing even as you don’t do anything. Theoretically, you could stand in one spot and territories will change from Athens to Sparta or vice versa. Of course, this doesn’t actually progress the war but makes the world seem more dynamic and alive.
This is exponentially extended through the Mercenary System that Assassins Creed Odyssey has introduced. It puts a massive amount of bounty hunters, all misthios/mercenaries like Kassandra/Alexios on your tail. Unlike the bounty hunters in Assassins Creed Origins, these mercenaries are an almost irrevocable part of the story, appearing at the most inconvenient of times.
The Mercenaries and the bounty system as a whole are reactionary, making you feel as if your place in the word is fluid and dynamic. For example, if you decide to raid a Fort, especially one that is housing a Leader you can instantly gain several Bounty levels, bringing nearby Mercenaries rushing to your location.
You can then decide to try and fight them off at the same time as the regular enemies, run away or hide and pick them off when they begin to wander off. This also works with traditional type crimes, as opposed to the straight desynchronisation that was prevalent in the first few Assassins Creed games. Stealing and murder will net you a bounty, which other misthios are only too happy to try and collect.
Don’t even get me started on ship combat when the mercenaries decide to just appear on the horizon with a freshly kitted out vessel. They are relentless, but it adds a very real feeling to the world, one that suits the RPG mechanics of Odyssey. Your actions have consequences. Sure you can go ahead and murder every single citizen of Athens, but you can be sure there will be some mercenaries hot on your tail.
This Mercenary System has several tiers to it, denoting the level and all around difficulty of the bounty hunters within a particular tier. For example, misthios’ who are classed as Tier 2, are going to be much more of a challenge than those classed as Tier 9.
As Assassins Creed Odyssey progresses, you will encounter a fair number of fellow mercenaries who reside within the Mercenary System. Killing them will remove them from the world, and if you happen to be of a lower rank, will move you and everyone else below them, up. For example, I encountered the top tier misthios, the name of which I won’t spoil, at a time when I was a few mercenaries from owning the top spot myself. Killing the Tier 1 misthios didn’t suddenly vault me to the top but instead pushed the second-ranked mercenary to the peak of mercenarydom. I then had to track him down and murder him as well to claim my throne.
But what if you aren’t around? The ranks can fluctuate on their own, with groups of soldiers occasionally attacking mercenaries for reasons known only to them…or to the game’s coding. Sometimes they are victorious, striking off another name from the mercenary list.
Mercenaries can also appear outside of free roam, making appearances in the midst of Conquest Battles as part of the opposing faction. The dialogue throughout these encounters, and indeed in the wider scope of the game, makes it clear that they know exactly who you are, which adds a dynamic feel to the overall system.
In the same fashion, the Mercenary System also gives you ways to reduce your bounty. You can either pay it off straight from your map screen, wait for it to reduce on its own or to hunt down and murder the Bounty Sponsors. Think of them like witnesses who have paid to have you put down.
Assassins Creed Odyssey is a title that is massive in scope but doesn’t feel hollow, and the Mercenary System, in my opinion, is one of the ways that it is filled out. Plus it is quite entertaining to see Kassandra/Alexios rise through the ranks as each bounty hunter is struck down.