Assassins Creed Odyssey serves as a continuation of the RPG-like transformation that the franchise has been experiencing, and in the simplest of terms, it is a great thing. One thing that should be mentioned right at the start is that Assassins Creed Odyssey is not a typical AC game.
Assassins Creed Odyssey establishes the beginnings of the Templar Order that fans of the franchise should be very familiar with at this point. In a non-centric way, the game focuses on the Isu, or the First Civilisation as they are more commonly known. They are embedded into the narrative in the key Assassins Creed way that makes my nerdy heart ever so happy. One word: mythology.
In a first for the series, Odyssey allows players to choose their protagonist, from either Kassandra or Alexios. This choice, aside from allowing you to live out your badass Spartan fantasy, (Kassandra hands down) affects the story in a major way and may actually affect your chosen course of action as you progress.
For the storyline in Odyssey is not entirely linear, which is where the RPG elements fold in. Addressed through corrupted DNA, preventing the Animus from following a set path like the previous titles, Kassandra/Alexios can choose how they wish to speak or proceed on their quests. Whether it is via asking for more information, trying to learn a little bit more about the world or taking a particularly aggressive approach with an uncooperative NPC, the choice is yours. Particularly when dealing with those uncooperative NPCs, your options dictate how the immediate world around you will react.
Bribing, flattering or intimidating are all proven methods of getting what you want but sometimes things don’t go one hundred percent according to plan. If the individual you are attempting to intimidate is particularly prideful or egotistic, you may enter into a scuffle where you have to hack, slash and otherwise fight your way to victory. It just adds a little variety, especially if you are having a bad day and don’t want to deal with a pile of well-rendered pixels that thinks he is all that.
This dialogue system culminates with certain key choices that will change the face of your Odyssey in a big way. Tentatively think about Dishonored with their chaos system. It isn’t that drastic or dark, but there are points throughout the game that will mark or mar the rest of your experience.
It isn’t news that the story will follow the adventures of a Spartan mercenary that is embroiled in their own personal conquest, even as the rest of Greece kind of falls apart around them. The Peloponnesian War affected all of Greece, which makes it the perfect setting for an Assassins Creed game, buffed on either side by Athens and Sparta. Being a mercenary opens up the environment a little bit, as you aren’t forced to fight for one particular side, you can play the field, earn those drachmae and still indiscriminately kill everyone you see. There are huge upsides to not desynchronising because you went on a slight murder spree.
While on the topic, the regions of Ancient Greece are controlled by either Athens or Sparta but this is not set in stone (#Medusa) at all times. Lowering the Nation Power of a given region, murdering its Leader, killing soldiers and otherwise being a nuisance will all contribute to a decreased presence, allowing the other side to gain a foothold and flip the switch via Conquest Battles. These are large-scale conflicts that directly pit the two superpowers against each other, generally backed by their own heroes. The outcome, not only nets you some sweet gear but can change/or prevent the controlling power of the region. The magnificent thing about the Conquest Battles is that they will occur with or without you, you do not need to be a part of the fight for region control to change, giving the world a more visceral and living feel.
But I digress. Being set in Ancient Greece the story of Assassins Creed Odyssey revolves around an Oracle, a prophecy if you will and if you know anything about the Ancient Greeks and their mythology you will know that prophecies rarely end well. A plot is uncovered by Kassandra/Alexios wherein power is the main motivator, utilised almost indiscriminately and in many cases, violently, by the Cult of Kosmos. These are the old school Templars, believing that power and control will ultimately grant the world peace. However, even they are not the core branch of your Odyssey, they are one of many because, and it cannot be understated here, there is so much to do.
Your Odyssey is comprised of several core storylines that you can choose to follow at any time throughout the game. With the sheer abundance of side quests and subplots, you can be kept busy for days (real time) without even delving into the main story. So clever is the writing and world-building, that many of the side quests make you feel as if it is the main story, you feel the importance of what you are doing and how the Greek people are suffering.
Take the subplot on the island of Mykonos for example, a questline that was available to be played as a demo for the game. In it, you are basically trying to undermine the power of the local rulers to help a group of rebels. I won’t delve too much into it in case you want to discover it for yourself. Even though it doesn’t directly affect you, the series of quests on Mykonos really build an emotional connection, of course, the huge sums of drachmae and experience helps too.
It cannot be overstated how much there is to do in Odyssey, from the sheer volume of side quests with more appearing as you progress throughout the story, to the side objectives like Forts, Underwater exploration and Ruins. The bonus is that the quests aren’t all the same, or simple reskins of each other – they all have a unique personality or reasoning behind it, which adds a refreshing layer to them. This cannot be said for all of them which do devolve into fetch quests, but for the most part, I found them enjoyable.
We’ve gone a fair while without addressing combat so let’s rectify that shall we. If you have played Assassins Creed Origins the combat system will feel quite familiar, if not, you are in for a bit of a change. Aside from the removal of shields, not much has changed on this front, but this does not make it any less enjoyable. With base weapon types such as the bow, spear, swords, dual daggers and more, you can carve your presence into the very bodies of the soldiers who get in your way.
The main change is the source of assassination, which swaps out the iconic Hidden Blade for the Broken Spear of Leonidas. Assassination functions the same way, sneak up on a target and murder them silently but violently. Similarly to Origins if the enemy is too powerful, or too well armoured you may not get the option to assassinate but to Stealth Attack, which is a similar process but they survive the initial hit.
Combat is only enhanced by the Ability System and while combat is exciting all the way through the game, it does feel a bit so-so at the start when you are barebones. Every time you level up or complete a tomb you can purchase a new ability or upgrade an existing one (up to level three). Some abilities affect your weapon damage or how you interact with the world, but the majority can be slotted and utilised in combat at the cost of Adrenaline.
For example, the famous Sparta Kick, which was how I survived tough fights at lower levels can be purchased quite early in Odyssey. Animal Taming, Poison, a Brotherhood-esque call to arms ability and even Ghost Arrows are all just waiting for you.
Ship combat has returned to Assassins Creed and I am about to say something that may be quite controversial – Odyssey’s ship combat is better than Black Flag. On board the Adrestia, players take to the seas, to explore, reach the islands of the Greek world (like the aforementioned Mykonos) and to take down some enemy ships.
Focusing more intensely on ramming and fully stocked with ranged attacks, courtesy of the Javelin and Arrow Barrages, the Adrestia is all you need to conquer the seas. The Adrestia comes with a simple spree of controls, namely a rower-controlled acceleration, a Travel mode (for out of combat) and a brake allowing for amazingly tight turns. Adding to the fun, Odyssey gives you multiple options to crush your foes, namely through cleaving hostile ships in two, sinking them normally or boarding.
Clearing a ship is one of the most enjoyable ways to eliminate a ship, but later on in the game can feel a bit too time-consuming. When a ship has taken a substantial amount of damage and is quite close distance-wise, the option to board will pop up. This allows you, some of your crew and lieutenants to jump on over and wipe them all out. This is where the Sparta Kick comes in handy – just kick your enemies into the water to be eaten by the sharks. When there are no more hostiles standing, you can loot the ship chests and jump back on the Adrestia. Clearing a ship like this gives me the same feeling that the trailer for Black Flag did.
Cleaving starts in the same way, once the health has been reduced enough, you can use your rowers to accelerate to high speed and ram into your foe. You will be rewarded with a small cutscene showing the Adrestia obliterate the hull of the enemy ship and all the loot.
However, one Adrestia does not fit all, with it being upgradeable, both cosmetically and tactically. Now the upgrades to the ship don’t work like the main Ability System, instead increases your stats, like ramming damage, arrow damage, crew armour and even allowing you to utilise Fire Arrows. All you need are Ancient Tablets, found hidden within Ruins.
While on the topic of the oceans I would be doing a poor job if I didn’t mention the sea life. Adding a wonderful aesthetic element to the world, except sharks who will mess up your day, the sea creatures of Odyssey are gorgeous. There are huge numbers of hidden underwater secrets within the game, from sunken temples to destroyed ships, and hearing the sounds of a nearby whale or school of dolphins is wondrous.
In my mind, love and hate are married perfectly within Odyssey with the Romance System and Mercenary System respectively. The Romance System allows certain NPCs to be wooed in order to get a little action, via a dialogue option that sits right next to a heart. With some NPCs you may have to do a couple quests and say the right things but others just require you to breathe in their general direction (*cough cough Alkibiades*). Side note: Alkibiades is the greatest. My philosophy is to approach the Romance System with a friendly approach, in a kind of ‘thigh-shower’ way to quote Ancient Athenians.
The Mercenary System, on the other hand, is a glorious way to approach wrongdoing in the world of Odyssey. This is a bounty system that will increase as you do the wrong thing, such as steal, murder or hack your way into a Fort and violently kill a region’s Leader. The higher your bounty, the more Mercenaries will track and try to murder you, all for that sweet, sweet drachmae. So you simply murder them first and knock their names off the list. The Mercenary System is comprised of several tiers of the most dangerous mercenaries in Greece. As you discover and eliminate them, you move up the ranks, netting some pretty impressive rewards. I mean the journey is pretty great but the view is better at the top.
I know this review has been quite long, but I cannot state enough just how much there is to do in Assassins Creed Odyssey. At the time of writing this, I have put in over 70 hours and still haven’t uncovered everything. And that is how I like my games. In short, Assassins Creed Odyssey brings the true glory of Ancient Greece and puts it at your disposal, with everything you have heard about the Ancients and even stuff you haven’t.