The latest yearly release of the Assassins Creed franchise is here, but does it conquer or fall? Read on as I post my thoughts on the Ubisoft fan-favorite title.
(@JohnBGameHype) (Authors Note)
Assassins Creed is very much a marmite like brand in my opinion. After going strong for over a decade since Altair’s only appearance way back in 2007, opinion is very much divided amongst the gaming community (you either love it or hate it). I used to be amongst the former and then found the constantly churned out game every year offered little innovation and as a concept, the games felt tired and in need of some rest.
I used to think of Assassins Creed as a day 1 purchase and then found since the end of Desmond’s storyline ( back in the third game) and the superb Black Flag my enthusiasm waned. I haven’t played the games much in the last 4/5 years (with exception to playing and enjoying Unity in 2015).
So when the opportunity came about to review the latest game in the lush surroundings of ancient Greece and with the changes to the format & mechanics the game desperately needed I jumped at the chance.
Now onto the game!
Traveling through Ancient Greece, Assassins Creed Odyssey takes gamers through a power struggle between the Spartans and warriors of Athens as the Peloponnesian conflict results in grim bloodshed & violence. This is the largest Assassins Creed game to date and the sheer scale of the game in terms of size is wonderfully ginormous.
As the game begins you have a choice between Alexios (male) and Kassandra (female) with exception to the change in look & voice and some altered dialogue choices, the story experience and gameplay is identical. Both of whom are spartan’s by birth but are working as mercenaries. Without going full out into spoiler mode the story has you question your allegiances to Sparta and who you truly are. The multiple dialogue choices and different scenarios will impact the outcome of how the story unfolds depending on how you play through the game.
The dialogue choices generally provide three options one that can conflict/disagree with the npc, another that is like a charm offensive and the last choice is a more neutral option that goes along with the topic of conversation. (In true mass effect style, I warn you that saying the wrong thing can have an impact on the fate of the npc’s you interact with). One example I found was when I met a lady known as Odessa, I had the choice to recruit her for my ship and pursue her as a love interest, but previous to that I had the choice to call her out on the shady mercenary dealings she had which could have had a bleak outcome had I handled the dialogue differently.
It’s in moments like those that I realize just how different the direction of Assassin’s Creed as series is going and it’s something I believe is a great addition. With multiple dialogue outcomes influencing & changing both the main story and side quest path arcs, I had to remind myself I’m playing a re-invented Assassins Creed title and not the Witcher. (Such leaps and strides the game has taken in terms of adding role-playing elements).
Contracts can be found amongst the many npc’s met on your travels and on message boards scattered around the islands on iconic statues of Greek folk, rewarding rare weapons/ armor and crafting materials. It adds more depth outside the main story, encouraging players to scale the deepest and darkest depths Oddysey will throw at you, and that’s not all. Epic showdowns with monumental & mythical figures of legend in the Greek era provide a challenging test of skill and great satisfaction with superb production values.
The combat feels free flowing and provides a good challenge, unlike older installments where you could quite easily take on large groups of enemy’s, if you find yourself surrounded the chances of succeeding are slim, quite often it’s better to retreat and plan a more stealth related approach to dealing with groups. An expanded level of choice in the ability and skill tree with the choices of Assassin, Hunter, and Warrior are relevant to the lead character as the options in what abilitys and stance you take down rivals are upto you. Where Oddysey thrives in which previous games have not is in how the plethora of weapons impact the combat. The most devasting of weapons (like morning star) may provide a huge boost in damage output, but it’s slow and sluggish handling leaves you exposed in group showdowns. That’s not all you can do with the arsenal of tools at your hands. Boosting the weapons via engravings or searching high and low for rare treasures will unveil stronger items/ armor from wars of a bygone era. The trusted Eagle eye Ikaros provides players with an aerial scouting out of no-go area’s to provide intel on points of entry, mission markers, the strength of enemy level and numbers, to other points of interest for those of you playing in exploration mode.
Make too much noise around the Greek islands and you will pay the price! Rival mercenaries will relentlessly hunt you down, some of whom can be numerous levels higher, providing a real challenge to shake them off your tail for me I found this exciting and it does have an impact on quests. If you’re trying to weaken the nation power by taking out a camp and you then find a mercenary is lurking around the camp scouting you out it really adds a further tactical element to approaching the area.
In Assassins Creed Odyssey the ship and naval fleet continue to provide plenty of alternative depth to the game for those that enjoy discovering the sunken ruins in the Aegean seas and a change from the on-foot quests and side-missions. Gather materials to upgrade the ships arsenal, damage, endurance. The option to play around with the theme and design of the ship are nice touches which further add to the personal touch the player can have on their sea-hearty travels. Recruiting special Lieutenants whom you could develop a bond within side quests add a further sense of emotional attachment to your ship (particularly if the Lieutenant is a love interest), as sea battles return for the first time since Assassins Creed III.
Whether you decide to explore the Greek islands by foot, boat, or water (swimming deep into the ocean’s depths) the game offers incredible levels of exploration & satisfaction with undiscovered caves and treasures waiting to be discovered. (Just don’t forget your lifejacket if swimming isn’t your thing).
From a graphical perspective Assassins Creed Odyssey is quite possibly the best-looking game of the calendar year. From temple paintings to statue models, shades of water puddles that impressively reflect off the sun’s light, to the authentically dressed soldiers in their battle-clad armours are all astounding in detail. View distance and the environment showcase the Anvil Next 2.0 engine quite magnificently.
What I will say is that some of the minor NPC animations are just flat out weird. (Whilst in Megaris I can recall messing around with the bow and arrow, randomly shooting at a civilian, who just stood in the same spot whilst being used for target practice. Perhaps this was just a minor bug).
Wrapping this up, Assassins Creed Odyssey is a delight to play. Discovering stunning landmarks on the islands and exploring lost ruins, earning rare treasures has never been more fun. The new RPG approach Ubisoft is taking the series in has rejuvenated the brand in a way a few years ago I never thought I’d see. The combat/skill & ability tree is a far cry from the older games in the series and in my opinion Assassins Creed the brand has never felt more alive, fresh and complete than with the latest entry.
Assassins Creed Odyssey is out now for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.