ASS ASS IN’S CREED ODYSSEY
ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY PROVES THERE’S NO PLAC E LIKE HO MER AS IT CRASHES INTO ANCIENT GREECE AS A FULL-BLOWN RPG
Nothing is true; everything is permitted. The Creed mantra that has guided the history-hopping franchise for the last 11 years. Well, while it kept Ezio, Bayek, Edward, and co on the right track, Ubisoft itself has clearly taken the Creed to heart like a well-aimed arrow. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey isn’t just the first AC not to have any actual Assassins, there’s no sign of the iconic hidden blade, you’ve got two different characters to choose from, full-blown decision trees, and even romance options. Going hands-on on Xbox One X proves that everything truly is permitted in Ancient Greece, even the transformation of the franchise into a full-on RPG.
First off. That choice. Before you even make your way to 431BC—yes, this all takes place a mere four centuries before Origins— you’ve got the small matter of choosing between Spartan mercenaries Kassandra or Alexios. If you’re howling that that’s not how the Animus works, Ubi has an answer ready. The DNA here is seriously fried, given how old it is and that means it can be either one of these two Greek ‘misthios’. See? Science. The pair are thus both fair game and, importantly, whoever you choose, you’ll get exactly the same game, choices, romance potential, and chances to dive from absurdly high viewpoints with an eagle cry echoing in your ears. What a relief.
Landing on the Greek island of Delos as Kassandra, Odyssey is immediately seriously easy on the eyes, with sparkling beautiful white beaches and azure seas. The Creed’s historical worlds have been juicy eye candy for years, but even this small slice of Greece is glowing and alive.
Town streets bustle, smoke drifts lazily into the cerulean sky, palm trees deliver some much-needed shade, and is that a shark circling in the blue? While those who played Origins will feel right at home—Kassandra’s eagle Ikarus happily soars into the sky to check the lay of the land—there are some important changes to address before you go picking any fights. Yes, that’s a spear in her left hand, and no, it doesn’t matter that it looks a bit broken.
As inherited family heirlooms go, you could do a lot worse than the broken Spear of Leonidas. Where previous Creeds have largely kept Assassins well away from the godlike Ancient Artefacts from Those Who Came Before, Odyssey hands you the
weapon of King Leonidas himself, and tells you to have at it. The spear means that instead of Bayek’s trusty shield, both Kassandra and Alexios carry this in their left hand. While the lack of protection means significantly more dodging in combat and the new addition of a counter option with a tap on the left bumper, it also means rather handy godlike super-powers. It’s a fair trade. Mapped to the face buttons, these abilities rely on you filling up a gold bar on screen during combat before unleashing your fury on unsuspecting foes.
Like Origins before it, combat is frantic and unrelenting, meaning these powers come in exceptionally handy without being OP. This is where the gratifying 300- flavored Spartan kick comes in, knocking enemies flying across the map at an opportune moment, but there are plenty of equally useful and satisfying moves. Find the perfect moment for a shield break, and Kassandra happily yanks away a foe’s only source of protection, before clobbering them around the face with it and tossing it away.
A self-heal option comes in exceptionally handy too, but that’s only the beginning. Just like Origins, as you level up, abilities and skills unlock, letting you personalize your fighting style to match your favorite weaponry. An Incredible Hulk-style ground smash between sword swings that sends soldiers tumbling? Oh, go on. Despite these super powers, combat never feels like a guaranteed win, making every battle an exhilarating and tense exercise in defence and attack.
It takes a while to get used to these new abilities, but an even bigger surprise is an AC cutscene stopping for you to have input. It’s taken more than a decade, but decisionmaking in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is constant. Who to side with. Who to romance. Whether to steal in front of townsfolk or tow the line. Entire quests open and close. Branching dialogue results in new ways to play, and a heart next to a reply option indicates the way to a character’s softer side that isn’t the thin skin above their carotid artery. Every decision matters here, and
Odyssey has a clear idea of right and wrong. Murder and steal, and mercenaries will hunt you down. An upgraded version of Origins’ Phylakes, these hired hitmen and women want their bounty, and that means your body hitting the ground. There’s even a choice in how to deal with them.
“Every decision matters here and Odyssey has a clear idea of right and wrong”
Sure, you could engage in hand to hand combat, but you could always murder the foes who set the bounty, or pay it off in full from the menu screen, or even sneak up on your hunter, knock them out, and offer to let them join your crew.
Trireme come true
Yes, your crew. Where Origins’ naval sequences were limited and (oddly) not replayable, the ocean of Odyssey’s Greece is just waiting for you to explore in your Greek trireme, The Adrestia. Dolphins leap alongside the hull as Kassandra takes to the sea on a mission to sink Athenian ships and, although you don’t have the cannons of BlackFlag, arrows fly on command from your crew, and you can ram unsuspecting ships. There’s even an option for flaming arrows, stopping enemy vessels in their tracks as their sails go up in a blaze of orange and red. It’s another dose of heady and spectacular naval combat as waves crash, and spilled oil coats the sea in liquid flames. Get close to an enemy ship, and the crew can toss javelins before boarding, gorily slaughtering the enemy and stealing their loot.
Like Origins before it, Odyssey is all about loot. Lady Luck returns to either smile on or smite you, but with the addition of armor as well as weaponry. Kassandra and Alexios’ head, arms, chest, waist, and feet all need to be individually protected and upgraded, meaning you’re constantly on the hunt for better gear. High level enemies drop quality goods, or you can find superior bits hidden inside well-protected camps and forts. Weaponry too has had an upgrade. There’s still the same selection of murderous bow types—hello, predator arrows—and all kinds of swords and spears, but you can now craft arrows and add traits and abilities. Plus, a blacksmith can add engravings to weaponry, giving it a specific benefit when you add it to your deadly arsenal.
And you’ll need it. Ancient Greece is in flux. What’s war good for?
Assassin’s Creed stories. This time around, it’s the Peloponnesian War, a raging battle between Athens and Sparta. While you don’t need to even choose a side, smaller story beats mean you are constantly controlling the power in Greece. Even the small island of Delos is controlled by a grim leader known as Podarkes. There’s no barging straight into his house to stick a spear in his neck (thanks to a swathe of guards swarming round him), but take control of other parts of the island and his protection will fall. Burning chests of war supplies and taking down encampments removes his power, represented by a bar on the map screen, and destabilizes the island. It’s a fascinating way of blending sidequests and main story as a key reason to take on forts and enemy fortifications.
above Ancient Greece hasn’t looked this beautiful since 404BC.right Of course, there’s still a bit of stealth assassination involved.
above Kassandra fights with the broken but magical spear of King Leonidas in her left hand.
BEL OW You get to sail in Greek triremes (that’s a boat with oars dontcha know].
ABOVE Everything is permitted. Except that! Shame on you.