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

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Louise Blain

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.

Spear re­view

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.

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