Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Let’s get it out of the way: yes, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey looks a lot like Assassin’s Creed Origins.
Yes, it plays like it, too. Yes, the music stings, inventory scene, and maps are all pretty similar, too. But for every similarity, we can indignantly counter it with a difference, too. So yes, Odyssey looks like Origins, but the latest game has branching dialogue trees when Origins didn’t. Yeah, mechanically they’re pretty similar, but Odyssey lets you play – and remain – a female assassin (unlike giving us just a measly taster of it when we played briefly as Aya in Origins). And yes, the music, inventory and map will feel familiar, too, but there’s romance options, conquest battles and Nation Power to tackle, too. So yeah, we get why some players might take one peek and think it’s a half-baked facsimile, but take it from us; Ubisoft’s kept all those elements that made Origins so achingly brilliant and built upon the others to craft Odyssey. Dismissing it as anything other than yet another stellar instalment in the Creed franchise is simply a disservice.
But good grief, it’s overwhelming. The first time you pull back that map, and see how tiny and insignificant Kefalonia is in the sea (literally) of other places… And that’s before you even clock the recommended ranks of some of the regions around you. “Am I even going to play it that much?!” you think, noting neighbouring island, Achaia, is ranked level 42-46. Like: what’s even in Achaia, anyway? Who wants to go there? “I like it in Kefalonia,” you think to yourself. “I might just spend the rest of the game here, where I won’t get battered by a boar just for accidentally straying into its field of view.” (Pro tip: AVOID ALL BOARS.)
The secret is to shrug that stuff off and just get stuck in. Like Origins, there are plenty of main and sub-quests to keep you going. And like Origins, they vary just enough to avoid falling into tedium. Yes, it all follows the same rigid template that all Ubisoft games do these days – vast open worlds rich for exploring, balanced with fair combat mechanics that let you stealthily take down the forts and camps you happen upon. And yes, while we’ve no doubt some people are getting bored of this tight mould, we’re not, and that’s the honest truth. There’s just too much fun to be had, scrambling up those mountains and creeping through those tombs.
But while Odyssey has taken many cues from its predecessor, its story – which gently pulls in some of Assassin’s Creed’s wider lore – is all its own. You play as Alexios or Kassandra (hereby referred to collectively as “Kassios”). Yes, you actually get to pick from a male or female assassin this time around – but the contents of their pants doesn’t affect the story, your gear, their perks and abilities, or… well, anything, really. And rightly so, right?
It’s hard to touch on the story without being spoilery, so we won’t do that, but where Bayek’s story was a slick tale of familial revenge and he was very much The Wronged Man, Kassios’ plight is… well, let’s just say it’s a little more complicated than that. A mercenary, Kassios’ allegiances are less defined, which makes their battles – both private and public – more opaque and, if we’re honest, just that little bit more exciting. Kassios isn’t as bothered about Doing The Right Thing as they are Getting The Right Result For Themselves… and sometimes, that result is just getting paid for the work they did, goddammit.
There’s now a modest selection of dialogue options in most of your conversations, but aside from a couple of instances, we’re not convinced the choices you make have any meaningful bearing on the game’s outcomes, and it’s not like you can only make one choice; like Mass effect, if you’re so inclined, you can often hear all dialogue options. We’d recommend it, too, given you’ll sometimes only get the full lowdown on your next objective by clicking to hear every option available.
And it’s astonishing, this world. It’s stuffed with colour and depth, flora and fauna, and life and death. It’s every bit as breathtaking as
Bayek’s egypt was. It ticks on, regardless of what you do, or do not, choose to do. While Odyssey offers a suitably epic main story campaign, it’s just one pillar in a colosseum of content; there’s so much to do and explore outside of that main campaign, and it would be a (Greek) tragedy to ignore it.
We’re delighted to report that combat’s improved from Origins, too. It’s not that Bayek was bad, exactly, but while there’s a similar assortment of long-, mid- and short-ranged weapons to experiment with, the control scheme certainly feels more responsive this time around, and fighting less frustrating. Building up your skills and abilities is easier than ever, as well, so while they’re still loosely grouped into three categories – hunter, Warrior and Assassin – there’s fewer now, and your choice is greater given you don’t always need to have unlocked all of the skills below to get to the goodies at the top. That said, the ones you get early on – such as the meaty and magnificent Spartan Kick – are so fun to play with that it’s hard to swap them out for anything else.
Talking of combat; Odyssey debuts Conquest Battles, which are exactly as they sound: huge, complex, alarming scuffles with dozens and dozens of soldiers, all battling it out for the same turf. While it’s great to have something a little different, we’re not a huge fan of them, and despite Kassios’ refined CQC skills, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies, and accidentally strike a soldier on the same side as you.
Plus, the constant shift of alliances from the Spartans to the Athenians and back again means that when we stumble across a pair of soldiers duking it out at the side of the road, it’s not always clear who we’re supposed to jump in and save – or even if we should jump in and save at all. Unlike the Far Cry universe, which offers a similar digital playground of goodies and baddies to explore, your enemy is not so clear-cut here. Yes, it makes for a much more diverse story – both morally and literally (after all, if Kassios cares only about Kassios, that’s all pretty much in keeping with what we consider a mercenary to be, right?) – but at the cost of clarity. It also meant that on more than one occasion, we ambled unhurriedly into what we thought was an allied camp… only to get battered in the doorway.
You’ll have access to many of the same tools you had before, too. Where Bayek had Senu, Kassios has Ikaros, who offers all the same features as Bayek’s bae bird, such as tagging enemies, spotting treasure, hunting for small prey and so on. Kassios has Revelation, or Athena’s Sight, which – somewhat inexplicably – gives you a brief boosted glimpse of all the goodies in the immediate area, similar to a sixth sense skill Bayek had. And, of course, you’ll also have your trusted steed Phobos. Yes, you’re given some spiel at the beginning about the different skills that each of the three steeds have, but from our experience, it doesn’t really seem to matter which one you plump for, and they’ll all share the same skins, too. Oh, and you can still expedite your travels by instructing your pony to Follow Road – automatically trotting along a pre-set route and saving your trigger finger – as well as whistle each time you can’t be bothered to double back and go looking for your horsie.
We’re also not super fond of the naval aspects, either. Yeah, yeah we know - plenty of you lot do like it, and that’s grand and all, but for us, it’s just all a bit… well, unnecessary. Kassios is
with A TIMELINE so CLOSE to ORIGINS, It’s DIFFICULT to ADMIRE Odyssey On Its Own MERIT
In each territory, your map will indicate which of the warring factions has “control” of that particular zone. Both sides will chiefly leave you alone if they see you out and about (providing you don’t flagrantly rob the poor townsfolk in front of their eyes, of course), but neither are super keen on you wandering into their restricted areas. to weaken a faction’s hold, you must steal/burn their war supplies, dispatch of their troops, and help yourself to their treasures. Do this, and you’ll find the nation Power gauge will slowly decrease until the leader is deemed vulnerable. Find ’em, kill ’em, and the region will be liberated… right up until someone invades and you have to do it all over again. sigh. a mercenary. They kick-ass in all the right ways, so to suddenly plop them into a ship and have them shouting out orders to a crew they’ve never seen before? In fairness, the game isn’t saturated with the ship bits, and for that we’re grateful, but having to invest virtual monies and effort into upgrading the ship for tougher skirmishes when all we wanna do is get from one place to the other and start exploring… well, we have other places we’d prefer to spend that money, that’s all. It’s one of few elements in Odyssey that feel like it’s busy work for busy work’s sake.
Oh, there’s Animus stuff too, of course. Unlike its predecessor, Odyssey chucks you right in there at the beginning – just so we know from the off that we’re in a simulated environment. We know veteran fans love these bits, and so we don’t begrudge them too much, but we can’t help but admit that every time we’re yanked out of Kassios’ world, it feels little more than an unnecessary interruption, not least because Layla’s lacklustre “easter egg” nods to other Ubi IPS just feel clumsy and unimaginative.
The microtransactions? Yeah, Ubi’s pushing these pretty hard this time around. There are the astonishingly brazen “Time Savers” add-ons which – for a significant investment of your reallife moolah – will let you apply a permanent boost to your experience points (XP) and Drachmae (in-game currency). Can you play without it? Certainly. Will your game be slower and less rewarding without it? Yup, pretty much.
And most irritatingly of all, calling it a “Time Saver” suggests that it’s a shortcut, or perhaps something to help temper the grind, when really, Assassin’s Creed’s grind has never been the issue, at least not to us. We like exploring, seeking out new places, treasure, and collectables that all trickle deliciously into our little XP pot. We like working our way across a region to clear out the forts and camps. Calling it a “Time Saver” suggests the time we spend doing that stuff isn’t worthy, when it really chuffin’ is. Why on earth would Ubisoft make such a claim about its own game, when we – the people paying and playing it – don’t?
The upshot, though, is that however you play this – stealthy, swordy or something in-between – you’ll find a rhythm and pace all of your own, in a way that melts away the paralysing fear of the sheer size and scope of the game.
It’s just such a shame it’s set in a world so similar to Origins, though. In many ways, Odyssey is a better game than Origins – both mechanically and narratively – but by locking it down in Ancient Greece, and a timeline so close to Origins, it’s difficult to admire Kassios’ story on its own merit, and in the isolated glory it deserves. Sadly, it’s that, coupled with the aggressive microtransactions and the umpteen variations of “special editions” that make it difficult for fans to own them all, that takes the shine off what is oh-so-nearly a flawless experience.
left: Yes, the Black Flagesque ship sequences are back, and there’s much more of them in Odyssey than Origins, plus a whole section of your inventory dedicated purely to upgrading your boat.Oh, and yes, the sea shanties are back as well…shadow OF the TOMB RAIDER
FORMAT: PS4OTHER FORMATS: Switch, PC, Xbox One ORIGIN: Canada PUBLISHER: Ubisoft DEVELOPER: Ubisoft QuebecPRICE: £54.99RELEASE: Out now PLAYERS: 1Online REVIEWED: N/A
left: We’re kind of in love with the Photo Mode. Yes, every triple-a game pretty much offers it now, but with evocative scenes such as these, it’s so hard to resist taking a cheeky selfie or two as you explore Ancient Greece.
Mass EFFECT 2
Below: See that dude with the yute? He’s been outside that house for a while now. That’s ’cos Kassandra’s in the house becoming intimate with his wife. It’s all part of a pretty fast and loose approach to romance in the game. Right: See that? There’s a nonlethal approach to every attack, which means those who prefer lovin’ to fightin’ can still safely explore.
left: Nah, we didn’t accidentally include a Tomb Raider screen here, we promise. Like Origins’ Pyramids, Odyssey has tombs; small, contained puzzle chambers with rich rewards. Just keep an eye out for snakes – it’s surprising how quickly they can take you out. Below: Your flying companion Ikaros can do most(well, some) of the hard work for you; send him up to scout nearby forts and restricted areas and he’ll tag unsuspecting foes and key items. Great for seeing around corners and scouting for secret entrances, too.