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Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review: More of the same? Or different?

Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man.

Assassins Creed Odyssey is a 2018 action (stealth?) role-playing, video game developed by Ubisoft Quebec and published by Ubisoft. It is the eleventh major installment, and twentieth overall, in the Assassin’s Creed series and the successor to 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins.

Assassin’s Creed has long been a franchise which divides public opinion. Early releases from Ubisoft had undeniably set a standard for open world stealth games by employing the calculated characters of Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and the charismatic Ezio Auditore, however, later generations tended to have abused this successful formula. Ubisoft’s yearly release schedule seemed to have tired out producers, creatives and directors working on their projects, leaving their once golden identity in the dirt riddled with micro transactions, poor story-telling, repetitive side missions and recycled mechanics.

Fortunately for the gaming community, Ubisoft decided to take a well-earned break following the release of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which admittedly achieved decent and relatively positive reviews. The video game company took a step back and took the time to reanalyze the key components of the series, finally releasing a game worthy of the company’s heritage; Assassins Creed Origins.

Yes it had flaws, but much like a cold beer on a hot day, it was refreshing. Assassin’s Creed Origins was quickly hailed for being an incredible action RPG, seen as the perfect way to showcase the international talent and serve as proof that the Ubisoft team had lost nothing in innovation and had more than what it takes to make a fantastic game.

Personally, Origins gave me back the feeling of excitement that Altaïr and Ezio put in my awkward teen years. I found myself unable to put down the remote, playing till the early hours of the day, and calling in sick for work the next morning. Yes, some of the questing was tedious, missions were repeated and minor glitches and bugs still preyed on the game, but it was an enlightening vision of what the franchise could achieve. The customizations, loot and RPG elements Orgins brought with it nurtured my optimism for the franchise, putting it once again on my yearly list of games I’d need to play.

…Which is where Assassins Creed Odyssey comes in.

Assassins Creed Odyssey very much plays on the success achieved by Origins. Admittedly when watching the first 10 seconds of the trailer for the game, the location setting of Ancient Greece hyped me to the extent that I knew I would be buying it – no questions asked. However, once the trailer was over I began to feel it. A dark, foreboding voice very much from the void within the belly of my inner most dimly lit crevice born from my cynical head, telling me one thing; ‘Re-skin release’.  Pleading with myself, I pushed down the negativity…“They took time out and reworked the entire franchise to release Origins, surly Odyssey won’t just be a re-skin, and it will be iconic too…!”

Well, after finally completing the beast Odyssey has proved to be, I can only say that my feelings on it are still mixed…but pushing positive…Let me explain why, nonetheless it still deserved a spot in the Top 10 games to play this Christmas.

The Story – 

Maybe it’s easier to get the bad out of the way.

If I had to be cruelly cut throat, I would admit that one of the things I find lacking within the Assassin’s Creed Universe of games is its story. That’s of course not to say there haven’t been times I’m incredibly compelled with the narrative taken by the games, beating off story missions more methodically than an obsessive library receptionist checking to see her books are all in alphabetical order. Understandably the narrative scope behind most Assassin’s Creed is overwhelming, because of this, and probably the annual unforgiving deadlines the franchise was plagued with, the story section of the AC games was subject to the short end of stick.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is no different.

Whilst Ubisoft have done a lot of work to re-design the title and firmly establish itself as a leading RPG; by giving players tools and choices in dialogue which uniquely affect your gameplay experience, the lack luster story-telling in Odyssey often feels rushed and untidy. Its uninspired story-telling quickly led me to tune out of dialogue, the uncharacteristic changes in tone of voice within the discourse left conversations fragmented, and left me not entirely interested in the main quest-line.

The most unfortunate aspect of this is the fact that the storyline starts out so well. Immediately players are put into King Leonidas’s shoes, revving up the hype counter to the max, only to quickly lose interest moments after leaving the starting island with Alexios or Kassandra. Big reveals felt rushed, discourse between characters, especially in side quests, more often than not, were simply not engaging.

Maybe it’s harsh to criticize the writers specifically at Ubisoft for this, (especially considering their one year time frame), and maybe its harsher yet to compare AC Odyssey to other releases, but after we saw the master class of story-telling and an intricately crafted narrative which came from Sony’s Santa Monica Studio in the form of God of War earlier this year, expectations were raised.

With regards to the present world of Assassins Creed Universe, outside the animus, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find any positive or enjoyable content. Whilst of course I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, Ubisoft seem to share my concerns as the sections of exploration in the present day are becoming more restricted and easier to skip. The company (and from what we’ve seen a good portion of the community) seem to see this feature of the game increasingly an awkward uncle at a family event, rather than a cool charismatic cousin.

The World – 

Assassins Creed Odyssey is Huge!

You’ve got to give it up to Ubisoft, following their early greyish looking games in the AC franchise, they’ve absolutely perfected the art of beautiful landscape, buzzing environments and lively cities. They have once again proven they’ve got what it takes to build a beautiful world. I often found myself admiring the gorgeous Greek scenery and architecture and feeling awestruck by the lively and animated locations within the Odyssey world.

Everywhere you go within the world feels alive, Assassins Creed Odyssey urges players to get off the beaten path and explore for themselves, offering secret loot spots and picturesque views, in a variety of places.

However, as much as the environment mesmerizes you and ensures you’re continually wiping drool off yourself, the long distance travelling within the game – unfortunately – becomes quite the headache. With quests and important locations littered all over the place, and all over minor islands, you may often find yourself praying for patience as you traverse the world by foot, horse or ship. Going out of your way to ensure everywhere new you end up in is accompanied with a synchronized location, for you to fast travel to – this was pretty standard practice. (Also if they could put in a skip scene for the cinematic with every synched location that would be heaven!)

That being said, its plain to see the effort and detail that went into the development of this game. I’m often compelled to purchase and re-play Assassins Creed games simply because of the appreciation and importance they place on historical accuracy. Allowing the team to freely incorporate their own lore within the grander and epic stories of real world histories always leaves me excited to meet the historical celebrities I grew up reading about. Overall, I’ve been highly impressed with the portrayal of historical figures, places and events within the AC series and Odyssey is just another testimonial to the team’s efforts.

The Game –  

I believe it’s safe to say that with the last two installments of the franchise AC has given up pretending it’s a stealth game… and that’s ok!

Whether you pick Kassandra or Alexios, you’ll be killing a hell of a lot of people around ancient Greece, fortunately the combat maintains the satisfying feeling we’re used to after Origins. Each weapon and talent feels useful and unique in its own way, giving the option for players to implement their own style of play and customize accordingly.

While there are still positives to playing in a stealthily assassination approach, it has become increasingly clear that the combat within the franchise has evolved to something beyond. There is a lot of enjoyment to be had by using your abilities, switching from light fast weapons like the daggers and swords, to harder slower powerhouses like two handed axes. The bow makes another appearance, and will arguably become one of your most consistent heavy hitters when dealing with elite mobs and mercenaries.

As a side note the ship battles are ok. The first few you get into may recapture the black flag vibe of combat, however as the game progresses you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone going out of their way to get into sea combat (unless it’s for gathering material), using their ship only as a method of getting to the next island to reach the next fast travel point.

All in all, the combat of AC Odyssey builds on the success of origins and is equally if not more enjoyable.

Side Quests & Additional Content – 

At this point I’d imagine that even the most hard-pressed AC fanatical supporter would find the tedious nature of the side missions and exploration content anything but… well tedious.

If I could whisper one thing into the game developers collective ears it would be that less is sometimes more. Is there really a need to be burning the same supplies, killing the same leaders and pack alpha animals and opening the same loot boxes every 40 steps within a game? Almost every single side quest within the games consists of you going to a cave or camp, killing a few mobs, looting a box and getting back to the quest giver – rinse and repeat.

Even with the introduction of being able to compete in Conquest battles, where you either pick the side of Sparta or Athens, the events quickly lose their spotlight once you realize you have no real effect on what is going on in the actual world, simply changing the regions banners from red to blue or blue to red.

With regards to the Mercenary and Cultist systems, at best the inclusion of the mercenaries into the game, may be exciting at first, but even this quickly turns annoying as the game progresses. Having brutes continually interfering and popping up at the worst of times, will find you quickly paying off bounties simply to avoid dealing with them. Cultists too pose a tedious question to the player, however, it’s clear to see the positive of where Ubisoft wish to go with this system. I believe that with the right story-telling and framing the system could become a better and more interesting part of future AC expansions.

“I once lead two mercenaries up to where the Kalydonian boar was to help me defeat it. They were pretty useful.”

As with traditional RPGs the primary stages of the game may see you struggling to continually upgrade equipment and save up drachma (gold), the grind will be real (Ubisoft kindly added a feature for you to spend real life money to buy supplies in game …how kind of them). We would suggest holding off, once you reach the later stages of the game, you’ll be selling equipment for a lot more money, and you’ll quickly learn to buy out crafting materials everywhere you go.

Finally, there’s the inclusion of the (mini?) boss fights, as well as the majestic beast fights around Greece. Whilst on one hand the Medusa, Cyclops and Minotaur proved to be an excellent and welcome addition to the game, each adding to the lore with their own starter quests. The mechanics, while not groundbreaking may serve as a fundamental layer for Ubisoft to build on in future installments, hopefully incorporating more lore rich and intense fighting content for players to enjoy. On the other hand, the beast fights are a clear indication of what could be wrong with these types of encounters. Serving as nothing but meat shields, learning the basic 2/3 attacks of each beast will have you slowly and dis-interestingly pushing through and ending their sorry lives.

Conclusion

All in all, Ubisoft seemed to be taking their franchise into the right direction following the highly praised Origins, however whilst Odyssey is by no means a step back, it does feel like a step more towards the side than forwards. The video game company received a lot of criticism as they are perceived to develop a standard formula, re-skin it, add an activity or two, and release a new game once a year, which just may be the core of what Odyssey is.

After reading this review you may think that I had not entirely enjoyed Odyssey, which is not exactly the case. Assassin’s Creed will always prove a franchise difficult to judge, as the bar set for them over the years as ‘innovative professionals’ may have been placed too high. Admittedly, the franchise is one I have frustrations with, however more often than not I find myself compelled to switch on my console and complete more and more activities, it’s difficult to say whether the attraction I feel towards AC is due to the characters, plot and game-play or if it has simply become a series in which I feel like I know what I will be getting from it, and I’ve simply become OK with that.

So there you have it, make of it what you will, for me Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will be a game I would have waited for, in a setting I always wanted, placed under my own unfair scrutiny.

Favourite Pastime:

  • Chasing and killing off those pesky Cultists

Favourite Legendary Armour set:

  • Agamemnon Legendary Armor Set (based on looks, attributes can be set now for each armour piece specifically)

Pro-active tips:

Regularly upgrade, dismantle, and engrave your armor.

Regularly going to a blacksmith and upgrading your favorite armor piece of weapon should be done every two missions or so using gems, obsidian and even basic drachmae, leather and iron. When low on certain resources don’t be afraid to dismantle armor and weapons. Yes, you won’t get any drachmae for it, but you will get resources, which alter in rarity depending on how powerful the item you’re dismantling is. Engraving is also very important – these are mods which add perks and status effects to your gear. This is especially good when you can add either one or two legendary engravings based on your play style to become the ultimate mercenary.

Don’t kill every mercenary or leader you find – recruit them instead.

The amount of times I’d want to kill a pesky mercenary by kicking him off a mountain or stabbing him in the face, but sometimes it is best you don’t. Simply knocking them down with Spartan kick or your fists (non-lethal damage) and then recruiting them will mean they will then be able to join your ships as Lieutenants, which gives your ship special perks like health and stamina. These mercenaries or leaders can sometimes be legendary – by using Ikarus you can analyze their perks and corresponding colors to have the best perks possible for your shipmates.

Buy the Second Wind ability as soon as possible.

Even if you’re the stealth type, and very rarely find yourself at the end of a sword, you’re going to want the Second Wind ability. In case you do end up fighting, be it on a side mission or one of the core missions and you suffer a few too many hits you can save yourself some grief, by using the Second Wind ability in the warrior tree, this lets you regenerate 25% of your health (more-so as you level up). It’s worth it for multiple cases, especially in conquest battles.

The Spartan Kick and a high place will kill almost anyone.

One of the main reasons a lot of gamers loved AC Odyssey is the Spartan Kick. As big open world games go, you’ll like find yourself amidst enemies at a higher level than you which can be quite troublesome. While you can slowly chip away at their health, dodge, become incognito, stealth attack, dodge etc. you can also kick them off a cliff or building for a swift insta-kill. Be sure to unlock Sparten Kick from the Warrior branch of your abilities and keep upgrading it – with this you’ll likely send anyone, regardless of how tough they are, flying into the air leaving gravity do the hard work for you.

Pros:

  • Main story can be very good at points
  • Superb graphics
  • Large open world
  • Wide array of weapons and gear
  • Lots of useful abilities
  • The lore is superb

Cons:

  • Lots of microtransactions
  • Story blows over after 20 hours mark
  • Side activities become repetitive
  • Ship become useless, apart from gathering resources, once you’ve unlocked fast-travel points across the islands.

Verdict:


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