A Journey Worth Taking
Forty hours into AC Odyssey and one thing is for certain, this is the way the series should have always been experienced. If Origins was the template, then Odyssey is the foundation for the future. Almost every positive aspect from previous entries has been included and polished, helping transform the series into a fully fledged RPG. This is an incredibly engrossing game and one that will remind you heavily of the Witcher 3. Does it reach such heights?
It gets damn close.
Set before Origins during the Peloponnesian War, you take control of either Kassandra or Alexios, descendants of Spartan King Leonidas and mercenaries who must undertake a personal journey of self-discovery while also working to stop a plot by a cult who controls Greece from the shadows. While you arent an Assassin in the traditional sense, your character is the precursor. What makes this title great is that it heavily deviates from the tried and true formula that the series is known for. It’s less about assassinating key figures and more so about the journey of its protagonists. The narrative feels far more personal and the series is better off for it.
When Origins introduced RPG elements into the series, it was almost guaranteed that its follow-up would be a more in-depth take. Odyssey shines as a Western RPG as it features a number of passive and active skills designed to provide players gameplay flexibility. There is a loot system in which you can upgrade gear to help give you an edge in combat. Players will have the freedom to dictate how quests end due to the introduction of dialogue choices. That feature isnt as in-depth as other RPG’s but the choices you make will effect the world around you.
Also featured are layered side quests that will range from the generic fetch quests to some elaborate enough that they could be part of the main campaign. There is a sprawling and dense world to discover, filled with secrets that will make you want to explore this world. If you see an area that piques your interest, there are practically no limitations in reaching that area. Traversal feels smoother and I didn’t have trouble scaling mountains or castle walls. In a way, it resembles Breath of the Wild, sans the stamina system that would result in some untimely deaths.
As you are involved in a large scale war, you will be able to choose sides and engage in battles that will help determine who is in control of a certain region. It’s simple and optional, but doing so will grant you multiple rewards, so it is recommend that you give them a try. I never spent too much time getting involved in these conquests, but if you want to stop and engage in large scale conflict to get away from working in the shadows, then this is a nice reprieve. The mark of a great open-world RPG is when you’re engrossed in the world that you constantly get side-tracked. Odyssey is that title.
Like other open-world games, your actions do not go unnoticed. You arent free to commit crimes so you’ll have to be cognizant of your actions otherwise you can accrue a sizable bounty. These bounties will force mercenaries to actively hunt you down until you either pay the bounty or wait for the heat to clear. Engaging in these mercenaries however, can net you some strong gear but encounters can become difficult when more than one arrives to take you down. Mercenaries can make quests more difficult to complete as they will engage you even when occupied. They are so determined that they will engage in naval combat with you, so if you ever feel unpopular, mercenaries will ensure you’re never alone.
While combat isn’t the strongest aspect of Odyssey, that doesn’t mean it isn’t engaging. Players are able to encounter enemies either on the ground or at sea. The skills accumulated can help dictate how you should approach a situation. Direct combat is the least interesting as it is reliant on timed strikes and dodges. You will have the ability to remove shields, blind enemies, and utilize heavy combos that can deal devastating damage. Oh, and you can Spartan Kick an enemy that will either incapacitate or kill. Either way, its the most fun skill in the game, as launching an enemy off a mountain never gets old.
Stealth, for the most part, is still king in AC Odyssey. You have the ability to stealth kill by positioning yourself behind or above the enemy. If you want to engage from distance you can get a quiet kill with your bow. But, if you want to be stylish, you can throw your spear, teleport to the enemy, stealth kill them and then chain to the next poor sod. That part is really fun. Also, if the enemy has a large health pool and cant be taken down by a normal stealth maneuver, then you can supercharge it, the downside being that it could potentially expose you if other enemies are around.
As you are navigating through the ancient Greek world, you’re primary means of getting around the Mediterranean will be by your ship. Its familiar to the combat found in Black Flag and is easily one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game. You can ram, shoot arrows, throw spears, and once the enemy ship is damaged enough, you have the option to board and engage in direct combat. If you choose to not kill an enemy, you can incapacitate them and recruit them to be one of your lieutenants. Those personnel will provide various buffs to assist you in combat. Personally, it’s really satisfying splitting a ship in two after you bested them in warfare. It’s all about preference when it comes to enemy engagement and that variety is greatly appreciated.
Blending Greek mythology in a grounded world is one of my favorite parts of Odyssey. You can engage in hunts against legendary animals and creatures of myth and this is a definite highlight of the game. These are surprising inclusions in a series that has historically taken itself seriously. This entry marks a nice change in direction as it allows the series to explore the lore of the Greek world. The AC series tends to take itself a bit too seriously at times and is at it’s best when embracing the fiction.
Even after playing this title for 40 hours, it feels like I have barely scratched the surface of the potential of this title. Its gorgeous, colorful, and one that begs to be explored. There is always something happening in the world and is a game that will consume a lot of your time. Even after completing the game, I found that there are a number of side quests that need to be completed and cultists that need to be found and eliminated.
Whether you’re a fan of the series or a fan of open-world titles, I highly recommend picking up this title. Be warned however, it does take around 3 hours to pick up but when it does, it’s hard to put down. If there were any negatives, it would be the voice acting, the actor who voices Alexios lays on the ham and it can take away from some of the more personal moments. Also, some NPC’s can be incredibly aggressive when responding and this can be confusing when your response was cordial. Another negative that I found was that while navigating the world can be seamless, there were times where it would stop and load. These occurrences didn’t happen often, but they can be distracting as it feels like your game is about to crash.
Minor gripes aside, Odyssey makes a strong case for being the best entry in the series. Shifting toward the RPG genre was the next logical step after the introduction of those elements in Origins. Emphasizing exploration and freedom of choice creates a more organic and engaging experience. Couple all of this with a personal narrative tale and you have a title that feels less Assassins Creed and more like The Witcher. Simply put, Odyssey is one of the best titles of 2018.
5 out of 5
Watch out for them chickens though, they can be incredibly ruthless.