Ubisoft’s epic new chapter in the Assassin’s Creed universe is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Here is our review of the Xbox One version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which takes the series to ancient Greece.
Last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air for the series. Not only was there an incredibly interesting new location and period to explore (Egypt), it also moved the series further away from the old action game formula into action RPG territory. It’s a direction that should allow for more elbow room going forward as well, with gameplay that’s no longer tied to the same old rinse and repeat gameplay in a new setting.
Having said that, Odyssey does build on Origins’ foundations heavily, but applies a new game world to it. Ancient Greece is probably the last great unexplored era for the franchise, and I couldn’t have come up with a better choice. Ancient Rome’s been done plenty and Origins covered Egypt, so I wonder where they’ll take the franchise after this. Greece is an excellent backdrop with all its history, mythology, gods and iconic visuals – and you’re thrown into the middle of it all.
The story takes place during the war with the Spartans, which is the side of the conflict you’re on. You can choose between Alexios (male) and Kassandra (female) as your character of choice, who you’ll stick with for the duration of the game. After completing the game as Alexios and restarting it with Kassandra, we noticed that your choice doesn’t affect the gameplay and story – which kind of hurt replayability and reduces the choice to a cosmetic one, even though it’s nice to be offered a choice at all.
The game’s prologue serves to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts and controls in the game, and sees you take on a few missions as hired help. Before long, the plot thickens and you leave home to follow in the footsteps of your father, a Spartan army general. From that point on, you’ll start to explore large chunks of ancient Greece – much like Origins did for ancient Egypt. Since we’re dealing with a seafaring nation, you’ll also set foot on islands like Crete – but some of the highlights definitely include a visit to ancient Korinth and Athens. The game area isn’t restricted to these cities though – Odyssey has the largest playable area of any Assassin’s Creed game so far, and by quite a margin.
The story in Odyssey has multiple branches and plotlines all happening at once, which makes for a very organic and seemingly unlinear feel. There’s the war that’s taking place, your personal quest to find and connect with your family, as well as a more sinister plotline that of course ties into the Assassin’s Creed franchise as a whole. There are also multiple times where you can approach conflict from either side of the battle, which is a nice touch in terms of offering different experiences of familiar battles in subsequent playthroughs. Each option comes with its own rewards, both in terms of loot you get right away and quest options that open up afterwards.
Since Greece is also an island nation, you’ll spend a lot of time at sea as well – which isn’t new to the franchise but which is more emphasized this time around. This is especially true during the first half of the game, when you haven’t unlocked a lot of fast travel points yet. There is plenty to do on the water and it all looks gorgeous, but I did find myself skipping these sections once I got further in the story and was able to instantly travel between locations I had already visited.
Assassin’s Creed’s move toward the action RPG genre can best be seen in Odyssey’s tendency to make loot important. Leveling up isn’t just a case of learning new and stronger skills, you’ll also want to find, steal and acquire new gear and items. There’s often a risk and reward system in place here, where taking out stronger foes will yield better rewards and give you loot that will better boost your stats. This also comes in handy when you consider Odyssey’s mercenaries, who will come for you when you get a bounty placed on your head. You can pay them off, but being able to defend yourself is a much cheaper option – especially early on in the game. Leveling up isn’t a golden ticket to success in missions though, as missions that you skip earlier on in the game become harder when you decide to tackle them anyway later on in your adventure.
While Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is absolutely gorgeous, we held off on our review for a few days to wait and see what the launch day patch for the game would do. Luckily, it fixed many of the small bugs and glitches we had encountered pre-release, though I expect we’ll get a couple more bugfixes in the next few months alongside the already announced DLC content. What the patch didn’t fix is that the load times can be a tad long, though this can hardly be surprising when you consider how much detail has been crammed into the game. With a new setting and a more interesting (branching) storyline than Origins, Ubisoft’s delivered yet another memorable Assassin’s Creed title. Curious to see where they’ll take it from here, but we have a few months of Odyssey content ahead of us while we wait.