Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Details: This is a review for the base game and all the free downloadable content that came with it. Played the game for about ninety hours. Official site is https://assassinscreed.ubisoft.com/game/en-us/home

Score: 8.6/10

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has always been a warm blanket to me. I’m familiar with the tone, the atmosphere, and the gameplay generally established in this series. Which is why I was very curious about how different things would be in Odyssey. The last Assassin’s Creed game I played what Syndicate, and things have become substantially more like a role playing game since then. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey feels a lot like The Witcher 3, and that’s a good thing. Odyssey is an adventure and I enjoyed that adventure very much.

Odyssey takes place during 431 BCE in ancient Greece. The Spartans and the Athenians are at war. You play either Alexios or Kassandra (boy or girl depending on what you prefer), a mercenary making their way through this world. As you explore this world, you learn about a grand conspiracy involving the entire Greek world that you must get to the bottom of in order to learn the truth about your family.

I tried to think of one thing that this game does the best, but it does everything it tries to do well.

The story is great. Odyssey is the first Assassin’s Creed game to dip its toes into dialogue decisions with meaningful consequences in the plot. It mostly succeeds at this. Most impressively is how all dialogue is fully voiced and that every plot related side quest has a bit of meaningful story that I found myself getting caught up in. I say plot related side quests, because some are just infinitely respawning, procedurally generated quests where you go somewhere and kill something. These quests are pretty bare bones.

The gameplay is the next natural step forward considering the history of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and the successes of many current generations single player games. Gameplay follows the general structure of go to a quest giver, they give you a quest, then you go somewhere, retrieve and item, or kill someone or multiple someones. Most missions require some combat.

Combat is divided into three forms: assassin (sneak around and assassinate), warrior (that’s actual combat once enemies have been alerted) and ranged combat (archery). Each of the three forms are lots of fun to play, though I am partial to assassin/stealth.

Stealth is the traditional form of gameplay that has been with this franchise from the very beginning. You basically sneak around and try not to be seen while you silently take down all the enemies in an area. The biggest change from past games is that stealth attacks no longer kill an enemy in hit. Odyssey has become substantially more like a role playing game and introduced the idea of character levels. Basically, if an enemy is two levels or more above your level, chances are you will not be able to one shot assassinate them. You just end up alerting them to your attack and attracting all the enemies in the area to come attack you. It feels a little strange because of how arbitrary the two level threshold is, but that is the case.

The two level threshold also applies to the warrior style/regular combat. The difference in difficulty between fighting someone who is more than two levels above you versus someone who is not is staggering. There is no change to enemy behaviors, it’s just that they have a lot or health points and deal a lot more damage. The best case scenario is spending thirty minutes just whittling away an enemy’s health until you kill them. It’s such a time consuming prospect that I mostly avoided fights with anyone at that level.

In regards to actual dynamics of regular combat, this is perhaps one of the biggest and best changes to the franchise. Combat mainly consists of a regular attack, a heavy attack, a dodge and a parry move. Enemies alternate their attack patterns and you must time your moves and choose the correct move in order to counter and attack them. It’s very reminiscent of games like The Witcher 3 and Dark Souls even. I liked this change very much and it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, away from the more boring combat of old Assassin’s Creed games.

Ranged combat or archery is exactly what it sound like. You point and shoot arrows. The only thing about ranged combat that you should know is that it very well may be the most over powered form of combat in the game, which I can understand since ranged combat is likely the least popular among Assassin’s Creed fans and the developers likely wanted to make ranged combat viable so that people would at least try it out.

Supporting these three styles of combat are skill trees and abilities that you can learn and level up as you progress. Some of these abilities are essential such as the basic assassinate ability. Some are hilarious and surprisingly useful, such as the kick ability that looks like it came straight out the movie 300. Many times, when I was fighting an enemy I could barely injure, I simply led them up to some place high and Spartan kicked them off where they then died of fall damage. It was hilarious and helpful.

Traversal in this game is what you’d expect from the Assassin’s Creed series. You can run and climb just about anywhere. People love to point out how awesome this was in Breath of the Wild, but Assassin’s Creed did it first. The biggest change for me was the removal of fall damage after a certain point in progression. That was damn amazing and made running around the game feel more free and less restrictive. Also, the horse riding in this game was probably the best out of any game I’ve ever played, but not by a wide margin. It was straightforward and easy to use.

One of the lousier parts of the game is the leveling system. Enemies scale to you, though a patch was recently released that allows you control how much enemy levels can lag behind your level. It’s still annoying and makes progression feel a little worthless at times. No matter how strong you get, you never get so strong that you can beat down weaklings, because every enemy is always as strong as you. If you turn down the enemy scaling, then the equipment they drop also drops in quality, disincentivizing that option. Basically, enemies will always be about as tough as they are at any point in the game, which ruins progression. I would have preferred they lock enemies in an area to certain level that aligns with the progression of the main plot so that you can always go back to an area and beat down weaklings and feel like your character actually got stronger.

Naval combat makes a return and it is almost exactly like it was in Black Flag. You can upgrade your ship and alter its appearance with cosmetic changes. There isn’t a lot of necessary naval gameplay, but it is there if you want it.

A new addition is the mercenary system, which is a lot like the Nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor. Basically, if you kill innocent civilians, you gain bounty levels (like Grand Theft Auto wanted levels) and mercenaries will start hunting you. These mercenaries have a name, back story, and a rank. Your character is also a mercenary and starts at the bottom rank. As you defeat mercenaries, your rank rises, until you reach the pinnacle of the rankings. Rising in the rankings provides perks such as discounted prices at merchants and stores in the game. It’s a fun system that adds some persistence to the many enemies that you’ll fight and kill in the game.

What I really liked about this system was that all the mercenaries on the rankings exist in the world all the time. Sometimes you’ll just be walking along and then you’ll bump into a mercenary you’ve never seen before and his information will fill in on the rankings. Now, you can track that mercenary on the world map wherever he goes, maybe even bumping into them again at some later time.

Visually, Odyssey is one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. It’s a big, beautiful world. Running through mountains feels good. Sailing the seas looks great. It all feels good, and that means a lot in a lengthy, epic adventure such as this. After dozens of hours in the game, the gameplay can sometimes feel boring. That’s when the prettiness of the visuals shine the most, because no matter how repetitive the game might feel, it always felt good to just run through a city and see all the people walking around, or walking to a historically accurate land mark like the Temple of Zeus and just admiring the efforts of the artists to recreate this historical place that no longer exists.

In regards to the audio, everything is also great. The voice acting is top notch. The music is also very atmospheric and appropriate for the setting. It did remind me of The Witcher 3 more than I would have liked.

Overall, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is an amazing game that anyone who enjoys epic, action oriented role playing games should play. It’s just a lot of fun wrapped up in an enjoyable story.

Score: 8.6/10

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