Assassin's Creed Odyssey Review
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the biggest game in the franchise, but it’s not necessarily its best.
Assassins Creed Odyssey is the latest, and certainly the biggest entry in the long running Ubisoft franchise. Initially I was skeptical about playing another, massive Assassin’s Creed game so soon after 2017’s excellent Origin’s had completely revamped the Assassins Creed formula.
Now that I’ve had my time with it I must say I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Odyssey swaps out the stoic, revenge driven Bayek with two character choices. Alexios, or Kassandra. Brother and sister who are the grandchildren of the great Spartan general Leonidas.
Yes for the first time you have to make a choice of who you play as, which means the other character gets a different role to play in the story.
Once you make that choice you begin your adventure as a lowly mercenary on a small island for the games long prologue sequence. I think I was six hours in before I saw the title card pop.
Much of the general flow and core gameplay has been lifted directly from Origins. It took me no time to get comfortable with movement, combat and the moment to moment to gameplay. Most of the big changes are to the game systems you are interacting with. Assassins Creed Odyssey takes place during the Peloponnesian War in the year 430 BC. The war between Sparta and Athens is more than just a setting, as most of the open world systems are impacted by this war. As a mercenary you can fight for either side, and every enemy you kill, outpost you complete and national treasure you steal will diminish that nations control over that territory.
I’m of two minds on this. On one hand it helps add context to all of the tried and true mechanics carried over from every Assassin Creed game. Now there is a legitimate reason to tackle all of the forts and small bases that litter the open world. Every action you do has an impact and seeing the bar representing a nations power dwindle as you sneak, stab and pillage is satisfying.
On the other hand, it doesn’t take long to realize the war between both nations is nothing more than yet another “videogamey” mechanic. In reality the only significant gameplay difference you get when one side rules or another is a color change on enemy armor and the flags hanging off of enemy forts. It just doesn’t matter in the end, which breaks the illusion completely.
Naval gameplay is also back from Black Flag and is even more over the top than it used to be. You have a unique ship that acts as your home base. It can be upgraded, you can recruit mercenaries to join your crew, and it’s home to some great character moments as you sail from island to island with your characters and his or her trusty second mate. Also, boat drifting is a thing. Like I said, over the top.
On top of all of that is a half baked attempt at the Shadow of Mordor Nemesis system. Every person who plays will get a set of mercenaries that are randomly generated. They roam the open world and will hunt you down when you act out or commit crimes. They don’t live up to their potential in any way shape or form. They show up, and they usually just start attacking you. They don’t have unique dialogue, or intro’s where they taunt you like the Orcs in Mordor. They amount to another randomly named person to either kill or recruit, and that’s kind of the end of it.
In all honesty, I can describe all of Odyssey like that. The core game is very strong. Visually it’s fantastic, the story is fun and the combat and skill tree system is really well developed. It leans in a more heavy RPG direction than even Origins did, with a full loot system for armor and weapons this time and that part of the game is very satisfying to engage with. The problem is all of the layers, and layers, they add on top of everything. It’s so much, and even though the game never breaks under the weight of all of those systems, it never digs deep enough to make any one of them feel like they’re worth investing time in.
The sheer size of the world, and the insane amount of quests the game has can be daunting.
It’s a shame too because the story and the characters are so strong. They feature narrative driven conversations that finally allows me to relive the glory days of being a renegade like in the Mass Effect series. The problem is just quantity.
The game also has a huge layer of micro-transactions all over the place. In my experience I never needed to use any of them, and didn’t halt my progress through the game. They exist to merely shortcut the player, and although the practice isn’t something I agree with, it’s also hard to raise a pitchfork over it because it never became an issue for me in my time with Odyssey.
Somewhere at the core of Assassins Creed Odyssey is a great game, but it needs and editor to go in and trim off around 40 percent of the bloat of it so it can truly shine.
Despite these problems I did enjoy my time with Odyssey, and I’m eager to see how it develops over it’s lifetime. Alexios is my favorite character in the franchise now. All of the new systems while shallow, do add context to all of the random open world hi-jinks and for myself that makes everything you do feel just a bit more satisfying than they ever have before. It goes a long way, and it’s why despite it’s issues I found myself wanting to play more and more of it.