The year off in 2016 for Assassin’s Creed was a much needed breath of fresh air as the series returned to reinvigorate the franchise into new and exciting directions. Origins was an instant success, breathing life into a stagnant series with new combat, exploration options and scenery. But unlike past yearly installments that tried to reinvent the wheel with each new iteration, Odyssey branches off of what Origins created and delivers one of the best entries into the long-running Assassin’s Creed franchise to date. From the luscious Greek scenery to the most balanced combat yet, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the core point of what all future Assassin’s Creed games should strive to become as it is genre-defining in how it handles an open-world game.
What Is It?
Odyssey goes further back than any Assassin’s Creed game. Set in 431 BC during the events of the Pelopennessian Wars, players choose between controlling either Alexios or Kassandra, siblings who are torn apart by the massive conflict. A first for the series, players can choose between a male or female protagonist as you venture through the massive Greek world in search for answers to your past. Both characters play similarly and there really is no difference to them besides their look, as all dialogue options generally remain the same. Still the choice is there if you would like some variety in how you go around killing people. Besides your quest for revenge or resolution, a new secret organization known as the Cult of Kosmos emerges that you are tasked in uncovering as well. Odyssey’s story delves into new territory since the events of this game take place before the Templars are around, however Odyssey does a great job of conveying how the Cult could have been a precursor to the enemies the Assassins have been fighting for so many years.
With the Cult of Kosmos, Odyssey takes a page out of Origins‘ book and tasks you with hunting down members within the Cult and eliminating them. There are various trees of the Cult, based on their location and power of control within the Greek states, as well as leaders within each one. Finding each Cult member is as easy as doing some story missions while others require you to search for clues or help out citizens who are more than eager to give you information on them. The Cult aspect of the story is a nice divergence from your own personal goals as it feels like you are making a change to the world around you. Many of the Cult members have their hands in the cookie jar and getting rid of the violent, power hungry members is both fulfilling and worthwhile of your time, mainly for the fact you get rare loot from taking out each one. In an effort to not spoil the story, I wont divulge any identities of the Cult members but all of them range from lowly slaver to heads of state. Slowly figuring out the identities of each one is a rewarding experience.
Why Should I Care?
Besides tracking down the Cult, Alexios or Kassandra are in search for answers as to what happened many years ago when your father threw your sibling off a cliff and you presumably fell to your death as well to try and save them. The answers you find along the way help shed some light into the motivations and history your family has endured throughout the years. Part of the aspect of that history lies in the spear your character carries, rumored to have belonged to Leonidas, King of the Spartans during the famous Battle of Thermopylae. This spear brings incredible power and is used as your personal assassination tool for this game (replacing the series staple hidden dagger). The spear also opens up new moves as well, and since Odyssey focuses more on combat than any game previously, the fluidity and diverse combat has never felt better.
The combat borrows heavily from the system created by Origins but is streamlined for an easier experience. For instance, you can now shortcut specific skills so they are easier to activate during combat. Instead of trying to remember every move you have ever learned, specializing a handful of certain skills that you are most comfortable with lets you enjoy combat that much more. You are given four slots at first, which can be upgraded to eight later on, with skills ranging from Spartan Kicking an enemy away from you to coating your blades in poison. It is often a daunting task to figure out which skills you need to shortcut, since those are the only ones you are allowed to use in battle, but once you figure out your play style it is easy to find a skill set that best suits you. Skills are separated by ranged and melee, and you get two sets of both, so you don’t have to worry about choosing either play style since you can unlock both and mix and match as freely as you wish. The ranged skills are similar to the ones in Origins, such as Predator Shot, however instead of having to equip four different types of bows, you can just stick with one and use skills to get the same desired effects. Both melee and ranged skills have Overpower attacks as well, a super attack which can be unleashed when you gain enough adrenaline during combat. Stealth is still a major aspect of Odyssey as there is an entire tree devoted to stealth attacks, however the game solely utilizes your ability to be a major badass when fighting and stealth takes a back seat during this game. Assassin’s Creed’s combat has changed over the years and the times of being a stealthy assassins have seemed to evolve into being a brutal front line fighter.
Similar to Origins, Odyssey takes a more strategic approach to leveling up and gaining new abilities. Almost everything you do in the world grants you experience which is used to level up. Leveling up gets you an ability point which is used to unlock new skills. Many of these skills can also be upgraded even further to increase their effectiveness, so utilizing each skill point is important as well. The weapons and armor you use also have been refined to make it easier to maintain and upgrade. Gone are the four bows you needed to carry and instead you only have to worry about one bow and two melee weapons to alternate between. Each weapon and armor piece has their own stats and level so its easy to compare and manage your inventory.
Besides liberating fortresses and taking down enemies, there are a wide assortment of side activities to keep you busy. Since your character is essentially a mercenary for hire, you are free to choose which side to fight on, Sparta or Athens. There is no right or wrong answer as the story doesn’t advance when you do these missions–it serves as a nice diversion from hunting down Cult members. Each region of Greece is controlled by either faction and by taking down enemies and destroying certain things, you can lower the control of the faction in each region and ultimately take out the leader, letting the opposite faction gain control. As you work your way through the game, the various deeds you perform attract the attention of other mercenaries in way of a bounty, and they are hired to take you out. The beauty of this scenario is that they will show up at any given moment. Sometimes when you are fighting a captain they will arrive to take you out or even if you are by yourself on an island and are spotted, suddenly you hear the blare of their horn and they pop around the corner with their massive animal friend to deliver a killing blow. The mercenary feature is a really cool idea at first, but after the countless hours of trying to finish objectives only to be hunted down mercilessly by a group of roaming mercenaries can become tiresome. You can always pay off your bounty to stop the mercenaries from showing up for the time being, but it’s still an interesting if annoyingly repetitive option to have to handle.
Sailing returns for Odyssey as a full time option after taking a break during Origins. Although a few missions from the previous game allowed you to set sail, Odyssey is the first game that gives you full control of your vessel, from decorating it, upgrading its stats and even recruiting anyone you see in the world to your crew. Your ship, named The Adrestia, is given to you by the Greek Barnabas who serves as your captain while you get off on shore. He also gives you history of every island you sail past, which is a nice way to learn of the history of the world around you while sailing at sea. As mentioned before, upgrading your ship is as easy as using resources you find around the world but recruiting enemies to your ship takes on an interesting strategic element. Any enemy you don’t kill will have the option to be recruited to your ship with a simple button press, but the higher the enemy the better stats your will receive from them becoming a crewman. Recruiting a lowly Hoplite soldier will yield basic benefits while recruiting captains and statesmen usually gain you legendary benefits for your ship.
Besides Barnabas, Alexios or Kassandra will meet their fair share of important figures from Greek history, all of whom you will come into contact with on more than one occasion. Sokrates, Perikles, Hippokrates and many more will all offer you wisdom and quests, as every Assassin’s Creed game has done in the past. Probably the most intriguing character you will meet is Herodotus, the famed Greek Historian, who follows you aboard the Adrestia to chronicle your journey for you. He will also tell you stories of Greece from years before if you are interested in learning a thing or two while you travel around the world. The modern day characters are often forgettable as their sequences are far and few between and can be skipped outright if you so choose, but Odyssey does a good job of tying together Layla and Abstergo’s storyline from Origins.
Visually, Odyssey looks fantastic and profits from having the brand new Origins engine to use. The vistas in particular look stunning, Greek architecture shines, trees sway in the wind and the water effects are some of the best in any game. However, the Egyptian paradises and pyramids seemed more colorful and vibrant than the Greek landscapes, but both games still showcase the best the series has to offer. The combat animations have gotten better, and although there is still a little wonky movements with the finishing blows, for a game of this size it is still a remarkable feat.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
While Origins reinvigorated the franchise into a new direction, Odyssey took the reins and steered it into a franchise-defining entry into the Assassin’s Creed series. Odyssey takes what Origins started and created a vibrant Greek world complete with interesting characters, beautiful locales and the best combat the series has seen to date. While some fans might not like this drastic change from the stealth games the series was known for, the change in a new direction for Assassin’s Creed was desperately needed to keep it fresh and alive, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is proof just how well the series is thriving right now.