Assassin’s Creed series has seen many highs and as many lows. It is a franchise that was quickly turning stale at the start of this generation due to the mess created by Ubisoft with yearly Assassin’s Creed releases. All of it calmed down a little with last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins, however, it was surprising to see them announce Odyssey for this year, bringing the annual cycle back again, even if temporarily.
Assassin’s Creed Origins was a radical departure for the series which was known for its stealth-focused gameplay. It transformed the game into an RPG with stealth on the side and created a massive open world in the form of ancient Egypt. The story in Assassin’s Creed Origins mainly felt like a tale of revenge and there wasn’t really much to go on, and as a result, it was a pretty decent entry and a much-needed refreshing change of pace. However, there was still plenty to improve, and this is where Odyssey comes into play here.
At first glance, you will look at Odyssey and think that is just another Origins, but once you get into the game, this feeling quickly goes away. The most substantial new addition this time is the ability to set your own story. There is now a multi-choice dialogue option given for every important conversation, from the main story missions to even the side quests. The choices that you will make here have a wide-reaching consequence and some of it can lead to shocking twists later down in the story. It is hard to measure how much they alter the story but you will need to look at each choice and likely complete the game multiple times to check their exact impact, but as far as it is possible to tell, they do keep up a crucial role in how the story shapes for your experience.
In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you can pick from either a male or female lead character. They are pre-defined characters with their own story named either Kassandra for the female or Alexios for the male. Just like it is the case with the dialog choices, I find it hard to decide what exactly changes over the course of the story depending on the gender, but from the initial testing that I did, the story cutscenes remain mostly the same so only minor changes are related to the character. The writing is rather clever, so it never feels like any character is unfit in the story. I selected the female lead for this review and in my opinion, she is the best way to experience the game even if the promotional material focuses on the male lead.
The combat elements mostly stay unchanged from Origins and there are many similarities in the attack moves here. Even the equipment screen looks familiar, but there are some changes that clear the bloat that was a part of its predecessor. As you explore the world, you can gather new gear to use but most of it are often high level, so to equip them on your character, you have to level up first. I found this process infuriating since this makes it useless to search for rare loot as you can’t even equip it after discovering them. Of course, you can also level up and then equip them but it feels like an artificial barrier at most.
Grinding can often crop up in Odyssey. This is mostly the case when you are attempting a new story quest that requires a high level, forcing you to do the side quests to gain experience points. The good thing is there are many varieties of quests to pursue here, and by an initial estimate, there are 200 side quests overall. Some of the side quests can get you a nice set of gear or even a crew member. Others will lead to a chance to romance the NPC that you can come across in the game. You can go hunting for mythical creatures or rare animals and end up with a decent chunk of experience points with some extra bonus on the side.
The romance options available in the game feel limited, and I didn’t really enjoy them if I am being candid. You can experience same-sex relationships in the game, but it always comes across as awkward due to the stiff animations. The dialogue and writing here are full of clichés that it is hard to take it seriously. It ends up feeling like a satire instead of something that offers emotional investment in the characters. Which is why this element of the game feels the least polished but at least the story is good even if the side-content feels like a filler written by someone else. In case you were hoping for steamy romance scenes between the lovers, there are none. When things get hot, the screen completely fades to black and then resumes with the next scene.
There is a lot of optional content here which will be possibly missed depending on how you approach certain missions and make a choice. I will note just an example early in the game during which, depending on a choice that you make when attempting an optional mission earlier in the game, you find out that a whole island gets infected with a mysterious sickness. It is the little things and attention to detail like this which makes you carefully consider your options in the game.
This is also why the game has a quick save option in the main menu letting you easily load back to an early point if you don’t like the choice that you made during a key moment. The saving system is also handled rather competently with multiple autosaves being performed at key points. You can also opt for a manual or quicksave, so it is hard to mess up things even if you forget saving manually.
I never managed to finish Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, but I had my reasonable share of fun with the naval combat in that game. Speaking of which, Odyssey has taken a novel approach to this with an improved ship and crew management system in place this time. You can customize your ship’s appearance and upgrade it like an RPG. There are not many things to customize here, but the fun is in the lieutenant system that is essentially you finding crew members, by capturing them or through side quests. You can later assign them to ships giving stat or other forms of bonuses.
For a massive game like that, it is not out of the ordinary to expect bugs and glitches but Odyssey feels polished. Most of the bugs that I experienced were thankfully related to the animation. Major bugs that broke the game weren’t that frequent or present at all, at least in my experience. For all one knows it might be just my luck but, with Origins, the Assassin’s Creed games are starting to get more polished and go through a more efficient quality control by Ubisoft.
If you have already played Origins, there is a feeling of déjà vu here with how some of the mechanics feel repeated. The equipment screen looks and works in the same way while crafting gets replaced with engravings that primarily delivers stat-based bonuses. You can get limited slots available on each weapon to engrave certain bonuses. Gear gets divided in the same standard, rare to legendary class and the higher its rank is, the more engravings slots are available. You can customize every weapon and armor this way. There is a good thing with how upgrades work now since you can basically upgrade every weapon to your own level, also increasing their damage and power so you don’t have to keep buying new high-level weapons.
There are a broad variety of weapons available that all play differently. You can unlock a skill later that allows you to equip two primary weapons but by default, you initially start with just one weapon and 1 secondary ranged weapon, which is the bow. It becomes worthwhile during stealth segments since it is possible to take out enemies easily with it, without being detected. The enemy AI is honestly pretty dumb, but I feel this is a deliberate choice to make the game fun and not frustrating. Stealth works fine in the game, but getting away is reasonably easy with the skills that you unlock making assassinations easier. I am not a fan of stealth-based gameplay, but I enjoyed the variety of methods through which you can assassinate someone in Odyssey.
Skills get divided into tiers and some of them offer multiple upgrades to increase their efficiency. You can pick skills from the warrior, hunter, or assassin class. I used a mix of all three classes and customized them to my experience. There are some effective skills available early like the ability to heal yourself in combat or stun enemies when surrounded by them. Others will assist with exploration, stealth or fighting a large mob. It completely depends on how you want to customize your play style. There is a limit for the number of special skills that you can equip for each weapon with limited uses, but you can also unlock other skills that give a bonus or improve stats without any limits.
Don’t go into the game expecting unique side quests every time. Many repetitive quests can feel like a chore, but they are usually backed by a motivation or narrative, even if it simply boils down to collecting items or killing a number of enemies. The other optional content relates to the naval quests that are not that great because you have to rely on your instinct to find out the required ships and take them down. I preferred fast travel to the ship if I had already unlocked it because it can take a long time to get from one point to the next. Fast travel gets tied to synchronization points which make a return here and help you travel to key locations easily.
This brings me to the Mercenary system. It gives me vibes of Shadow of War because the menu layout appears similar. Basically, in the world of Odyssey, you can perform tasks like stealing or killing civilians to get a bounty on your head. Depending on your bounty, which shows like a Grand Theft Auto style wanted meter at the bottom right corner of the screen, you will encounter Mercenaries during exploration that will attack you immediately. Killing them can offer some nice gear but again it is held back by the need to grind for levels to equip them if they are higher level.
Visually, this is a definitive upgrade over Assassin’s Creed Origins. The game is a sight to behold on 4K screen with HDR, especially during travel on the sea. The dynamic day and night cycle works well to make you feel like you are on an epic journey. Underwater exploration is scary, and I already suffer from a phobia related to the gloomy depths of the sea, so experiencing it in the game was terrifying. You can also perform various combat moves underwater, but it is honestly not that fun due to the limited oxygen that requires you to keep going back to the surface. You can also explore the map to uncover treasure hidden underwater but be ready to discover menacing creatures down there.
In conclusion, I will say Odyssey might not be the ideal Assassin’s Creed game, because it is a lot different and takes the RPG approach more seriously this time with a focus on grinding and choice-based narrative, but it is, however, an extremely fun game for fans of both Assassin’s Creed and the RPG genre. It is understandable by now that Ubisoft maintains unique plans for the franchise and the daily quests that you can undertake in the game show that they will continue to update and add new content to keep the players occupied even after the launch.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Assassin's Creed Odyssey is an upcoming action role-playing video game developed by Ubisoft Quebec and published by Ubisoft. It is the eleventh major installment, and twentieth overall, in the Assassin's Creed series and the successor to 2017's Assassin's Creed Origins.
Final Score - 9/10
The story is undoubtedly the most enjoyable part of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, helped by the choice-driven narrative that delivers a significant impact on how certain key story elements play out in the game. It is all further bolstered by simple action RPG mechanics that are not too complex but still fun to mess around. All things considered, this is clearly the most comprehensive and ambitious Assassin's Creed game to date.