Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: First impressions

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Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the eleventh main entry in the Assassin’s Creed series and is the second game after Assassin’s Creed Origins to continue the franchise’s transition from a stealth action-adventure to action role-playing. While this might not mean much at first glance, it has fundamentally changed the way an Assassin’s Creed game plays.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has embraced RPG elements and feels more like more like The Witcher as opposed to previous Assassin’s Creed games with the exception of Assassin’s Creed Origins. This shift has made it one of the most conflicting games I have ever had to review.

The premise of the Assassin’s Creed games has in its very core the idea of reliving an experience using genetic memory, which would suggest that there should be a singular narrative experience with no room for story-altering choice. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has chosen to reinterpret this with its introduction of meaningful choices and multiple endings, a common practice in RPG games. In the new interpretation, the story we play out is the one that happened and therefore the only one that exists. While I feel this is an intelligent reinterpretation, it has alienated a certain set of purists from the game.

The game is set 75 years before the events of Assassin’s Creed Origins and acts like a precursor to its storyline. The only thing connecting the game to the rest of the series are the Isu artefacts present in the game which were from a period 70,000 years before the events portrayed. These artefacts are the same ones that are pursued by the Templars later in the series.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey opens with the Battle of Thermopylae, one of the most famous battles of ancient history where a small Spartan force goes up against the massive Persian army. The conflict acts as an introduction to the period before which the game is set and establishes some backstory.

You get to play as one of two characters, Alexios or Kassandra. Both characters are supposed to be descendants of Leonidas, but only Kassandra is canon as she is the lead in the novelisation of the game.

With your character selected, you get to explore the vast open world of ancient Greece which has been built with a lot of attention to depth, detail and is very aesthetically pleasing. The world is enormous though and has a lot to explore and in a bid to allow players to do that they have introduced an exploration mode in which players must investigate their environment to reveal targets and quest objectives.

This is in contrast to previous entries which had markers displayed at all times and objectives given to the player automatically. That being said, if you want something similar to what you have experienced before, Ubisoft does give you that option with the game’s guided mode. One thing to take into account is that with a world the size of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you can expect to see a lot of reused assets with little to no variation. I would have prefered a smaller map with a much higher degree of uniqueness and character, but that’s just me.

Combat has had a significant overhaul, and it is more responsive than ever. To top that off, there is a steady progression of abilities and skills that can be acquired using the skill tree’s three branches. In addition to the hunter and warrior trees, this time around we also get an assassin’s skill tree which replaces the seer skill tree from Assassin’s Creed Origins. This new addition was something I appreciated greatly as it gives players with a stealthy playstyle the option something to progress through besides the main levelling system.

Skills act as powerful abilities that can be utilised once your adrenaline meter has filled up sufficiently and help in changing up the gameplay significantly. These are great and change up the combat significantly; you can use the same built-up meter to either heal yourself or deliver a kick that may push your enemy off a ledge and take them out. The choice you make can greatly affect the outcome of battles and is fun to play around with.

Given Greece’s geography, it was expected that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would have a large amount of naval gameplay and that expectation wasn’t off the mark. This time around you have your ship that is customisable and upgradable in terms of both weapons and armour and therefore has its progression system to work with. The fluidity and responsiveness of the general combat carry over to the Naval sections as well with the action feeling fast-paced and a hell of a lot of fun.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has taken a step further in the RPG direction, and while certain elements that come from this transformation feel like they were much-needed others are pushing series’ veterans away from the franchise. To put it bluntly, if you came to this game looking for something along the lines of what you played in the first nine instalments of the series, you might find yourself disappointed. If that is not an evaluation criteria for you or if you played Assassin’s Creed Origins and loved it, you will find much to like here.

The biggest challenge for Ubisoft going forward will be attempting to strike a balance between the elements of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that make the game so much fun to play and the foundations of the series that helped it get to where it is today.