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Assassin's Creed Odyssey (PC) artwork

Assassin's Creed Odyssey (PC) review

"The most open world AC game to date, packed with interesting stuff to do."

Some of my readers may recall that I found Origins to be lackluster, or at least my review gave off that impression. I believe one of my quotes was, “An extra year of work and this is all they could come up with?” I’m going to be honest, while I did have a good couple dozen hours on Origins I feel that kind of opinion was premature. I actually found Origins to be quite fun, and I would go on to play and beat it up to three times, including a full playthrough on my YouTube channel. Origins was fine and the combat was fun.

Odyssey comes to us with a lot of the same ‘feel’. The combat is largely the same but with some tweaks, and I’ll get onto that shortly. I do have some vague gripes but I’ll attempt to salvage what little I know of the game’s story to start people off with.

Also, there will be spoilers in this review.

We return to Layla Hassan, the vaguely ‘rogue’ Abstergo employee that found Bayek and Aya in the previous game. Apparently there was a bit of a timeskip or there’s even more lore I’ve lost out on not reading the comics, because there’s some implication that she went full on rogue and is in hiding from Abstergo, now. I’m not even really sure what her motivations are anymore other than a more classic artifact hunt, from the precursor race that has haunted the series.

She finds the spear of Leonidas which has the DNA of two siblings, which she can use to hunt through their memories due to an upgraded Animus, as opposed to digging through one’s own ancestors.

I still find it a bit odd. In the first couple of AC games, it was implied that the precursor race and their technology was a mostly recent find and the two secret societies were practically scrambling just to get their hands on one. Here in Odyssey, we’re practically tripping over them. The main antagonists have one that is some kind of mind-reader. The spear of Leonidas turns out to be one. There’s a series of mini quests where you find a half-dozen “Apples of Eden”. Remember that? From The first three games? The entire plot centered around one, and now we get several!

So we’re put in the bodies of one of two protagonists, Kassandra or Alexios. Most sources I spoke to have chosen Kassandra, and there’s some consensus that her voice acting is stronger. I admit my choice is a bit more personal. I, like many people, are starved for proper female protagonists. Evie in Syndicate was plenty of fun but the game still forced Jacob gameplay on you from time to time. Playing as Aya in Origins was mostly a gimmick, only in naval combat (a precursor to Odyssey’s current style) and during some of the finale segments. She wasn’t customizeable, couldn’t change her gear or anything so again, mostly a gimmick.

Yikes, this is a lot of negative for what is really a good game! Maybe I’m getting it out of the way? I did say there are several improvements, so let’s get down to the mechanics of the game. There’s a lot of them, now.

The combat is a lot more fluid and reminds me of the days in Unity where you actually had to think about how you fought. In Origins, I basically dodged everything and used the heavy attacks exclusively. That’s been tweaked here, as I feel Kassandra’s dodge is a bit shorter range and the full on dodge puts her much further away from the enemy that is desirable so you must decide what kind of dodge to use and when, but mostly it forces you to learn how to actually parry. Parrying has been in pretty much every AC game but this time it actually opens enemies up for combo attacks, wherein you can mix and match light and heavy attacks, and there’s eventually a perk to pick up to give you bonus damage if you do exactly that.

You have three kinds of damage trees you can actively focus on this time around. Between Hunter, Warrior, and Assassin, which are all self explanatory. Rather than keeping them all even, you can actually choose to focus on one style over another. I am personally trying to keep my Assassin and Warrior lines fairly even. Stealth is, as in Origins, incredibly powerful but you won’t be able to one-shot enemies anymore if you are under geared or have been neglecting your spear (which is your blade in the absence of the hidden one). Open combat is however, extremely common so I can’t imagine going full Assassin and being able to get much done. Maybe by better gamers than I.

Moving on, the world is… extremely large. I’m not sure how much larger than previous games they’ve claimed but it’s probably true. Adding to that fact is Fast Travel is only linked to Synchronization points rather than any and every city or major outpost. With a further lack of those, you’re forced to run or mount your way through the world and I’m here to tell you… you’re going to actually want to.

Most of the world’s various points are in fact, relevant to something. Ancient ruins have tablets as loot that you’ll need to upgrade your ship. Alpha animal dens typically have high amounts of leather, mines have metals. Many points even have clues against cultists (which I’ll get into later), legendary gear or just fighting will lower the power level of the region which unlocks Conquests, a fun full-battle gimmick which again, I’ll describe shortly. Basically, there’s almost always a reason to actually explore a majority of question marks on your map as you’ll walk away with something that’s worth your time. Browsing my map just now, I can see I’ve skipped a few but I imagine something will take me to them in the future.

This game has a couple of new features that mixes things up. We’re in the Peloponnesian War, which reflects as an actual game mechanic. Every region is controlled by either Athens or Sparta. Your character is a mercenary and can choose to fight for either side at any time without any consequence, and you’ll be forced to after a certain point. I picked up a contract (which are constantly spawning quests, so there’ll never be anything to not do) that required me to kill three Athenian region leaders. Unfortunately, I had been favoring Sparta up to that point and all the regions within my level at the time were all controlled by Sparta. I had to kill and weaken my own favored people in order to shift the control so I could do it all over again against a different faction for epic gear and rewards. Doing all of this unlocks conquests, where are full on battles where you fight hordes of your chosen enemy faction while dealing with captains, bosses, and mercenaries that like to pop up during them. It’s probably the more fun of the new mechanics but I can already see it as just ‘going through the motions’ at a certain point, but they’re worth doing due to the amount of experience they offer.

Speaking of Mercenaries, the game has a bounty and “Wanted” system, reminiscent of earlier games. In games like AC2, your wanted meter affected how quickly Ezio got caught by patrolling guards. In Odyssey, you get hunted by enemy mercenaries which you can choose to kill or knock out and recruit them to your ship’s crew. There’s even an entire tier system as your character earns their way up a “tier” listing and eventually become the top dog. It’s all very similar to Shadow of Mordor’s orc hierarchies but it’s a less complex variant. They all have their unique names, backstories, and weaknesses but there are no over-bosses and nothing you can really do to manipulate their flow. You can only really control your bounty meter, which you can pay it off or kill the sponsor who hosted the contract against you. Beyond that, it lends to some interesting encounters. One merc helped me against a legendary animal quest, but more often than not they’ll come swarming when I’m trying to stealth or fight through an enemy fort, usually resulting me in fleeing. When they show up, it almost always complicates matters so unless you’re actively hunting for the gear they carry, it’s best to keep your bounty as low as possible.

Also having the same ‘feel’ as Shadow of Mordor’s orc mechanic is the Cult of Kosmos. I only found this story arc, maybe an entire fifteen hours into the game but that’s because I spent several doing nothing but exploring the map as my level allowed. Still, it’s a very interesting idea. Once you discover their existence you’re given an entire menu to hunt them down, and doing so is necessary to power up Leonidas’ Spear, alongside several very powerful legendary sets of armor. The idea is that you don’t have all of their identities unlocked and cannot track them all immediately (though it does give you a handful of freebies to get you started). Instead, you have to explore the world or actively investigate some of the clues they give you. This one is fairly straightforward;

However I once had one that said he was in a “Wolf’s Den” in a certain region, so I had to do some actual footwork. Another was near Athens and just told me to “help people nearby”, which turns out that I just had to do several side quests before their identity was revealed. So some of them are locked behind the story, you won’t get them all right away. It’s a very interesting way to go about it. As I said earlier about the world, you might just trip over some clues as you’re out exploring. While some cultists might be locked behind story, there WILL be some just actively wandering the world and you might not know you’re killing one until the “confirm cultist kill” message pops up.

Next we have the naval combat, which I have mixed feelings towards. Black Flag is the series golden boy in terms of naval combat, and is one of the best games in the series if you can stomach the more lackluster main story missions (though the story was great overall and I liked Edward’s arc). While there’s certainly some complexity to be had in Odyssey’s ship combat, I still find it a bit more flighty and fast paced, but not in the best way. In BF, the ships felt… meatier. While not being slow, they were big and they hit the waves in a convincing manner. In Odyssey and even Origin’s own special segments, everything just hauls ass and cuts through water like it’s not even there. Even ramming is considered a major part of ship combat and frankly, I’d prefer the balancing flow of firing volleys and bracing against their own shots at the right time. You even get extra rewards if you manage to cleave a ship in two when you’re finishing them off.

I’d rather just shoot stuff, honestly. It still retains its enjoy-ability and I don’t at all ever hate going out to sea, I just don’t like more extended fights and I’m still not sure which of the three actions nets the most rewards; Cleaving, Boarding, or Shoot N’ Loot? I’ll figure it out eventually.

So there’s a couple more of points of contention before I summarize.

It can be glitchy at times. I did a Spartan Kick againt an alpha lion for him to clip into the rocks. The game lacks the movement control Unity once had, so holding shift while trying to run away has Kassandra mount every brazier, stick or overhang which can lead to me losing more health than I’d like when fighting stronger enemies. There are some reports of people not getting legendary items (which only ever drop the once). You have to manually save, because right now it’s all cloud saved so if that gets lost or corrupted, you could lose dozens of hours of progress and that kind of thing causes gamers to quit. It’s not nearly as bad as Unity’s release but there are the occasional game breakers which I’ve yet to experience, thankfully.

Finally, I’m a bit iffy on the leveling speed. Using very simple math based on my level and hours placed, I net around one level per hour. There was plenty of exploration within that but I was still actively doing stuff, clearing forts and the like. The world is massive and there’s plenty to do in general, I just feel like there’s a lot of footwork to get anything done. Since enemies scale with you (at 50, all regions will be at least 46, where the rewards cap out), I feel the level locked regions are a bit pointless. This ties into a current bout of controversy, so let’s dive into that before I summarize.

Microtransactions are still a thing. People are exhausted but we expect it from Ubisoft. While it’s mostly cosmetic, there are sets of gear you can buy that have their own stats and bonuses as legendary sets have their own boost when you wear all five pieces. They aren’t any more powerful than other gear, though having a full legendary set right off the bat will certainly give you an edge. The main debate is that the scaling for endgame becomes a bit skewed and I’ve heard from some players that the last few levels are a hell of a marathon to level through. The story offers a permanent 50% experience and money boost (including a variety of cheaper, more temporary ones) which some reviewers have stated does actually make the game better. I imagine such a boost probably makes questing a better incentive and thus leveling quicker. One reviewer made mention of “Pay to play the game less” I find incredibly inaccurate and they probably haven’t actually played (because of course!). As an actual player, I will say the game is massive. The story is long, the regions are large, and you can’t exactly just sprint through the main story and ignore everything else. Especially when several of those “everything else” can be a lot of fun! Even at level cap, you’re probably still hunting those last few cultists, switching some regions to your favored faction, ekeing out those ship upgrades, getting money to fully upgrade your legendary set, or even finding a full legendary set that suits your playstyle the most if you haven’t already. There’s a lot to do and while offering a permanent boost for 20$ is certainly a bit scummy, the “pay to play less” is a horrendous misunderstanding of the game.

The game is good! It’s an improvement on Origins in several ways and for once I actually enjoy exploring the variety of question marks that litter my map. I’m only halfway through the world, there’s so much I want to do, armor sets that I wish to acquire to suit my more stealthy playstyle. The world is gorgeous and photo mode has returned to accentuate that fact. There’s no assassin order nor are there Templars, just a cult you’re set out to destroy for some personal slights. You’re a mercenary and the world is yours. Odyssey will also be receiving some support and attention as they won’t be releasing one in 2019, so for a game we’ll be ‘stuck’ with for a couple of years, we’re in good hands.


Zydrate's avatar
Community review by Zydrate (October 09, 2018)

Zydrate is most active on Steam and Tumblr.

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