Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (PS4) Review

AC Odyssey

It’s been a little while since I posted a game review, so let’s see if we can catch up with the last few games I’ve played, starting with this! Assassin’s Creed is one of those game series I’ve been playing since the very first entry, and while the series stalled a few releases ago, Origins and especially Odyssey have really clawed the series back up to something truly worth playing… If you have 100 hours spare…

Background:

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So stunning it could be the boxart for the game itself.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey released PS4, XBOX One and PC on October 5th, 2018.

Odyssey was made alongside Origins by Ubisoft Quebec, gaining an extra year to increase the scope of Odyssey compared to the first-released Origins by Ubisoft Montreal. Given the Quebec team were the ones responsible for AC: Syndicate, I have to tip my hat to their Assassin’s Creed game making abilities! … If I had a hat, anyway.

Gameplay:

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Abusing the Stealth by hiding 15 bodies in a single bush, all because it was next to a path that most of the soldiers walked by during the day… That’s the stuff.

For those not in the know, Origins complete revamped Assassin’s Creed with new… well, everything, and Odyssey only takes this further.

First off is the fact that it’s now an open world RPG, with skill trees you can improve with points gained by levelling up, loot in the form of armour and weapons that include rare drops and “Legendary” items, and dialogue options during certain sections of the game. The latter is even more so here in Odyssey than it was in Origins, including romantic options with whoever you wish regardless of whether you chose a male or female protagonist. That being said, it does feel like it was written with a male protagonist in mind as my playthrough as a female threw up 101 lesbian romance options, and only a few with male characters, which to me shows it was written with a male who can sleep around with lots of women in mind…

The combat is very satisfying. Melee fighting may boil down to breaking people’s guard or countering, then stabbing away until they either die or block you (though with more of a natural, player-focused system not entirely based around pressing the counter button, like pre-Origins AC games) but you also get a choice of bows, poison darts, and stealth is still an option, as are special abilities like the “Sparta Kick”, which can send people flying backwards once levelled up enough, or an ability that makes you invisible if you crouch and aren’t in combat.

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Oh yeah, these large-scale battlefields are apart of the game as well, with you choosing a side and trying to win the region for them…

The main new addition to the combat is the “Spear of Leonidas”, which replaces the Hidden Blade from past games. So you can still hide in a bush and stealth kill people, drag them away and hide the bodies, but now you can also throw the spear and teleport to whoever the spear sticks into, and if they’re weak enough, its an instant kill AND stealth kill if nobody sees you. Once you level up the spear you can chain-link multiple kills, meaning by the latter half of the game I cleared out a camp of people by tossing the spear into someone killing them, then chain-killing the other three people around that person in slow-motion. Cool as hell, but also rather easy, unless one of those people were a Captain or some other high-ranked (and therefore high HP) enemy, which to fair, was often the case…

The free-running and climbing is still here, and much like Origins, it’s mostly rid itself of the “accidentally climbing up a lamppost when you were just trying to walk down the street” problem that old AC games used to have. Unveiling the map via viewpoints and jumping off into a mysteriously shallow pile of hay is also still a thing, as is hiding in bushes and other shrubbery even if you’re right next to a curious guard. Of course this wouldn’t be an open world RPG if it didn’t have 1001 side quests and collectables, so there are those to go alongside the main quest. Treasure maps, “my friend has gone missing in X location”, “someone stole my something or other, I hear there are bandits in a cave nearby”, that sort of thing. There are also tombs you can raid and get an upgrade point from, much like Origins (though the Egyptian setting made far more sense for that kind of thing, not that ancient Greeks didn’t bury the dead in tombs, I guess…?)

Odyssey also sees the welcome full-on return of having your own ship to sail across the many islands on the map. Upgrading it, filling it with your own crew, boarding other ships and stealing their loot, plus much like Black Flag the ship-to-ship combat is great fun, and I love a good piratical jumping onto an enemy ship and getting into a sword fight on the deck. The sea shanties this time are extremely limited and sung in Greek, so they weren’t as fun, but still set a good mood. You can upgrade you ship on a screen in the pause menu, much like upgrading your character’s abilities. Another screen in the pause menu is based on a large cult called “The Cult of Kosmos”, which shows you all the members, though most are blacked out, requiring you to find information about them, uncover their identity, and then kill them (unless they’re identity and deaths are tied to a mainline quest) That was also fun… to start with. Entering and wiping out Kosmos Cult guards got a little dull in the end, especially the female cultists with the double knives… Man their quick moves were annoying to block or dodge!

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Oh good, I really wanted to have to face a high-level enemy right now… (maybe I did, I can’t remember what was happening when I took this screenshot, if I’m honest!)

Speaking of annoying, my main gripe with the game is the Mercenary system. You see amongst all these many… MANY pause screens there is another one showing you your place in the mercenary rankings, each Merc you kill will move you up the chain, with a new randomly generated mercenary taking your old spot. That would be really fun, but it isn’t for two very annoying reasons. Firstly, if I commit enough of a crime, somehow a soldier in a fort or camp a significant distance away just… “knows” I did it and puts a bounty on me and immediately… IMMEDIATELY the mercenary next in line to me teleports across the map and heads towards me. If I slightly mess up in a fort and I’m spotted killing a soldier, suddenly the horn goes off and a mercenary enters the fort, the fort that if I as a mercenary just walked into would have been attacked on sight, and joins in with the soldiers in searching and attacking me. It’s completely immersion-breaking. Now you can just pay the person who got the psychic image of me committing the crime to rescind the bounty, or kill him, but that’s still gold down the drain for stupid reasons. I actually liked tracking down the mercenaries and moving up the ranks to start with, but it became the one reason I rolled my eyes while playing.

The other problem I had is that as you move up the ranks, every new merc underneath you is the same level as you. There isn’t any looking back at weaker people who are earlier in their journey than you, no, you’re constantly as weak as the entry level merc. Apparently when the game first released there wasn’t any Level Scaling either, which meant that going back to old areas was just as dangerous as new ones, robbing the player of any sense of progression and power. It was later patched in, and thankfully was available for me when I started my journey back in September. Who doesn’t like returning to the start of the game and showing off how far you’ve come in the subsequent hours?

*Sigh*! This is why I prefer reviewing older games… much quicker to talk about!

Graphics and Sound:

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A lovely flowery field lit by the moonlight. *does chef kissing motion to signify excellence*

What else can I say about a modern AAA title? It looks stunning, the lighting at sunset, night time… day time, to be fair. The detail, the draw distance, the facial animations and textures, water and dust and grass… it looks beautiful.

The sound is good, there isn’t much music beyond a great theme on the title screen that I’d say is memorable, but it’s far, far from bad.

Story:

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A close up of my chosen protagonist, showing off the natural face animations well.

In the present day: Assassin member and archaeologist Layla Hassan uncovers the Spear of Leonidas and uses it to relive the memories of her distant ancestor. (and nobody cares because the current day stuff is so irrelevant! Why do they insist of this still being a thing?)

In 431 BC: The either male or female Misthios was once traumatised by their then infant sibling being tossed off a cliff by order of the Spartan Gods, plunging down the mountain after the baby, along with the priest. Their father did nothing to stop it, their mother could only wail in despair. Many years later and the Misthios had put that behind his/her self and is working as a Mercenary (or a… well, Misthios…) and soon gets caught up in a major, Greek world-wide conspiracy involving the Cult of Kosmos, whose top members include the brother you thought was dead.

During this time he or she also gets caught up in the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens, meets some later-famous historical figures, and boats around the place killing or sneaking (often both) for whoever pays. The Misthios also meets their father (and possibly kills them) and mother (who might die at the hands of your brother if you make the wrong decisions during the main campaign).

You also find out that your true birth father is Pythagoras, who is still alive thanks to an object belonging to those AC staples: the Isu, better known as “Those who came before”. She defeats some Isu projections of creatures that became Greek legends (Cyclops, Minotaur, Medusa and the Sphinx) and becomes the new guardian of Atlantis, which Pythagoras was previously guarding (forget to say about that bit). Layla later meets the Misthios in the present day, as he or she had used the same Isu staff to stay alive, but in this case for thousands of years, just to pass it on to Layla… for reasons.

It’s a fine story, but I wasn’t playing it for that, it was just fun to explore and upgrade stuff. I will say that I wish they’d put some limit on the Pythagoras / Atlantis ending, as I completed that before I did the Cult of Kosmos or main quest branches and ended up seeing that our lead protagonist survives and gives Layla the staff in the future, dying in the process… only to then return to ancient Greece to finish the other stories, now having just seen the character’s death. It completely killed the flow at the end…

Downloadable Content:

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So it was ancient Greece where Hawkeye and Antman got the idea from!

Two pieces of DLC (in several parts) were released, each featuring new quests and locations. The first being “Legacy of the First Blade”, which shows how the Misthios eventually got married and had a child, a child which is then taken to Egypt, tying it into Origins (which for the record is set later, despite the subtitle implying it’s the first!), and the second is “The Fate of Atlantis”, which sees more Greek legends to fight, like Cerberus and Poseidon, and adds a few new plot strings to the modern day stuff… yay?

Final Thoughts (Now):

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You didn’t think I’d get this far without showing some sailing, did you?

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey was just that: an Odyssey. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph (which seems like hours ago now…) my total play time reached just over 100 hours. I’ll admit, a lot of that was me not being able to resist looking at an undiscovered dot on my radar, but even still the map is so huge that I’ll admit doing the last few story missions, which I had left until last, felt like “getting it out of the way” rather than being fun. Odyssey may well be the fabled game that is actually “too big”.

Still though, I wouldn’t have played it for that long if I didn’t enjoy it, the combat, both on ground and in the sea, plus the loot and skill trees all kept me very entertained. Highly recommended, unless you don’t have a lot of spare time (or like me, you don’t have a lot of spare time but play it anyway, and end up costing yourself nearly three months’ worth of gaming time…)

5 Star Game New

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Something feels off with this crew… can’t quite figure out what….

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