Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is another in a long line of Assassin games by Ubisoft, following on from Origins within the “present day” sections but going even further into the past via the animus. Keeping the series fresh is definitely a hard task, as a new game comes out every year or every other year, with new locations, new gameplay, and new directions. With the franchise being so commercialised, packaged and sold as a product rather than a dedicated experience it can be hard to get hopes high for a new release. Let us pray to Zeus they have improved with Odyssey.
As a sequel to Origins, we find ourselves in control of ex-Abstergo employee Layla as she is recruited by the Assassins after her escape from Abstergo. Coming into possession of the spear of Leonidas, she extracts the DNA and uses that to see the past of the siblings Kassandra and Alexios. Traveling all the way back to 431 BCE, during the Peloponnesian War within Greece, we visit the earliest time ever, over 300 years before Origins. While the assassins may not have been formally created at this time we do take control of would-be assassins in a world where plenty of people need killing.
With Odyssey we can again choose to play as a male or female protagonist, similar to Syndicate, however, whoever we choose as our main character the other sibling will take up the opposing role in the story. The character you choose will be the older sibling, whose father tried to kill in their childhood, only for them to escape death to live another day. Starting off we will take down a local thug group who we owe money, save our friends and leave our island. Pretty soon we also learn of our father’s whereabouts, and off we go on a long journey of finding out family.
Given the choice of gender, we can play more in line with our own interests, though the story, dialogue, and choices are so identical it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. The other sibling will always play the same role with the same actions, there are some dialogue changes due to gender or name but that is the extent of the differences. I found the voice direction given to Kassandra, the female, to be of a much higher quality than the brother Alexios. Kassandra exhibits a much wider spectrum of emotion, vocal pitches and styles, while Alexios is mostly monotone with an overbearing accent that sounds forced far too often.
The main story will last around 40 to 60 hours long, but this isn’t due to the length of the story itself, rather the enforced levelling that harshly limits your ability to kill enemies. There are 9 endings on offer with the story, though many require you to make choices at every 10-hour segment of the game, meaning several playthroughs are required to see them all or watching videos online to see what you missed. Besides the main story, there are countless side-missions, collectables or other content on offer to boost your time to well over 100 or more hours.
Gameplay within Odyssey is very close to that of the previous Assassin’s Creed games that have been releasing lately, though with more of an action and RPG spin to the stealth genre. Moving around with WASD, sprinting done automatically, parkour and climbing with shift, dropping down with C or crouching on the ground, rolling with space and the mouse being used for combat. You can aim your bow by holding right click and shoot with the left, or just use your melee weapons with repeated light clicks. You can also unlock abilities for use in combat that take up the 1-4 keys.
Your main goal in Odyssey is to fight and assassinate targets, to stealthily take down your targets you must get close, or above, and then press F to kill. For most grunts this is a 1 hit kill, but sadly that isn’t always the case. Odyssey, and to some extent the recent releases, has moved so far away from assassination in favour of straight-up mercenary work or brawling. You cannot assassinate targets above your level, unless you are heavily geared and skilled towards stealth kills, with most targets being higher level than you or being an “elite” who has much more health. Gone are the days of assassinating your target, now you can just take out a portion of their health to then fight them with weaponry.
Moving through enemy keeps without getting spotted, stealth killing those you can and destroying their gear is a great feeling. If you are several hours in and fully specialise into stealth damage you will even be able to clear an entire base out, elites and all. This sort of scenario is great as it bolsters the feeling of being an assassin, though the game will often push you away from this mentality with the increasing amount of forced combat. Wherein earlier games you would have between 3-10 forced melee combat, Odyssey has well over 50 scenarios where you must fight without the use of stealth.
Besides fighting and assassinations, you will also control a ship and crew for traversing the large oceans or going between the islands. Ever since ships got first introduced in Assassin’s Creed III they have been returning in most of the releases, with Odyssey continuing this mechanic in a slightly streamlined version. You have javelins, archers, ramming, hull strength and lieutenants, all of which can be upgraded and recruited to your vessel. You will use your ship to attack any other vessel on open waters to become a semi-pirate or to take down opposing factions. Since the game isn’t too focused on sea life, like Black Flag, the ship combat and mechanics are a lot simpler and serve as a background mechanic more than the main focus.
Continuing the style of Origins, Odyssey goes full RPG with the stealth game, adding in levels, equipment, and statistics. Every weapon has a level, which denotes the damage it does in combat and skills that buff your damage with melee, ranged or assassinations. All equipment can be upgraded to your level, with skills added onto them via engraving. All your skills, equipment and levels feed into your ability to take down targets. Levels will also allow you to select abilities like the famous Spartan Kick, multi-shot arrows, elemental attacks and more.
Compacting this new action approach to Assassin’s Creed, Odyssey adds in conquest battles and 2 opposing factions, the Spartans and Athens. The world is made up of several sectors, each with their own battles being waged in the long war, as the main character you can attack keeps, outposts and kill members of the factions to weaken their hold over an area. Once this power is weakened a conquest battle is then opened up, where the player may pick a side to aid. This will then thrust the player into a battle of hundreds of soldier, personally taking on around 50 of them. Winning this battle will reward the player with plentiful XP, high tier equipment and currency, with the rewards being better based on their performance.
Odyssey continues the awe-inspiring soundtrack, with ancient-sounding tracks that utilise plenty of choir voices, drums, and string instruments. Most of your time spent traversing is rather quiet with some quiet music accompaniment, whereas achievements will sound gongs and horns. Getting into combat will set the music to a more action-packed track but generally, the sounds of battle outshine the music.
The difficulty is Odyssey is heavily slanted against the player for a majority of the game. With the addition of levels and gear, you are gated based on how much you grind. If an opponent is 1 or more levels higher than you or is an Elite, they cannot be stealth killed. Most generals are higher than your level, with mercenaries hunting you down being 10-40 levels higher. Areas of the map have “set” levels, generally with a range of 4, so the starting area is 1-5, the next is 5-9 and so on, with areas going to 30-34 and such. This means areas are completely locked off as you will have incredibly low chances of surviving a single hit. The world also scales with you, so that area that was 1-5 will follow you as you hit level 10, always being at most 2 levels behind your progress. While you may stealth kill these people easier it does feel like the world is punishing you for levelling up, especially with elites of that level sometimes requiring more than 1 stealth hit. The scaling does help with rewards and XP, but sometimes give the feeling of negative feedback as the game is slow to let you feel overpowered.
As you level up, gain skills and improve your equipment you will be able to take out people easier, especially taking down 8 people at once in conquest battles, making you feel the badass you were meant to. Sadly this will take well over 30 hours to achieve, with higher level opponents still proving a challenge. With a complete focus in stealth, getting the stealth power bonuses from skills and equipment skills, you may be allowed to 1-hit stealth kill an elite of your level or 1 higher but you are still gated behind an EXP wall for anything higher than that. Something the developers seemingly implemented so they could sell more of their XP boost microtransactions. While some love this scaling system, plenty has made their voices heard about their distaste for the mechanic.
Like many Assassin’s Creed games, Odyssey is full of glitches, bugs, and crashes, go figure. Ships will fall through the ocean, fly into the sky, people will glitch through objects, teleport around, AI will run in circles, quests will not complete or point you towards corpses, the camera will freak out, your ship will spawn in the middle of land etc. If you’ve seen any AC videos on YouTube showing off glitches you will understand the amount there are, with Odyssey seemingly having the same amount.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey gets a 7/10, it is an enjoyable experience that lets you explore, grind and complete objectives for hours on end. Disappointingly it has strayed so far from the core aspect of AC, which was being an assassin with the implementation of levelled kills, forcing you to engage with combat over and over again. Vistas are beautiful, with a surprisingly good female lead, while the male lead falls far behind. The choice of gender is great, though slightly lazy as it just swaps the sibling’s roles around. With a plethora of glitches, bugs and crashes it is hard to stay immersed, becoming an infuriating experience when you are killed or are thrust into the void. If you are a fan of the series you should love Odyssey, but if you are coming into this game with an expectation of great stealth action you may be disappointed until you several tens of hours into the game.