The Assassin’s Creed franchise has certainly had its ups and downs. You would expect that when games are being pumped out every year. After a particularly low season with Unity and its subsequent expansions, Ubisoft really needed to knock it out of the park. In walked Origins; an exciting new instalment that took the Brotherhood of Assassins back to its…well, origins. How were they going to follow up such a big hit? Now that they had broken away from their own mold, they couldn’t just go back to the way things were. In comes Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the follow up we didn’t know we wanted. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey takes the significantly more open world format of its predecessor and says, “this is good, but let’s do more.” Let me be clear up front. I love all of the Assassin’s Creed titles. Even when the formula seems lazy, or the tropes become more like tired joke than anything else, the games are fun. I would have been content with a game of the same caliber as its predecessors, but why only settle for content fans?
From the moment Odyssey begins, it lives up to its namesake. A true epic. The music is beautiful, and the cinematic aspects pull you into the world of Ancient Greece. Let’s talk about the game setting for a moment. I have a fondness for the Classics, and a degree in anthropology, so a game that lets me explore Greece in the past is automatically a yes for me. Tack on that it’s my third favourite game franchise, and Odyssey has all the makings of my favourite game of the year. Possibly even the last several years. I didn’t expect perfect historical accuracy. I’m relatively used to pop culture taking some artistic license. As someone who watches a lot of “historical” action films, I’m generally numb to the nonsense that Hollywood passes as history. Therefore, I won’t criticize any of the history in the game in this review. On a basic level, it’s very good. The game is as much myth anyways, as all AC games are. That’s what makes them interesting. With myth, there is always the ability to take some liberties. I was also instantly appreciative of combat in the game and how, similarly to Origins, it felt more natural and less dependant on memorizing combos. I like that they kept the ability to upgrade weapons and armour, so if you find something you like it isn’t completely useless ten minutes later.
Alright here is the deal – if there is anything I love, it is open world RPGs. Maybe you’ve seen me say this before. I love a big map, but the map has to have a nice balance between activity and interesting landscape. I think they hit the nail on the head with this game. I have to search around a bit to find quests, but it doesn’t feel sparse, and the journey isn’t repetitive. It’s Greece, after all. A lot of the gameplay aspects for Odyssey are new to the franchise, and while I still maintain that the style of the old games was just fine, I love what they’ve done. I will never complain about a game adding in more RPG aspects. Firstly, there is a choice between the male and female protagonist. It seems like a simple addition, but it is pretty huge for those of us who identify as female and want to play as a character that looks like us. There have been females assassins that feature in previous games, but they were never the main character. I couldn’t help but love Kassandra from the moment I saw her. She is a boss. The game also incorporates dialogue choices, an RPG aspect that I am particularly fond of because of the way it allows players to personalize the story. The dialogue choices, and other quest choices made in Odyssey, impact the ending of the game. This adds a replayability that I don’t think I’ve experienced with Assassin’s Creed before. It’s big, it’s open, but it still includes gameplay that fans of the series love like going after political targets and clearing out enemy fortresses. With all of the new quest options, there is one gameplay option that I think is rather clever. If you complete an objective prior to obtaining the quest, you can still speak to the quest giver and receive the reward. The quest journal explains it as luck or divine providence, which fits well thematically with the story. Speaking of the story…
All Assassin’s Creed games, prior to Origin, have a pretty typical story. The Assassins need to take out a number of targets in order to stop the Templars, who are doing something VERY BAD (excluding Rogue, which is the other way around). It typically revolves around Pieces of Eden, items of mystical significance and power. Odyssey takes a cue out of Origins’ book, and combines history with the game universe in a new and exciting way. The player character can choose what side they want to fight in a war between Sparta and Athens. As I mentioned before, there are also new options in the game that influence the way the story pans out. For example, I can choose to have Kassandra personify a specific personality, or exhibit certain actions. If I’m consistent, that makes my playthrough more rewarding and accurate for me. If given an option, I can choose to save people rather than always resorting to murder (but I still pick murder most of the time, let’s be real). There is also a greater NPC role in this game, that I think adds a new dimension to the story. NPCs become more important to the character, rather than just showing up to give quests. Some have personal relationships, important religious significance, or simply end up reappearing within the story. There is a new feature where some characters can be recruited to the ship crew. For others, there is the addition of in game romances. Romance in game is something I have always enjoyed. As a player who really gets invested in the role play and character development portion of RPGs, the ability to initiate relationships with game characters is fantastic. This is a part of the story that was incredibly exciting. Overall, I think the entire story experience for Odyssey lives up to its name. There is a history and a motive that involves the character on a new emotional scale, the opportunity to connect with the other characters and the game world, and the option for the player to customize the story to fit how they see it playing out.
If I had to pick one thing about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that I do not love, it would be that it takes a long time to feel like an Assassin’s Creed game. For all of the improvements to playstyle, and new options for game experience, there are small things they took out that I miss. There aren’t any convenient hay piles for me to hide in. Sure, the stealth seems more realistic now because I have to actually hide in the environment, but jumping into hay is an AC staple. The story behind the spear of Leonidas is cool, but I do miss the look of the traditional hidden blade. These are all small things in comparison to everything I love about the game, but it still felt a bit bittersweet. Odyssey is probably one of my new favourite games of all time, but I don’t necessarily think it’s my favourite Assassin’s Creed game.
Nothing is true, everything is permitted. The Creed itself is a good way to describe this new game, both in terms of the developers and us as the players. They took the franchise to a new place, and in that new place we have the ability to do more than any AC game before. To sum it all up, what I really want to say is that you should be playing this game. It’s beautiful, a geographically accurate journey through Ancient Greece, with a lot of room to explore. By embracing the identity of open world RPGs, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a game that sucks you into its world, and let’s the player experience it on their own terms with dialogue choice, romance, in-game decision making, and a vast world to explore. While it abandons the set AC game style, it takes the franchise somewhere new, that I think will only get better as the series goes on. You’ll enjoy Assassin’s Creed Odyssey if you are an AC fan, but also if you haven’t played any of the previous games and are looking for a place to start.