A year on from Assassin's Creed’s first foray into the RPG genre with AC Origins, this year's entry, Odyssey, takes that style but makes everything grander in scale.
What Ubisoft has created with Odyssey is a visually stunning open world that suffers somewhat from the monotonous grind of upping your level along with sub-par mission design.
It’s by far the largest world ever created for an Assassin's Creed game with countless islands and wide open seas for you to enjoy. Thankfully, the naval combat of Black Flag has made a welcome return which makes getting around the open water far more enjoyable. But while the world is much larger than anything seen before, it still suffers from repetitive mission design that becomes very stale, very fast.
If you didn’t get it from the title of the game, the story takes place in Ancient Greece. It’s set in 431 B.C. and tells the story of the Peloponnesian war between the Athenians and the Spartans. You can choose to play as one of two Spartan mercenaries, Kassandra or Alexios, who are brother and sister. Regardless of who you choose the story and the dialogue will remain the same.
Your character starts off on the island of Kellaphonia. The introduction however drains any sort of anticipation you have and takes too long to reach the open water.
Players now have a certain amount of control over how the story develops, thanks to the introduction of a dialogue tree. This is one of the major new features of the game. At certain points using the dialogue tree, you can decide to either show mercy and let the person live or kill them. A lot of the time the options in the dialogue tree are quite hollow and just set up the scene for the mission ahead rather than drastically alter the storyline.
Too often though you have to leave main missions and focus on side quests in order to reach the required level to advance the story. Try not to let your level drop too low compared to the required level for the main mission because then you’ll be grinding for hours trying to catch up. As a critical path gamer being forced to go and complete side quests in order to advance the story was a struggle.
For those of you who enjoyed the old style of Counter striking in previous AC games, then you’ll be very disappointed. Like Origins, Odyssey maintains the hack and slash style of melee attacks by using the trigger buttons.
Instead of carrying out a beautifully timed counter as you did in older AC games, you now rely on a dodge and parry system to kill enemies. This new combat style can get boring quickly but thankfully Ubisoft has added some special abilities to spice things up. These include three arrow shots and even the famous “this is Sparta” kick from 300, but it doesn’t have the same satisfaction if you’re not standing on the side of a cliff.
Other abilities include covering your swords in poison or fire in the style of Berric Dondarion from Game of Thrones. These then inflict 10-15 seconds of continuous damage on your enemies. You’ll unlock more powerful abilities by receiving ability points each time you increase your level.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Naval combat makes a welcome return in Odyssey but it isn’t without its problems. To sink enemy ships, your crew launch volleys of arrows but it doesn’t have the same satisfaction as the cannons in Black Flag. Once you inflict enough damage on the ships, you can then choose to either ram it until it sinks or board it.
I wouldn’t waste my time boarding. The benefits are negligible and you always run the risk of being killed and having to start the battle again. Once the ship is sunk you can collect the debris that’s floating, which can improve your ship's attributes. As you progress, you’ll get the chance to add lieutenants to your ship crew. You can also upgrade parts of your ship like the armour, battering ram, rowers stamina etc.
In the end, Ubisoft has created a visually stunning world with one of the stronger campaign stories. However, the lack of variety in side quests and the constant need to increase your level make enjoying the world at times a bit of a chore.