Al Pacino once magnificently said in The Godfather Part Three… ‘Every time I think I’m out…they pull me BACK IN.” These words perfectly sum up my feelings when I first heard Ubisoft were creating yet another Assassin’s Creed game, following on from the success of Origins in 2017.
That is a game in which I have plowed in over 100 hours of my precious life, with all the extra DLC added in for good measure. The mere thought of another century of hours spent in ancient times filled me with a sense of dread. But like any addict, I needed my fix and I couldn’t think about anything else other than strapping on a hood again. So does the Assassin’s Creed franchise keep going from strength to strength with Odyssey, or should Ubisoft have taken a year off from the jumping, the stabbing and the murdering?
So, Odyssey sees us thrown in to yet another new area and time zone for this year’s big Assassin’s Creed adventure, with mechanics that have been both borrowed and expanded on from Origins, all whilst dipping in to the glories of Black Flag as well.
At the start of the game, you are thrown headlong into a famous battle that is set about 2400 years ago, at the onset of the Peloponnesian war. You then get thrown back into the modern world (remember that?) as you once more enter the Animus. This time round you see there is a choice to make, allowing you the opportuity to choose which DNA strand you wish to follow – a man or a woman, or more specifically, Alexios or Kassandra? They both have pretty much the same narrative paths with the odd difference here and there, but it still took me a good half an hour of internal debate before I could make my decision – Alexios. It is from here where we are then dropped back in to Ancient Greece, stuck on a little island at the edge of a huge map. Yep, take a gulp because here we go again. It has begun.
The moment you drop in to Odyssey for real you will feel like you have just put on a pair of comfortable slippers. It plays in almost exactly the same way as Origins, but there a number of nice little improvements and tweaks. Initially you will find that you have your usual choice of difficulty, but now you also have to think about the type of exploration you want to enjoy too. Normally you will find that you have all your markers on the map laid out for you and that’s how you play a typical Assassin’s Creed title, but here it makes you work a little bit harder – placing you as the detective and explorer in the travel department. You are still left with markers when you get near someone or something of note, but now you will have to keep your ears and eyes open, asking NPCs questions in order to really find the best places to go, or the most rewarding things to do. I’ll be honest, after hours upon hours of my life having been ruined by the addiction of Assassin’s Creed, it’s all a bit scary at first, with yet another huge world to take in, but I found the new way of discovering treats really rewarding.
The next big new thing to arrive in Odyssey is centred around a good old chat. Yes, your new hero loves a bit of a tongue wag and there are branching text options to choose from in your conversations. These are your normal decision making moments – do you take the good or the bad hero route? – but in amongst the chatter are some big consequences to the missions as well. This is all fine and it works wonderfully well, but in the same breath it has never really blown my socks off; in fact, I could easily take it or leave it. There are also some good old ‘Mass Effect’ style romances that you can pursue across the adventure – let’s just say these cater for a whole myriad of tastes and desires.
Away from the mundane though and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is huge; there is no getting away from that. Without stating the obvious, there is just so much to get lost in and a whole ton of different paths to take and even more things to do. Side quests, story quests, secret tombs, bandits to kill, locations to find, seas to sail, underwater creatures to fight. Just to give you an idea of the scope of the game, I’d clocked up more around 6 hours of time in the world of Odyssey before the opening credits had even threatened to appear. That gives you a feel for the ambition of this world. It’s a glorious one too, with a very entertaining sandbox to play in, and new elements to find in the gameplay. But that said, it still feels very familiar to Origins. And that is a very good thing indeed.
What does feel different though is that of the combat; it is much more advanced and involving than previous, with the health bar refusing to regenerate automatically if you just run away a bit. And whilst there will be times when you want to run, the inclusion of ability points again take the form of buffs you can use mid-battle, from extra health boosts, poison attacks or that famous Spartan Kick that Ubisoft has been showing off for the last few months in every trailer. Counters and parries are essential and you have to be more tactical in combat now; this is something I really relished. You’ll also find yourself getting involved in big battle scenes which come up now and then; placing you in the centre of a mass brawl that is tricky to work out who fights who. Working through the enemy soldiers and trying to address the right balance of power of the battle by vanquishing the captains, is the order of the day. These battles are great fun, and tremendously rewarding to partake in.
The new weapons and inventory options are better and much grandeur this time too, with amazing upgrades and engravings to buy or find, giving your items extra abilities like increased damage, fire attacks or poison resistance for example. Without a doubt you will find yourself getting a bit obsessed with all the options available, trying desperately to find the best possible combination of weapons and armor. It’s a great system that’s been even more improved.
And then we have the sailing experience…
Yep that’s right, ships are back in a big way with Odyssey and you will be able to sail the Club Med as long as your heart desires. If you’ve played the previous incarnations that have focused on the use of ships and the open sea, then you’ll feel right back at home, sailing around with a salty crew singing ancient sea shanties and discovering shipwrecks and hidden islands. It is here where you’ll find yourself taking part in familiar battles, but once again these have been improved in every single way. There’s a great moment when you’re about to board a defeated vessel and your crew screams out a unified battle cry that makes the hair on your arms stand up straight. The upgrade system is good as well, allowing you to hunt for resources across the world to get the best advantage, or enlist lieutenants from those you meet across the world or even kidnap from enemy camps. These new crew members offer extra abilities like further firepower or ship strength and there are some very interesting special members to collect.
So, we’ve got to the point where I just have to mention the visuals and without going overboard, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a very, very, pretty game. It’s so pretty in fact that whilst I was going to go to Greece for my holidays this year, I’m now left not needing too – a weekend in Crewe will suffice and instead I can just take in the Grecian lands via Odyssey. These visuals hit the highest of heights – quite literally – when you climb to a high point to jump off, taking in the world and all its detail around you. Stunning isn’t the word. It’s varied, beautiful and extensive and whilst Odyssey was always going to be a game about discovery and getting lost in the world – rather than just going from A to B as quickly as possible – there’s still something special in checking out every corner, kicking back to watch a man walking his dog, a woman pointing at something in the sky, or just taking in fantastic imaginings of the ancient architecture of the time period. Ubisoft have once again created something utterly dazzling.
And once again the soundtrack is up to the usual high standards of the franchise, keeping the mixture of tones that ensures it works with the visuals brilliantly. The voice work however is a mixture of the brilliant and some very odd choices. There is one guy early on who reminded me of Dr. Nick from the Simpsons, but whoever it is, the actors throughout deliver some amazingly emotional set pieces and some very funny dialogue.
So, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? Is it any good? Well, let’s just say that this is a game that I will play for the next year or more, with Ubisoft once again ensuring that I’ve become addicted to finding every nook and cranny once more. With a heavy DLC package promised I can’t begin to imagine that I will have time to play anything else. If you love the Assassin’s Creed games then this is one of the best, even though it’s not a million miles away from the stunning Origins.
Now I have to leave you because I have some romances to sort out, a tomb to explore, an animal to conquer and a huge battle to triumph in. It’s good to be an assassin again.