An Odyssey awaits. Explore the past within the world of Ubisoft’s flagship Assassin’s Creed franchise. This time instead of running through streets in white hoods and being a blade to the crowd players head back to 431 BC in Ancient Greece. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey takes place during the Peloponnesian War which was fought by the city states of Sparta against Athens.
The choice is yours to control either Alexios (grandson of King Leonidas of Sparta) or Kassandra (his older half-sister). The series builds upon what was started in last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins and goes full RPG with branching dialogue trees, player choices, proper stat / skill trees, and inventory management. There’s also a fully open world wherein all that can be seen is also ready to be explored.
Odyssey has challenged itself to be many things at once; a true Assassin’s Creed game, an open world RPG, a recreation of Ancient Greece, and of course a good overall gaming experience. So, has the game succeeded at its lofty goals and become an Odyssey for the ages?
STORY / NARRATIVE
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey starts in 431 BCE as you take control of a misthios on the island of Kephalliona (the letter K was used instead of the letter C back in that time period). This is the first time in the series where you can choose which character to play as, as in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate you would swap between the Frye twins, and Assassin’s Creed Origins had quests where you would play as Bayek’s wife Aya. This time around who you pick is who you become, either Alexios or Kassandra, two siblings that are descended from the great spartan king Leonidas.
I played as Kassandra for my first play-through of Odyssey and as a main character I liked her quite a bit. Of course, through the dialogue choices you make, you help define her personality, but even then the voice acting is top notch and she oozes with charisma regardless if I am choosing to be nice to someone or threaten them with death.
As I said earlier, at the start of your Odyssey you’re working as a simple misthios, which is basically a term for mercenary. Haunted by your past, you try to make the best of your current situation having lived on Kephalliona for over a decade. One day a strange man comes to you with a contract to kill a Spartan general named The Wolf, which sets you out on your Odyssey. Without spoiling too much, the game goes through a series of twists and turns and your choices do make an impact on events in the world, side quests, or the main quest including the ending to the game.
The main quest comprises of 4 main Odysseys itself. The first one being about finding your lost family and forging your way in the world. The second being about a mysterious organization behind the scenes of the political world in Greece, and taking them down. The third one has to do with a strange spear which serves as your main weapon for assassinations and defense. The final Odyssey is a big spoiler that reveals important implications for things to come in the expansions of this game, and the future of the series – as it directly ties into the modern day storyline where you play as Lalya who was the modern day protagonist in Assassin’s Creed Origins. So, it’s safe to say she is the new Desmond of the series.
The story-lines all connect together and feature their own conclusions and choices along the way. I would say that while the plot of Odyssey isn’t an amazing feat of writing, it is satisfying enough with the ending I got for the game, and multiple endings are included ranging from benevolence to malice on the morality sheet. Even with a few shortcomings in the narrative department, it’s certainly an Odyssey worth playing all the way to the end and telling others about.
CHARACTERS / ACTING PERFORMANCE
Various characters from history and those made for the game’s plot are featured all throughout the main quest and side quests. You will meet historical figures like Sokrates (spelled as Socrates today, but with the letter K two thousand years ago), Alcibiades, Aspasia, Leonidas, Herodotus, Perikles, and much, much more. My personal favorite is Sokrates who is known as the father of philosophy. He is a main character throughout the game’s main Odyssey while also having his own side quest which gives the player moral tasks to act on, with no real right or wrong answers, he’s trying to find out what kind of person you are. Perikles known at the time as “Athens’ first citizen” was, in a way, the father of democracy and is an important figure in the game’s main plot as well.
Leonidas appears in flashbacks dating the Persian War, but his presence is felt throughout the game. You can even visit his grave and pay your respects. The game of course has its original characters like Alexios and Kassandra’s mother, who is a strong woman and leader in her own right. Xeina is a pirate who has become the leader of an entire island with her quest-line that sends you out to collect her artifacts across the world, she’s brash and makes humor out of most things. Then, of course, we have our main characters of the whole game – Alexios and Kassandra, who are both great in their own ways.
Alexios gives me a bit of an Ezio vibe with how I suppose you could say he comes across as suave in his voice actor’s performance. Kassandra has more of a wide range of emotions expressed across the board. But who they are really depends on the choices you make and what you make them say. In my opinion though, the best character in the entire game is Barnabas, your trusty right hand man running your ship for you. He fears the Gods and praises you out of his great respect for tradition and warriors. He’s very light-hearted but also someone to confide in as he doesn’t judge.
The large majority of the cast in this game is actually of Greek descent or Greek themselves, so the accents and voice acting are very genuine for everyone you hear throughout playing. This is one aspect of Odyssey I personally appreciate, as with Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ubisoft opted for British accents over French ones which to me was very jarring. To have authentic Greek accents here makes the whole game feel that much more… Greek?
GAMEPLAY / COMBAT
Gameplay at its surface level is very similar to previous entries in the series. Parkour has been in every single game so moving across rooftops or climbing giant statues is just more defined at this point. Finally, I don’t find myself jumping off cliffs to my death nearly as often as in past games. That could also be due to an ability you unlock at level 20 which lets you survive high falls. Assassinations are a bit more difficult this time around as the spear you use is, well, not a hidden blade. There is a system where you can choose to hold down your assassination kills for instant kills, but it’s a trade-off as you won’t have that meter to burn in combat if you are seen.
But outside of that it’s almost the same as it’s always been, which is completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with crouching in a bush, using your eagle to tag enemies, and taking them out one by one. The combat loop at first glance looks very similar to how it was in Origins, which it is in some ways, but the biggest difference is how the camera is more spread out – similar to older Assassin’s Creed titles. In Origins the camera was pretty close behind your back. You also don’t have a shield in this game, so blocking works way different. The player must use their spear to parry and block. This comes at the loss of blocking arrows which you simply have to try and dodge in Odyssey.
Another change to the gameplay is that your abilities are more defined, similar to most RPGs. There are literally ability wheels this time. Some abilities are for melee weapons like giving fire to your blades. One’s for your bows which for the most part replaces the different types of bows from Origins and creates the capability of controlling an arrow for headshots then automatically switching to shoot multiple arrows instead of them being different bows themselves. This may sound tricky, but it actually streamlines bow switching, albeit at the cost of being able to have set weapons.
Other abilities are things like spartan kicks, and even a rage meter like hack and slash games that buffs you and lets you destroy your enemies. The combat to me has some improvements from Origins like all of the abilities I’ve mentioned so far, as well as how your armor actually has stats that impact combat such as resistance to fire, and then we just have a new flow of combat. Everything feels a little different this time, not always better, but different enough for me. We do have some issues though, like removal of bow types, enemies being more ‘spongy’ than the last game, and how mount combat never seems to happen in this game.
Naval combat returns in full force but new trade-offs needed to be made to fit the technology available. Players will use arrows and spears for combat instead of cannons and guns due to the time period of course. Naval combat feels more focused on being closer to enemy ships, ramming them, and boarding them compared to Black Flag which allowed more spacing due to the weapons they had during its time period. The crafting system helps upgrade your ship and weapons along with officers and lieutenants you can find to hire which help you during boarding combat and give your ship and its crew certain buffs. Also sea shanties return, it’s like GTA radio on the open sea.
GAME WORLD (GREECE)
Ubisoft has always set out to bring historical locations to life with the Assassin’s Creed series ranging from the Third Crusades to the American Revolution. But with Origins and Odyssey the historical aspect has felt more ambitious than ever and the development team has truly brought these locations, experiences, and time periods from over 2,000 years ago into the modern age.
With Greece being such a rich subject matter, this has to be one of the most amazing open world settings I’ve seen in a game. Odyssey’s Greek game world can probably only be topped by Egypt in Origins or Hyrule in Breath of the Wild. Walking into Athens for the first time was amazing as you see this larger than life city and the gigantic statue of the goddess Athena looking down on the people and protecting them. Oddly enough, for a moment it made me feel like I was actually there.
There’s not much I can say to do Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s world justice. No matter where you are in the world, Greece is going to grip you and has been portrayed as the enchanting place we all imagined during mythological times with real history providing a cornerstone or foundation. This aspect is my favorite part of the game. Hopefully my own screenshots I’ve hand picked and included will help convey an understanding for what kind of a world Ubisoft has created here.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was something I honestly wasn’t looking forward to since it seemed to be going too far away from what I knew the series to be. Yes, the issue of there being no Assassins in the game does bother me, but once you complete the game you’ll understand why this story is so important to the AC universe.
One story-line in the game does feel like it’s a leftover and left me hanging until the expansions that are coming out over the next year. That was honestly a little bit annoying making me feel like I need to buy DLC to see the “ending” and the fact that the game has insanely priced microtransactions for no reason really brings it down as well.
Besides that, the game itself is very good and could’ve been even great if it wasn’t for those business practices plus the fact that this game has launched only a year after Origins. At least Ubisoft is taking 2019 off, allowing time for the series to breathe. The game world is amazing, the visuals and acting give players the feeling of actually being in Ancient Greece, and combat feels fresh. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey gets an 8 / 10, an Odyssey worth telling for the ages.