Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review: RPG Perfected

By: Louis Edwards
 

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey releases to early access on Tuesday, but we have been deep into the Grecian world of 431BC for a while. Is the journey worth your time and hard earned cash or is it best buried in the past?

Read on to find out.

 

 

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been around since 2007 and has traveled through time to just about every era imaginable. With the last release going all the way back to ancient Egypt, we wondered which direction the next installment would go. We were intrigued when we heard that it would travel all the way back to the dawn of civilization and and we were curious to see which historical figures from the Grecian world we would encounter, or possibly have to kill.

Greece and the Peloponnesian War

The game opens up as Leonidas and the Spartan army are fending off Xerxes and his Persian army in the battle of Thermopylae (think 300). It’s mostly a visual cut scene, rendered in game, giving you the background of the Spartan story and the battle itself, but there is a short fighting sequence where you’ll get to fight as Leonidas. This combat sequence introduces some basic combat moves, but is short and gets you back to the story at hand rather quickly. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is based entirely during the Peloponnesian War, which came about thirty years later.

Once you’ve played through the opening sequence, you are given your first of many choices in the game. You can play as either the male protagonist Alexios or the female protagonist Kassandra. Both have the same basic traits and this is a choice that determines mostly cosmetic differences in the beginning, but alters the overall storyline somewhat. We don’t want to say anything other than that so as not to spoil anything. We chose Kassandra simply because we wanted a strong female protagonist. You are also given an eagle to fly with you that can be used as a drone for investigative purposes and for tagging enemies and finding treasures. In explore mode, your eagle will be your key to finding your next objective, as he has a keen eye for detail.

Once you make your pick, you can then choose the difficulty setting and whether you want a guided experience showing you your next destinations or a more isolated experience where you’ll have to explore more of the world around you, following hints and clues given to you by quest givers. This decision will affect your overall play time and might stretch your game play exponentially, depending on your ability to follow clues. We started out in explore mode but eventually had to jump into guided mode so we could get farther into the game at a faster pace. Currently we are 43+ hours into the game and are close to 90% finished with the main storylines.

Herodotus, Hippokrates, and Sokrates

The story follows our orphaned protagonist as she/he travels as a mercenary, throughout the ancient lands surrounding the Aegean Sea. This being 431 BC, we were hoping to meet some famous people and the game didn’t disappoint. Herodotus, the father of recorded history is introduced early on with a quest, as well as the father of modern medicine, Hippokrates. You interact with them briefly, and Hippokrates is shown to be a man of mercy and caring, driven by sad horrors from his past. We get to spend more time with Sokrates, as he has an entire quest line attached to him. They show him as being a man of double speak and wittiness, with conversations that are actually incredibly deep and pointed. He is one of our favorite NPCs in the game and comes across as the intelligent man of the world we expected.

We won’t reveal any more of the main storylines here so as not to spoil anything but we will say that the writers went all out to create intrigue, sorrow, conflict, joy and a depth to many of the characters that you wouldn’t normally come across in a video game. At this point, it feels like we have been binge watching an awesome mini-series on Netflix or Showtime, rather than playing through a video game. We have laughed with Kassandra, fretted over our choices with her, almost shed a tear with her, and have enjoyed the violent roller coaster ride of emotion with her. From anger to sadness to joy, we have experienced it all with her. Your choices early on in the game have lasting effects that you may not see or realize until much later, and with the game having nine different endings, you may not know the true outcome of a decision until the credits finally roll.

A True to Form RPG, Perfected

The Assassin’s Creed series has evolved over the years from what was once just a stealthy action/adventure series, where killing was key and the weapons were basic but effective, into a more RPG game where weapons and player level are more defined and selective, and fully upgradeable. Originally, the series was a linear journey based on a storyline, where you progressed at the rate the story needed you too. With Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you progress at a rate dependent upon what you want do and how you want to do it. The game uses an open world map, so you can visit any region at any time, but keep in mind that each region has a power level for basic combat, and jumping into a region too far above your power level means death when in combat. If you’re a level 30, a level 33 would be a major challenge and a level 35 would be an almost impossible hill to climb.

Weapons also increase in power level as you find them, and as you loot them from the folks you kill. The weapon selection in the game is incredibly deep, and each weapon type is tied to a different play type. If you are a warrior, and prefer straight up combat, swords will probably be your weapon of choice, but if you’re a more stealthy player, daggers will be more efficient for you due to their perks and speed of use. For the real brutes out there, axes and maces work great and really bring the pain, but are much slower to wield and use. Weapon types and armor are tied to one of three skill sets that have upgradable perks in your skill trees. Weapons and armor can be found in one of four categories: Common, Rare, Epic, and Legendary. There are blacksmiths found in every town or city that can upgrade weapons and armor, or engrave them with perks to make them more effective.

Skill Trees of Choice

There are three skill trees for you to work with and upgrade, and each time you level up you earn a skill point. This really determines the direction you want your mercenary to grow. You can try to upgrade these equally, but ranking up is slow and ability points can be hard to come by. There are hidden tombs around the game world that hold ability points, and finding them can help you unlock some more perks, but ultimately it is upgrading your power level that is key to the game. For you stealth loving assassin’s out there, there are stealth upgrades that can take you from being a deadly shadow, to being invisible when needed. Hiding in the bushes and whistling at a bad guy is a great way to take someone out, but we wish there was a “throw a rock” feature so we could maybe just ease around them instead.

The skills tree also has a warrior branch and a hunter branch. The warrior is where you’ll find perks for those that want to just go head on and take people and places down with brute strength and force. The hunter perks are great for ranged attacks with your bow, and when upgraded enough, can almost work like a sniper rifle with a pretty decent range. Using knockout arrows are a great way to leave someone with a headache, but also alive. You can also unequip weapons so your empty handed, and then knock folks out with just your fists. Once someone is knocked out, you can recruit them to come go to work for you on your ship, the Adrestia, as a lieutenant.

Naval Battles Return

Early on in your journey you’ll be tasked with finding a ship to complete a quest. Once you befriend a gentleman named Barbados, he offers you his ship and his services. The Adrestia is fully upgradeable and continues the trend of deep RPG elements, and as you upgrade the hull, you’ll be able to recruit up to four lieutenants. One thing to note, as you scout out areas with your trust eagle Ikaros, highlighting a NPC wll show an icon for that character, and how he or she may help your ship if recruited. As with weapons and armor, these NPCs can be Common, Rare, Exotic, or Legendary, so be sure to keep an eagle eye out for folks that may help you in battle.

Naval warfare consists of firing volleys of arrows and javelins at enemy ships, while moving around on what can be a crazy and wild sea. You can also ram into ships. Firing fire arrows becomes possible once you unlock that upgrade, and these fire arrows can create weak points that, when rammed at a decent speed, will rip an enemy vessel in half, feeding its occupants to the sharks and the sea. There are times, when not in battle, that a storm may come out of nowhere and you’ll feel like Poseidon himself wants you dead. Huge rolling waves will toss you and slam against you, challenging your navigation skills when trying to reach the far corners of this world.

Conquest and Aiding in the War Effort

As a mercenary, who you choose to fight for and with, is always up to you. Each region of this ancient world is being controlled by someone and their army, and it’s up to you to decide which side of the war you want to help. Usually it’s the one offering you Drachmae (money) for your services, but if you’re an idealist, maybe not. Either way, each region you’ll encounter has a defense level that can be lowered by taking out folks from whichever faction, either Athenian or Spartan, controls it and by taking out the leader for that region. Once the level is low enough, it unlocks a Conquest Battle for that region.

Conquest battles are old school, toe-to-toe, open warfare free-for-alls, where you fight who’s in front of you, or beside you, or both. As you take out the minions, you’ll unlock captains that need eliminated, and then rinse and repeat. Eventually you’ll unlock the leader on the battlefield for these forces, and you’ll have to take him down to win the conquest. These battles unlock a decent supply of gear, as each captain can be looted, and the final bad guy usually has the best gear to take from his dead and bloody corpse.

Bounty Hunters and The Arena

As you travel around the game world completing quests, you’re bound to piss folks off and these folks will put a price on your head. Once you have a bounty against you, a bounty gauge will pop up on the lower right of your screen telling you how bad it is. The higher the heat, the more mercenaries that will come looking for you. We hit level five once, and we got to meet Exekias and four other mercenaries in one area. We were only a level 25 at the time, so we hightailed it out of there as fast as we could and decided to just pay the bounty off, cooling the heat in the process. Probably the best 3K Drachmae spent in the game, and keep in mind that some of these folks have animals fighting beside them. Fighting a grizzly bear is bad enough, but having someone shooting you with arrows at the same time? That’s more than annoying.

These bounty hunters can be tracked down, and once you take them out, you’ll get whatever gear they were carrying. In our quest to take one down, we ended up in the southern most region of the sea and found the arena. Here is where you can become a legend. There are five champions waiting to take you on, each with a higher level than the one before it. When you do take one on, you are faced first with four rounds of minions, each a little harder than the last, with the final round being the champion. You should probably wait to hit the arena until you are level 50, as these fights are no joke.

So Many Things to See and Do

The open world map for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has to be one of the largest ever created for a video game. The game world is MASSIVE. The map is chock full of small towns and cities, each with their own message boards full of quests and things to do. Almost every city feels unique, with incredible detail that makes the game world come alive. Forests are full of animals, some of which will eat you if given a chance, and are different from region to region, again giving each region a unique feel. The game goes from rocky, mountainous regions, all the way down to white sandy beaches at sea level. With ancient architecture and statues everywhere, the game clearly looks and feels like the thriving dawn of civilization it intended to portray. From Macedonia in the North all the way to Messara in the South, this is how a game world should be.

Developer Ubisoft Quebec has invested over 3 years in the making of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and in all honesty, it feels like it should have taken longer. The level of detail, coupled with the impressive 4K graphics on both the PC and the console versions, gives the game a lifelike feel, with lifelike environments and animals, and lifelike characters. The depth of the writing and voice acting makes those characters come alive as we journey through the game with them.

For long time fans of the series, being able to play the game as a true silent assassin, blending into the shadows and killing without leaving a trace in an area way above your current power level, should give them the stealth action and adrenaline they are craving, while the deep RPG elements should cater to those that love a true adventure . Whichever style you choose, expect to spend a lot of time in this incredible world.

A small portion of the very large game world

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is what an RPG should strive to be. Lengthy, challenging, diverse, deep, and fun.

In a word: Perfection.

10


Assassin’s Creed Odyssey review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read: What our review scores really mean.