Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review – It’s All Greek to Me
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is, without doubt, the best this series has ever produced. In its early days, I was a huge Assassin’s Creed fan. The first and second games, as well as Brotherhood, were pure gaming bliss for me back in the day.
Revelations has its moments, but it was starting to show cracks. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was actually the last game in the series I played for fun. After that, I only played them for review, or sporadically, without ever intending to finish.
My enjoyment of the series had lapsed so far that I never even bothered to play Origins at all. Not even for five minutes.
Having hated Assassin’s Creed III so much, I was soured on the series from that point forward. Thankfully, Ubisoft has been working hard to turn the series around in the past few years. From all accounts, Origins was excellent.
I’m happy to report that Odyssey is excellent too. In fact, it’s easily my new favourite game in the series. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey does more than any other Creed before, but for once, it doesn’t stumble.
This is a confident, well-made blockbuster of a video game that deserves high praise indeed.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review
But what makes Assassin’s Creed Odyssey so good? Well, that’s a very good question and the answer has many important and varied factors. First and foremost, the plot in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey tells a personal story. One about family, sacrifice and doing what’s right.
It’s something players will be able to empathise with and understand. When other Assassin’s Creed games started to focus more and more on the Templars, Assassins and First People, the plots became convoluted, cold and yes, even a little boring.
There weren’t really any stakes.
Think about Assassin’s Creed II. The entire game is a revenge plot, with Ezio dealing out justice for those who wronged his family. It’s simple and players can get easily drawn in.
With Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft is again leaning on the familial beats as your chosen character sets out to bring their family back together after being separated for many, many years. Whether you choose Kassandra or Alexios, the plot in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey plays out in the same way. However, should you choose Alexios, don’t bet on not seeing Kassandra pop-up at some point and vice-versa.
Early in the game, you’re given an important quest that sets the entire story in motion. At first, I believed I was simply heading towards the life of an Assassin, but it quickly became apparent that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey wants to play things differently. Plot twists and turns come thick and fast during the main campaign but never are they out of left-field, unearned or groanworthy.
They all feel organic and only serve to add another layer to the plot that helps make this world of Ancient Greece feel full and alive.
Freedom of Choice
While in previous Assassin’s Creed titles, the plot has been a static element, set by Ubisoft and unchangeable, Odyssey gives players some choice. In ACII for example, Ezio is only able to go about his revenge in the way that Ubisoft has designed.
Whereas in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Alexios/Kassandra’s journey twists and turns and offers players choices in almost every mission. Some of these choices only cause superficial changes, while others can play a huge role in changing wholesale parts of the plot.
There are times when you can choose to assassinate your target or you can instead talk with them, come to understand them and maybe let them go. You can even add them to your crew if you make the right choices.
I was constantly surprised at the freedom of choice Assassin’s Creed Odyssey throws players’ way. Being an open-world series, freedom of choice has often only been an illusion, thankfully, in Odyssey, it’s a reality.
That freedom of choice extends to every facet of the game too, not just the plot. In the opening hours, players will be exploring the island of Kephalonia, which serves as a basic tutorial and introduction to the world.
Here, you’ll experience the evolution of Assassin’s Creed first-hand.
By design, missions are able to be tackled in any order and in any way you like. Should you fail the mission, you won’t be forced to try again, the story and world will simply accommodate and move along.
It’s a world away from other Assassin’s Creed games and truly pushes Odyssey into RPG territory. It’s more of an RPG than anything else. And I am definitely ok with that.
A Whole New World
Gone is the linear progression, insta-fail mission objectives, pointless escort missions and pretty much every other annoying mechanic prevalent in the series. In their place is a huge open-world, more in the vein of The Witcher 3 and Skyrim than anything in the Assassin’s Creed series.
You’ll still be synchronising viewpoints, stealthily assassinating people and clambering over rooftops, but there’s so much more now. And those three things I just mentioned are really, all that’s left of the original Assassin’s Creed DNA you’ll find.
Viewpoints have been drastically scaled back and instead of revealing the map, they simply grant you a fast travel location. Assassinations are more satisfying than ever, thanks to the continuous improvements and upgrades you’ll receive and free-running is now so unnecessary that it’s actually fun again.
Maybe unnecessary is the wrong word but, in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, freerunning isn’t the big focus. It doesn’t make up a majority (or even minority) of the gameplay and instead feels like a great traversal mechanic. Which is what it always should have been, instead of becoming the focal point for gameplay.
Imagine if you could have climbed walls, buildings etc in The Witcher 3. That’s the feeling you get when you play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
Better than Ever
Assassinations, like free-running, are now only a small part of the overall experience. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey wants to give players options for how they tackle their story and their combat. Thus, Alexios/Kassandra has a skill tree that is filled with abilities, stat boosts and the like.
The skill tree is split into three columns, Hunter, Warrior and Assassin. Hunter skills govern the use and power of the bow, Warrior skills power up and improve melee combat and Assassin skills make you more dealy when engaging in stealth.
Each is just as viable as the others and so it affords players a huge amount of freedom to play however they want to. I opted to play with a ratio of about 20% Hunter, 40% Warrior and 40% Assassin, which suited me down to the ground. However, when you get your hands on Odyssey and you see the skills on offer, you can go your own way.
Players will earn one skill point every time they level up, which allows them to unlock one ability or to power one up to another tier. The abilities with multiple tiers have a maximum of three, but to unlock them all, you’ll need skill points, the right character level and improved equipment or to have reached a certain part of the story.
Thankfully, while playing Odyssey, you’re constantly earning XP, improving skills, levelling up and getting better at the game. No matter how you choose to play and unlock skills, you’ll always be well equipped for what’s up ahead.
It’s these skills that make combat in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey so very, very good.
I’ll Chop You Good!
For the longest time, Assassin’s Creed’s combat was a joke. It was the game that was “Press X to Win.” All you need to do was counter your enemies and watch them fall. Not so in Odyssey. Enemies, like you, have levels. If they’re too far above you, you won’t even be able to do any damage.
When you are on even footing, every fight is still a challenge as the enemy AI is on point. At least on the harder difficulties. You’ll need to parry, wait for an opening, attack from the flank and use your skills to get the better of most enemies.
Should you get surrounded, you’ll also have to leg it too. These guys don’t wait their turn, one at a time like the other games. They’ll swarm you and laugh as you die.
Kassandra/Alexios has a light and heavy attack, a dodge and a parry. That’s it for the vanilla moveset. However, depending on which abilities you choose, you can unleash a combo so devastating that enemies will drop like flies.
The Spartan Kick is one of the earliest moves you’ll be able to unlock and it’s exactly as it sounds. Picture Gerard Butler in 300 and you’ll have the right idea. This move is great for clearing enemies away from you if you’re feeling overwhelmed, but I used it most frequently to kick enemies off a cliff to their death.
So very satisfying.
Combat is where you’ll spend the majority of your time in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, so it’s fortunate that there is so much variety and potential to be exploited. Players shouldn’t ever get bored of the combat, simply due to the number of different combinations of skills and abilities there are.
If you ever do grow tired of what you’ve got, Odyssey lets you respec your character whenever you want. Nifty.
Yeah, What Else Though?
Aside from exploring on foot, fighting, assassinating and the like, naval combat in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a big part of the experience. Again, it’s the best the series has ever served up. While not drastically different from what’s come before, it’s been refined, polished and is a lot more enjoyable this time around.
Players can upgrade their ship in all manner of ways, including reinforcing the hull, improving ramming damage and using flaming arrows and spears. Once you’ve upgraded your ship a few times, you’ll find yourself king of the ocean in no time.
You’ll need to be too. While there’s not as much emphasis on naval battles and missions as other games in the series, there’s still some. Just enough for it to add flavour, but not too much that it overstays its welcome.
Like the refinement of freerunning, assassinations and mission design, naval exploration and combat now work well, rather than feeling like a tacked-on mechanic.
The same can be said of everything in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey It really, truly feels like one whole, rather than a set of elements put together by multiple teams with different ideas and approaches.
It’s nice to play Odyssey and feel the cohesion and know that everything about the game works just as intended.
If the massive world, the enormous number of activities, excellent combat and great plot weren’t enough for you, Ubisoft has also included a Nemesis System style mode called Mercenaries and an overarching mystery that sees players investigating the sinister Cult of Kosmos.
Mercs and Cults
While you explore, steal and murder your way around Greece, some civilians may take umbrage which will see a bounty placed on your head. When it is, Mercenaries will come after you and attempt to collect. These mercs function similarly to Orcs in Shadow of Mordor in that they appear to be procedurally generated and each has specific strengths and weaknesses.
They won’t come back to life after you kill them, but, they will make way for you to climb the ranks of the Mercenary ladder. The higher you go the better rewards you’ll unlock like cheaper prices at stores, better payments for bounties etc.
It’s not integral to the plot, but it adds a great flavour to proceedings and certainly helps spice up some moments. Often, you’ll be engaged in combat with several enemies and nearly have them defeated when a bounty hunter will appear and join in. Throwing a spanner in the works and making you fight twice as hard to stay alive.
You can pay your bounty off if you like and sometimes it’s necessary, fighting these mercs are some of the hardest challenges in the game.
Finally, the Cult of Kosmos stands in for the Templars in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and taking them down means investigating, finding clues and eventually uncovering each members’ identity. The Cult of Kosmos functions nearly identically to the drug cartel in Ghost Recon. You’ll need to take down the low-level members first and make your way up the chain until you reach the big kahuna.
It’s a lot of fun trying to take all of the members down and their nefarious ways make them the perfect foil for Kassandra/Alexios.
With its introduction of RPG mechanics, the scaling back of the series’ major failing and frustrations and the addition of some excellent new content, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is far and away the best Assassin’s Creed yet.
It held my attention for dozens of hours and tells the best story in franchise history. Ubisoft has crafted an absolutely spectacular experience with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Let’s hope things only continue to improve for this much-loved series.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by Ubisoft.
Game title: Assassin's Creed Odyssey
A wonderful symphony of gaming elements - 9.3/10
The best protagonist(s) since Ezio - 9.1/10
Huge, open-world that's actually interesting and beautiful - 8.7/10
Incredible, brutal & stylish combat - 8.9/10
A story worth getting invested in - 9.7/10