Assassins Creed Odyssey Review | xGamers
What began as a set of ideas for a new entry in the Prince of Persia franchise has grown into one of Ubisoft’s most popular video game franchises in recent memory. Of course, I am referring to the Assassin’s Creed series. Originally coming out in late 2007, the franchise has seen an almost yearly release similar to the Call of Duty series branching out from its standard open-world gameplay in the mainline games to attempts at a 2.5D-style side series in the Chronicles series.
By 2016 with the release of the London-set Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (a personal favorite of mine), the franchise had nearly run into series fatigue after so many consecutive releases that seemed to offer little in terms of gameplay improvements. At this point, the franchise took a small break (unless you count the Assassin’s Creed movie that released that year) to focus and try to reinvigorate the franchise. Enter 2017 and the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins, set in sandy Egypt and taking place before the games before it. It took up a more action-RPG style of gameplay similar to The Witcher III: Wild Hunt released two years before it and saw much needed updates to the combat and skill systems.
The game was also received fairly well with praise being aimed towards said updates to the series as well as its story and characters while being criticized mainly for tech issues (which, honestly, are pretty standard for open world-style game and especially Ubisoft open world games) and other minor things. I, however, was not a fan of the game. Maybe it was due to the slow opening or the fact that Egypt is pretty much just a big sandy playground with very little color to pop out; so I never saw it to its end (though I wish I could at least have made it to the quest that had a crossover with Final Fantasy XV and allow me to ride chocobos).
On October 5, 2018, players would finally see the release of the newest (and currently the most recent) entry in the series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, released on the Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
In it, players head back in time to Greece in the 400s BC, setting it before all previous entries including Origins. The game also retains the action-RPG style seen in the prior game while seeing some major gameplay tweaks as well as tweaks to the leveling system while also utilizing the naval combat gameplay seen in previous entries such as Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
The story centers around the descendants of Spartan leader Leonidus, siblings Alexios and Kassandra, who are mercenaries tasked with choosing which side to fight for, Athens or Sparta, while taking part in a secret war during the Peloponnesian War. Much like Origins, Odyssey was well received as is often regarded as one of the best entries in the series, and there is a very good reason for that notion. I have enjoyed nearly every moment I have played of Odyssey and there is still much more I have yet to do. Every week or so, there seems like there is always something new to enjoy in the game (more than likely due to the fact that Ubisoft has been adding a lot of post game content since release).
As stated before, the game allows you to choose between siblings Alexios or Kassandra. I chose to play as her since we rarely get the chance to play as a female assassin in the series (or Templar for a certain character or two in the earlier games) aside from Aveline in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (a side-game to Assassin’s Creed III) and Evie from Assassin’s Creed Syndicate who had to share the spotlight with her twin brother Jacob. No matter who you choose, the other sibling will still be featured which is nice to see that even when they are not chosen, they are not just tossed aside to cameo bits and are still very much relevant to the story.
The game also introduces dialogue trees which, as good implementations of this mechanics should, organically shape the story and encourages multiple playthroughs to see what the other options would have allowed since the game also allows for romance options. That is right, Odyssey allows players to woo certain non-player characters regardless of gender and, based on the interactions I have had with those characters, the dialogue never feels forced or out of place which is refreshing for such a franchise with a large amount of games to its name. Speaking of the dialogue, the performances are acted pretty well. I am particularly fond of Kassandra’s performance as her actress, Melissanthi Mahut, delivers her lines so naturally that even when the animation decides to act a bit janky (as most Assassin’s Creed suffer from) at least the performances can help distract from it a bit. It is not that Alexios is a horrible character (much like the two genders of Shepard from Mass Effect, both characters share basically the same dialogue), many note his performance is not quite as up to snuff or enticing compared to Kassandra. On a side note, those that worked on the story side of Odyssey consider Kassandra to be the “canon” protagonist so if one was having trouble selecting the “correct” character.
As stated before, one of my criticisms of Origins was that at least in the portions I played, it was a bit lacking in color palette due to all the sand (even if it was beautiful sand). Therefore, I was glad to notice just how beautiful Odyssey is compared to other games at the time and even other games in the series; Greece is quite a beautiful and colorful place to explore with all the foliage and varied environments to explore. No matter what system you decide to play the game, your eyes will be treated with a visual spectacle.
With the naval combat mechanic, which plays more similarly to Black Flag, this also grants players the ability to cross the various seas and rivers on their own customizable ship to explore not only the vast amount of islands the game has but also underwater to find hidden treasures including weapons and loot. Even underwater is a sight to enjoy and controls well for the most part; we are getting so close to perfecting underwater movement. Also the NPCs roaming around help make Greece feel alive and colorful, which probably says more for the fashion sense of the Greeks compared to Egypt.
The sound is no slouch either. While you are sailing the Aegean Sea, your crew (of which you can recruit quite a huge amount of), will sometimes start singing shanties after a little bit. Of course the story beats also provide plenty of opportunity to allow the score to shine through. That being said, the usual bugs and glitches associated with open-world games that seem to appear more often in the Assassin’s Creed games do pop up from time to time and no system is completely immune to them. There is a lot of stuff going on not only on screen sometimes, but underneath and behind the scenes that can cause those issues to manifest.
Most of the time they are just little graphical hiccups or you character will get stuck in a spot but will usually get unstuck after a small amount of time but very rarely you will get a glitch that affects progress such as an item or mission not loading up properly but that usually only occurs, as previously said, when a lot of background stuff happens in conjunction with on-screen antics. Granted, autosaving happens usually frequently enough that in the unfortunate case you get cursed with said glitch, a quick reload to the last save can happen and you can return to where you previously were at before quickly.
For whatever reason, when I was playing Origins I kept having a little trouble getting used to the new combat system during the tutorial which I felt was probably going to be indicative of the rest of game. Because of that, I was worried that Odyssey would suffer the same fate since it used fundamentally the same groundwork as Origins. I was happy to see that my worries were put to rest as fighting in Odyssey is a joy to play and Kassandra/Alexios perform their attacks with such grace it is like watching a bloody ballet...as long as the glitches stay away of course. You have the ability to equip a variety of different weapons including swords, axes, and spears as well as upgrade those weapons to have certain boosts to a variety of parameters.
Of course, like in previous games, you can also change your outfits which also grant their own stat changes. New to the series, the game utilizes what it calls the “Mercenary System.” Essentially what happens is that certain actions done in the game (usually something related to committing a crime) will cause a wandering NPC to begin to search you out and kill you. Most of the time, they appear at a higher level than what you are at the time they are triggered to which you may want to do your best to avoid encounters with said enemy till you have better equipment unless you welcome the challenge. This makes me think of it as sort of a stripped-down version of the “Nemesis System” that was seen in Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War where certain enemies will engage in combat with you to try and raise their rank by taking the bounty on your name. I say it is a “stripped-down” version because it does not have all the intricacies present in the Shadow games and follows a more linear path because you will not have multiple enemies/mercenaries after you and will only have one mercenary after you until you take them out so it moves on to the next one.
Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing; in a way, it keeps things streamlined and only having just one overpowered enemy to worry about while you are taking on a crowd of guards or trying to sneak your way into restricted areas helps alleviate some frustration (because, yes, even those mercenaries can wander in to the very area you are trying to infiltrate). Would I like to see the next game as well as future games in the series continue to use this system and expand its mechanics to match something like the Nemesis System? As long as it does not feel like it is needlessly tacked on and naturally fits in with the gameplay flow, then yes, I would be more than happy to see it again.
Since the game leans more into the RPG genre, it features a more robust skill tree system compared to the previous games. Players can level up their character to increase their stats, equip more powerful equipment, and earn ability points to use to learn and upgrade abilities. Players earn experience by completing quests, killing hostile NPCs like animals and enemy humans, and exploring Odyssey’s environments and collecting loot.
Of course, the leveling up process brings up one common criticism the game has received: the grinding can become a bit of a nuisance. Though of course, the grind can be alleviated somewhat...if players are willing to part with a few (or a lot of) dollars. Yes, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey incorporates the hot late 2010s trend of having microtransactions to provide players “Helix Credits” that they can use to double their experience and level up faster. While of course you can beat the game without having to shell out some extra dollars, the game unfortunately does try a bit too hard to try to entice you by having an icon present on the menu when you pull up a certain tab (an unfortunate byproduct of changing times in the video game industry).
Ubisoft had stated that they would support the game well into the following years and they have made good on the promise. There have been numerous quality of life updates as well as full-on new features and DLC content for players to enjoy; it is the reason why 2019 did not see the release of a brand new entry to the series. Like more recent games in franchise, Odyssey has a season pass available for players to purchase that allowed them to receive additional content as it was released.
The season pass consisted of two additional story packs: the three-part “Legacy of the Blade” and the three-part “Fate of Atlantis.” The former allowed players and fans to see the formation of the Assassins. Upon the release of the second episode of “Legacy of the Blade,” controversy appeared as some players, especially those that identify as LGBTQ+, felt it made some choices to the narrative that seemed to negate any choices players would have made in the base game. The player is shown to have started a family with someone of the opposite gender and bear a child, even if the player sought a romance with someone of the same gender. Ubisoft attempted to quell people’s anger by tweaking the dialogue as well as the included achievements. Despite that controversy, the first DLC pack was mostly well-received after all was said and done with it.
The latter of the two DLC packs took players to the mythical and mystical kingdom of Atlantis. Here, players got to explore the lost city to find lost treasures and fight against mystic creatures even going against the Lord of the Underworld himself, Hades. All in all, both DLC story packs are welcome additions to the story and help expand the lore of the franchise. As a huge bonus to buying the season pass, players were also granted the privilege of being able to download fully remastered versions of Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. These versions of the games featured 4K graphics and all the DLC released for the titles; of course, now you can buy these remastered versions physically separate from Odyssey though it can be a bit jarring to jump back and forth between two (technically three if you count Liberation) games that came out six years apart. In between all the episodes, Ubisoft also released some new features that players can try out.
The game has what is called a “Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece” that will allow players to explore Greece and learn its history without worry of being attacked by any enemies. Also added to the game for players to enjoy is the ability to create custom story quests, a first for the series, to share with the community. The best part it is there is quite a lot you can create in the mode. There are six objective types and players are able to mix and match the different types which include assassinating a certain target to freeing certain people. Players can even decide whether to present the story in a linear fashion or incorporate the dialogue tree from the main game.
Also, for the more devious players, they can use the historic figures as targets and create scenarios in which players are tasked with assassinating them changing the course of history. It is a fun little distraction from the main game and players can earn a predetermined amount of experience and money (automatically determined by the game) for the main game. I personally hope this feature appears in the next entry and becomes a staple feature as it truly is a fun mode to play around with. Who knows, maybe Ubisoft might utilize mission ideas that they never could have imagined until seeing what fans came up with using this mode. As with a lot of Ubisoft’s games, there are a variety of editions of the game to pick up. Of course you have your standard editions that come with the base game and not much else.
A deluxe edition included a set of bonus missions and items that the player can use in-game. The Gold Edition included the season pass alongside a steelbook case while the Ultimate Edition is essentially the same edition while instead having the deluxe version of the game included. There are two editions of the game, “Spartan” and “Pantheon” that feature the main game, season pass, as well as a statue depicting the main characters among other goodies.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey had a lot riding on it being a follow-up to Origins. Considering interest in the franchise was beginning to wane around the time Syndicate came out and the movie doing less than stellar at the box office, having the one-two punch of those two games helped put the franchise back on course to being a heavy-hitter in the industry. While Origins may have not tickled my fancy upon its release (even though sliding down pyramids did look pretty fun), Odyssey picked up the slack; which is saying quite a lot since upon the initial announcement of the game, I was cautious about it since the series was still looked upon with not as much respect as it has accrued now. In fact, I would probably consider Odyssey to be my personal favorite entry in the franchise, taking the honor from Syndicate. Supposedly, there is rumor of a new entry to be announced and released sometime next year. Since the franchise took another small break from releasing a new game following Odyssey, one can hope that that time off allowed the team at Ubisoft to see what has worked in Odyssey and what did not and tailor the experience in the next entry to be a guaranteed hit on all the aspects featured in it from graphics and sound to gameplay and storytelling. It may be a long shot, but considering the upward trend the franchise appears to be heading now, it could possibly hold true and hopefully it will be a long time before we experience a disappointment like the franchise saw with Unity’s initial launch.
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