I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Back in the day, Ubisoft had their very own alt-history fiction version of Hitman, setting you in a wide city having you gather information on your target before taking them out.
Since then, it’s been a mish-mash of different gameplay ideas, stories, and even genres; all working to varying degrees. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is probably the culmination of that philosophy—a perfectly fine game by all accounts, but bearing so little resemblance to Assassin’s Creed, one wonders why it even still has the title.
If you’re familiar with my writing, then it may seem like I’m already writing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey off out of some zealous hatred towards Ubisoft, but honestly, that’s not the case. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a pretty decent game overall. The story focuses on either Alexios or Kassandra—both characters’ stories are the same so it’s a matter of preference—a Spartan warrior who becomes a mercenary after being rejected from their family. However, as the game unfolds it becomes apparent that a conspiracy was plotted against their family and the player must work to uncover the truth. It’s pretty standard as far as Assassin’s Creed narratives go and play host to many interesting and likable characters.
It’s probably the most beautiful looking Assassin’s Creed game, with the lush regions of ancient Greece rendered with loving care and allowing for some incredibly dynamic and colourful locations to explore. Characters are beautifully rendered, and while they sometimes look a little gormless and emote in weird ways, they are easily the best looking models of any of the Assassin’s Creeds that I’ve played. The game also has excellent sound design with characters throwing in little bits of the Greek language into dialogue, and a great score that adds a lot to the sense of being in Ancient Greece. But this is par for the course when it comes to the Assassin’s Creed games, given the amount of research that goes into building an authentic world.
By now, Ubisoft has gotten so comfortable in its formula that even when they completely overhaul the gameplay, they’re still going to deliver something enjoyable to play—even if it’s not for everyone. While many elements from the older games return in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey—cities broken up into different alignments that can be changed by taking out an area’s leader, character recruitment, and naval combat—I had heard that Assassin’s Creed Origins had shaken up the gameplay in pretty significant ways, but having not played it, I was unaware that those changes were basically just The Witcher 3.
That’s kind of a joke, but I was genuinely surprised to see how much Assassin’s Creed Odyssey had the trappings of a modern action-RPG. Rather than the classic formula of advancing the story by going from mission to mission, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey offers players the freedom to participate in side-quests, explore and gain gear and experience at their own pace. With the Action-RPG also comes an experience system with three skill trees between melee attacks, ranged and stealth, giving players the freedom to build their character however they like, and adding some variety to how missions are approached. While several missions still require you to enter enemy encampments and clear them out using either stealth or brute force—similar to its predecessors— it’s definitely a monumental shakeup for the series.
And I’m glad they went the way of Breath of the Wild and made climbing unrestricted to any surface—although part of me does miss when you had to work a little harder to reach those synchronization points
However, that’s probably my biggest issue with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey—it has no real identity of its own. It feels completely interchangeable with games like The Witcher, Shadow of Mordor, or Horizon: Zero Dawn. Take, for example, the combat. Assassin’s Creed used to pride itself on a slower, more patient combat where being aware of multiple attackers, timing your hits precisely, and placing counters effectively meant the difference between life and death. Now it’s just a basic mashing of buttons, pausing every other attack to parry, you might even use a special move if you’re feeling saucy. Wash, rinse and repeat. Unless you’re getting into a fight with someone three levels above you, there is no challenge to the combat, and no satisfaction.
New to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the “mercenary” system, wherein the player can accrue bounties on their heads depending on certain story choices, or actions within the main game. Depending on the severity of the bounty, players will be hunted down by different mercenaries and can choose to kill them, pay them off, or recruit them. Being a mercenary themselves, they can climb the ranks and gain access to higher mercenary missions. But even just aesthetically, it reminded me so much of Shadow Of Mordor’s “Nemesis System,” that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I first saw it.
Like I said at the start of this review, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is by no means a bad game. It’s probably the least glitchy Assassin’s Creed game right out of the gate—which really shouldn’t be a point in its favour, but this is the state of the industry we’re in right now—and it does have that sort-of mindless, cathartic, highly playable gameplay that a lot of these action-RPGs have. But it annoys me to no end just how far removed it is from the very idea of what Assassin’s Creed was—a more tactically-focused stealth game about assassinating a target and hiding in plain sight.
Honestly, you could have told me this game was a God of War spin-off and I probably would have believed you. A few throwaway lines when the game starts in the present day about Assassins and Abstergo is really all that makes this an “Assassin’s Creed” game. Gone is the iconic Assassin’s outfit, the series defining “Hidden Blade”—disgustingly sequestered into one of the games multiple DLC packs—and what’s left is just another example of Ubisoft over-egging the pudding.
But, as I said, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a perfectly fine experience that works as an open-world action RPG. Fans of the series will find plenty to love here, while newcomers can jump right in having most of the connection to the preceding nine games (excluding spin-offs) been removed. If you like the kind of game that will keep you busy for hours upon hours with side-quests, exploration and character building, then this game is for you.