Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Bottom Line Up Front
I've been thinking a lot on what I want to say about Assassin's Creed Odyssey but I find it difficult to really provide words to a game like this. No matter how much I write I know that I'll never be able to fully cover a game of this magnitude. The short version is that this game is 100% worth playing and you should absolutely give it a go.
My time with this game was a strange ride. The first 3 hours of the game I was disappointed. I didn't like the combat and was getting wrecked constantly. I had just finished my playthough of FFXV (thanks SquareEnix for that game breaking save bug). In FFXV attack was on X or Square and in AC:OD attack was R1. So I was dodging when I meant to attack. After 3 hours I learned how to play the game and was having a blast.
For the next 40 hours I was loving the game. The Cult was dying by my hand, missions were flying by, I was leveling up, getting more loot, getting stronger. Then I hit a wall; I looked at the map in the game and realized in 43 hours I had barely made a dent in the world. My spirits were crushed because I had other games I wanted to play; namely Rise of the Tomb Raider which unforunatly I didn't like. I had once told myself that I would beat every game I set out to play, maybe not 100% them, but I'd beat them.
I decided to focus my efforts on the main story just to beat the game and maybe I'd come back for the side quests later, but then something strange happened. I got a really nice legenday bow that turned normal attacks into poison attacks. That gave me the ability to enchant other weapons with poison damage. I enchanted my main weapons suddenly things got really fun again. I felt powerful. I was killing enemies with ease again. Then I eliminated an entire wing of the cult and got a full set of legendary gear. Now I was immune to poison.
The next 10 hours flew by and I beat the game, but the longing to play more didn't leave. Even as I played SoTR I was wishing to go back to AC:OD. When I got back to AC:OD I told myself that I'd play to level 50, become the #1 Merc, and kill The Sage. I killed the #1 Merc at level 48. When I hit level 50 everthing changes again. A whole new endgame opened up. There were 20 more mercenaries ranked S1-S4, hundreds of ability boosts, 49 more level, and 99 mastery ranks. After about 10 more hours of playing side quests, discovering the end-game stuff (because of course there's an end game to this. A game this big how couldn't there be.), and trying to complete the map I decided to spend $40 to buy the season pass. At the time of writing this I haven't started the DLC yet but I'm excited for it.
If this opening paragraph hasn't told you how I feel about this game then the next several hundred words probably won't either. Go read the Bottom Line Up Front.
An Assassin's Creed Odyssey story
So there I was, waiting in the grass observing the Athenians and planning my best route when suddenly three Spartans rode up on horses. They jumped off the horses and began fighting. Things became chaos and I simply sat there and watched these two forces fighting. When the dust settle the Athenians turned on me. I was hiding in the bushes but suddenly they knew I was there. I had never crossed the threshold into the restricted zone but I was their enemy. Fine! Let the bloodletting begin.
I kill the first guard and suddenly all of China knows I there. I murder the first few and now I have a bounty on my head, sponsored by a guy on the complete opposite side of the game (several thousand meters away). What? Fine. They're animals and I'll slaughter them like animals. One guy runs off and lights the alarm and now there's more enemies and that telepathic dude thousands of miles away is constantly increasing my bounty. Reinforcements arrive and now two Mercs have appeared too.
One of the mercs throws a fire bomb which I dodge out of but it hits the Athenians. Now it's a Merc vs. Athenians vs. Me vs. The Boars that were caged and got freed during this fight. It wasn't just the men, but the women and children too, as the civilians get mad at me for murder and decide to hop into this crazy brawl. I run away and hide while the brawl happens around me. Eventually only the mercs are left alive, so I murder them and leave thoroughly confused what I was planning on doing there 25 minutes ago when this all started.
This story is a perfect example of what playing AC:OD is like. It's a game full of small adventures and unique stories like this. This story happened to me around the 25 hour mark, it was completely unplanned and will probably never happen to anyone else ever again. This story, like my Odyssey, was mine; my own, my precious.
As I mentioned in the BLUF it's hard to really talk about a game of this magnitude without missing parts so instead of doing the normal categories of review I'll just talk about the good and the bad of this.
There is so, so many great things in AC:OD. AC:OD continues Ubisoft's dramatic shift away from the traditional AC formula that permeated their games for years. AC:Origins started this radical shift towards Action Adventure RPG and AC:OD improved upon it. I found the combat in AC:Origins to be, lack luster. I'm not sure what exactly I didn't like but I know I didn't feel the same way with AC:OD. The combat was quick, brutal, and enjoyable. I always loved watching the finisher animations that played at the end of every battle.
AC:OD also made monumental leaps in story telling by almost entirely removing the Meta Narrative that has plagued Assassin's Creed. The Assassins and Templars are gone (although the return in the DLC), the Abstergo plot is almost completely gone, and most of the "Ancient Ones" plot stuff is gone. All of this is a vast improvement because all the Meta Narrative only bogged down the story. Throughout my time in the game I was only ripped out of the animus 3 times; once about halfway through and the other two in the endgame. These sequences were never very long and thankfully didn't include ant silly parkour, or combat that really shouldn't work against guards with guns.
Throughout the game you're faced with an enemy called "The Cult of Kosmos". The game never directly attributes the Cult to the Templars but you can see that the Cult is supposed to be a very early version of the Templars.
THIS SECTION WILL HAVE SPOILERS
The story is also greatly improved in my opinion. It's a simple revenge story taking place during the height of the Peloponnesian War. Your character (which can be either Male or Female) is one of a pair of twins that the Oracle had a prophecy about. She predicted that one of you would bring about the destruction of Sparta. To solve this your father threw both of you off the sacrificial cliff. One of you was adopted by the Cult and the other was adopted by a poor merchant. Throughout the story you learn that the Cult manipulated the Oracle into giving that prophecy because your family was becoming a threat to their rule. The majority of the story falls into three categories.
- Find your parents
- Kill the cult
- Save your sibling
It's a basic premise but effective in introducing you to the world and the main concepts in it.
SPOILERS END HERE
The game is also beautiful. All of the Assassin's Creed games have looked great and this is no exception. It's clear that the development team really went to great lengths researching ancient greece and painstakingly recreating it. If you have several hours I highly reccomend the discovery tour, it'll give you an appreciation of the amount of work that really went into making a game of this scale.
The RPG mechanics in AC:OD are honestly fantastic. They're perhaps one of my favorite parts of the game. You're always progressing in some way. You're leveling up, getting better gear, getting skill points, getting materials to upgrade gear, upgrading your ship, etc. Part of what makes the RPG side of this game so great is the level scaling system. Enemies will be brought up to your level but not down. This means that even backtracking will provide meaningful rewards yet you can't rush to end game content. I love this format because it gives you something to work towards while making continued progression easier. After I beat the game I changed the difficulty level so enemies could be up to four level below me. I personally enjoyed this better because it made me feel even more powerful. By this time you probably have an entire set of legenday gear so getting random purples and blues become pretty worthless. You'll want to break these down for materials to level up your legendary gear or ship, so keeping the level scaled to where you're getting purples better than your legenday isn't a great idea.
As much good as there is in AC:OD there's also some issues with it. As I alluded to in my story above the mercenaries/bounty system is a bit wack. Enemies thousands of Kilometers away somehow know that you've killed a soldier and place a bounty on you. Even when you kill all witnesses these bounties stay. I understand that this bounty system is important to get players invested in the mercenary subsystem but there has to be a better way. By the late game this bounty system doesn't matter as you can easily take on 3 mercenaries at the same time, but in the early game where this is a huge hassle. You'll stuggle enough to take on a fort but then it's worse when the mercs begin chasing you to the high heavens. Add to this that you get bounty for defending youself. Some quests will have you get ambushed or attacked by soldiers. You're forced to defend yourself from these attacks but the bounty system treats this exactly like you murdered someone in the street. This gets even more compounded with the bad Ai that makes civilians begin attack you when you fight their guards and each civilian you kill just adds more to your bounty. One quest could easily lead to you hitting bounty level two because three guards and 5 civilians attack you during a quest. And again that bounty is hundreds to thousands of KM away from where you are.
The map is almost too large. When I beat the game around the 50 hour mark I still had a dozen Cultists left, half a dozen islands, two levels of mercenaries, and several dozen side quests to complete. Saying this game is large is an understatement. Most estimates place the AC:OD map at 130 square kilometers in size. That puts it larger than both GTA:V and RDR2 which are approximately 126 square kilometers each. Normally I'm thrilled with large open worlds (especially one with so few loading screens as AC:OD) but I started to get burned out in this game. There are so many things to so in this game that I didn't even get through a quarter of the map in 43 hours.
The ship to ship mechanics were lack luster. I loved the ship combat in AC:IV Black Flag but AC:OD just didn't have the same feel. I really tried to like it but having cannons blasting back and forth felt more enjoyable then shooting arrows at a boat. I basically avoided ship to ship combat as much as possible because it just wasn't fun.
As I've mentioned it's really difficult to talk about every aspect of this game. There's so much more in this game that I've forgotten to mention so let's wrap this up. Should you play this game?
Yes. Absolutely. When I'm done with this I'll be diving back into the game to work on the DLC.