If you’re going to kick off an Assassin’s Creed game set in ancient Greece, it seems practically mandatory to do it with the guy most associated with the art of Greek, well, kicking. Thus, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey starts off with King Leonidas of Sparta doing battle at Thermopylae, armed with his shield, his spear and his now famous Spartan Kick.
Seriously, there’s a move in the game called Spartan Kick.
It’s a tongue-and-cheek addition that’s certainly most welcome for anyone with a funny bone. While Odyssey has its fair share of serious moments, it has no problems sprinkling some much-needed levity to the whole mix to balance out its heavier portions. It also builds on the ideas and overall vibe of its immediate predecessor, which is a good thing. In my review of Assassin’s Creed Origins, I felt the game reinvigorated a franchise that was starting to feel a bit long in the tooth, thanks to its combat improvements and decision to set its adventure right smack in Egypt’s classical antiquity era.
In Odyssey’s case, it doubles down on the classical stylings of Origins by moving the setting to Ancient Greece. This time, you have your choice of two protagonists, the male mercenary Alexios or his female counterpart Kassandra. As someone who likes to play female characters in games for a change of pace, I welcomed the ability to be able to do so in Odyssey — something I last experienced in an Assassin’s Creed game when I played Liberation (pretty much the last AC game I played before Origins). Fortunately, Kassandra is not only likable but also happens to be a well-written character. Having a protagonist like her definitely went a long way in making my long journey through Odyssey much more enjoyable. Despite Kassandra’s sad and traumatic past, the female “misthios” has a surprisingly upbeat and optimistic attitude overall. Heaven knows how many games I’ve played that featured protagonists who were insufferable jerks because it was considered edgy. Instead of thinking that was cool, though, it just made me wish I could virtually smack them upside the head with a turkey leg.
I also like the fact that Kassandra doesn’t have a complex where she feels the need to overcompensate for the fact that she is a woman in a male-dominated profession (or world even). She simply kicks butt, gets results and goes about her business without crowing about it. Her more level-headed and outward demeanor is certainly a contrast from Origins’ Bayek, whose apparent calm hides a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode from underneath. And I like Bayek as a character, by the way.
As with Origins’ Egyptian locales, I quite enjoyed traveling through Ancient Greece like some virtual tourist. Odyssey serves up a big world for you to explore, which also includes large swaths of the Mediterranean Sea. Having consumed and absorbed tons of information about Ancient Greece and Greek mythology as a child, it was fun to go through Odyssey’s interpretation of those lands, as well as its incorporation of some of the famous myths from the region. Part history and part fiction, Odyssey does a good job in melding those two separate realities into one cohesive whole as you find yourself squaring off against more realistic human opponents one moment then fighting mythological creatures the next. You also see plenty of references to figures such as Odysseus, Achilles and other familiar names from Ancient Greece, which helps add a splash of Hellenic lore to the narrative.
Another thing I liked about Odyssey is its strong RPG vibe. This is expressed through various mechanisms such as skill trees, constantly improving gear as well as the ability to make choices, not just for the main narrative but during sidequests as well. I couldn’t help but get a bit of Mass Effect or Dragon Age nostalgia while playing it, which I consider to be a good thing. Some of those choices also can have consequences. As someone who likes to play my characters closer to the lawful good side of the RPG coin, I tend to lean toward the side of saving people, which I did in an early part of the game when a plague gripped the town of Kausos. Even as my mind believed that the priest had a point in how to best ensure that the disease does not spread, I still decided to follow my heart and let people live. Many hours later, as I was carrying on with my adventure in a faraway region, I get news that the plague from Kausos has spread elsewhere, causing much death in its wake in my adoptive home of Kephallonia. The news actually bothered me and made me feel responsible for all the lives that were lost.
The choices you make also have consequences for the ending you get. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so the only hint I’ll offer is that Odyssey is a game about family. If you keep that in mind during key points in the plot when you have to make a decision, you should be able to get the ideal result in the end.
Gameplay, meanwhile, is quite expansive to say the least. That doesn’t just apply to the world, which is quite big, but your combat and gameplay options as well. Exploration is still a big part of the game and it’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole of exploring every nook and cranny offered to you for materials, tablets, gear and quests. I don’t even know how long it took me to get out of Kephallonia as I tried searching for every underground cave or climb attractions such as Zeus’ special, uh, package. Let’s just say the post office wasn’t careful enough with that one. That being said, you can just go from one main mission to the next and keep exploration to a minimum.
Combat, meanwhile, is quite flexible, too. Thanks to changes introduced in Origins that make combat more fluid as opposed to the more QTE-based system of the past, action lovers can totally go hard on that side of the tree if they don’t want to deal with stealth as much. Conversely, you can invest in the sneakier side of the ability tree as well, which requires a bit more work than classic AC games but is still a viable way to play the game. Or you can do a combination and pick the essential stuff from the warrior, assassin and hunter side. The freedom of choice is one of the things I like about the combat system, which you can mold to suit your own fighting style. You can also equip a bunch of moves with cooldowns that can help in battle. These include the ability to add poison to your attacks, another for healing part of your health in a pinch, and, of course, the Spartan Kick, which doubles as a great recruitment tool if you want to take down foes without killing them. In fact, my crew of misfits for my ship is mostly composed of officers who used to be enemy generals or even city leaders who were assassination targets. Instead, I ended up Spartan kicking them into my merry band, so to speak. One of the first ones was actually a hotshot Athenian leader who practically got reduced to an unguarded pauper outside his city’s walls after I burned all his supplies and sabotaged the resources for his troops. By the time I was done weakening and destabilizing his rule, I simply walked up to his location, gave him a Spartan Kick for his troubles and recruited him into my ship.
The same thing goes for that leader’s favorite mercenary as well as some free agents who tried to collect bounties that were placed on my character. Since recruiting still counts as a kill, I was able to turn my toughest opponents into valuable assets who helped me terrorize opponents at sea. It also made me like the mercenary mechanic, which would put a bounty on your head if you do too many bad things like stealing in front of people or sinking merchant ships. The mercenary mechanic initially annoyed me at first because they would pop up in the most inopportune times when I was infiltrating a base or fighting foes. Now I just use mercenaries to fill my officer ranks and abscond with their gear for my own personal use.
Sea battles, by the way, are quite fun and prove to be a welcome diversion when I get a bit fatigued by exploring on land. You can use archers and lancers to soften your foes or even use your own ship to ram their broadsides into submission. Depending on how you finish your enemy, you can either get extra salvage via ramming or access enemy chests via boarding. You can also upgrade your ship by improving defense, attack damage or reload speed to gain an extra advantage in battle. Just be ready to get a lot of wood, which you can harvest from the field, buy from blacksmiths or salvage from the sea. I gathered so much of the stuff that I just might puke if I see another piece of Olive Wood. On a related note, boy, do I wish we get a new Skies of Arcadia game.
As much as I like Assassin’s Creed Origins, however, it has its fair share of issues. From a narrative perspective, the Animus just feels shoehorned in. While it played a huge role in the earlier games, it kind of feels like the appendix in the human body these days — something that probably plays some role (like storing good bacteria?) but isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. They just need to do something with it so it doesn’t feel like it’s just, well, there for no reason. Reminders of the game’s microtransactions also felt a bit irksome but I never felt the need to buy gear and other stuff with real money to enjoy the game.
Instead, the bigger issue I had with Odyssey are its bugs. Some are harmless, like people floating in the air or assuming weird, unnatural poses. Others, however, are game breaking, like falling through the ground and getting stuck outside the map. The fact that the game’s autosave is a bit lax during points when you can’t manually save means you might end up having to replay entire sequences or infiltrations if the game bugs out.
Early into my playthrough, for example, I had to replay the Cyclops fight four times because the game would always glitch out once I killed him and started escorting Barnabas to safety. Twice, the game just crashed and unceremoniously Spartan kicked me to the home menu without autosaving. The third time, it glitched as I approached the last guard before the exit, causing the game to slow down to almost a complete stop while turning Kassandra invisible AND setting her on fire. Since I was worried that the entire sequence might be glitched based on my save, I decided to try and get Kassandra out of the village so I can teleport somewhere and at least trigger the autosave to create a new file. I guided the burning and now cursing Kassandra to dive into water nearby — a distance that normally would have taken a few seconds but ended up taking several minutes due to the severe slowdown. This thankfully doused the fire right before her HP was reduced to zero, and I then guided Kassandra toward the exit. Once she came ashore, though, the burn status triggered again and I desperately tried to get her to the exit until fast travel was available again. I warped to the closest vantage point with the game still glitching but the autosave finally triggered at some point. I loaded the autosave and it sent me back in the stronghold right after the Cyclops fights instead of before it so I didn’t have to take him down again. I finally got Barnabas to safety and was able to continue my adventure.
That’s just one example of the many bugs and glitches that I encountered while playing this game, which made me paranoid while saving constantly. Fortunately, the bugs were just minor setbacks at worst and didn’t result in anything catastrophic, like lost save files. As such, they didn’t seriously deter from the great overall experience that Odyssey provided, which remains a fun one. There’s just something about the way Odyssey is put together that makes it enjoyable to play or even just watch. Even now, my brother — who watched a nice chunk of my playthrough — still asks me when I’m playing “that Spartan game” again. It’s especially funny when he starts backseat driving during my infiltrations, mercenary fights and ship battles. I swear, the guy sounds more stressed out than I am when I get cornered or my ship catches fire after being double-teamed by pirates.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey builds on the strengths of the excellent Origins while setting you out on an excellent adventure in yet another grand, ancient setting. Bugs and glitches are a bit too commonplace for my tastes and the microtransaction reminders can be annoying, though not too in-your-face. Overall, fun combat, an interesting story and a likable and well-written protagonist (Kassandra, in my case) make Assassin’s Creed Odyssey an worthy and addicting addition to the longstanding franchise.
- Rating: 8.5 out of 10
- Cost: $59.99; PC, PS4 (reviewed), XB1
Technobubble covers games, gadgets, technology and all things geek. Follow Technobubble poobah Jason Hidalgo’s shenanigans on Twitter @jasonhidalgo or his Tabiasobi Youtube channel.
Source : https://www.rgj.com/story/life/2018/10/12/assassins-creed-odyssey-review-technobubble/1608819002/