It’s hard to think of a modern action RPG more iconic than Assassin’s Creed. The first time I stepped into the Animus to make a leap of faith as Altair, I knew the series was something special. But over the years, the series has been a mix of mess and masterpiece.
Some entries have been hit with major criticism because they were rushed and buggy, while others had dull characters and a lack of imagination. It’s been a long time since I really loved an individual entry to the series. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey changed this.
You’ll hear a lot of reviewers tell you that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a remarkable game. That’s because it is. It doesn’t look to redefine the series as a whole—although it does make a convincing case—but it does look to build the series into something that you can be invested in again.
Less Action. More RPG.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey takes place during the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece. Players play as one of two main characters, but the game showcases many iconic areas and great people from ancient Greece.
To understand what makes Odyssey so great, we have to look at what the game isn’t. It isn’t an action game. There are definitely action elements, but Ubisoft has sought to double down on what makes the series an RPG. This is true in Origins, as well, but Odyssey takes this to an entirely new level.
The skill tree in Odyssey, for example, is massive. It’s almost overwhelming. I’ve played a lot of RPGs this year, from Spider-Man to Octopath Traveler to Final Fantasy XV, but the game that has had the most in-depth skill system is probably Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
But even though it seems overwhelming at first, it’s entirely necessary. That’s because Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was designed to be the player’s “odyssey.” This is something that Ubisoft talks about in its press materials, but it’s also something it demonstrates in the game itself.
The skills available are tied to three main elements of the game: the warrior, the assassin, and the hunter. Ubisoft gifts players with three main ways to play the game. By doing this, Ubisoft is basically creating three classic-style RPG classes for the player to create throughout the game.
This means there isn’t a right way to play the game. Instead it’s entirely up to the player. I loved this in Odyssey, because it doesn’t feel restricting.
I recently played through Assassin’s Creed Unity, and one of the most frustrating things about that game was the challenges I had to complete during missions to get a “perfect” rating. I felt restricted in Unity because it felt like Ubisoft was grading me on how I played the game, but all I wanted to do was decide how to play the game.
Odyssey let me decide how to play the game. It let me define what an assassin could be by giving me the freedom to explore the game.
A Masterclass in World Building
Exploration isn’t just a combat mechanic of the game, either. One of the new features in Odyssey is Exploration Mode. Exploration Mode is designed to remove the hand-holding from Assassin’s Creed to let the gamer figure out what’s next in the story.
This means that waypoints are removed from certain points of the game. Instead, the player must ask questions of NPCs to determine what they are intended to do next. This mechanic, while not totally necessary, pushes the player to invest some time into the characters of Odyssey.
I initially found the Kassandra to be fairly boring, but as I learned her mannerisms and communicated with NPCs in the game, I started to answer questions and make decisions as Kassandra. That’s because Assassin’s Creed Odyssey—unlike the majority of the series—has branching dialogue options with real consequences. But we’ll talk about that more in a bit.
Once enough clues have been gathered from conversations, the player can use their map and knowledge of the world to figure out where to go next.
This ties in directly to the player’s eagle partner. It wouldn’t be an Assassin’s Creed game without an eagle reference, and Odyssey’s eagle is pretty awesome. When closing in on an objective, the player can use the eagle to take a look to see what kind of threats exist.
This works really well to give the player freedom when completing an objective. I spent a significant amount of time doing recon on each outpost to determine the most effective way to reach my objective.
By leveraging my eagle companion I was able to complete missions with minimal combat. I identified key guards in each area and took them out silently to ensure I didn’t have to fight an army every time I wanted to complete a mission. It made the game a lot less repetitive, because I forced myself to treat each objective as an experience, rather than a combat grind.
A Nearly Endless Grind
But that’s not to say there’s no grind in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The game’s depth is not only one of its biggest strengths, but also one of its biggest weaknesses. There were several times when I was playing Odyssey where I wasn’t strong enough to handle the task at hand, and reaching the next two or three levels seemed like a chore.
At one point of the game, I was two levels below someone I had to kill. I decided to test the waters to see how close I could come to killing the target, because all of my side quests were a long distance away.
I quickly got my answer. I died immediately. It was not fun. My only option was to grind out a couple of levels and take a path back the way I came. It was frustrating because I was so invested in that arc of the story. I wanted to know what happened next, and I grinding a level and a half was a major chore.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has some ways to bypass this grind, as users can buy in-game currency with real-world cash. But for the average player, it’s going to seem like a steep grind at points of the game. Even though the world is full of interesting characters and places, a grind is still a grind. And at some points the grind is more than one might expect.
Deep Characters. Deeper Dialogue Trees.
But the characters do make the grind easier to deal with. The game places a major emphasis on story. The dialogue is believable. The characters are interesting. You can build relationships and recruit people to your crew on the seas.
But most importantly, the game provides a lot of choice. For the first time in the series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is entirely playable as a male or female character. Right off the start, players can choose one of two genders to play as.
For my review I played as Kassandra, the female lead character. I wanted to test out all the new things the game had to offer, so it made sense to me to choose Kassandra.
Kassandra is a strong addition to the Assassin’s Creed series, and the game gives you an opportunity to play Kassandra in whatever way makes sense to the user. And your choices have consequences.
Early into the game, you’re forced to make a series of choices that impact the entire story of the game—and also the political motivations of some of the key characters. The choices that you make at these moments of the game, along with moments later into the game, push the player towards one of nine endings.
It’s been a while since I’ve played a game that has forced me to make decisions that have a major impact on the progression of the story, and it was a refreshing change. Because the game places such an emphasis on dialogue and character development, I found these moments challenging.
Is this what Kassandra would want? Who is she most loyal to? Did a choice I make previously lead me to this point?
These were all questions I would ask myself in these moments. And these were all questions that made me more invested in the game.
Is it Good?
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey isn’t like the games that made me fall in love with the series. It’s better. Odyssey is a breathtaking experience that is worthy of your money. While the grind was a little tiresome at times, it still captured my attention at every moment—even moments when I wasn’t playing the game.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was reviewed with an Xbox One retail code provided by Ubisoft.