October 01, 2018

Assassin's Creed Odyssey - Review

Coming a year after the successful Origins, Odyssey seemed to be a lot of same game, but with a new location slapped on it, but is that all, or is this another epic quest?

The game starts out, re-enacting the battle of the 300 Spartans who fought against the Persian armies, in order to help defend Greece, if you have see the movie 300, you will know what is going on here, but just as things are about to interesting, it cuts to modern day, with Layla from the last game, discovering the Spear that Leonidas was using and soon she and her latest associate are loading back into the Animus, to discover more about what Abstergo are after. When the Animus loads, you are given a choice of who you want to play as, for me I selected Alexios, and the adventure begun.

Alexios is a Mercenary, or Misthios in Greek and lives on the island of Kephallonia, he was found on a beach by Markos, a man out for an easy life, who attempts to claim it, without doing any hard work. The two have been together for a while and Markos finds himself in trouble, after borrowing money from a local thug and while Alexios completes a few missions for him, to try to help out, word soon  reaches them that the Cyclops has returned to the island and the man, not monster, is after them both, so making a pre-emptive attack, Alexis goes on the hunt. However, the hunt does not turn out as expected and instead of the Cyclopes, he meets Elpenor, a man who holds more than a few secrets and after completing a mission for him, he is asked to kill the Wolf of Sparta. Trigger a flashback, in which we learn how Alexios came to be on the island, the game kicks into great fully. While on the trail for the Wolf, Alexios learns more about his mother and his past, which sets out a very grand quest, which includes some very humour characters, a few disturbing ones and a whole assembly of evil ones, including what is honestly, a very predictable surprise.

If you played Origins, then you will have a solid understanding of what the game is offering here, the game is not to much different, but offers a host of improvements to the game, to expand the gameplay more. The biggest addition is that of the adrenaline meter, which when you accumulate some, allows, you to execute some stronger moves, tactical attacks and more, which change up the combat something wonderful. Your attacks are still mapped to the right shoulder and trigger buttons, but now when you combine the dodging move, which allows you to get behind enemies and your super attacks, you can become a one-man army. The one you will have seen in a lot of the marketing is the Spartan Kick, which does exactly what you would expect, dealing out a massive amount of damage, if you can land it, enemies can still dodge it. As you level up and earn ability points, you can level up most of these skills, so instead of 150% damage, you can get 200% or more and when you equip engraving and weapons, that can increase even more.

Weapons, much like in Origins have levels and stats and while the earlier weapons can deal out some decent damage, it is when you start to make use of the specialisations that things get interesting. Your character can play the game in anyway you make them, but if you want to focus on the Assassin route, equipping weapons or gear that fit that mould, will help you out greatly. Each piece of gear you equip, will usually have a bonus attached, +3% to Warrior or such and if you combine your weapons and armour, to have the same bonus, your playstyle of choice will benefit from the powerup. You can do what I did and go for an even split, but while it made things fine, there were times when I wished I had more boosts to me Assassin skills and Warrior skills.

Earning the ability points is done by levelling, which can be done by earning XP, some of it will come from exploring, either on land or ship, but completing missions will get you the most. The hunting missions are always good for a larger boost, depending on how you hunt, completing an elixr for an older lady, requires a little more patience than most, but combat is always going to give you the most and even more so when you play, to your characters specialisation, keeping up stealth kills, without being seen, gives you bonuses and such. Some combat will come from your conversations, which can sometimes be unexpected, but it does highlight the games other major addition, choice.

Yes, you can choose how you want to play the game, but much like some other RPG’s, how you choose to interact with the world and its citizens, will change how things level up. For example, trying to get to a location, required me to go through a town, where everyone was out to kill me, I managed to avoid most of the enemies, but just as I was nearing the destination, I was spotted again and entered combat, at this point, I decided to just kill them, which resulted in her demanding a lot more money from me, as compensation. Had I evaded, the fee, still would have been demanded, but it would have been a lot less, that is one possible outcome of choice, but the full level of choice, won’t be felt, until you finish the game, or at least the family quest, as Ubisoft have promised 9 different endings, based on the choices you make throughout the game.

One aspect that I was not a fan of, was the sailing, it never really grabbed me past Assassin’s Creed 3, where it was a minor addition, while Sailing is fun and worthy of your time, for a while at least, the sub quests of upgrading the ship and its crew, are somewhat arduous. In order to upgrade your ship, you need resources, like you do for weapons, but for the major upgrades, like to the ships hull, you need special tablets, which are not easy to come across, this leads to the problem of having a quest sitting in your list, you may choose to never complete, because of its requirements. In addition to ship upgrades, you can also add new members to your crew, these guys and gals are not just rowers or archers, but lieutenants, with each of them having a set of skills that make your ship more powerful, by either increasing top speed, distance on bows and more. Outside of the people I recruited at the end of a mission, I never actually went out and hunted down anyone to join my crew, because I honestly, never thought about it.

If there is one thing you can’t say about Odyssey, is that it is an ugly game, from the opening sequence, to your first voyage at sea and beyond, the game is beyond beautiful. Each location, be it a city by the water, ruined or in the midst of a war, looks amazing, the world that connects them, is even more so, with wildlife, some friendly too, and people going about their days. Climbing to the top of the sync points, rewards you with a wonderful vista and showing you where you can go, there are some issues though. The games load times fall to the astronomical side of things and while I can forgive a game for a long first-time load, sometimes just loading into a cutscene would result in a lot of waiting, the game would from time to time, stall while loading in the world, not a lot, but the loading/saving icon in the bottom left corner was hard to see the first few times, so it made me think the game had locked up. Finally, some textures are slow to load, which left a lot of blurry visuals on the screen, until they popped in, while these are valid complaints, they are really the only issues I had with the presentation and on the plus side as well, the issues that Origins had are non-existent here, which I was grateful for, as they were annoying there.

The characters are wonderfully acted, Alexios has a lot of dry wit about him, which results in some humorous lines, the locals on Kephallonia, including Phiobe are also a well done. Characters like Herotodos and Barnabas are fun to listen to, when you are on the water and even some members of a certain group are well done. The citizens of the world are also very well executed, for the first time in a long time, they all don’t speak the same few words, when you run past them, something even Origins did, they do however suffer from some clunky animations, even some of the major characters have that problem at times as well. Faces look great, with a lot of details applied to the main characters themselves, which given as you will see them a lot, is a good thing. The games music is suitably epic, worth of any odyssey, but it also dials itself back enough, to let you enjoy the moments when you want to focus, though, I did wish the crew of the Adrestia would stop singing all the time.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a game that lives up to its name as it is truly epic, the characters are worth investing in, your choices actually shape, not only the story, but how the world sees you and even cooler, how it reacts to you. While some issues with the presentation appear on and off, they can’t do anything to sink this game and some players though, might feel like it is too much, too soon after Origins, but with the enhanced combat systems and playstyle options, this takes the Assassin’s Creed series up to a whole new level.

Review copy provided by Ubisoft

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