Assassin's Creed Odyssey Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
I've already written about the opening hours of this rather epic game here. So if you are wondering about whether or not it'll take fifteen hours to get to the good stuff, well, read that and wonder no more.
Moving past the opening section and onto the wider picture, how good is the game, how well does it play, why would you play as Alexios? All these questions and more will be answered as we delve into the beautiful, sun drenched islands of ancient Greece. Actually, I can answer the last question right now, there are no good reasons to play as Alexios, break free of your restraints and embrace Kassandra as the correct protagonist.
So let's start with how it plays shall we? The movement is just as good as ever, climbing isn't a chore, it feels just as easy as running, though it does tend to involve more deity butts than ever before. If you decide that where you want to be is up the side of a cliff, well then you just hold X and run straight at the thing, you will scale it in no time. The little animations during this are great, it feels like Kassandra has spent her life rock climbing, and the way she moves as she clambers up a sheer wall is with all of the grace of one who was born to do so.
Of course if you would rather just take in the sights you can summon your noble steed and ride along with ease. You can have your horse stick to the roads and take your forwards automatically, or set a way-point and have it carry you to your goal while you just soak in the sights. Along with this you have a fast travel system which has you warping to any synchronisation points you have unlocked. The options all have their own benefits, and these are just the ones on land.
In order to leave the first island you have to acquire a ship, get comfortable on it, because you'll need your sea legs to survive this story. Sailing itself is nice and simple, you push a direction and off you go. It looks amazing too, the way the water breaks as you cut through it is unreal. I'm hard pressed to remember a time when water has ever looked this good. Of course it isn't always smooth sailing, every so often you'll find yourself beset upon by pirates.
The ship combat is an odd one, and probably the weakest part of the game. You can ram, rain a barrage of arrows, and throw your pointy stick at opposing vessels. You can them board them, kick everyone into the sea, and loot that sweet booty for yourself. It is fun, but a little shallow compared to the terrifying depth on display elsewhere in the game.
On the subject of depth and the sea, diving is wonderful. The sea is full of life, in fact just skimming across the top of the waves often has you side-by-side with leaping dolphins, splashing whales, and menacing sharks. The world feels alive, go too deep, and Poseidon's kingdom feels horrifying and inhospitable.
Anyway, I got really distracted by the pretty oceans and wildlife there. Back the mechanics then. So there are a plethora of weird and wonderful skills to choose from as you level up, each in one of the three different skill trees. It is easy to mix and max from these which is nice, you never feel too tied into what you have chosen. The spartan kick is the one that most people will talk about, it is pretty damn wonderful to be fair, but there are so many good ones. One of my favourites has you warping to a far away enemy and assassinating them, then chaining it to hit other enemies too. It isn't very realistic, but it is incredibly badass.
The variety here is what defines this game, the choices you make feel like they matter. Your armour changes as you upgrade it, the weapons feel different, the skills can change how you approach the game. Your conversations are interesting and entertaining, some more so than others. The 'romance' options are incredibly awkward, sometimes in a charming way, sometimes very much not. It isn't uncommon for flirting to end abruptly in a fade-to-black implied sex scene, or in the person coming onto your ship as a crew member; only to never talk to each other again. Bioware this is not.
It is a shame that the romance never feels more meaningful, though it is somewhat reflective of the ancient Greeks and the kinkiness that they were prone too, so that's a win for historical accuracy. Generally the writing is much better than that, with character drawing you into the rather twisted story. The darkness in the story is inky and sticky. It is filled with unpleasant and uncomfortable moments that are a testament to the fantastic mix of story telling and sheer graphical power.
The game is huge, epic, titanic, akin to other adventure games that threaten to consume both your every waking thought, and every moment you can spare. Nevertheless it somehow retains a relaxed pace, you never feel punished for going away from your urgent missions, exploration is rewarding. Levelling up comes at a constant pace, allowing you to get that new skill without too much worry.
Given how Origins padded out the game with a slew of post-release content, plus the lack of a new Assassin's Creed next year, this will probably last you until the next instalment if you want it to. Leisurely strolling from place to place, taking out bandits, making friends with a wolf, and spelunking for treasure, it all feels worthwhile. You will always find something to help your adventure, or a hefty dose of experience to make it worth your while.
Here is a game that could be full of bloat, but still feels as though it respects your time. If this is the way that Assassin's Creed will be going from now on, then you can bet that the next game will be just as good, if not better, and that really brings the series into the upper echelons of gaming. It is astounding the amount there is to do, and the beauty of the vistas that you will visit while doing it. So go ahead, get lost in your odyssey, you won't regret it.