It’s only been a year since the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins and now the team at Ubisoft Montreal has been hard at work on their next epic tale: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, one of the most ambitious titles within the Assassin’s Creed franchise yet. Find out what we thought in our review.
+A natural world that feels like a living and breathing place
+Combat has been heavily improved upon and offers a more satisfying experience
+Graphics are some of the best to date
+Ship battles have been refined to offer an amazing experience in and out of combat
+Gearing Kassandra or Alexios has weight and meaning throughout the game
+A plethora of daily and weekly bounties with high risks for high rewards
+Dialogue choices actually matter and influence how Alexios and Kassandra interact with others
In 2007 it seemed that the world of open-world stealth games was about to change. Altair would be the first man to change it all alongside the team that brought him and his world to life by the name of Ubisoft Montreal. We got our first look at a game that didn’t feature just impressive graphics, but a world brought to life through various NPCs, large crowds of interactive A.I. and even the ability to feel as if the world carried a living and breathing weight with it.
Over the course of the next 11 years, Assassin’s Creed would continue to grow, to mature and evolve into something entirely new. We would see a brotherhood arise from the ashes, forging bonds unlike any other to take down the Templar threat as the strength of the Creed continued to grow. We would see trials and tribulations play out before us, a man give his life to save the life of many and we would even see historical figures reimagined time and time again.
Through the years, the worlds got bigger, more interactive and livelier, but with it came the problems. The games would begin to become plagued with bugs, faltering under their own weight with the launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity and only get worse with The Ezio Collection. It all seemed to get better with the launch of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which took the series into an entirely new direction.
However, it didn’t do as good as everyone would have hoped. Fast forward a couple of years later and Ubisoft did something unimaginable. They re-launched Assassin’s Creed with Assassin’s Creed Origins, which took the series in an entirely new direction. The series would adopt an RPG like approach to its world, placing gears that featured bonuses, stats, and even a level-up system for Bayek to experience. It added weight, risk versus reward, and the world itself felt truly alive due to the removal of load times as you explored the world about you.
And now, here we are with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a game well deserving of its title of Odyssey. Set in the world of Ancient Greece, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey thrusts players into the role of Spartan-born character’s Alexios or Kassandra, decided by the player the moment the game starts up. Told as a tragedy-inspired story that spreads across the lands just as quickly as the tides of war crash upon the shores of Greece and you have something magnificent unfolding before you.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is truly an epic tale that needed to be told
Set across much of the lands of Greece and now-fallen Sparta, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a marvelous experience whether you are riding horseback across the countryside, running through vineyards chasing bandits or hunting in the forests on the bottom of a volcano; Ubisoft didn’t hold back any of their creative punches. The journey itself takes place across one Greecian island to the next, ones where dolphins and whales crest the waters while ship-based battles ensue or betrayals unfold before majestic white marble buildings that remain nestled deep within their marble walls.
But our journey isn’t just about these beautiful lands and the people that inhabit them. The journey itself is all about discovery. Discovering who you are, what motivates you to make the decisions you do and how you justify the very life that you just took. On the scales of balance are both the Athenian’s and the Spartan’s, both looking to control the lands of Greece. One motivated by political power while the later remains motivated by the need for purified vengeance through sweat, blood, and fire.
The choice here is truly yours. Will you see the Athenian’s burn or will you fight for balance in the world? From the very start, the decision of how your journey plays out is entirely yours. Aside from choosing just how challenging your experience actually is, Ubisoft Montreal has found a delicate balance between crafting an open world and a need for a story-fueled experience. Something we should all be familiar with thanks to our time in Egypt with Assassin’s Creed Origins, the game that paved way for the possibilities of the newly released epic we’ve had the chance to experience.
The experience itself is organic – it’s a living and breathing entity
The most unique part of the newly improved Assassin’s Creed experience is the fact Ubisoft Montreal didn’t just carefully craft the worlds before you. They made them believable, lived in and somewhere we could easily step out our front doors and visit with a bit of time and imagination. They make us want to go to Athens, to visit the Temple of Hephaestus or the now grass-covered streets of the once living and breathing markets of Agora or the still standing Temple of Dionysus on Naxos Island.
That’s where the beauty of the game really begins to show. Even as you take on various quests from bounty boards or random villagers, you’ll come to notice that the world itself reacts to everything you do. If you steal, guards, villagers, and bounty hunters take note of your actions. If you begin to take on bandit games, they’ll know what you’ve done and realistically react to your actions. They feel human. They feel natural. Something we really didn’t see get perfected in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
There’s a richness to the world we’d never seen before. Villagers are alive, talking, reacting to the changes in the world about them. You want to care for the cities that suffer from ritualistic purification due to illness or the people you encounter as the dialogue itself feels natural, something we hadn’t seen before in an Assassin’s Creed title. Even the side quests feel as if they have weight to them, something Bayek and Aya didn’t have when they swept their way among the shadows in Ancient Egypt.
But Assassin’s Creed Odyssey makes the sidequests matter. They carry weight, repercussions for the actions you take as you execute the missions. If you fail, there isn’t a going back and fixing what you did wrong the very first time. It’s over, done, not-happening again type situation to how they all play out. Ubisoft Montreal has blurred the lines between what missions are the main story and what ones are not. It’s apparent that they wanted everything to feel as if it has a purpose in the world around Kassandra and Alexios.
The world of Ancient Greece is tragic, bloody and quite brutal as someone is always out for blood
The beauty of Oddsey isn’t the fact it’s as alive as any other game on the market; it’s the fact you want to explore every inch of it. I’ve spent almost a solid 10 hours just wandering about, visiting key locations and hunting down the treasures that hide deep within their confines. Even as I lurked about, it wasn’t uncommon to see someone react to my looting a box or picking up a tablet – they reacted in their own unique way. Some reacted violently, screaming out their demands or their sincere threats that came with lethal actions.
Even if you aren’t fighting, there’s still a lot to explore and see. For a majority of my time with the game (I’m still going at nearly 45+ hours played), I haven’t stopped exploring. I walk everywhere and have opted to use the Fast Travel system on an as-needed basis. I don’t find a want to go from point a to point b at lightning speeds. I’m quite content huffing my way through the Athenian-controlled countryside hunting the various wildlife for crafting materials or hearing the random stories that I’ve managed to discover while walking the city streets.
The surprising part is that you can actually do this and you can actually have stories to tell your friends in vibrant recollection of your experiences. But due to the sheer amount of content, it can be somewhat overwhelming as you first dive into the game and the reality hits at just how big the world actually is. It didn’t even dawn on me personally until the four-hour mark hit and I was just now getting to the second region after having unlocked my boat and my crew.
That even comes with the territory I hadn’t even really learned to craft until I ran into both the Athenian and Spartan forces. It was from there that I realized something plain and simple: This game is one of the most intricately designed titles on the market.
How you build your character actually will influence how you play the game
The way you craft your story – rather your Odyssey – and the character you choose – in my case Kassandra – is entirely unique to how you want to play the game. Due to how large the single-player experience actually is – is absolutely mindblowing. Your assassin isn’t just built on your want to get the best gear possible and beat your way through a crowd of highly trained enemies. It’s also about choosing the stats that are best for you.
Want to play around in close-quarters combat? Warrior might be the best for you. Want to play stealth-like and eliminate your opponents without being spotted? Assassin is the best for you. Want to fight from afar with your bow and only use your sword, spear, mace, club or whatever weapon type you have equipped? Consider the Hunter skills and pieces of armor with those stats.
Every piece of gear you equip actually has the same depth as the rest of the world about you. Every piece of armor plays an important role in how much damage you will do, how effective your abilities actually are and just how quickly you can take out your opponents. But there is a cost to the depth of every choice you make. Not everyone will be pleased with the things you do. Not everyone will be happy that your assassin is a living and breathing person. They want him or her dead and they want them dead no matter the cost.
Everyone and thing has a price, it’s just a matter of being able to pay them off
One of the most unique experiences in the game is that there is a bounty system (think the Wanted Level in the Grand Theft Auto series). This system will dictate the level of how bad the locals want your assassin dead. The higher the level, the deadlier foe and how often they will appear. This level can be lowered by paying off the bounties or simply hunting down the person that has a bounty out for your head.
If the bounty hunter finds you, don’t expect them to want to share a glass of wine and celebrate as your new best friend; because they won’t. They want you dead and they will do it in the wild, they will replace local enemy forces as a special unit or they’ll march into the local town to hunt you down. These men and women are vicious Misthios (mercenaries/bounty hunters) that will do anything for the right amount of drachmae.
It just fuels that idea that the world you are experiencing did exist, it did happen and it isn’t much different from the one we live in today. But now, we need to talk about combat before we get to graphics and performance.
Sharpen your blades, brandish your spears, and wipe the blood from your face
One of the biggest problems I had with Assassin’s Creed Origins is the fact it felt as if Ubisoft Montreal was drawing their punches. Sure, I loved the RPG approach and how I leveled my character, how swapping out weapons with different stats added nuance to the combat systems, but what I didn’t like was how combat actually felt.
It felt subpar for what Ubisoft Montreal was aiming to do. Transitioning from staff to sword to my bow and to the hidden blade was a fascinating spectacle, but it didn’t feel as Ubisoft Montreal had really ironed things out. It still felt like it had an awkward pace, that it was intentionally slightly slower than what we’d experienced in previous games.
This time around, Ubisoft Montreal has decided to take everything good – luckily none of the bad – and cranked it up to the max. It’s a more fleshed out experience that can easily stand side-by-side with games like The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s a rather streamlined experience where you can choose what abilities you have (four for assassin and warrior with the bow having its very own four slots to use).
Abilities such as Predator Shot, Bull Rush, Spartan Kick and even the use of poisons for your weapons will stand out as streamlined abilities that you can improve upon as you play. But there are even other abilities that might draw your attention. Want to take out that group of Athenians ahead because they’re so tightly packed? Consider the multi-shot style ability and you’ll be pegging all three of them with an arrow each. Need a precision shot? Use Predator Shot to guide your arrow where you need it.
Want those abilities to be even better? Level them up. Everything you do, every decision you make, influences the way you play. After all, this is your Odyssey that you want to be told and that’s the very approach that Ubisoft Montreal has kept in mind with this game. You can even reset your abilities for a few hundred drachmae if you aren’t happy with how you’re approaching the game.
It’s this kind of polish that the series actually needed and it has benefited Assassin’s Creed Odyssey rather well. To put it bluntly, it feels as if the teams took their time, refined the experience we had in Origins and improved upon it without chucking the old combat system out the door and starting fresh again. It’s this very kind of refinement games like Call of Duty and Battlefield could actually learn quite a bit from.
Other games can actually learn a lot from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey thanks to its armor and leveling systems
Now, when you talk about an RPG, one of the biggest aspects of those games is their armor and weapon systems. I’m not talking about character progression, I am talking about you being able to use those legendary or epic items you earned early on. Ubisoft Montreal has apparently done their research and it’s continued to work in their favor since the launch of last years Assassin’s Creed Origins.
Like many RPGs, your gear actually matters when it comes to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I’ve had armor I’ve been almost using since the beginning of the game and have carried it with me for nearly twenty levels more. Granted some of it has been slowly rotated out for epic-quality items, I still have them on hand due to the stats they have to offer. The closest comparison I can draw is Destiny 2: Forsaken, but Assassin’s Creed Odyssey doesn’t shy away from its core RPG mechanics.
They have set items and these set items are of epic (exotic in Destiny 2 terms) quality that can be upgraded throughout the game. Have that epic piece you grabbed at level 12 and you just hit 35? You can level that up to your current level, upping its defense and stats along the way. I’ve yet to find a reason outside of blue and grey to even dismantle or sell my weapons and armor. I’ve learned everything has a purpose as I’ve made my way through Ancient Greece.
Again, it’s all about depth. It’s all about making the game a living and breathing entity of its own. It’s a game that the Assassin’s Creed franchise didn’t even know it wanted to be when it was first established in 2007. To put it short, this is absolutely a masterpiece that deserves an entire article dedicated to its design alone.
Graphics and performance on a PlayStation 4 Pro
Now, let me be clear. I have a hard-on for how games perform. I’m one of those that can see when framerates drop quicker than I can blink my eyes. The most admirable feet is the fact that even at 4K and 1080p at 30fps on a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 7200RPM HDD, you really don’t see a performance drop or even graphical fidelity loss based on the supply and demand of the hardware based on the scenes unfolding before you.
Instead, Ubisoft Montreal has somehow managed to optimize their game to the point it doesn’t skip a frame, it doesn’t drop its graphical fidelity as one might expect and it does it all better than almost any game on the market. The only game that easily stands to it side-by-side as far as graphics and performance goes is the remarkably fun and enjoyable Marvel’s Spider-Man that approached gameplay and performance in a similar albeit slightly different fashion.
However, we’d have loved to have seen the ability to move the game between performance and graphics settings that would allow us to prioritize graphical fidelity or higher framerates over one or the other. While this is only a minor desire, it’s not something Assassin’s Creed Odyssey actually needs in order to succeed. It’s already done that as you can tell from this review.
My Odyssey is far from over – The Conclusion
Even at nearly 50 hours played, I can already tell you that I’m just at the tipping point of completing the main storyline for the game. But I’ve taken my time to explore my characters romance options, building my friendships and even recruiting my crew members for my ship. I’ve even taken more time to explore the countryside and find those real-world locations that still stand to this very day.
But that’s the brilliance behind Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Whether we know it or not, Ubisoft Montreal designed this game akin to that of how CD Projekt Red built The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. They didn’t want us to just blow through the story or focus on a single thing. They wanted us to live in this digital world, to see the sights, to visit with the locals, take on weekly or daily bounties and even take time to see just what Greece would have been like had we been alive in those times.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Available Now
If anything, this is what Assassin’s Creed was destined to be and all it took was for them to let you write your very own Odyssey.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 10 out of 10
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.