Review – Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Ubisoft looked like geniuses when they took a break in the yearly release schedule of their Assassin’s Creed franchise after Syndicate in 2015, releasing nothing in 2016 to revamp the series and freshen up the gameplay before 2017’s release of Origins. People suspected they might be idiots when they went right back to the annual cycle by announcing Odyssey for 2018, but fortunately that fear has proven unfounded.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a sprawling open world RPG masquerading as an action game, continuing the template laid out by the Egypt-based adventuring of Origins. Set in ancient Greece, Odyssey allows gamers to choose to be either Alexios or Kassandra, descendants of Spartan king Leonidas, and fight on the side of either Athens or Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.
This time out there are dialog tree options, weapon/armor upgrades, and a storyline that forces the player to make choices – though often without understanding this is a permanent, if sometimes minor, altering of plot’s trajectory. It’s basically what Assassin’s Creed II was to the original – it copies most of the gameplay elements, but streamlines, improves, and adds to it in enough ways to make it the definitive version.
The only real weakness that remains in the game on the gameplay side is the combat, which still doesn’t feel as fluid and fun as I’d like. Adding the ‘THIS IS SPARTA’ kick to the arsenal is a fantastic addition and being able to kick enemies off your ship and into the ocean will elicit a near-constant smirk, but there are still too many issues with collision detection and the lock-on system for combat to keep a smile on your face for long. These aren’t major issues, but in an otherwise gloriously polished experience it takes off a bit of the shine.
This is a massive game, both in terms of the fully-explorable world the gamer inhabits and in the number of things they can do within it. Unfortunately, there’s a reason ‘less is more’ is a popular aphorism, and in the end I felt like Odyssey could have benefited a great deal from a heavier hand in the editing booth. The main story, with some side missions done to level up at key points, took a little over 47 hours to complete and really felt like it was padded out unnecessarily at times. I’d much rather spend a totally enjoyable 20 hours with a story than slog through busywork when the story slows down to be able to move the plot along.
On the bright side, though I never felt the need to do the side missions and other ancillary content, I found I wanted to because they offer some of the most engaging storylines and character progression angles the game has to offer. There’s a lot of variety in the mission structure, though it usually comes back to combat and ‘kill everyone standing’ but it’s hard to escape that in an action adventure – even if it’s now an action-adventure-RPG.