Writer’s Note: This article got lost in the depths of our draft folder, but we’ve found the piece and are publishing it to give the (albeit late) review Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey deserves.
Let’s start this review with the obvious, already overdone main point: Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is not a very good Assassin’s Creed game. Not a bad game, mind you, but a game almost wholly uninterested and unattached the the previous adventures and lore of older Assassin’s Creed stories.
Now, onto the review, shall we?
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is technically the twelfth installment of this sprawling series, releasing on October 5th and quickly becoming a hot topic among gamers. Some are upset about its departure from its roots and its leveling obstacles. Others marvel at its open world experience and RPG adventuring. But, trying to be as objective as possible, what is Odyssey?
Well, frustratingly, both.
In a previous article, I discussed the fact that Bioware’s internal issues were creating an opening in the gaming market that Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey could do well in filling. The sprawling RPG adventure fans, obsessed with finding every niche, dialogue choice, and romance, have been thirsting for content. After all, it’s been 4 years since the last Dragon Age with no announcements in sight, and Mass Effect: Andromeda left fans feeling lukewarm. The unique corner of the market that Bioware coveted has been left open for far too long. And, just as I suspected, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey has taken the opportunity to try to fill it.
Anyone can see on the Dragon Age reddit that the game has become a huge hit, hitting all the things these RPG explorers love: endless stories in atmosphere, characters, and dialogue. These people have also spilled into the Assassin’s Creed reddit and are giving the game all the praise in the world.
Not everyone is gushing, though, and those people are of a distinct camp: original Assassin’s Creed fans. While there is some overlap, most original AC fans adored linear storytelling, mystery, and deliberate subterfuge. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, while getting decent press, is decidedly not that. It’s very easy to instigate a fight instead of a stealth mission, the leveling forcefully encourages map exploration, and a lot of extra content and brute force get in the way of any mysterious intrigue. And, of course, this game in particular acts like it couldn’t care less about the Templars v. Assassins battle going on in the modern age.
These factors make the game a little complicated to review. After all, as a game, it is a sprawling, gorgeous, well-written adventure. But as an Assassin’s Creed game, and the association that comes with the name, the experience fails on many levels.
But, for now, let’s start with what’s great about the game I’ll aptly start calling Odyssey.
The Grecian landscape, atmosphere, and cities of Odyssey are some of the most beautiful I have seen in any game. It’s easy to fall into hours of exploration, accomplishing nothing except finding new areas. The game also does well in focusing in on the unique characteristics of each region and enhancing them so they truly feel well-defined.
Similarly, the game is rich in characters, dialogue, decisions, and fantastic voice acting. The colorful people a player meets on their journey make the experience all the more interesting. Personal favorites are Sokrates, Kyra, Brasidas, and Phiobe, just to name a few. The main characters are also lively and unique. Despite having the same dialogue, the voice actors for Kassandra and Alexios put in enough vibrance and character that they feel like very different people. Alexios is a more typical heroic brute, maybe a little dim but full of conviction and passion. Kassandra is witty, capable, and has the strength to back it all up. She’s generally good-hearted and steady-headed, but can be smoother than any pick up artist. This merc is a alluring no-nonsense woman on a mission. (Can you tell I mainly play Kassandra?)
The game is also the first Assassin’s Creed to provide romance options for players. While they aren’t the long, sprawling love stories of Dragon Age or Mass Effect, they let the player truly feel like a grecian hero on an adventure. They run into witty, fun, intelligent, warm, attractive people throughout their journeys and can take a moment to indulge in flirtation and fun. It’s not a grand romance, but it’s perfectly fitting for the “lone wolf” saga of Kassandra or Alexios.
The missions are also fabulously well-done. The main mission is an interesting story of family tragedy, Gods, and terrible revelations. It all plays out, very aptly, like a complex Greek play. Or, perhaps, like a great poem, akin The Iliad or The Odyssey. The game’s title makes an absurd amount of sense when pointing that out.
But beyond that, the side quests are still fascinating tales. While not vital, the saga of the Silver Isles is gripping, the humor of Family Values is unforgettable, and all of Alkibades’ escapades make the game all the richer. Even one-off missions, while at times repetitive, at least often have a particular, odd backstory to them. It might be a somber tale of a man losing his mother’s necklace when he was robbed by bandits. He’s distraught because its all he has left of her. And these mission even become a little funny when you ask them, “do you want the necklace retrieved?” and they respond with, “No! I want those bandits dead!”
And then you go slay all those damn bandits for them without blinking an eye.
However, this leads into the point I made earlier: for fans of Dragon Age or Mass Effect series, these mini-quests seem a step forward. Any avid player of Dragon Age: Inquisition is still haunted by the tedious hours finding crystals, with no fun backstory or humor to back it up.
But fans of the old Assassin’s Creed games, which stayed far more linear, might understandably find even these nugget-missions very bland and annoying.
And speaking of that, to the cons.
Once the character starts running into fights in villages or towns, its quickly clear how inconveniently and illogically aggressive the NPC’s can be. Fight a soldier in front of a civilian, and they might start attacking. They might even pick up a dead soldier’s sword and use it to battle. Not only does this make accidental murder too easy, but it also can quickly rack up bounties and make the experience harder for the player.
Similarly, it’s far too easy in the game for a battle to get completely out of hand. While large forts and camps encourage stealth, one motion in the wrong direction and the hero may be spotted, brazier fires might be lit, mercs may be on their way, and a fort/camp of 15-20 npc’s is suddenly 50 and a bear and the player will probably die. While its neat to have the NPC’s react more defensively, it often ruins any stealth aspect of the game when getting caught is so obscenely dangerous and easy to mess up. It makes brute force sometimes an easier, and better, option.
For posterity’s sake, I must also mention the game can be buggy. While most any open world game is. After all, Bethesda, the largest creator of open world games, is known for their ridiculous bugs. However, they still do cause some trouble in Odyssey. For example, climbing can get sticky at times and completely botch stealth plans. Also, getting over a ledge can stop working, for a person or a horse, making movement difficult. Other players have also experienced disappearing faces, getting trapped in rocks, and other common bugs. But, as said, these kind of things are fairly common in open-world games so I personally don’t hold that against Odyssey.
But this final point is likely the most serious and problematic critique of the game: it’s not really an Assassin’s Creed game. AC games are based on puzzles, stealth, intrigue, and the connection between the modern world and history to fight an age-old war. Not all fans have loved the modern aspects of AC games, but that’s a big deviation Odyssey commits: the real world aspect of Odyssey really, truly, doesn’t matter. It pops in infrequently and for abysmally short bursts. No one’s invested in it, not even the game. Also all puzzles and subterfuge are basically gone. The hero of the story, be it Kassandra or Alexios, are more clever mercs on a grand adventure. They aren’t some mythical members of a larger order.
While none of this makes Odyssey a bad game, it does put a thorn in the side of fans who did love the series for the stealth, mysteries, and intrigue being an assassin. It also feels cheap to brand a game that practically doesn’t belong in the series with the AC nomicer just to get brand notice.
Ubisoft never should have tacked the AC brand lazily on the front of this game. The game nor the brand deserved that. They should have just started a new series with this, a mythical, adventure, RPG experience. Under that genre and categorization, Odyssey excels.
But hey, Ubisoft couldn’t just make an awesome game without borking up some part of it, right?
Conclusively, Odyssey is an amazing game. It fills the hole character-driven game explorers have been missing for four years. It deserves all the praise it gets. The game itself doesn’t deserve the flack for its misbranding, but Ubisoft definitely does. While Odyssey was a great step forward, they wholly failed the fans who loyally loved Assassin’s Creed games since Altair and Ezio.
I can’t wait to see where the stepping stones of Odyssey may take fans, but it would have been a much sweeter victory if it wasn’t built off the back of a once-beloved, very different series.