Odyssey takes players through the events of the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C which pitted Spartans against Athenians. A game based on the Sons and Daughters of Sparta wouldn’t be complete without addressing the Persian conflict in the first instance. This is the introduction to Odyssey, whilst doubling as a training level of sorts. The last stand of 300 Spartans is touched upon here in its epic glory, complete with Spartan kicks from high cliffs. Thanks Ubisoft!
Bye Bye Hype Train
Now that the hype has settled surrounding the original buzz over Odysseys Spartan aesthetic, along with the biggest open world featured in an Assassin’s Creed game, has been reduced to a polite hum, is it any good? Well, the cracks in the development cycle for Ubisoft’s mega-franchise are starting to show once again.
Content is key when creating an open world title. In fact, many developers either ignore this fact or are restricted by budget and time constraints in making their titles go gold. This has resulted in a promising title that washes, rinses and repeats with little variation or reward. Well, bar climbing Zeus’ package of course!
Brother and sister protagonists, ‘Alexios’ and ‘Kassandra’ (love you) manage to get more action bar a giant stone cock and balls as the game progresses. However, Zeus’ chiselled micro penis seems to have more acting skills than the randy NPCs Alex and Kass end up slapping bellies with. Imagine ‘Eurotrash’ but 431 B.C.
This is a Personal Sparta!
Moving on, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is more of a personal tale this time around. Odyssey focuses on the trials and backgrounds of its protagonists rather than Templar vs. Assassin-with-a-side-of-Animus-generic-narrative the franchise has become well known for. In all honesty, the series is taking its natural progression to making the Animus story elements irrelevant. This reviewer, for one, would rather climb the acorn of a Greek God’s manhood, rather than hear the pointless dribble of a couple of minor protagonists that draw players away from an engaging and historically woven narrative.
When looking back on past Assassin’s Creed experiences, Ezio and his dealings with Michelangelo instantly spring to mind. Lingering in the back of my grey matter is the magical abilities of an Animus user developing outside of a well-weaved narrative that incorporates key historical references.
Ubisoft have taken a huge creative risk with Odyssey by building the title around a new Exploration mode that removes all indicators and waypoints. This change up in aesthetics works well and would be welcome to a permanent residency within the Assassin’s Creed franchise. For the old-school fan boys however, Ubisoft have taken the liberty of adding in the latter content anyway. Whilst it makes for a more straightforward and casual experience, this reviewer would highly recommend playing via Exploration mode.
Control Yourself, Kassandra! (…Love You)
Odyssey’s combat controls have been simplified to adapt to the titles new Conquest feature. This pits a players protagonists and their chosen faction against a rival faction in a 150 v 150 war zone. Naturally, standard Assassin’s Creed controls would prove rather challenging in this mode.
Shoulder buttons manage normal melee attacks whilst face buttons take charge of parrying and dodging. Whilst there isn’t much of a challenge with normal fights this time around, the layout does what it needs to whilst offering ranged attack choice at the press of the D Pad. A power meter has also been incorporated which allows players to build up, then execute stronger moves to aid crowd control and gain boss fight advantages.
The tried and tested skill tree levelling system returns for Odyssey, allowing players to take control of special weapon or item abilities simultaneously. Naturally, better weapons and armour require a higher level, which makes the tree worthwhile. That being said, the RPG-style mechanics in Odyssey tend to serve as little more than a distraction from the lack of engaging content in the main game.
Dale’s Super Market Sweep – B.C. Style!
Bloody busy work is Odyssey’s dish of the day. The title forces players to take on a certain amount of side quests in order to progress the main narrative. Whilst side quests themselves are far from a bad addition, their successful execution depends greatly on the content. The aforementioned term ‘busy work’ is a term best applied to Odyssey’s side quest (cess) pool, or rather a gory game of ‘Dales Super Market Sweep’.
Mainline quests really start to shine once players get the opportunity to progress their protagonist’s narrative. I imagine it’s kind of hard not to make epic and fulfilling content when basing a game on the events of the Peloponnesian War, but the filler used in this open world title is of bargain bin quality at best.
Whilst Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey draws on past titles to help vary content such as Naval battles (an underwhelming game of using the protagonists’ boat as a battering ram) and recruiting like-minded NPCs from friendly factions, Odyssey seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis.
I am Assassin’s Creed?
Assassin’s Creed built its original rise to fame with its re-imagining of the then dormant stealth genre. This re-imagining has been mimicked in the years since the original trilogies release time and time again. Odyssey seems to have forgotten its origins and, in turn, traded them for straight-up close-combat with hints of parrying, though no solid mechanics to back them up.
To the players who have embraced this shift in style, do just that; embrace it and have fun! However, the purists can’t utilise the element of stealth like they used to. NPC enemy detection and reaction times don’t really make for a good challenge anymore. At one point, I literally took a big run up behind an NPC and Spartan booted them off a building. Not one detection alert, come on Ubi!
Graphically, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey cannot be faulted. Our review playthrough displayed no texture tears, frame rate drops or animation glitches. It is arguably one of the best presented games of this generation. And Ubisoft have certainly done their history homework for Odyssey. Everything looks and feels authentic and worn, a perfectly crafted backdrop for an intriguing narrative (when players have finished running to the corner shop for a pint of milk and tea bags that is!).
The same applies for Odyssey’s audio engineering success. Every blow, footstep and material movement has been well catalogued and recorded to a high standard. In this regard, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is a very immersive experience. Some of the voice acting can be a bit wooden, as previously touched upon, whilst mentioning our protagonists’ getting some proverbial ‘wood’. That being said, the majority of main encounters are well-acted. The most notable performances are Alexios and Kassandra’s accurate accents and tone of voice.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is worth picking up even after the hype train has departed. The issue with Odyssey, like many AAA’s is the afterthought of gameplay and content. Odyssey feels like walking into a Red’s True Barbecue restaurant to find they are only serving cod fillet served with new potatoes. If players are in the mood for that, then that’s just super. However, I would hazard a guess that most players going into this massive open world may find themselves wanting more. But wow, is it pretty!
Formats: PlayStation 4 Pro (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Price: £49.99 PlayStation Store
Release Date: 02/10/2018
PEGI Rating: 18+
Review copy provided by publisher