Hot off the heels of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft brings its stealth, action-adventure series to the captivating world of ancient Greece with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. This latest installment enhances its predecessor’s RPG elements and offers players more agency in developing the main character. In fact, choice is one of the game’s core highlights. You are able to alter fate and influence numerous outcomes through dialogue choices and key decisions.
Choice begins the moment you start your journey. You choose between playing as the male Alexios or female Kassandra. Both are mercenaries that follow the same story arcs: seeking the truth behind their family and uncovering the dark mysteries lurking within 430 B.C.E. Greece. Like all great Greek legends, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey weaves a tale filled with drama, comedy, and tragedy. Regardless of protagonist, the beauty of the narrative is that everything revolves around your actions. I played as Kassandra, establishing myself as a fierce and sassy warrior of the gods. You could very well act as a humble servant to the people, an arrogant jerk, or a ruthless murderer.
Through Ubisoft’s in-house dialogue system abundant with choice points, you are free to roleplay however you wish. The many possibilities and multiple endings make it feel like a choose-your-own adventure game. Whether you decide to agree or disagree, be truthful or dishonest, or flirt with a potential suitor, NPCs respond accordingly. No decision is necessarily right or wrong, but people literally live and die by your word. I appreciated that the Greek setting allowed for conversations with historical figures, such as the philosopher Sokrates, and encounters with mythical beasts of lore. The time period precedes the ancient Egyptian setting in Assassin’s Creed Origins, but the story beats tie into the ongoing plot threads of the series.
Odyssey’s rendition of ancient Greece exhibits absolutely gorgeous landscapes. Although the story’s tone is often dark, the lush greenery and autumn-tinted foliage are vibrant. Every island is a glorified recreation of the ancient past; elaborate temples, massive statues, and classic Greek architecture populate each city, accompanied by amazing lighting effects that immersed me in its world. The lifelike character models and full voice acting kept me engaged with every dialogue sequence and cutscene. The music is sparse but scored well for tense moments.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey allows you to enjoy breathtaking beauty through an open-world adventure. The majority of the game is spent traversing the vast, varied terrain and high seas. Thankfully, your horse speeds up travel, as do the many fast travel points scattered about. Filling in the large, detailed map makes navigation much easier and exploration more addictive. It’s fun to share your journey with others online through an in-game photo system, though I eventually turned it off in fear of spoilers.
When you’re not wandering the expansive lands and exploring the secrets strewn about, then you’re tackling quests. You can take on dozens of quests, both story-based and side; most of them have intriguing story elements and decision points. However, many of them follow a redundant structure, such as fetching items, freeing prisoners, or killing someone, all of which get repetitive over time. You can choose to spice it up with exploration mode, which removes quest markers; you must instead depend on clues and your scout eagle to locate the destinations and targets. Although it’s more immersive, I preferred the traditional guided mode, which always tells you where to go. As with other aspects of the game, you can choose how to approach world discovery.
Despite redundant quest lines, I was hooked on the gameplay mechanics, particularly, the parkour, a staple of the series. It’s gratifying to climb up any cliffside and jump on rooftops. Your protagonist’s acrobatics offer a true sense of freedom while exploring. The Greek column-based architecture lends itself to fancy stunts.
Stealth and combat are two sides of the same coin. You can choose to rush in, swords blazing, or launch the classic sneak attacks that the franchise is known for—or a combination of both. I’m admittedly not keen on stealth in most games, but I found it intuitive here. There are clear indicators when you’re hidden from view, and the assassinations are very flashy. It’s a rush to sneak around enemy patrols and eliminate targets from the shadows. Best of all, if you’re caught, you don’t automatically lose, but it gets exponentially harder as reinforcements arrive.
Combat is just as viable a gameplay style. You dodge enemy attacks while unleashing moves of your own with your choice of weapon, be it sword, axe, spear, or bow and arrow. There’s an increased focus on parrying and counterattacking, though the back-and-forth can get tedious in longer battles. The exception is against the larger than life bosses, where fights are filled with intense thrills. Unfortunately, there aren’t many big bosses. It’s especially exciting to let loose powerful special abilities, all of which consume adrenaline from a gauge and are simple to activate. There’s nothing like bull-rushing your opponent, followed by an iconic Sparta kick over a cliff. These area-of-effect moves help immensely during Conquest battles, massive-scale conflicts that tie into the war between Sparta and Athens.
The RPG-like progression system lets you choose how to kill your foes. As you level up, you can allocate ability points into three separate skill trees. Each tree promotes different gameplay styles: the stealthy Assassin, the battle-ready Warrior, and the ranged Hunter. No matter which path you choose, the skills and consequences complement your abilities. For example, if you sneak-kill enemies or eliminate them from afar, you’ll gain a lot of experience while remaining anonymous, making quests smoother. But if you focus on the Warrior route, your actions will warrant unwanted attention from bounty hunters. These rival mercenaries are annoying, always popping up and interfering with other quests. However, fighting them is an excellent way to level up and improve battle skills. The system is balanced, ensuring you can succeed regardless of your playstyle – battle techniques for the warrior, arrow upgrades like scattershot for the Hunter, and powers that decrease visibility for the Assassin.
My main gripes were with the seafaring segments. I vastly preferred land travel to the clunky ship controls. It takes a while to trek between islands. There isn’t much to do besides the naval battles, which I wasn’t a fan of. Combat between ships amounts to turn-based javelin throws and skillful guarding. The only part I enjoyed was ramming into and cleaving other ships at full speed. Luckily for me, most playtime is spent away from the sea, thanks to fast travel. The other major issue is that I ran into several glitches during gameplay, some of which crashed the game or made one sidequest unbeatable.
Your level determines which missions you can comfortably take on and which equipment you can use. This further incentivizes completing quests to gain experience. Enemies and missions scale with your level, which is both good and bad. On one hand, you gain more experience; on the other hand, the game becomes more difficult as you progress. Depending on the degree of challenge you want, there are three difficulty settings that can be changed at any time. Either way, you’ll likely end up hitting a wall and will have to grind intensely. By the end of my 70+ hour journey, I needed to complete most sidequests just to stay on curve. Although there is a conclusion after finishing the character’s main story arc, it’s worth playing all the way to the end to complete two additional story arcs that bring revelations to the series.
With an emphasis on player choice, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has leapt to new heights, truly becoming a full open-world RPG. The fluid parkour and engaging stealth mechanics are still here, joined by enhanced combat and progression systems established by its recent predecessors. With a beautiful recreation of ancient Greece, a compelling story of intriguing mysteries and intrepid characters, and genuinely exciting moments, this odyssey remains engaging throughout. It’s easy to recommend this epic journey to veterans and newcomers alike, but of course, the choice is yours.
Note: A review copy was used for this article. Preview event demos did not affect the score of the final product. This review was posted on DarkStation.