Ubisoft are back for the second year in a row with a new Assassin’s Creed game. After last years Origins successfully rebooted the series, it was clear that a new direction and love for this franchise had been reignited. The franchise was turned back to Ancient Egypt and was a positive move for fans of the beloved series. In a similar way Odyssey takes us to Ancient Greece with the largest map and single player campaign in franchise history so far. After 60 hours in there is still plenty to do, many side missions and gear to collect, the game is really stuffed full of things to do. While this is a great thing about the game, painfully long loading times, repetitive combat and level grinding stop this game for elevating to game of the year type material.
The game is set in 431 B.C. amongst the Peloponnesian War with Sparta & Greece. You can choose between playing as Kassandra or Alexios, regardless of who you choose, the gameplay and dialogue remain the same. What the game does do well is the story, delving into a family who have been ripped apart by a cult that controls the region is genuinely interesting as a large part of the game is investigating what happened in your childhood and attempting to reunite your family.
The story delves deep into the family dynamic and it is definitely the strength of this game. I can’t recall an AC story ever being so well laid out and explored. Combining elements of family, war, land and trauma are such brave things to explore in the gaming world. The length of the single player campaign allows the full investigation of these events and wihle the frustrating side quests are required to level up your character and move the story forward, it is a fulfilling journey. There are decisions to make that do directly affect actions in the future. If you decide to only intimidate and not kill a soldier, he may come back later in the game stronger and take you down. It can also work the opposite way and you can recruit some enemies to become part of your fleet.Taking on the mysterious cult that controls both Sparta and Athens starts to turn ary when it combines with the Animus and modern day plot. It really feels out of place and detracts from what makes this game great. If there was a way to remove this from the game it would definitely benefit.
Combat wise the game is a bit of a let down. Your melee options are sword, spear or bow and arrow. There are special abilities that can also be levelled up as your character progresses. As you get further into the game, the difficulty of levelling up increases to an almost ridiculous level. You also do need to level up to be able to fight in War mode, especially if you want to fight rather then defend.
In addition to character progression, your commandeered ship requires constant upgrades and maintenance to be able to reach certain islands and areas of the game. This is also the case if you do just want to set sail and run into pirates or enemies who just feel like taking you down. There isn’t any level matching for this portion of the game and you will be warned that your ship needs an upgrade for you to survive, so beware who you engage with, it may not always work out so well. The repetitive nature of naval battle is also a deterrent, and no amount of jumping dolphins, breaching whales or sea shantys can keep you wanting more.
Another interesting new feature is the Mercenaries. When you piss off the wrong person you will see a mercenary assigned to collect a bounty on your head. You can either take the easy way out and pay them off with Dracmea. The other option is to hide until they give up or accidentally run into them and they relentlessly chase you until one of you wins. The downside of this is, is the level of the Mercenarie is not capped so they can be 20 levels higher than you and desync you with one small swipe. When I wasn’t just paying them off after consistently getting hunted and mowed down, the hiding option is also a good one and is great for cave exploration and underwater treasure hunting.
Graphically this game is drop dead beautiful. The ancient greek world comes alive and the combination of crystal clear water and greek god statues and rock formations are the highlights of this game. Photo mode went into overdrive on this game (sorry Facebook peeps!) and the detail on the main characters are well drawn and animated. There were times however when things got a little muddy and it almost looked like Black Flag on the PS3. Trees and large groups of rock wall had a last gen look to them and were extremely noticeable as they take you out of the world they have so well created. This only happens a couple of times and is very early on in the game.
The game also cycles through day and night fairly consistently and offers a meditation option to allow you to change the time of day to suit the mission you are completing if applicable. There are some missions and quests that can only be completed at night and some only during the day. It is also a great way to sail around at night to avoid some high level ships and take downs. Also seeing the moon glistening off the water is a beautiful effect and definitely worth the night time sail.
While the game has a lot of great points, there are some technical glitches that did hinder the game a few times. There is a stutter (running on a PS4 pro) that completely wiped out my game several times throughout the campaign. In addition to that the auto save function is not the best, so many times when I was wiped out after completing a mission, it didn’t auto save properly and I would have to do the whole thing again. It was extremely frustrating and I had to do the manual save thing after every single mission.
Assassin’s Creed : Odyssey does propel the revived series forward with a huge campaign and well told and thought out story mode. Regrettably due to the constant glitches, poorly executed save functions and repetitive combat it stops the game from being in the Best Of The Year categories. As far as Assassin’s Creed games go though it does stand out as the best in the series (Sorry Black Flag!) for being brave enough to finally tell a story worth telling and giving us character options and layers that the series hasn’t delved into before.
Assassin’s Creed : Odyssey is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Review by Alaisdair Leith