I’m going to admit that I have never truly been a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series when it first started. The first game felt rigid in its leveling structure though it did start a foundation for an impressive series. But then, there were the beggars. Oh goodness, the cursed beggars who always got in your way to the point I ended up killing them as well.
The sequel was a huge improvement and a much more enjoyable experience for me. Ezio was a more interesting protagonist compared to Altair, and even though I still had to deal with more intrusive NPCs (bards in place of beggars,) I still was able to finish the game to completion. But from there I didn’t play the rest of the Ezio trilogy, nor Assassin’s Creed III. However, I did make a return for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and immediately fell in love with the game’s naval combat.
Then Unity came along, a game so flawed in execution that it turned me away from the series, and even with trying to play Syndicate, I just couldn’t get into it either. So when I heard that the Assassin’s Creed series would take a year off I thought that might have been the best decision that Ubisoft made.
And I was right. With Assassin’s Creed Origins, it was a new take on the series me, and one for the better. By making the game feel more like an action RPG similar to Witcher and Final Fantasy XV, with its Ancient Egypt setting, I was hooked. While I didn’t finish the game I noticed the potential of the series and how massive each of the games would end up being.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey now takes that massive scale into, dare I call it, “epic?” After her journey in modern day Egypt, assassin Layla Hassan arrives in Greece to locate the Spear of Leonidas, and in an attempt to locate another artifact, the Staff of Hermes, uses DNA found on the Spear to track to a choice of two “misthos,” or mercenaries: siblings Alexios and Kassandra.
Being descendants themselves of Leonidas I, Layla first witnesses the key Battle of Thermopylae, and Leonidas’ last stand with his 300 Spartans. After his death, the setting moves up nearly 50 years to 431 BCE and we are introduced to the Misthios of choice and find out about their origin.
Following tradition of Spartan law, the younger Misthios is to be discarded and thrown off a mountain, however, in defiance the chosen Misthios pushes a Spartan over the cliff along with their sibling. Being declared a “traitor” to Spartan law, the Misthios’ father, Nikolaos throws him/her off the mountain as well, leaving him/her for dead.
The Misthios (henceforth referred to as Kassandra, based on my gameplay) survives the fall and ends up living on Kephallonia and grows up taking various odd jobs and earns a reputation as a mercenary.
Eventually Kassandra is hired by a mysterious individual named Elpenor to assassinate “the Wolf of Sparta,” a legendary Spartan general who turns out to be Nikolaos. However, the assassination attempt leads up to the unveiling of a mysterious cult known as the Cult of Kosmos who plans to use the events of the Peloponnesian War to control all of Greece.
All of this takes part in the nearly 10 to 15 hour prologue of Odyssey. From there it is a true “Odyssey” of its own as Kassandra travels all through Greece, completing missions to earn the trust of the public, fighting between both warring states of Sparta and Athens, finding out more about her family and what became of them, and of course, eliminating the Cult of Kosmos from the inside out.
From my 50 hours of gameplay, I noticed several elements taken from other games that won me over from the start. Quests can be set to go to a specific location similar to older games in the series, or they now feature an “exploration mode” that gives you clues to their location. Combined with your pet eagle, Ikaros, it lives up to its name as it encourages exploration. In fact, the clues feel similar to the Witcher Senses that Geralt used in Witcher 3. In addition, with the warring city states, it is possible for Kassandra to turn the tide of control per location, leading up to a huge Shadow of War style siege battle where you can choose to defend that nation or attack it to take control.
Naval combat also makes a much appreciated return from Black Flag and it’s just as fun as ever. Cannons are now replaced by both arrows and javelins (both of which can be set on fire to increase damage) and destroyed ships can either be boarded like before to get various pieces of Injustice 2 style gear, or “cleaved” by ramming its broadside.
For the explorer type there is the Assassin’s Creed tradition of climbing tall structures and synchronizing fast travel points, as well as hidden tomb puzzles that reward Kassandra with ability points.
Needless to say there is a ton of material to go through in this game, and will take a very long time to complete. And that is where I need to discuss something that really upsets me about how Odyssey is being treated. I disagree with other reviews that state that Odyssey has a huge grinding problem, almost to the point where it takes up to 5 or 6 hours just to increase one level. From what I played I was able to level up in about an hour to 90 minutes. It is about the same length of time it takes me to level up in Fallout 4 or Skyrim. Adding contract missions helps to increase the XP progression, so all the claims that you are forced to use microtransactions to level up faster are taken way out of context.
There are those who are also claiming that doing these side quests are a grind themselves, but again that is exaggerated. Grinding is based on doing the same thing over and over again, such as the old Final Fantasy games in killing smaller monsters. Odyssey gives a huge variety of side quests to the point that it does not feel like a grind at all, but is a rather fresh experience. Not once during my playthrough did I feel any expressions of boredom!
Just like Origins, Odyssey is a beautifully designed game, capturing the true feel of Ancient Greece and its inhabitants. Running at a dynamic 4K on Xbox One X, the frame rate also stays very constant, even during stress tests such as the opening Battle of Thermopylae. As for the sound, the voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard recently. While the performances of the minor characters and historical figures (Leonidas, Perikles, and Sokrates for instance) are excellent, it is Melissanthi Mahut’s role as Kassandra that completely won me over. She’s powerful, smart, funny, and a quite bit sarcastic when time calls for it. Ubisoft totally nailed her role!
Needless to say, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a masterpiece; without a doubt one of the best the series has offered since its inception. Forget the lies about grinding because they do not exist and be sure to put a lot of free time aside because you’re going to need it to finish this game!
Pros: A magnificent blend of some of the best action RPG games into one “epic” experience. The setting of Ancient Greece is beautiful. Fantastic voice acting, especially from Kassandra. Excessive amount of side missions
Cons: The fact that there are those who Those who are used to older Assassin’s Creed games will not be pleased with the new RPG style.
Disclaimer: This review was done with a physical Xbox One disc sent to me as a rental from Gamefly. There were no outside influences that were involved on my final review. Review based on 50 hours of gameplay as Kassandra.