Last year Assassin's Creed Origins came out and caught me completely by surprise. It was a thrilling new entry into the series that totally rewrote the rules, and did so with such a grace that I came away absolutely in love with it. One year later, we get Assassin's Creed Odyssey. A new entry with a much deeper focus on role-playing aspects while reusing all the gameplay ideas from Origins that worked so well. After putting twelve hours in, do I want to end this trip early?
You play as either Kassandra or Alexious, the children of King Leonidas I. Personally, I went with Kassandra. At some point, Kassandra's stepfather drops both kids off of a cliff. Kassandra survives, runs away from Sparta, and becomes a mercenary. Years later, she's hired by a mysterious man to kill her step-father. From here, the story is quite variable. You're often given choices on how to proceed, and the story can be altered drastically in ways you totally don't expect. By the time I stopped playing, I committed a few acts I knew would be important down the line. I also totally destroyed an entire island by accident by doing something that seemed really nice at the time, but makes me realize was a massive mistake after the fact. Odyssey is smart in how it handles the choices, and I can't wait to see what else I end up doing.
When it comes to gameplay, Odyssey takes the best parts of Origins and Black Flag and mashes them up into one super game. On land, the game plays like Origins. You'll be able to chain together light and heavy attacks while dodging around enemies to position yourself better. A new system allows you to assign special skills to the face buttons that you can use in battle. These are abilities like rushing forward to knock enemies out or kicking them back and away from you. The skills add a new dynamic to Odyssey's combat, making it just a step above Origins in quality.
Stealth has also seen a noticeable improvement thanks to these skills. You can now get several skills that improve how you sneak around enemy camps. Turning invisible or throwing a spear to assassinate people do a lot to make me feel more involved. I had a really good time finding as many ways into the base as I could, finding new and creative ways to sneak around, and finishing entire objectives unseen. As much fun as the stealth is, I did notice there was an uptick in enemies I couldn't kill with stealth attacks. It seemed like every camp had at least one guy with enough health to survive it, which is a bit disappointing.
Sailing the open seas returns and the world of Odyssey requires quite a bit of it to get around. You become the captain of the Adrestia, and you can sail the high seas freely. Suddenly the remaster of Rogue makes a lot more sense, as settling into ship combat was much easier. Generally, it controls the same, with you able to launch volleys of arrows or javelins from either side of your ship. A new mechanic allows you to cleave other ships in half, restoring some health and giving you bonus supplies to upgrade the ship. You can also find and recruit lieutenants around the world, giving your ship passive buffs. It's nice to see the naval stuff make a grand return to form, and I had a blast taking out other ships.
Be it on boat or land, there are plenty of areas to explore. You'll find question marks all over the map that serve as points of interests. Exploring them lets you discover bandit camps that need destroying, hidden treasures, fortresses, caves, and more. There's plenty of little side content for people to explore and distract them. Most of it isn't unique, but those that like hitting up these styles of tasks should have plenty to enjoy.
There's also a good number of actual side quests with unique content. Each of the three regions I explored had at least four, with all of them feeling genuinely unique. One goofy side quest saw Kassandra help an old woman's husband get his game back by tracking down deer tongue and bear scrotum to make a potion. However, if you're feeling amorous, you can just jump in the husband's place and circumvent the whole sidequest.
A more serious quest had Kassandra investigating a cave where a man claims he hears gods. Turns out its just bandits, but she listens in on someone praying to the gods on her way out. This starts a different quest to try and help that person. With the exception of a "go out and collect some wolf pelts" quest I saw in the very early game, I feel like I'm getting actual meaningful side content that is very much worth perusing.
Exploration is also important for another reason. At the start of the game, you're given the choice on which mode you'd like to play. When you're given a quest, you're given detailed directions on how to get to your destination. In Guided mode, you're just given a map marker so you can get there. Exploration mode requires you to ask around and carefully read the instructions to make sure you're in the right place. I ultimately chose Guided mode because I just prefer the convenience, but it's a really awesome system. I hope to see more games explore the idea.
The only one new system I've seen so far that I'm not a fan of is the bounty system. If you commit crimes like murder and stealing, people put bounties on you and bounty hunters will hunt you down. It's almost like police officers in the Grand Theft Auto series, albeit these bounty hunters are extremely strong enemies with unique personalities, advantages, and weaknesses. In a way, it sort of reminds me of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system. The problem? I could never shake bounties.
I always seemed to be wanted because Kassandra just naturally kills a lot of people. As such, I had two choices. I could constantly pay off my bounties to get the hunters to leave me alone. Or, I would deal with constant interruptions to fight the hunters off. It's neat the first time, and by the fourth, I was tired of it. I hope there's a way to tone it down later in the game.
Oh, modern day stuff exists. Thankfully, after a quick reintroduction to Layla Hassan and her New Best Friend that I guess replaces her Dead Best Friend, I haven't seen it since. I'm hoping this lack of modern day stuff will continue and that will be all I see of it, though I have this feeling it's going to turn up before long. My only hope is that, when it does, they finally do something interesting with it.
I'm still only twelve hours in, so I can't give a final judgment on Assassin's Creed Odyssey for a while yet. However, the new focus on role-playing elements, refined combat and stealth system, and wonderful exploration leads me to believe this is shaping up to be the next big RPG. Combining high-quality elements from several different Assassin's Creed games while still managing to forge its own unique identity, Odyssey is genuinely a triumph. I'm excited to keep putting hours into it and seeing where this Odyssey will lead me next.