This review was hard for me to put into words, because on the one hand Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is outstanding, it’s one of the best—if not the best—Assassin’s Creed games ever released, but on the other hand it’s a frustrating, repetitive, grind-fest. Let me explain the reasoning behind this.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey adds in new ways to play; for example, you can select which protagonist to play as, choosing between either Kessandra or Alexios, which is great. This choice isn’t as important as you may initially think, as regardless of who you pick both protagonists share the same story.
They’ve also added an exploration mode, which essentially just takes away the quest markers, forcing you to explore the world to find where you need to be or who you need to kill without being guided there. To put this into context, it’s similar to how quests were handled in World of Warcraft back in the Vanilla days; it told you where you had to go and what you had to do, but there wasn’t a big arrow taking you directly to where you needed to be. This exploration mode may sound a bit long-winded, but it is actually a lot of fun, and it allows you to see parts of the map that you otherwise wouldn’t have seen, but in a game that’s as big as Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey I’m not sure if this was really needed. It is important to note that it is possible to turn guided mode on and off at will; there were a few instances where I got a bit lost, so being able to turn on the marker was very useful.
They’ve also added dialogue options to the game, which may sound like a great addition, but unless you play in exploration mode, a lot of the dialogue options are pretty pointless; you’ll end up just going straight to the option that lets you continue, as you don’t need to know what else they have to say because the quest marker will take you straight there. That being said, there are still some dialogue options that you need to pay attention to; these are found in the main story quests, and the options that you choose will change the outcome of the game and how the game ends (we explain how to get the best ending in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey here).
These dialogue options will only really affect the main story or whether some random NPC lives or dies, don’t expect a Fable-esque notoriety system here; even if you’re a complete cock in every conversation you have, the next person you speak to won’t treat you any differently.
The game itself looks amazing, the graphics are absolutely stunning, the sounds are spot on and the map is incredibly large. On occasion, the map can actually feel a bit too large, and it becomes a bit of a chore to navigate. This is especially apparent when you have a quest that’s thousands of meters away later in the game, by which time traversing the world in your boat has become quite repetitive.
Combat wise, Odyssey is very similar to it’s predecessor—Assassin’s Creed: Origins—but with some improvements, such as special abilities which consume stamina to perform, the most notable of which is the spartan kick that everyone is raving about. To be fair, it is pretty damn cool, and it makes you feel like King Leonidas.
There’s three talent trees that you can choose to go down in the game, and each one has its own special abilities. There’s Hunter; which makes you more deadly with a bow, there’s Warrior; which essentially turns you into a spartan, and there’s Assassination; which is more true to the classic Assassin’s Creed games and will see you sneaking up on your foes and stabbing them in the back. You’re free to add points to multiple talent trees as you wish, so you can have a mix of different abilities, and this coupled with the impressive loot system that offers you tons of items to pick up—and enhance with engravings and upgrades—makes the game feel more like an RPG than Origins did, and honestly, I like it. I like the direction that the Assassin’s Creed series is going.
The main story of this game is where the good stuff’s at. The story is actually quite gripping, I always wanted to know what was next. In fact, I’m usually a bit of a rusher with games and don’t properly read all of the dialogue, but the main story in Odyssey kept me hooked, and I took the time to learn everything I could. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not on the same level as the likes of The Witcher 3, Mass Effect or Fallout to name just a few, but in terms of Assassin’s Creed storylines it was one of my favourites. However, the progression through the main story is halted by the need to grind resources and side quests; the side quests actually start off okay, but they soon become boring and repetitive. You literally have to grind side quests to progress to the next level in the story, and then once you have finished that story mission, you will most likely have to do even more side quests to progress to the next. Side quests in other games are just that, side quests. In Assassin’s Creed, they are no longer side quests, they are a necessity, and that’s the case even if you have purchased the XP boost for real money (yes, that exists). This is especially apparent when you hit levels 25-30; before this milestone the game progression system seems perfect, and you very rarely need to do side quests in order to progress. Because of this, the game basically turns into an endless loop of side quests, story mission, side quests, story mission etc. Now, this wouldn’t be such an issue—I mean there are other RPG games that follow the same path—but in Assassin’s Creed it makes everything start to feel even more repetitive than it already did; from the dialogue, to the combat, to the naval battles.
As I got further and further into this seemingly-endless loop, the combat—which was originally exciting and new—turned into nothing more than pushing the same buttons over and over with no real skill involved, as by this point I’d already mastered the parry ability. Speaking of the parry ability, it is completely overpowered because of the amount of time that it stays active. In previous games, you had a very small window of opportunity to land a parry; in Odyssey, you can push the parry button and it stays active for a good few seconds.
The naval battles got equally as boring. When I first got my ship, I couldn’t get enough of sinking other ships and boarding them to take their loot, but after countless hours with the game I would often just sail away to avoid any conflict, as each battle essentially plays out the same every time. These naval battles seem to just be copied and pasted from Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Some small changes have been made to the ship, for example there’s more upgrades that you can make, but core gameplay is the same, you’re just shooting arrows instead of firing cannons. One thing from Black Flag that is noticeably absent in Odyssey, however, is the cool rope swing that allowed you to swing over to the enemy ship. Boarding enemy ships seemed cool at first, but when you take the time to look around you’ll see that you’re actually outnumbered, because most of your crew don’t jump over with you. As I said, ship battles are initially fun, but eventually they become a bit of a drag and you’ll end up trying to avoid them.
Essentially, what it comes down to is that your first 20 to 25 hours in this game will be amazing; in fact, it’s probably the most fun I’ve had in an Assassin’s Creed game to date, but it’s let down by repetitive and grindy side quests later in the game, which equally makes the combat feel boring and a beautiful map seem too large, which makes you dread having to travel too far for quests. If you’ve only played 10 hours so far, you’ll be thinking “this review sucks” and that I’m full of BS, but give it time and I’m sure you’ll agree with me.
As I said before, a large map isn’t a bad thing, but for a map that—on the face of it—seems so full of life, after 15 hours in the game you realise it’s actually all the same. There’s a few instances where this isn’t true, but they don’t come often enough, so when you travel from one town to another there’s rarely anything new to see other than the usual blacksmith and quest givers. The map is also practically walled off depending on your level; as soon as you see an enemy just a few levels higher than you, you can’t progress into that area without being killed by the first person or animal that sees you. Again, this is somewhat true to most RPG games, but the problem here is that I could return to the same area when I’m a couple of levels higher, with the exact same gear, without leveling it, and without using my ability points, and I will kill everyone on sight. You’re being walled out by a mere number, regardless of your gear. If you take other RPG games as an example, you would also have to level your gear to stand a fighting chance, or if you had great gear you could kill enemies higher than you with no problems.
The RPG elements in the game need to be taken up a notch. At the moment, it’s in the middle, and it feels like it can’t decide what it wants to be. I would love to see consumables in the game, or even somewhere to stash your goods. Currently, if you find some treasure you can only sell it to the blacksmith or keep it in your inventory. Since your ship is always on call, it’s essentially your home in the game, so why can’t you go below deck and store items in a chest or something? All of your crew do.
Why don’t I have a captain’s room where I can store all of my treasures and essentially turn it into a trophy room, you know, like the houses in Skyrim.
It’s frustrating, because Odyssey is so close to being a perfect game, and if my disc broke at the 20 hour mark and I couldn’t play it any more I would have scored this game a 9, or maybe even higher. But as soon as you progress past a certain mark, it’s more worthy of a 6, so on that basis alone I cannot give this game a score any higher than a 7 out of 10.
For the record, 7 is me being generous; I so badly wanted to give it a 6, but when I think back to the fun I had from when I first started the game up until level 25(ish) I couldn’t do it. When I sit back and look at the beautiful world and think about the direction that Assassin’s Creed has taken, giving it any less than a 7 would have been wrong, because in my opinion both Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Origins have been the best Assassin’s Creed games to date, I just wish this game stopped at the 30 hour mark, or at least added something more to do in the late game.