Assassin’s Creed took a year-long break in 2016, then came out swinging last year with a quite literally game-changing new vision for the series in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
It’s a year later now and there’s no break this time. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey picks up many of the newer ideas laid out in Origins, then expands on them and frames them all against the backdrop of an ancient Greece setting. But is that a good thing?
Critics seem to think so. Mashable’s review is coming soon, but here’s a rundown of the critical pulse surrounding Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which is out for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on Oct. 5.
The world is highly detailed and smartly laid out
Heather Alexandra, Kotaku
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is huge. Each new boundary is broken down the moment you reach it, the game world spilling out and expanding further and further than you can possibly imagine. It is big in the same way the Great Pyramids or Empire State Building are big, the result of untold amounts of labor and artistry distilled into something remarkable yet intimidating. It’s not a sandbox. It is a world, with all of the beauty, anxiety, and inconsistency that entails.
Jeff Grubb, GamesBeat
The Greek world in Odyssey seems to have more missions, quests, characters, and side diversions than any Assassin’s Creed ever. At the same time, the world has enough space to let each of those activities breathe.
Some past open-world Ubisoft games seem like Yves Guillemot threw mission icons onto every possible square inch. Odyssey is the opposite of that. All of its map icons exist as distinct little islands. As a result, the entire adventure is much more manageable. Your brain actually has a chance to meaningfully process the information. It’s as if Ubisoft is treating you like a human and not some kind of box-checking automaton.
The story’s newfound focus on choice works well
Brandin Tyrrel, IGN
For the first time in an Assassin’s Creed game we get a choice of whether to play exclusively as a man or a woman: siblings Alexios and Kassandra. … These protagonists are easily the most flexible characters in any Assassin’s Creed game to date when it comes to their personalities. As a mercenary, my Alexios was free to be whoever I decided he should be. A merc with a conscious, a one-track-mind horn dog, or a ruthless murdering psychopath – there are no wrong answers, but there were definitely consequences to the decisions I chose.
Andrew Webster, The Verge
The story is fairly standard stuff, but what makes it interesting is how you actually have some control over the lead character. She still has a distinct personality, but you’re able to make decisions at various points in the game, that somewhat shape her beliefs. This was true in Origins as well, but it feels deeper and more meaningful here. You can choose whether Kassandra accept money as a reward from a poor slave, or spare the life of a criminal. In one particularly harrowing mission, a murderer kidnapped a family, and forced me to choose whether the mother or father should survive. These moments can add emotional weight to otherwise boring missions, and they often forced me into difficult quandaries, as often the morally right decision would mean more work, typically in the form of an extended battle.
Naval combat is still great, recruiting a crew is not
Alessandro Fillari, GameSpot
Naval combat and sailing make a return in Odyssey, opening up exploration on the high seas. As you build up resources and find new members to join your crew, you can customize and upgrade your ship, The Adrestia, to take on more daring challenges. Much like in Black Flag and Rogue, seafaring offers up some of the more exciting and visually pleasing moments of the game, finding lost sunken ruins in the oceans depths or facing off against increasingly aggressive rival ships. Over the course of your travels, you’ll be able to recruit new lieutenants to add buffs to your ship, giving you more of a fighting chance against the sea’s greater threats.
Mike Williams, USgamer
Lieutenants can be recruited from nearly every enemy non-player character (NPC) in Odyssey. While you’re scanning forts and outposts for enemy positioning you can also see what ship bonuses your opponents bring to the table. If you find one that strikes your fancy, you can knock them out, either from stealth or with the new Spartan Kick ability. Once they’re down, you can loot them and then recruit them to your pool of lieutenants. Most of the worthwhile NPCs are named, with their own weapons and looks, so there’s a bit of individuality to them. You’ll find yourself wanting to collect more unique folks, just so you can see them on the deck of your ship.
The recruiting system is cool, when it works. The problem is all the good recruitables are likely strong enough that the stealth knockout option won’t work (more on this in a bit) and the Spartan Kick is touchy. A Spartan Kick only knocks enemies out at the last portion of their lifebar, but at that point they’re low enough that anything can kill them. I’ve kicked a potential recruit, only to have them roll down a hill and die instantly. There are some great candidates you can find on enemy ships, but boarding actions include the rest of your crew, who will likely kill any hopeful outright. Or you’ll accidentally kick them into the ocean, where they’ll drown.
Combat is great, but making progress is a chore
Tom Phillips, Eurogamer
The [new signature weapon, Spear of Leonidas] symbolizes the shift away from Ubisoft’s habitual Assassin’s Creed gameplay to one that feels freer, more fantastical and more fun. Why wait to dual assassinate a pair of enemies who’ve finally rotated around their guard patterns to stand next to one another when you can blink around a map chaining assassinations over great distances, should you have invested in the skills and built-up the stamina to do so. Another combat move, where you rip the shield away from a powerful enemy and donk them on the head with it after, reminds me of the joy felt in Zelda when, after hours whittling away the health of armoured enemies, you finally get a hookshot and are able to de-shell them instantly. Fire arrows? Sure, but how about ghostly arrows which zip through walls, through enemies into other enemies, who you can then also set on fire? Level up far enough and you’ll get these too.
Arthur Gies, Escapist Magazine
Too much of Odyssey’s later game story content is locked behind a murderous progression wall. Every quest in the game has a level attached to it, and while there’s some wiggle room, anything more than a couple of levels above your character is intended to be beyond your capability — more simply, you just can’t do enough damage to fight effectively.
As the game goes on, more and more quests are required to be completed to move on and frankly, I’ve found it exhausting. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a game obsessed with making the player eat their vegetables.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey comes to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on Oct. 5, 2018.