Another year, another Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft reverting to type for the second AC this year. The crux of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is that’s every bit as good as AC Origins. In fact, it’s better, outside of a few niggles. There’s just that over-riding feeling that 11 months later, did we really need another 100-hour Assassin’s Creed game?
You can have too much of a good thing, and Ubisoft doesn’t seem overly keen to learn that lesson. Your stomach for yet another Assassin’s Creed is obviously going to vary though, and if you’re chomping at the bit for a massive new open-world stealth-em-up, you’re in for a treat.
Arguably the defining aspect of the Assassin’s Creed series is its ability to careen through history on a whim. The two questions that are always asked before a new Assassin’s Creed is announced are when and where is it going to be set. No other series has quite this much creative freedom, and Ubisoft has absolutely capitalised on it this time around.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set within an absolutely gigantic recreation of Ancient Greece, circa 431 BC, complete with vast chains of islands, dense forests, volcanic rocks, and teeming, beautiful cities laden with Grecian architecture. It’s frankly insane in terms of the level of scale and detail we’re talking about here. As a recreation of a slice of a history, this is practically unparalleled, at least in the short term. It’s absolutely conceivable it could take hundreds of hours to see and do everything there is to do AC Odyssey, and that’s not to forget the barrage of weekly special events and the slew of add-ons coming our way.
While it started with Origins, we’re seeing Ubisoft lean even more heavily into the mythological with AC Odyssey. Historical realism, or at least an attempt at realism, was always a mainstay of the Assassin’s Creeds, but Odyssey isn’t afraid to dig into Greek mythology in a manner that may rankle ardent historians but delivers an entertaining ride for those willing to let these history-bending shenanigans fly.
From the outset, one of the biggest changes to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, aesthetically at least, is the ability to play as either Kassandra or Alexios. Ubisoft has said the plan is to keep the choice of male and female protagonists is permanent for the series from here on out, and it’s great to at least have the choice. When you boil right down to the gameplay, it doesn’t really matter though. Both Kassandra and Alexios have the same skills, and experience pretty much the same story, albeit with slightly different dialogue. There’s not enough there to encourage a second playthrough, and Alexios’ dim-witted nature makes Kassandra arguably the stronger choice.
It feels an opportunity missed that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey isn’t set directly after the events of AC Origins, taking place as it does before Origins. Considering Origins centred on the original formulation of the brotherhood, but Ubisoft seems happy to be able to play fast and loose with the meta-narrative, perhaps to the detriment of the long-suffering fans.
Instead, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is actually a much more low-key tale. The Brotherhood doesn’t really get a look in, this is a story of mercenaries and family drama, all tied into the Peloponnesian war. It’s not overly memorable, but it’s certainly enjoyable enough as far as Assassin’s Creed stories go, and certainly a match for Origins.
Visually, it can occasionally become a little obvious why Ubisoft chose to set AC Origins so late in Ancient Egypt’s history. The dying throes of the Egyptian empire meant the Romans and Greeks were already in full-force in Egypt, giving us Cleopatra rather than Tutankhamun. This resulted in plenty of Grecian-looking architecture, leading to a feeling of asset reuse when wandering around Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. With a world this massive and varied it seems a little churlish to complain, but there’s an obvious lineage between the two games that doesn’t allow AC Odyssey to feel as fresh is it could.
However, Odyssey is a long way removed from the old-style Assassin’s Creeds that came before Origins. Ubisoft has dug even deeper into its Witcher 3 aspirations this time around, offering elements of choice and consequences thanks to conversation options and the major decisions to be made. This allows AC Odyssey’s story to splinter off, although the immense length of the game means I’ve little idea how much it actually affects the over-arching plot.
The comparisons also tie-in to the never-ending streams of equipment, loot and upgrades. This is AC knee-deep in RPG antics, offering a constant path for improving your chosen character throughout the epic journey. Further depth is added by the naval combat, owing much to Black Flag, and the good ship Adrestia can also be equipped with a suite of upgrades, as well as a crew that can be assembled Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain-style.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey never quite scales the heights of the games it’s attempting to ape. Odyssey is by no means a bad game. It’s just so much game it’s suffocating. And well, it’s so videogame-y in everything it does, drawing exactly between the lines of what we expect, from start to ever-so-slightly tedious finish. There’s a barrage of new systems and mechanics that all interweave; additional depth that’s pelted at the player for the first 20 hours. The resulting mess is a smorgasbord of upgrade trees, assassination targets, procedural quests, a massive 50-hour story, treasure hunting, base destroying, ship upgrading, and full-scale, 300-style battles. It’s bewildering, and anytime I sit down to play AC Odyssey I feel like Bruce Bogtrotter sitting before a towering chocolate cake that Ubisoft Trunchball insists I gobble on down. It’s a game rammed with fantastic ideas that are dulled by repetition.
In terms of the criticism of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s progression and the XP booster though, I’ve found little issue. This is a massive game whether you’re using an XP booster or not, and while it may make fights a little easier and help earn skills a little faster, it’s not actually going to make the game any faster. There weren’t really any difficulty walls to run into; there’s always plenty to do at whatever level Kassandra or Alexios are at any given moment.
Usually, I let my past experiences inform the present, but with Assassin's Creed Odyssey I'm attempting desperately delink my own fatigue with the quality of the end product. At the end of the day, not everyone will feel overwhelming by another AC less than a year after Origins. Or indeed there may be plenty picking up Odyssey that have never played Origins at all. For those players, Assassin's Creed Odyssey is a feature-packed, incredibly lengthy belter, but a colossal time sink in the same breath.