A time machine would come really handy right now. But let’s take a journey back to 2014, to one of the worst, most botched video game launches of all time before we get into the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey review.
Over the years, seeing Assassin’s Creed as it devolved into a franchise that was lesser than the sum of its parts put me in a real dilemma.
On one hand, like all video game fans, I kept hope, and an open mind, that the next installment would be the redemption, a breath of fresh air to a tired set of video games that had forgotten the meaning of the name that they carried.
On the other, I desperately wanted Assassin’s Creed to fail, because it had effectively replaced another franchise that had a legacy few games could ever match, one that I and countless others grew up on.
Regardless, seeing the devolution of Assassin’s Creed with regards to both technical stability and a lack of narrative direction was painful, because, by this point, we were fully invested in stories that took us through various points in history to see a glorified, dramatic representation of events like we had never experienced before.
And since then, it is bewildering to me that I can say that Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is the best entry in the franchise since Assassin’s Creed II, which was one of the best video games of all time.
This is very high praise, and looking at the surface, some might say undeserved, even. But that is exactly why we’re going to dive into the deep end.
This is the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey review you always wanted, especially if you have a hundred-odd hour on it.
Setting the Stage
When we saw the shift of tone that Ubisoft debuted with Origins in late 2016, many of us couldn’t believe that there was going to be this drastic a change in philosophy when it came to making games, and for this big a publisher, who deemed anything which was not a blockbuster as a failure.
However, this was exactly the breath of fresh air that the franchise needed, just what I’ve mentioned early on in this AC Odyssey review. Origins was a big step, the right step, and although it had many faults of its own, it is the sole reason that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey became the trailblazer that it is today.
As a franchise, more so than its spiritual predecessor, Assassin’s Creed is known for its many redeeming moments; Altair’s tribulations, Ezio’s first assassination, all the way from the betrayal of Shay to the moment when we laid eyes upon the Notre Dame for the first time through Arno Dorian’s eyes.
In that sense, Origins was no different, giving us a compelling story, a character oozing with purpose, and a system change that introduced a lot of new ideas to the stale franchise that had till then kept churning repetitive and unfinished iterations.
The soul of the game was back, and with a new, much more coveted, and demanding setting to recreate, Ubisoft hit a home run and set a precedent for things to come.
Development: The Challenges in Taking and Maintaining a Stand
For the first time in a long time, the world of Assassin’s Creed had been opened in Origins, with the only restrictions being the arbitrary leveling system that determined successes or failures for our protagonist, a stubborn, somber, and stoic Egyptian.
Notice that I do not speak of him by name, because no matter how hard Ubisoft tried, we, as the audience as a whole, felt that he was the sort of vehicle that carried no identity and was used only as the backdrop for an extravagant romp through both banks of the Nile.
With Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, however, Ubisoft recognized their mistake and decided to make the protagonists more player-centric, while still giving them considerable life and their own attributes.
On the gameplay front, a bigger map was developed, as is the norm for an open-world action-adventure, and it was said by one of the game directors, Scott Phillips, that
the game would be more about “freedom vs order” and that choice would be the biggest factor that the game was supposedly built around.
Going forward, Ubisoft dedicated itself to the RPG design choices, and it has to be said that although controversial, it was one of the best design shifts that I’ve ever seen in a franchise.
Pulling the heart of Assassin’s Creed, the much-celebrated and maligned combat system, out of the mud and then refining it to be more polished than ever before was a gargantuan task and one that the French devs absolutely nailed.
The combat in Odyssey was varied, weighted perfectly, and gave in a sense of satisfaction and unbridled joy that had rarely been seen in video games prior and since.
But not every single change was for the best, as we will soon explore. The plot design was revamped, but at a significant cost, the cost of continuity and replayability.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey constantly feels like a game that has a chip on its shoulder, and it is reflected in the way the narrative is woven around the various myths of ancient Greece and the larger mythos around which our characters function.
With the branching endings, multiple questlines, and varied story beats, it feels like the aforementioned factor of choice was taken a bit too far forward.
Yes, it does mean that the game stretched for hours upon hours, but that does not translate to a sense of fun, achievement, or accomplishment. The stretching of the narrative this way only stood to betray the rest of the stellar experience that awaited us come launch, and it is one of the rare mistakes that were made in development.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review: What Lies Underneath
Coming off of a smash hit such as Origins was not a random shot in the dark for Ubisoft. It was a carefully planned and designed experience, made to evoke the sense of freshness that had long been lost ever since the release of Assassin’s Creed III.
While Connor’s journey may have been fun for the time when it was released, there was no doubt that the world design and development was indeed getting a little bit repetitive, and the French giant may have realized this a little late.
Well, better late than never, as the action-adventure to RPG action-adventure was, for all intents and purposes, a step in the right direction.
Ubisoft had learned from all their past mistakes, and from the successes and failures of other franchises under their belt, and was ready to choose a definite structure, meaning to perfect it as they go on.
Arguably the highest point in any Assassins Creed Odyssey review is its gameplay, following the same underlying principle as its predecessor.
But it actually evolved a lot over the course of its development. The system was completely revamped and reinstated, allowing us as the player and the misthios as the character to undergo several behavioral changes.
We are aware that Ubisoft chose yet again to include a mercenary as the center point of their narrative, but the feeling of being locked into a singular perspective or approach is long gone.
Largely, the collectible-motivated gameplay is now a thing of the past, and thank God! Now, your exploration is motivated by your own curiosity, and the rewards are varied and meaningful, owing to the RPG style shift.
Progression is concrete as well, due to the same reason, and as you progress through your levels, enemies start becoming more powerful and dynamic with their tactics, a dynamism that is explored through the many unique encounters you will have with unique enemies.
However, not all is golden in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Such a rapid change in design philosophy was bound to alienate older fans, who had grown attached to a certain style of game.
Although Ubisoft explained it away in the story, saying that the story itself was of a time before the Creed, this explanation felt a little undeserved, a little plastic.
Anyhow, I believe that was a sacrifice that the designers were ready to make, and it paid off in spades.
Speaking of leveling, one thing we found interesting is that certain areas of the game were soft locked on the basis of your overall level and attack power, which largely reminded me of the Witcher and the many hours I put into doing side quests so that Geralt was powerful enough to slay in the latter stages of the game.
The progression in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey feels quite the same as the game involving our favorite Witcher, and that in my books, is excellent.
While not managing to capture all of the essential technical aspects of good RPG power scaling, the game did a solid job of whatever it had grasp over and carried potential.
The notoriety system was the more meaningful addition, and it meant that Ubisoft was truly thinking about providing dynamic results through consequences, and that was certainly a driving factor in the success of the game.
If you behaved more like a crazed maniac murdering, looting, and pillaging, you would have more mercenaries after your head than you could count on one hand, forcing you to always look over your shoulder. This added much-needed fun to the game, and the franchise as a whole was better for it.
Along with that, the all-new revamped skill tree was a much-needed addition, as all of the skills were meaningful and useful in their own way, and the skills you unlocked would determine the way that you play, and vice versa.
This is an example of excellent symbiosis between the player’s default abilities and a quantifiable progression, and we’re all for it.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review: Ancient Greece Never Looked Better
After the absolutely unfathomable success of Origins, Ubisoft knew that they had struck gold with their best-selling franchise yet again, and whoever made the decision to explore one of the most popular ancient cultures of all time, was an ambitious genius.
Starting off, Alexios and Kassandra both exude a sense of individual identity and life that I’ve rarely seen with video game protagonists.
Alexios is brash, naive, and aggressive, but at the same time, he is also a leader, empathetic and determined.
A classic Roman male, Alexios is free from the burdens of the 21st-century human and is filled with charm and a childish wonder that helps endear him to the larger audience and to his many potential romantic interests.
On the other hand, Kassandra is similarly determined as her brother but often comes across as more cunning, calculative, and level-headed.
This kind of difference in mentality is what kept me coming to explore the larger narrative from both the siblings’ eyes. However, it is not just that the main characters were given all the attention, but the intentional cameos from historically decorated individuals such as Socrates, Hippocrates, Pericles, and Demosthenes that put a wide smile on my face.
The seamless integration of all of these characters into the story all the while retaining the aspects of their character that made them larger than life is applaudable.
Obviously, the setting is ancient Greece, and it has been recreated to absolute perfection.
The initial islands are ruthless, lawless, and dangerous, but they carry their own serene beauty once fully explored and seen.
But the main attraction, Athens, has a life of its own. Recreated in stellar detail, Athens blew me away once I managed to advance enough in the story to make my way over there.
Everything from the Temples of Zeus and Hephaestus to the Agora, the streets, and Dionysus’ Theatre has been treated with the utmost amount of faith and love.
And this is also reflected in the citizens, who carry themselves as a reflection of the land that they inhabit.
You will seldom find bandits in Athens, and instead, intellectuals. However much I may rave about the Greek capital, it pales in comparison to how it actually looks in-game. It must be seen to be believed.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Game: A Story Well-Paced
The story follows suit, as our eyes are treated to the battle of Thermopylae, and the great King Leonidas leading his troops into battle with his iconic oratory gift and the signature Spartan battle cries which signify death before defeat.
This rendition of the Battle of the 300 is actually fitting because it sets the tone for what Ubisoft is trying to tell us; this is an epic, and you are in the driver’s seat. What follows is a story of secrets, politics, deceit, family drama, and redemption.
Narration largely followed the same two-pronged approach, but with the past taking center stage, the modern-day missions felt like necessary intermission points, and that is where the pacing of this game is much different and much better than the rest.
Layla Hassan is endearing to a certain extent, and it is easier to get behind what she has taken a stand for, and the correlation between her, the modern-day perspective, and the time travel main journey is much more cohesive this time around.
She’s a better character than Desmond Miles in every way possible, and the supporting cast around her does a fine job as well.
Speaking of which, once Layla enters the Animus, you are the descendant of Leonidas and a misthios who must be wary of their past and what awaits them in the form of a cult that has held over Greek politics and aims to influence future events through the usage of Precursor artifacts, powerful objects that have the ability to do so.
Now, whether you play as either of the two main characters, the larger story and narrative quite obviously do not change.
The dialogue system is intuitive but does not get to the point where it’s forced in, or repetitive. Questlines follow simple patterns and allow you to approach the ending of a quest from whatever angle you deem necessary, except for some larger, linear, main story quests.
There are chinks in the armor. The main plot of the game is around 40 hours, and no matter how competent the story was, it didn’t do the primary job a story is supposed to do; keep you interested for the entire runtime.
That was the sole reason that the 100+ hours most of us invested in the Odyssey game were spent exploring the many historical sites and fighting the many assassins sent to kill the character.
But let me reiterate, the most important aspect of a story-driven adventure is the story, and Ubisoft took such a long-winded route to the most crucial bits, that we all were fatigued by the midway point.
The family drama that surrounded Alexios and Kassandra became quite on the nose, and at certain points, I could hear myself predicting the direction of certain future events, and coming out disappointed when they came out exactly as I predicted them. This kind of monotony hasn’t yet been addressed, and it is a shame that this carried over to future titles.
Climax: No Spoilers
As far as the climax goes, the various choices that you make throughout the main campaign influence the ending(s) that you will get, and this is a sign of script ambiguity that both hurts and provides for replayability.
Yet, all of that is central to whether you feel inclined to come back and explore the various options that the story provides, and that is entirely up to individual preference. I did, and I enjoyed all of the different outcomes the game gave me. You might not.
DLC: The Fate of Atlantis
For around $25 (at Gamestop), you would not have expected the kind of content that the second expansion of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey packed.
Not only did Ubisoft add three new individual stories, they did so while adding a new location for each, 10+ hours of dedicated content, new skills, more tweaks, and improvements to the general game, better and newer weapons, newer enemies, and more diverse encounters, and more secrets littered within the expansion..!
The Fate of Atlantis was a special DLC. It marked an end and a beginning. The end of bloated, overpriced, and underwhelming content, and the beginning of a new era of support which did not diminish after the release of a major title.
The episodes in The Fate of Atlantis take you through a host of major stories in Greek mythology, each more awe-inspiring than the last.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that I found about these episodes was a stark lack of repetition, and that is the greatest praise I can give to the post-release content of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
The quest design never felt like it was an exact replica or even similar to prior events, and there were more options where stealth, traversal, battle, and exploration elements were concerned.
The runtime was also fairer, and more negotiable, and none of the episodes ever felt like they were overstaying their welcome, with your character seamlessly traveling through to the next one.
All in all, this is a fitting DLC to one of the best games in the franchise, and going through it after months of abstinence was a blast from start to finish. All killer, no filler.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review: Final Thoughts
Is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey good?
I’ll say it’s better than Valhalla as an Assassin’s ‘Creed’ game, for us who grew up with Ezio Auditore and stealth-based gameplay.
Odyssey changed the landscape of the modern-day AC games, and completely changed the image that Ubisoft had unknowingly or knowingly cultivated for themselves. However, nothing in this world is perfect, and Odyssey certainly came with its myriad of imperfections.
Be that as it may, we will sum up with an AC Odyssey review. It is a stellar, beautiful, meaningful journey through one of the most discussed and celebrated civilizations to have existed throughout the course of history.
Innovative yet faithful, some of the ideas implemented in this epic of a game made it truly live up to the name selected for it, and helped the designers and directors over at Ubisoft Montreal really push boundaries in terms of immersion, visual fidelity, and value.
Needless to say, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is one of the best-selling games that Ubisoft has ever produced, and it has been critically and commercially acclaimed since its release.
To add to that, the post-game support that Odyssey has received in form of a litany of diverse content has been quite simply put, exemplary, and they have put their resources in the right direction and are ready to move past the failures of Unity and the lack of direction of Syndicate.