Update One (10/08/18): In Which I Find Myself in Way Over My Head.

 

My decision to review Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has been, in itself, something of an odyssey. In the weeks leading up to release, it seemed like a no-brainer. AAA game with a built-in audience? Check. A series with which I have an extensive history? Check. A game I was going to purchase anyway? Check. A ton of positive buzz leading up to launch? Check. A Ubisoft title that seems hell-bent on out-Biowaring Bioware in this post-Anthem world? Big ol’ check.

With this incredibly positive outlook towards the review process, I set out on my journey with not so much as a thought towards the plentiful headlines discussing how massive Odyssey’s world is, or the unimaginably stuffed fall release season. And so, I began.

Right out of the gate, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey impresses by allowing its players to live out their Spartan-kicking, Battle of Thermopolae, 300 fantasies by casting them as King Leonidas, the leader of Sparta, as he and his army repel the Persian onslaught. History buffs, action junkies and Zack Snyder enthusiasts must have collectively rejoiced at being given such an epic, if brief and linear, role to play in one of the most infamous battles of antiquity. At this point too, I was entirely confident that this review would move along as smoothly as any I’d yet attempted.

Moments later, I was introduced to what has easily proven to be one of the most compelling protagonists since Ezio Auditore. Players are given the option to choose between two siblings: the male Alexios (a character thoroughly in line with AC‘s history of sad white-appearing dudes with daddy issues), and the female Kassandra (a character saved from becoming another sad white-appearing dude with daddy issues by the grace of not actually being a dude). Kassandra (my personal choice), despite falling into the AC protagonist trap of parental hangups, feels like a fresh, unique, and expressive individual that I’d be happy to follow through several more games, as opposed to essentially every playable character since Ezio (none of whom, incidentally, have been given more than one mainline entry).

At this point too, I was convinced that my attempt to review this game in any sort of timely manner was anything but foolhardy. The very moment I was able to zoom out and see the sheer, overwhelming scale of the world Ubisoft has built for Odyssey, I began to doubt that my venture could be completed within a reasonable timeframe. This worry was only exacerbated by the fact that the opening title of the game only rolled after nearly fifteen hours of exploring the island of Kephallonia.

Since then I’ve navigated the ocean between three Greek islands, fully completing two and barely beginning the third. During this time, I’ve realized that not only is each individual region so jam-packed with objectives, challenges, and self-contained stories that they put almost the entirety of AC III‘s world to shame, but completing at least most of these tasks is simultaneously imperative, enjoyable, and addictive.

And so, I arrived at a choice. Should I turn AC Odyssey into a game that I’d only play for leisure for fear of taking a thoroughly unprofessional length of time to actually complete the story, or should I take a thoroughly unprofessional length of time to arrive at a conclusion and risk needing to stagger intermittent film reviews with multiple ongoing game reviews? Eventually, as should be evident based on the preceding five hundred and seventy-four words, I ended up siding with the former.

And so, I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my extremely long-winded manner of explaining that this review is going to take a good long while to fully complete. By my best guess, I’ve completed somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty hours of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which accounts for a minute fraction of the available content that ships with the base game. For fear of replicating my Spider-Man shame, I’ve decided to withhold a full rundown my impressions up to this point in favor of a brief summary of how I’m feeling.

 

A Brief Summary of how I’m Feeling:

  • If Assassin’s Creed Origins served as a quasi-soft reboot of the franchise, then Odyssey feels like an “Al dente continuation.” There are a plethora of reused assets, mechanics, UI systems, and gameplay ideas. The control scheme is nearly identical, the protagonist still has access to a drone-like eagle that seems to possess X-ray vision for no discernable reason, missions are acquired in much the same way, inventory management and leveling are nearly identical, and map zones are still differentiated based on recommended player level.
  • I’ve found the story to be far more compelling than Origins, the combat to be more strategic, and the naval exploration/confrontation element to be a welcome addition.
  • The way that unlockable abilities are utilized is extremely interesting. Rather than simple upgrades or passive abilities, a great many skills are meant to be activated via the face buttons during stealth or melee/ranged combat specifically. This makes enemy encounters far more interesting, as each is directly impacted by your equipped abilities, and they’re all meant to support specific playstyles.
  • If there’s one thing Assassin’s Creed has been missing (that I’d never realized I wanted), it’s dialogue options. Choices like accepting or rejecting quests seem perfunctory at best, but deciding how to woo an NPC, choosing which faction to side with during battle, or even determining whether or not to demand payment from someone you’ve just helped really makes allows players to express themselves in a way that feels meaningful. Kassandra feels far more like my character than anyone else in the series, and considering that AC is well past its tenth game (not counting the innumerable spinoffs), that’s pretty remarkable.

 

Hopefully, I’ll have some well thought out ideas to present during the next update, but so far (despite how many hours I’ve already sunk into Ubisoft’s gorgeous rendition of ancient Greece), it feels like anything I could say would be premature. I also intend to include will what will ideally be a contextually informative (and condensed) outline of my opinions of each main-series game I’ve played. In the meantime, I plan to continue my Grecian odyssey, which I suspect will overlap with my old-west adventures in Red Dead Redemption 2 and possibly even my award season film coverage. Regardless, Odyssey is certainly not a misnomer, nor is it simply a title; it’s a description, or maybe even a disclaimer.

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