I’ve already played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey a handful of times this year and every time I walked away from it I felt incredibly optimistic. I said after E3 that this installment in the series felt like it was going to contain a good mix of everything that I’ve loved from it in the past but what I wasn’t expecting to love so much is all of the new elements that have been added.
Last week, I was able to do an even deeper dive on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at a preview event held by Ubisoft and played almost the first eight hours of the game. Once again, I came away with overwhelmingly positive impressions that are leading me to believe that Odyssey has the chance to be one of, if not, the best in the series to date.
Here are ten of the biggest takeaways that I had after playing through the early portion of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
1. The Story is Legitimately Great
I’ll be honest: I think a vast majority of video game narratives, especially in the triple-A space are pretty lacking. Don’t get me wrong, there’s usually a standout story or two every year but for the most part (and especially in the history of Assassin’s Creed) I think the storytelling is hardly ever engaging.
Boy, oh boy, is that not the case in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. By far my biggest surprise after my time with the game is just how much I was invested in the arc of Alexios/Kassandra. I haven’t felt this way about an AC game since Assassin’s Creed II. Again, I’ve only seen the first few hours of the story but the twists and turns that it takes in that span of time alone has me overly excited to where my own character will end up at the story’s conclusion.
2. You Can’t Go Wrong with Alexios or Kassandra
Up until this demo, I had only tried out Assassin’s Creed Odyssey by using the female protagonist of Kassandra. For this session, I decided to mix things up and try out Alexios and I can now say with confidence that I love them both. In the end, the writing for both characters is the exact same so it stands to reason that as long as that element is good, which it is, then both characters would turn out well. What I was impressed with from both characters were the performances from the voice actors.
Alexios and Kassandra really remind me of Mass Effect’s Shepard in the sense that no matter which version of the character you select to play, you’ll still have a great time. There’s really no “right” choice to be made when selecting who to play as and I’m still trying to decide who I’ll end up using in the full game.
3. Exploration Mode is the New Way to Play
Exploration Mode is one of the newest aspects of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and it encourages you to explore the world more than ever before. Rather than placing a mission waypoint on your HUD every time you receive a new quest, Exploration Mode gives you the freedom to find where to go on your own by giving you a rough outline of general directions. Most of the time this ends up being by way of cardinal directions in reference to other noteworthy landmarks on the map to indicate where you should head.
While it might sound more difficult to find out where to go, it’s really not at all. I never found myself getting lost even a little bit in my extended time with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Plus, whenever you get within a certain distance from where you need to be heading, your eagle will indicate that you’re close and will prompt you to take to the skies to find the specific area that you should head towards. This is the best new way to experience Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and I cannot recommend it enough that you turn this mode on when you play.
4. New Mercenary System is Like the Nemesis System and It’s Awesome
Perhaps the most low-key addition to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is that there’s a new mercenary system that feels like the AC version of the Nemesis System and I cannot stress enough just how cool it is. Throughout the world, random mercenaries will appear and will begin to hunt you down if you start to build up a bounty on yourself. In turn, there’s a hierarchy of mercenaries that you steadily climb up the more you defeat those that are ranked above you. Mercenaries will be scattered all over Greece and the more you kill, the more you’ll begin working towards becoming the top-ranked merc.
At the most insane moments during my demo, I was being attacked by three different mercenaries at once, each of which had vastly different abilities and builds. I was bouncing off of rooftops left and right trying to fend them all off. For the most part, mercenaries are randomly generated which means you’ll likely never seen any two that are similar to one another. This is a system that smartly expands upon what made the roaming Phylakes from Assassin’s Creed Origins so great and adds a fun sort of metagame that will keep you hooked after completing the main story. I really think it’s going to be one of the most talked-about aspects of Odyssey once it releases.
5. Your Ship is More for Travel than Combat
This is something that Ubisoft has been saying a lot about in reference to the ship aspects of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey but I felt it important to stress myself as well. If you’re expecting the naval portions of Odyssey to play out in the same way as what was seen in Black Flag, then lower those expectations. Your ship within Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a means of traveling throughout Greece first and foremost, though doing battle on the high seas is still an option even if it’s not the main purpose.
You can also still upgrade your ship over the course of the game to improve your hull, enhance your attack power, and even add some personal customizations. More than anything, your boat will act like a base of command throughout Odyssey and will become your traveling home so feel free to make changes to it however you see fit.
6. New Combat Abilities Make Engagements Way More Fun
One of the biggest criticisms that I heard from many fans last year–and one of my own–with Assassin’s Creed Origins was that the combat got too stale. Even though each weapon in the game behaved differently, I agree that combat was a bit too one-note in Origins and rarely prompted much experimentation.
Luckily, Odyssey is changing all of that by introducing the variety of new combat abilities that you can use when fighting foes. While it might seem like a simple addition to add moves like the Spartan Kick into the rotation, these abilities really do spice up combat and make every engagement far more interesting. What I really started enjoying the more I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was figuring out how to combine different abilities with one another to either quickly take down one specific enemy or fight against larger hordes. There’s a lot of room to play around with these new abilities in Odyssey and I’m really looking forward to unlocking even more of these moves in the full game to see how they interact with one another.
7. Your Choices Really Do Matter
Outside of more narrative-driven experiences that you might find in a Telltale of Quantic Dream title, I find that making major choices in many games rarely matters. Regardless of what decisions you make in most games, more often than not you seem to be fed down the same path or NPCs don’t seem to regard you based on how you may have treated them in conversation.
One of the newest additions to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the ability to make your own choices both in terms of dialogue and wide-ranging plot decisions and all of these instances play a vital role. It took a few hours for me to make some initial decisions for me to see the ramifications of those choices but once I started to see my actions playing a major role in what was transpiring both on the large scale and personal connections around me then I started to realize how well Ubisoft has integrated this new element into Odyssey. While I’m usually very skeptical of choices in games, especially those that are tacked on as a feature later in the series similar to what Odyssey is doing, everything I’ve seen so far indicates to me that Ubisoft has handled this new addition incredibly well, especially for their first go-around.
8. Greece is Stunning and I Haven’t Even Seen Most of It
My goodness y’all, Greece is absolutely breathtaking. I think this new region has shown well in the trailers for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey but it’s a whole other thing once you’re playing in it. The sheer amount of color and variety within each landscape is stunning and made me even more happy that the series decided to make this trek to Greece.
What’s insane is that I think my demo only took showed me 5%-10% of the full game and there are still so many new regions I’m looking forward to digging around. If you’ve been on the fence about investing in one of the premium consoles or a high-end PC to play in 4K, this is one I would absolutely suggest making the jump for.
9. I Can’t Believe How Funny Odyssey Is
This is something that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Creative Director Jonathan Dumont stressed to me in a recent interview, and he was absolutely correct — this game is incredibly funny. While the overall story arc is just as dramatic as you might expect, Ubisoft has mixed in far more levity this time around to make for an experience that will put a smile on your face more than you would think.
In retrospect, Origins was pretty lighthearted and funny in its own right but that playfulness in the dialogue has been dialed way up with Odyssey. Not only that, but there were some downright ridiculous moments in these opening hours than had me legitimately laughing out loud. What’s best about this more laid back, funny tone that Odyssey has is that it doesn’t interfere with the moments when things need to take a serious turn. Ubisoft has found a good balance here between both tones and I’m looking forward to playing that much more because of how funny Odyssey proved to be in my own demo.
10. This Game is Really, Really Big
If you’re a completionist like me and are looking to see all that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has to offer, then I suggest you don’t plan on playing anything else this Fall. Last year’s release of Origins was already massive in its own right and was a game that I kept coming back to for nearly two months consistently but it pales in comparison to the sheer size and amount of content that Odyssey offers.
Not only is the game world itself bigger than that of Egypt, the number of missions, contracts, and other activities to do are staggering and will easily keep you busy for well over one hundred-plus hours. Good luck to you if you try to juggle this alongside many of the Fall’s other open world releases simultaneously.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set to release next month on October 5 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. If you’d like to snag your copy now, you can head over to Amazon and lock in your pre-order.
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