Announced at E3 2018, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was quite the surprise, as it seemed to herald the series’ return to its annual schedule. Since then, Ubisoft has clarified that there isn’t going to be another instalment in 2019. Instead, Odyssey is going to be the longest Assassin’s Creed yet, both due to the sheer size of the map and the number of available missions and typical distractions.
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It’s the follow-up to Assassin’s Creed Origins, which in itself was a soft reboot of the series after fans had grown tired of annual releases and repetitive mechanics. It was wonderful, and we really hope the same care and attention has been put into Odyssey.
Assassin8217;s Creed Odyssey is due to launch on October 5, 2018 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Odyssey will take us to the sunny confines of Ancient Greece, so you can expect plenty of gladiatorial combat and historical assassinations amongst the sprawling fields and cities. Feudal Japan aside, it8217;s a setting we’ve wanted from the series for over a decade now.
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After the E3 demo focused on combat both face to face with a group of enemies and as a large brawl at sea, this time we’re presented with two different elements of Odyssey, namely sneaking and taking on a large boss.
Like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Odyssey features more than one main character, and I got to choose between playing either Alexios or Kassandra. Switching between save games gave me the opportunity to see both of them in action. They may handle exactly the same, and yet even the simple interactions I had with NPCs during the mission felt different, giving almost a different meaning to the context of the story.
I start my hour-long demo on one of the many Grecian islands in the game and immediately follow a quest marker to my mission, as much as I want to have a proper look around first. Once I arrive on a hill overlooking most of a small settlement, I witness a group of heavily armed men intimidate a woman – a scene that can already feel markedly different if you’re playing as Kassandra instead of Alexios.
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The woman named Bryce is looking for someone to rescue her lover Ligeia, but is instead being threatened with death as a relationship between her and Ligeia, also a woman, is forbidden. To make matters worse, Ligeia stands accused to tempering with holy mythical forces, so the men of the village would rather see her remain locked away.
Such an injustice will not stand for our protagonist, of course, and so the first battle begins. This time, characters are fully maxed out to let you experience combat at its best – but also most difficult.
Battles in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey now heavily rely on special abilities. Enemy forces add up quickly, and in order for you to defeat a whole group of them, you use such abilities to quickly dispose of foes with a powerful swing or harm several of them clustering around you with a single blow.
This takes a while to get used to, as you can no longer block incoming attacks, but have to sidestep them instead. Dodging knocks me into a different enemy more than once, and since all abilities have a certain cooldown time and the cliff is just behind me, I try not to get manoeuvred into a corner.
Seeing the abilities in action is a really powerful feeling, akin to the satisfaction of silently assassinating enemies in the previous games. With just a press of a button, Kassandra gracefully leaps up into the air to slam her spear into an enemy, who goes down like a log. It’s not an easy encounter by any means, but all the more exciting for it.
My victory immediately calls a mercenary to action. I remember these from Assassin’s Creed Origins, but they have become a lot more persistent. Instead of approaching the scene of the crime slowly from miles away, this one is right there and will not be shaken off unless I pay the bounty. This is comfortably done from the map however, rendering the bully immediately docile.
I then travel with Bryce on horseback to a giant tomb. Ligeia is imprisoned within, and even though things are looking grim, I naturally want to try and rescue her. This involves going to a completely different island by ship, where I have to enter the camp of a group that holds the key the key to the tomb.
The short time I spent at sea feels exactly the way it did in Assassin’s Creed Black Flag: the men under my command begin a jaunty tune, and we even fish something useful out of the glittering sea. As soon as I arrive on the island, I sneak around enemies and take them out from the safety of the tall grass. No hidden blades this time, but that hardly makes a difference. This part doesn’t seem to have changed at all, and while you would naturally expect more commanders with guard dogs or another soldier in tow at a high-level camp, you can still easily separate them with whistling or take an alternate path.
The key is in a cave infested with bears, proving once again that whether you fight one enemy or a whole group of them, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is going for a decent challenge in every part of this quest.
Finally back with Bryce, I’m sure that this will be the moment for a happy reunion, but I couldn’t be more wrong. As punishment for entering the tomb, Ligeia has become Medusa, the goddess with a nest of snakes for hair and the ability to turn people into stone with only so much as a look.
Thankfully, this attack, which is an annoyingly persistent part of the battle, doesn’t turn me completely to stone, but it slows me down considerably. With Medusa’s henchmen attacking me from every corner, it becomes quite the task to fight off these lesser important enemies, avoiding the stony gaze and most importantly, managing my special attacks so that I can use them on Medusa and instead of healing myself at every opportunity.
It takes me several increasingly frustrating tries, making it essentially into a more difficult version of the very first encounter of the demo. At the end of this sprawling quest, I stand not as the hero of the day, but alone among the dead – including my quest giver Bryce.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey uses the best elements from several parts of the franchise, from seafaring to an upgraded version of Origin’s combat. At its heart, it’s nothing new, but the surprisingly affecting quest and small changes to existing mechanics go a long way to making this entry feel fresh.
Until the game comes out in October, it will be difficult to say if these changes can sustain you over the 60+ hours Ubisoft has in store, but especially the surprising difficulty and layered nature of the quests have me looking forward to the game.
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