Assassin's Creed: Odyssey Preview - E3 2018
The series continues to expand on its RPG elements in this year's entry
I have to admit, I wasn’t fully on board with Assassin’s Creed Origins. When I first saw it, it didn’t seem to be the departure that Ubisoft had promised - at least, not something that warranted the year-long hiatus that Ubisoft took from the series. When I finally got the opportunity to get my hands on the game, I wasn’t in love with many of the changes. The new combat system was fine, but only fine. I didn’t love Bayek as a character and his expansive journey through Egypt was certainly long, but I didn’t think it warranted the 30+ hours the game was asking for.
Suffice it to say Origins just never wowed me. At no point did I think, “Oh yeah, I totally see how this is a significantly better game thanks to the hiatus.” It was familiar in many ways and not different in others. Now, it feels like Origins was really laying the groundwork for Odyssey, a more significant departure for the series, not only in gameplay, but in the very fabric that makes up Assassin’s Creed. I can’t say that was expected. When Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was revealed, I figured it would be more of the same as Origins in a new location - that Ubisoft was returning to the same familiar formula, slightly iterating on their new game while simply changes locales every year.
That isn’t the case. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a significantly different game, from what I saw at E3 2018. Not just a bigger, but a more complex experience. When talking to the development team, they kept mentioning choice and how important that element is with Odyssey. I have to say, I’m impressed by how much choice affected the demo I got to experience. Some of the outcomes were ham-fistsed, maybe a little too obvious, but there’s a lot of subtle and creative elements of choice in Odyssey. If Origins started Assassin’s Creed down the down the road of feeling like an RPG, Odyssey has taken it to the next level. At this point, it feels like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is almost a BioWare game - even more than the game BioWare is currently making.
I love when I go hands-on with a Ubisoft game because they’re pretty content to just let me roll through the world. And this is quite the world - not just in size, but in density. Last summer, my sister went to Greece and I was pretty jealous. I might be even more jealous now that I’ve seen the majesty of the Greek islands rendered in Odyssey. The golden deserts of Egypt were impressive, but seeing the gorgeous civilizations of Greece with the vibrant colors of vegetation is truly something impressive.
Odyssey is set during a war between Sparta and Athena. Your character can play both sides of that war, picking up different contracts to make a maximum profit. I played as Kassandra, though you can also choose to play as another spartan warrior Alexios, and her attitude was rather laid back. Odyssey isn’t going to take itself too seriously, which is good. I’ve never been a fan of the Bayek, Altair, or Connor and their overly serious tones. I like my main characters plucky and carefree. The kind who play different sides of a war for fun.
Upon arriving on this Greek island, I link up with a rebel group to fight against the Athenians. Kassandra isn’t really in it for the rebellion, she’s looking for revenge against the Athenian leader. As I roll with the rebels, I’m drawn into a battle on a nearby beach. In addition to the revamped combat from Origins, Odyssey introduces abilities. These abilities are used by holding the left bumper and pressing a face button. You can use these to rip shields away from enemies or knock them prone.
There is also a revamped wanted level in Odyssey. It’s a nice way to solve the issue of killing civilians, which I actually experienced first hand. A wolf followed me into town and while I was swinging my sword a little too wildly, I accidentally killed a passerby. In previous games this would have de-synced me, but in Odyssey, it just raised my wanted level. If the level gets too high, assassins will be sent by either faction to kill you.
The BioWare comparison is carried over to the conversations - and their animations. Unfortunately, everything is a little stilted, and while you don’t quite get that fish-eye look for NPCs, it does feel a little off. So characters have a tendency to look a little robotic when you’re in-engine, but the cutscenes look fantastic. Odyssey is a beautiful game.
Perhaps the best news is that sailing makes a return to Assassin’s Creed. Sailing around Greece with your crew is just as much fun as it was in Black Flag. I haven’t seen any naval combat, but there are abilities to shoot javelins at enemies, so one has to imagine it will be there. With all the island hopping the ships feel necessary - and welcomed. It’s fun to climb aboard, and command your crew like in you could in the Caribbean.
I had a lot fun going back and forth between the two islands I could explore, finding missions, talking with characters. To me, this is what’s most important to an Assassins’ Creed game. It’s an x-factor that makes it fun to simply exist in the world. Roaming around, carrying out the simple missions the game provided was a good time. I got to play an hour of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but I could have sat in that demo room for longer - the whole day if I had nowhere else to be. If this is the new Assassin’s Creed, sign me up. I’ve haven’t been this excited about the franchise in quite some time.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will be out on October 5th on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.