‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’
Who it’s for: Action/RPG fans, whether or not they have enjoyed this series in the past.
Console: Xbox One, PS4, PC
If someone had told me in high school that one of the best games of 2018 (way too many years in the future) was going to be an action/RPG set around the Peloponnesian War, I would have seriously questioned their sanity.
Yet here we are. “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” not only makes the most of its ancient Greek setting but seamlessly weaves in the best of history and mythology to create the most robust installment of the series ever.
Expanding on the systems introduced last year in “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” “Odyssey” transforms “Assassin’s Creed” into a full action/RPG. Where in previous games players always had the choice in how to approach scenarios, “Odyssey” goes a step further by giving players conversations with choices, many of which significantly affect the game’s direction.
Important decisions begin early when picking between Alexios and Kassandra. That’s right, for the first time, you can play through the entire game as a female assassin. Though both characters follow the same story, you’ll find Kassandra’s voice acting superior most of the time.
At first, “Odyssey” feels like pretty much every other installment. Your character learns to use her skills, goes on a few small quests and introduces the world. Sometime during this early game, you’ll take a look at the map, zoom out and discover you’re on a small island that’s part of a massive open world.
Unfortunately, the words “massive open world” have become somewhat cliché. So to put Greece’s size in “Odyssey” in perspective, it would take about two hours for the player to walk from one end of the world to the other, and that’s without stopping for gyros on the way.
Fortunately, your assassin has access to other forms of transportation. Early on, you’ll get a ship and crew, making traveling the many Greek islands much easier.
Ship-to-ship combat plays out much like it did in “Assassin’s Creed Black Flag.” Your options are to outmaneuver and ram opposing ships while firing arrows and javelins to chip away at its defenses.
Both on land and on sea, combat flows naturally, and once you hone your strategies, battles will play out in exciting fashion. And you’ll get stronger.
The world of “Odyssey” doles out experience points generously, much like other modern adventure games like “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” Fighting, exploring, completing missions and more will raise your level and give you access to new skills.
You’ll need all the skill you can muster to get through this game. Plan on spending at least 60 hours getting through the main story and considerably north of that to do everything.
The expansive land (and waters) of Greece offer seemingly endless challenges. You’ll take part in legendary battles, face off against fearsome creatures and curry the favor of the gods.
Here’s where longtime “Assassin’s Creed” fans may become a little disappointed. Yes, it looks and feels like an “Assassin’s Creed” game, including the obligatory tie-in with modern times and characters, but many of the series’ tropes have fallen by the wayside.
“Odyssey” all but ignores the eternal struggle between the Assassins and the Templars, and ties to the assassins of other eras are nonexistent. The story is much more personal, dealing with family conflicts and finding your place in the world. If Ubisoft cut the ancillary material dealing with the Animus, this could be an entirely new IP.
Ultimately, “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” is nothing short of one of the most epic action/RPGs ever released. Gorgeous graphics (especially on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X), a fantastic soundtrack, generally good voice work, a compelling story and an enormous world packed with things to do drew me in with genre leaders like “The Witcher 3” and “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”
My biggest complaint was getting distracted and drawn away from the main campaign to go rescue random citizens and run errands that likely could have waited. Like its namesake, penned by Homer so long ago, “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” is a playable epic that adventure fans must play.