Assassin’s Creed Odyssey isn’t a reskin, but it’s also not a drastically new entry in the franchise either. Above all else, it’s an iteration. It’s simply the next step for the franchise.
When you first begin Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you’re immediately thrust into a battle between Sparta and Persia. This battle serves as an introduction to not only the new war foundation the game sits propped up on, but also as a demonstration showcasing the ways in which combat has evolved. Before me was a large-scale battle featuring dozens and dozens of onscreen warriors fighting each other. Unlike in Assassin’s Creed 3, the last game to have large-scale battles like this, it seemed as if each of these warriors had a mind of their own. One Spartan was focused on a Persian carrying a shield, doing all he could to fight around it. A few feet to the right of that, three Spartans were focused on taking down a massive brute and behind all of that, two soldiers locked in a fierce sword fight. In Assassin’s Creed 3, the battles felt scripted and cinematic, but based on predetermined paths. This battle, though, felt fresh, alive and capable of turning in any direction.
In the middle of this fight, I was tasked with taking down a designated leader, but not before exploring the abilities my spear granted me, abilities that utilize segments of the yellow bar on the bottom of the screen. By pressing L1 and Circle, I could Spartan kick an enemy into the air, leaving him to land 30 feet in front of me, or with some strategic positioning, off a cliff. With L1 and Triangle, I entered a Spartan rage of sorts, which coincidentally brought my character into a fit of rage not unlike something Kratos would experience. And these were just two of multiple abilities I could later unlock.
These large-scale battles will happen at the end of every major campaign chapter, too. During each chapter, among other things, players must fight to weaken a nation state —you can do so on behalf of Sparta or Athens, or serve whoever offers the most rewards at any given moment— by stealing nation treasures, taking out nation soldiers, destroying army supplies and ultimately, bringing the nation leader on that piece of land to their demise. I completed one in my seven-hour demo and while it was a blast this one time, I could see it getting repetitive.
After some story beats following my 300-like fight, I found myself soaring through the island of Kephallonia as Ikaros, Odyssey’s new eagle companion. Personally, I found Origins’ Ancient Egypt to be a bit boring in aesthetic. Sure, it was quite accurate but as a result, it was mostly sand. In fact, my favorite places in Egypt were the coastal towns and Roman metropolises scattered throughout the map —they were colorful, lively, and truly took advantage of my PS4 Pro. Right from the start, I was in love with Greece. It was mountainous, filled with greens, blues and more, and reminded me of my favorite views in Origins. After seven hours in the game, it was clear to me that this game would not only keep up with that aesthetic, but expand on it as well with Mediterranean islands, wide open seas and cityscapes I’ve only read about in history books. It was also apparent that without a doubt, this will be one of the most gorgeous games this generation.
Ikaros soon found my character, Kassandra, sitting upon a small hut of sorts, only to have alone time broken up by two thugs down below attempting to threaten me. Without hesitation, I was prompted to end these threats with swift, but aggressive combat, a style that matched the personality of Kassandra —brave, aggressive, kind, humble and driven. Once beaten, I learned some more about who they were and what they wanted and then, for the first time ever in Assassin’s Creed, I was given a choice: keep them alive or kill them. Naturally, I killed them. Surprisingly, I actually had to kill them, rather than watch a cutscene of Kassandra doing the dirty deed, and I immediately felt the weight of my decision.
Over the next seven hours, all of my decisions would carry this same weight. In one instance, I had to decide to either ignore a group of people who had contracted a deadly and quick-spreading illness from being killed by a town authority, or save them from this death. I chose to save them. Later when I returned to this town, the liveliness had disappeared and the area had grown decrepit, filled with an almost tangible doom. A quick stroll through the area would reveal to me that the illness of those that I saved had spread throughout the town, leaving nothing but dead bodies in its wake. My one decision led to an entire town’s end. That wouldn’t be the last choice that drastically affects my game, either. Another would see me end the demo with a substantially more-difficult final battle because instead of taking out a boss-like enemy before the fight by completing a lengthy quest line, I chose a dialogue option that locked that outcome away. As a result, I had to kill this extremely difficult enemy in the midst of an already challenging fight.
Not every choice I made carried death or difficulty, though, as one dialogue tree I followed led to Kassandra’s first romance. While making this happen was quite simple — pick the dialogue option with a heart next to it any time you can — it was still nice to see this flirtation grow into something my character seemingly desired. After a mild cutscene that simply alluded to us hooking up, I was informed that I could recruit her as a lieutenant on my ship. The lieutenant I had already recruited, which consisted of knocking him out and basically forcing him to join my crew, was of common rarity. The girl I romanced, though, was of rare rarity, granting me boosted stats such as increased ramming damage while fighting on the open seas.
And speaking of open seas, the seafaring in Odyssey, while different in a few ways —because you don’t have cannons, you can’t rely fully on arrows and spears to do the trick so ramming must be used whenever possible— is everything you loved about the open seas and naval combat of Black Flag, but more refined and very much Greek (even the shanties this time around are sung in Greek).
The rest of the demo saw me travel across the game’s first two starting areas, completing quests, fighting enemies, investigating areas, upgrading my equipment and overall, serving whatever my appetite desired at the time. In this regard, Odyssey could be viewed as a reskin of Origins as it felt very much like playing Origins (but in Ancient Greece), but everything was tighter, more fluid, more meaningful, and more refined. Ignoring the dialogue options and combat, sure, Odyssey could be called a reskin but even then, it’s a fantastic one. Toss in the new systems such as dialogue and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey becomes a game you shouldn’t ignore this fall.