So far, aside from making me want to play more of it, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has got me pricing a holiday to a bunch of Greek islands, hopping from one to another by boat or plane and taking in all that ancient culture, sunshine, and cheese. I write about computer games for a living, meaning it’s too expensive to do that, so instead I shall have to rely on Odyssey to take my partner and me on the journey. Fortunately, from the hour or so I was able to play at E3, it’s looking like Ubisoft Quebec’s representation of 431BCE Greece and her islands is going to be a good ‘un.
You get your traditional climbing-and-stabbing action of an Assassin’s game, of course, but this time around it’s all backed up with more RPG-ish systems behind it all. You’ll be able to chat with folks you come across, not just choosing your responses but – thanks to the magic of The Words You Use – your actual courses of action throughout the game.
While it would be fair for you to dismiss this as a gimmicky little bolt-on, choice plays such a large factor in Odyssey that there are multiple endings to be had, and multiple routes through the game as your decisions branch off in one direction or another. It’s not the deepest of RPG systems, mind, as this is still a third-person action game over anything else, but it offers a new layer to the fun – and a welcome one at that.
This sort-of-not-quite RPG sauce has been poured onto other areas of Odyssey too, with armor and ability customisation appearing to be deeper than it has been before. Taking a leaf from The Division, players can now customise and upgrade different sections of their armour rather than the whole thing in one go. You’ll also be able to tweak your special abilities, levelling things up and assigning them to different button combos depending on personal preference. I was only privy to a few of these, and honestly only used a couple because I spent so much time cooing at the lovely Greek beaches – but the chance to kick someone in the chest like you’re in a less muscular remake of 300, or stealing someone’s shield from their hands before lobbing it at their face is very welcome indeed.
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I’m still waiting to see if we’ll be able to buy costumes for the bird/all-seeing-eye Ikaros, mind you. Probably not, but a man can dream…
With Odyssey’s setting being that of Greece and her islands, it may come as no small surprise to hear that there is a lot of water. There’s plenty of naval elements to Odyssey, including transport, exploration and, of course, combat. While I didn’t see any Hellenistic warships in action (they don’t have cannons, so it’s archers-at-sea), I was able to scoot around on a fishing barge for a while, rushing alongside dolphins and dreaming of a day when Skyscanner offers me an actual palatable price to get to the modern, real world versions of these places.
The demo I was in took place on Mykonos and Delos – look them up, they’re very real – and I remember seeing mainland Greece, as well as the likes of Kos on the in-game map. As such, you’ll be looking at a variety of locales and environments to jog/climb/fight through, and not just bright white beaches and crisp, blue waters and, oh, where’s my passport?…
A big part of the island hopping is necessary thanks to Odyssey’s warring system – the Spartans and Athenians are vying for control of 27 states across the game. Each state has its own leader with his or her own allegiances, and it’s up to the player to take them out, should they so choose.
This is done by weakening the leader’s grip on a state – burning supplies, killing soldiers, writing mean notes about them, that sort of thing – and eventually results in a vast ‘conquest’ battle in which 300 units fight to the death. Or until they can’t be bothered any more. Whoever wins gains control of the state, and the makeup of the war is changed.
It’s a dynamic, ongoing system that’s different for every player and provides a neat backdrop to the usual, relatively aimless, missions and busywork you get involved in. Admittedly it’s nothing new at all – I remember doing this sort of thing in the gang wars of GTA: San Andreas, and Ubi’s own Far Cry 5 did something very similar just recently. But if it keeps people invested in what’s going on throughout Odyssey, it’s doing its job.
None of this can be said without forgetting, of course, that you can try to shag loads of people in Odyssey, regardless of who you or they are. I mean, it’s pretty accurate to the Ancient Greek way of screwing in the morning, philosophising til 3pm, then going for some figs and raki on the beach. Or ouzo, I don’t know, you might not be in Crete. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that was written about by Herodotus back in the day.
It’s all part of that very chatty RPG system Odyssey has introduced, and it’s likely to serve a bit more of a purpose in the finished game than I saw in the demo. Though admittedly if the whole game is just Kassandra stumbling over her thought-to-mouth process as she attempts to flirt, I’ll be happy enough. WE ARE ALL KASSANDRA.
Odyssey is also bringing back the modern world elements, unsurprisingly, with the returning Layla Hassan once again our contemporary heroine. I saw nothing of the modern day in the demo, mind, but Ubisoft has said it’s going to be a significant part of the game – more than there was in Origins, at least. Hopefully it’s not Desmond levels of rubbish, though. Remember him? No? Good. When he died I cheered. Oops, spoiler.
A lot of Odyssey feels similar to Origins, and that may well put some people off. But remember, this game is being made by the team behind AC: Syndicate, one of the best in the series, and Assassin’s titles that have been based on existing tech rather than significantly changing what came before them have often been good, like the excellent Rogue and… well, Syndicate.
With the ability to bone some hot Hellenes, and the chance to visit some beautiful Greek islands for less than the £1,500 Skyscanner has quoted me, I’m all over this one.