Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the second AC game since their 2-year break which led to Assassin’s Creed: Origins, a game wildly different to the long worn-out Assassin’s Creed formula.
I was originally uninterested in AC: Odyssey because I’d been slightly disappointed by AC: Origins, however, after a long stint of platting every Assassin’s Creed game from Black Flag upwards, I had an AC itch that only Odyssey could scratch. And boy did it scratch it….
In this game, you play as either Kassandra or Alexios. Your ability to choose comes from a lack of conviction on Ubisoft’s part in what proves to be a very weak-willed move, but I’ll rant more about that later. I chose correctly with Kassandra and will continue to refer to her as the main protagonist for the purposes of this review.
Kassandra is the granddaughter of Leonidas, who you may know from the well-referenced Spartan-centric movie “300” in which Leonidas and an army of just 300 Spartans faced off against the Persian ruler “Xerxes” and his much larger army. Throughout the game, you wield the broken-off tip of Leonidas’ spear as a dagger, for assassinations and combat parries.
We’re introduced to Kassandra’s story in a thrilling cutscene within which her brother Alexios is thrown from Mt.Taygetos by his own father, Nicolaos – The wolf of Sparta – due to the rantings of a corrupt oracle. As Kassandra’s Mother, Myrinne, begs and pleads for her son to be spared, Kassandra heroically charges in, ultimately sealing her brother’s fate and is also thrown from the mountain for denying the oracle and betraying Sparta.
The game then picks up on the Greek island of Kephalonia (now known as Cephalonia or Kefalonia), where a much older Kassandra lives as a Mercenary (or Misthios, in Greek, which is something you hear a lot in this game) and lives with a man named Markos, who found her washed up on the Kephalonian beaches as a child and raised her into the strong Misthios she became.
Markos, however, is a bit of a buffoon, with a somewhat annoying voice and clownish care-free attitude he seems to get the two into trouble quite a lot.
This time, the duo are in trouble with a man named “Cyclops” to whom Markos owes a debt. Unable, or perhaps just unwilling, to settle the debt Markos tasks Kassandra with dealing with the problem and thus begins our first main-line quest.
Eventually, Kassandra is given a quest-based incentive to leave Kephalonia and heads to mainland Greece to complete her new objective. Without giving too much away, this leads to her involvement with a Cult, the Cult of Kosmos.
This cult has one of the Pieces of Eden – a well-established concept within the Assassin’s Creed universe. Pieces of Eden are powerful artefacts left behind by a much more advanced precursor race who ruled the earth long before humans. This particular artefact is a pyramid constructed out of small golden triangular fragments, which when placed together can offer the user glimpses into the future. Via this tool as well as their positions as people of power or influence, the Cult hopes to control Greece from the shadows.
Of course, Kassandra isn’t too pleased to discover this, but it’s the cult’s connection to her family which leads to her becoming fully involved in the fight against the cult.
That about wraps up all I want to give away for the story in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I strongly recommend getting this game and experiencing the story for yourself. It is full of wonder and excitement within a beautiful setting – Ancient Greece. In true Assassin’s Creed style, there are also historical characters to meet and learn from, such as Hippokrates, Sokrates, Sophocles, Alkibiades, Demosthenes and an impressive number more.
The Kassandra Rant
Before I move on to the gameplay and various mechanics of AC: Odyssey, I have a little something I want to get off my chest…
Typically when playing video-games I choose to play as a female character. This comes about from my teenage years when I had a second-hand Xbox 360 and all the games back then were FPS games and featured a stoic, gruff, silent and emotionless male protagonist. Series like Gears of War, Halo and more all took on this practice of featuring a hyper-masculine shell of a main character and their voice-acting – where present – reflected this. I was not a fan, to say the least.
I found that voice actresses often put more emotion and effort into their work and it brought the character to life a lot more. A great and timeless example of this is present in the Mass Effect series of games – of which I was a huge fan – which feature a main character by the name of “Commander Shepard”. This character was fully customisable, and upon selecting a female character – “Femshep” as she is affectionately known within the community – the whole tone of the game was different, the dialogue was delivered with more fervour and the game had more passion and soul. This is what sealed the deal for me. From Mass Effect 2 onwards I always chose to play as a woman and enjoyed gaming more as a result.
Because of this, I obviously chose Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and upon hearing her and Alexios’ voices compared I was incredibly pleased I had. Kassandra’s lines are delivered with more heart where Alexios brainlessly shouts all his lines in the deepest voice he can muster, just to prove how tough and manly he is – I’m not into it.
Just one thing was bothering me though at this point, which one is canon? When future Assassin’s Creed games look back at AC: Odyssey, will they talk of the great accomplishments of Alexios or Kassandra?
Well, upon deep investigation, all signs pointed to Kassandra – which I was delighted by as she is a much better character. The last bit of proof I needed to support Kassandra being Canon was the official Assassin’s Creed Odyssey book, written as though Kassandra is the main protagonist.
So why the rant? Why am I so annoyed by all this?
Ubisoft refuse to recognise their own decision. The marketing for the game is heavily laden with the smug face of Alexios. The cover of the game-box features Alexios (although this is reversible. While it is a nice touch, I still feel like Kassandra should be the face of the box pre-reversal). The loading screen when the game first opens also features Alexios, even once you’ve started a game and selected Kassandra as your protagonist.
It’s frustrating because Ubisoft and the team who developed AC: Odyssey clearly agree with the majority of sensible fans in that Kassandra is the clear and obvious choice for the face of the game, but due to the fact that gaming consists of a majority male demographic, Ubisoft were too scared to commit to their decision and just feature Kassandra.
I understand that these things are real; typically male gamers prefer to play as a male character, yes, the gaming demographic is mostly male, yes, marketing is a whole different kettle of fish, but I am still disappointed and annoyed at Ubisoft’s lack of conviction, the way they recoiled at the idea of having a female figure-head rests ill in my mind.
Besides this, Playstation exclusives have proven for years that female protagonists sell. Gravity Rush, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted Lost Legacy, all hugely successful games with iconic and recognisable characters. So why would Ubisoft be so infuriatingly unwilling to just get with the times?
Playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey features and improves-upon a newer, more refined control scheme established in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. The changes came about as part of Ubisoft’s effort to refresh the Assassin’s Creed line of games with improved mechanics, modernised controls and all-in-all fewer bugs and glitches, something they accomplished by taking a 2-year hiatus from their usual annual release schedule.
I’ll talk more about this more in a future Origins review but, to summarise, the traversal in more recent AC games had to be much more horizontal due to the open spaces and lack of huge cities, so horses were added to the game, and climbing organic surfaces such as rock-faces became much easier and less dependant on hand-holds so as to not slow down the user. This is still present in Odyssey and is very welcome due to the sheer scale of the seemingly endless map. For the first 10-15 hours of the game, you’ll constantly feel as though you’ve yet to make so much as a dent on the map.
For the most part, you’re pretty much free to roam the map as you’d like, especially once you get access to Kassandra’s Trireme; the Adrestia. But some areas have a much higher minimum level, so you’ll want to come back once you’ve levelled up a bit more if you don’t want to get your butt whooped by every soldier, beast and misthios in the area.
To the left-most side of the map is Kephalonia and then mainland Greece, with the right-most side of the map being reserved for an archipelago of Greece’s many islands, filled to the brim with quests and content, but what I felt to be a reasonable amount of fulfilling content, as opposed to the endless ocean of pointless unsatisfying content which was heavy-handedly poured throughout Egypt in AC: Origins.
The game sees the return of Horses, allowing you to explore Greece upon the back of your trusty steed, Phobos. Getting around on Phobos is pretty quick and easy – this is coming from someone who HATES using horses in video-games. Ubisoft cut out a lot of the annoying aspects of using a horse, by having Phobos unnaturally responsive to micro-adjustments and last-minute changes of direction. Mounting the horse is also less of a chore, as all you have to do is whistle while you’re running and Kassandra will automatically mount Phobos without any input once the horse catches up with her, meaning there’s no need to stop or awkwardly faff with button inputs that can also trigger other events (looking at you RDR2) and the whole process is one smooth and effortless process.
You really have no idea how pleased I am with the horse mechanics in AC: Odyssey, they’ve genuinely made one of my least favourite aspects of gaming into a joyous experience, so much so that it needs saying twice.
Of course, the Horse can only cross land, for matters of the sea, Adrestia is our friend. Named after the Goddess of Retribution, the Adrestia is a medium-sized Trireme ship, which takes a full crew of rowers with oars to operate. With a true and proper return to sea-faring, a lot of the ship-based mechanics from AC: Black Flag see their return in the form of Trireme combat, something which was touched upon slightly in AC: Origins but ultimately refined and improved here with Odyssey.
Obviously, with the absence of cannons, rowdy pirates and huge sails, the battles are slightly less epic than they were in AC:BF but are much quicker (from my experience) and don’t tend to be too much of a nuisance as they’re easy to outrun and don’t take much effort to take down in most cases.
Holding down will let you take aim, pressing will fire a volley of arrows and pressing will fire a volley of flaming arrows instead. The same happens if you don’t hold to aim, except your crew will use spears to inflict slightly more damage. You can also hold to have your rowers row extra fast, charging bow-first into your target and potentially even splitting the enemy ship in two upon impact. This is the strongest trireme attack in the game and is invaluable in more hectic combat situations. If you don’t split your target in two – and weaken them enough – you get to board their ship and enter physical combat with the enemy crew. With the help of your crew and lieutenants, it should be a breeze taking out the crew and claiming their loot as your own.
The Adrestia can be upgraded, improving its armour and attack and there are various snazzy-looking skins which you can unlock through various methods (one of them, of course, being to spend real-world money… You know, because… Ubisoft…). These upgrades are some of the most resource- and money-hungry upgrades in the game and will take quite some time to acquire – especially if you’re going to attempt to fully upgrade the Trireme.
All the above tools and mechanics allow you to fully explore and appreciate the absolutely beautiful Greek landscape which has been artfully crafted by Ubisoft’s top talent. Ignoring the abundance of quests and side-quests in the game, you can waste a heck of a lot of hours just by exploring Ancient Greece, taking a peek inside caves, admiring marble sculptures, skipping through forests, and gathering materials and loot wherever you go.
The Diablo-esque loot system established in AC:Origins also makes a comeback here in AC:Odyssey. Not much has changed about it, except the types of weapons you’re likely to find. The weapons and armour you can find will either be Common, Rare, Epic or Legendary, each signified based on the colour of the frame around the item in the equipment menu. Equipment with more rarity will typically have more attributes (such as +15% poison damage or such-like), which you can actually add to by having a Blacksmith engrave your gear with extra attributes. However, rarer weapons don’t inherently have a higher base attack, meaning you can’t totally write-off a common weapon as soon as you acquire it.
The ancient-Greece-inspired options for armour are – as you can imagine – based on real Spartan and Athenian armour from history, with the more exciting armour options being inspired by Greek mythology. Your choices of melee weapon include; Sword, Dagger, Spear (includes tridents!), Staff, Heavy Bladed (such as axes), and Heavy Blunt (such as maces). You also have a weapon slot for a bow, which can have several arrow types, such as Poison and Fire arrows.
AC: Origins originally introduced a shield into combat which was a vital tool for surviving many combat encounters, but shields were removed in Odyssey (for the protagonist, at least) in order to give more purpose to Leonidas’ spear. You can use it to parry during combat by hitting and at the same time, which seems like a strange control scheme but actually really works and produces incredible satisfaction upon pulling off a perfectly timed parry, as your parry attempts need to be performed with more conviction than, say, hitting liberally to avoid taking damage.
The spear also comes in handy during stealth combat as something of a hidden blade replacement (since the traditional AC hidden blades weren’t invented at this point in the series’ canon) with which you can easily dispatch foes who don’t see you coming. Your damage and detectability during stealth depend on your “Assassin” stat.
There are 3 basic combat stats which dictate your damage in certain situations and allow you to mould Kassandra to your personal play-style. I, myself, don’t have enough patience for long, drawn-out stealth sections and preferred to go toe-to-toe with enemies so I would focus on increasing my Warrior stat and improve my combat damage. The third of these skills is “Hunter” which dictates the damage you inflict with a bow.
These stats are improved based on the weapons and armour you equip as well as which skills you purchase from the skill tree. There are a vast number of skills you can unlock in the game, and each of these skills can be upgraded a further 2 times. Some are passive skills, simply improving poison damage or assassination damage, some are triggered by simply holding an attack button longer, for example, there is a stronger assassination attack you can unlock which kicks in if you hold instead of tapping it.
The rest of the skills are triggerable using certain button combos. There are 4 skill slots you can equip these into (like a skill bar in a traditional RPG) which can be upgraded to 8 slots, allowing you to switch between 2 different sets of 4 skill slots. You can then trigger one of these skills by holding and then the corresponding face button for the skill you want to use from the loadout you’ve put together. For example, There was a skill I loved which had Kassandra pierce the enemy’s shield with her Leonidas’ spear and then tear the shield from their hands. I had this set in the right-most slot, meaning I could trigger it by holding and pressing .
There’s a third skill wheel which is only active while you’re holding to draw your bow, this wheel is for bow-specific skills, such as one I used almost every time I drew my bow, which increased the damage of your shot.
Overpower skills make a comeback here too, hitting and at the same time will trigger a powerful attack which differs depending on the weapon you’re using, my personal favourite being the Dagger’s overpower attack which sees the enemy blended up by a quick flurry of cuts and slashes.
As you can see, the combat system in AC: Odyssey is incredibly diverse and allows for thousands of permutations of play-styles and combat strategies. Personally, I would pick off enemies with the bow when I arrived at the scene, then once I got bored of that or couldn’t quite get my sights on any more enemies, I’d move into the area stealthily and dispatch a few more, but the second it became a chore or required any more than minimum effort, I’d go all-out and start swinging daggers. I’d take out the weaker enemies with standard attacks, occasionally breaking out the odd heavy attack if there was room to breathe. If an enemy with a shield turned up I’d use the aforementioned skill to relieve them of it provided I had enough adrenaline charged up. I’d also be trying to save up 3 segments of adrenaline so I could fire off an overpower attack on any bigger or tougher enemies nearby.
I LOVED getting into huge 15-20-man fights, surrounded by enemies and trying to figure out the best way to rid myself of them. Even if that sometimes meant running away and trying to pick a few off with the bow as they chased after me.
One thing that always spiced up a good fight was other misthios coming to join in. There’s a mercenary system in Assassin’s Creed origins wherein there’s a hierarchy of mercenaries and you can move up through the ranks by taking them out – something you’ll want to do if you want the associated trophy. These misthios will hunt you down (sometimes with superhuman speed, racing over the hills like Roadrunner – that is not an exaggeration) when you have a bounty.
You can incur a bounty by stealing in plain sight, invading enemy territory or killing in public. This includes killing soldiers in-front of other soldiers who you’re also going to kill, so how they got the word out about a bounty is beyond me… You can reduce your bounty by paying it off or hunting down “Sponsors” who are those actually paying the bounty hunters.
The mercenaries can be incredibly frustrating, they always seem to show up at the worst moment and up to three can turn up at one time (maybe more, but I never witnessed that). This was especially troublesome in the early game when I was struggling to take out even the weakest of enemies, nevermind trained mercenaries. Eventually, I got used to it and didn’t even mind the extra challenge of the occasional bounty hunter after my head since I loved the combat system so much.
A lot of people had a different opinion on this, including MrZhangetsu, who had a horribly frustrating time being waylaid by mercenaries (and civilians) constantly in a totally different experience which we can’t seem to find a reason for.
Similar to this hierarchy of Mercenaries is a hierarchy of Cultists, although it’s more of a checklist as you’re not trying to rise through the ranks so much as just killing them one by one. It’s actually not important for the main plot to kill all of them (just a select important few) but you will net a shiny trophy for curing Greece of its cultist problem and treating yourself to a conclusive cutscene.
I’ve gone on about the game for quite some time now and haven’t even begun to cover things like taming animals, fighting in wars, completing side-quests, exploring underwater locations and so much more. It’s far too vast of a game to talk about briefly but I feel like I covered the really important deal-sealing mechanics. The game features an incredible story which I loved from start to finish and it’s artfully peppered with even more story- and character-development-laden storylines which offer insight into the history and culture of Grecians while offering fun and exciting reasons to soak in as much of Ancient Greece as possible.
Before you proceed, please be sure you’re okay with spoilers about the game’s plot and post-game, either by playing the game first or deciding you’re sure you don’t want to. Otherwise, skip ahead.
Ubisoft did something pretty interesting here. As with all AC games, there’s somebody in present-time using the Animus technologies to look into the memories of a person of the past, to find out some information about the “Isu” pre-cursor race or their Pieces of Eden. However, this for once is not the main focus of the main-line quests. Instead, the focus is entirely on Kassandra trying to reconnect with her family and rid Greece of any cultists who would try to stop that.
Once you’re successful in reuniting her family and have enjoyed the heart-warming family dinner scene (providing you also got the “good ending”), the present-time storyline is still not complete and so you must continue your quest to fulfil the desires of Kassandra’s real father, Pythagoras, who would like you to help him seal Atlantis forever and prevent unwanted individuals accessing the history and power of the Isu which is hidden within.
Atlantis is just what the present-time protagonist, Layla Hassan, is looking for! So to complete this quest, we need to gather the 4 artefacts required to lock Atlantis forever, one hell of a key system. These 4 artefacts are hidden behind the best questlines in the game (except maybe one). For these quest-lines, you’re tasked with finding and defeating four real, actual mythical beasts. Not Animus trickery, real, actual, honest-to-Zeus, mythical creatures!
Okay, so they’re not entirely real, as they were made by the Isu to protect their keys, as is made apparent by the haunting cutscenes we’re rewarded with upon defeating each one. If you’ve had a peek at the trophy list, you’ll know that these 4 creatures are; a Cyclops, a Minotaur, Medusa and the Sphinx. The Sphinx boss fight is, of course, just a series of fairly simple riddles, so nothing to get too excited about, but the rest of the boss fights are seriously intense and even a little tricky, the Medusa fight – which is clearly the toughest of the 4 – took me quite a few attempts to pull off.
These boss fights combined with the combat mechanics of AC: Odyssey, in general, produced some of the most fun I’ve had in a game in a long time and I was grinning ear-to-ear before, during, and after these battles. Even the questlines leading up to them – especially the Minotaur and Medusa – are full of excitement and tension-building.
This all eventually leads to you indeed sealing Atlantis in a section teeming with information about the Isu, which I was totally arrested by, hanging on Aletheia’s every word as she explained who the Isu are, what they want, how they know I’m listening and what ol’ Pythagoras has been up to all this time. It was very interesting stuff but not nearly as interesting as what follows.
If you’ve made it this far without caring about spoilers, I just want to warn you one last time, what I’m about to talk about is an enormous spoiler.
It turns out Kassandra gets hold of the staff Pythagoras had used to keep himself alive for hundreds of years and, being told by Minerva that she is very important, uses that staff to stay alive for thousands of years, building and managing the assassins from the shadows throughout history. Every other Assassin’s Creed had Kassandra – my new favourite AC character – lurking in the shadows, watching over everything… And I think it’s a bit shoe-horned, right? But… I still can’t help but love it!
Kassandra is such an incredibly well-written, well-performed and well-structured character whom I’ve become totally enamoured with and it makes me so happy to hear that she’s the most important character in AC history. Good for her!
Platting Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Platting this game is a fairly monumental task. Around 70 hours (took me 62 hours 50 minutes and 21 seconds). So at first glance, it’s hard to come up with a good platting strategy. I remembered that AC: Origins had a trophy for exploring and fully completing every location on the map so I started simply planning to do that. After clearing about 4 zones off the map 100% I realised it wasn’t necessary, but I had encountered the following benefits:
- I was always insanely wealthy due to the amount of loot I was gathering
- I always had a lot of resources for upgrading the trireme
- I was finding and picking off cultists by chance without having to hunt them down via the intended methods
- I was completing a few quests early by collecting quest items from the locations I was visiting.
- I was getting a lot of exp and levelling up very fast
- I was finding very rare gear
Because of this, I continued to methodically complete the map in each area I could access at my level. Eventually, the whole map opened up to me and I didn’t need to worry about level-caps preventing me from exploring new areas. Overwhelmed by the amount of content ahead of me and satisfied with my loot so far, I stopped clearing every area and focused on the main story quests, ensuring I did the following things as I travelled through Greece:
- Collected any side-quests in the area in-case I needed them for a trophy later, just to save time (this did happen a few times)
- Synchronised with any sync points nearby (Not required for a trophy – for once – but it’s helpful to know you can always come back to where you are later if you need to)
- Completed any underwater locations for the associated trophy
- Went to any ruins to collect tablets which are needed for ship upgrades
- Collected from any region supplies for ship-upgrading resources
- Checked nearby blacksmiths regularly to buy resources and tablets for the ship
- Collected bounties from quest boards, until I’d completed 20 for the trophy
That’s pretty much all you need to do in order to plat the game. Just keep an eye on the trophy list and ensure you’re contributing to any you can, as often as you can, and then play through the main storyline and post-game quests while you do above and that platinum is as good as yours – provided you’re willing to put in the hours!